How Not To Train

So I’d moved, found myself a training partner and signed up for my first half marathon………or so I thought…………….. (more on this later)

My training partner was ten years younger than me, a foot taller and athletic. Safe to say this was not a natural pairing, so much so that to slow him down I made him run with a back pack full of my college books….which gave him backache. However since he was better than me I figured it was karmic.

I was three months into my sports course, and in the words of Alexander Pope ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’. After all, it couldn’t be THAT hard to up your distance from a sedate 10k to 13.1 miles could it?

I devised a training plan that involved running four days a week. Four LONG runs a week. JUST distance runs.

No one had explained to me about short runs to improve your speed, or the fact that running 40 miles + a week as a beginner was insane. This is what happens when you stumble blindly on to running forums. I think I thought a few months of my college course and following Runners World on Twitter made me a qualified running coach.

To make things worse I was running during the week, when as a student I had to endure a 2 hour daily sports session, where my 30 year old body was also pitted against sporty 19 year olds at their physical peak. Their combined body fat percentage probably equalled mine and where I had been spending the last few years catching every single episode of friends on E4, they had been playing on sports teams en utero. It was hardly fair.

My youthful running partner (also just a baby at 19) and I had not discovered the wonders of farlek training, or walking breaks to improve endurance, we just ran until we achieved the distance I had written down on the calendar.

Looking back I wonder how neither of us got injured, I was however on the verge of collapse all the time. I was catching colds and flus at an alarming rate, a good sign that I was over training.

I had gone from sedentary Subway manager to a girl who did not know the meaning of rest day, literally.

We managed this crazy routine for four months and my fitness did sky rocket. We hit the distance needed with time to spare and I also lost a further stone. By this point I was down from my starting weight of 16,8 (105kg) to around 12,4. (78kg). (Currently I’m around 11,3 or 72kg). However if I’d have continued running like that in the early stages I’m sure I wouldn’t be as physically fit now. Although I was stretching in the cool down I was starting to notice a few aches and groans that weren’t there before. I think runners have to think about their long term health. I now train at a much more sedate pace, still 3-4 times a week but I do 1 long run, 1 trail and 1 quick short run. I’m never going to be a runner who finishes in the top 10 of a race, but at the same time I’m sure that in 10 years time I’m still going to have my knees. You get a medal and swag whether you finish first or last, and after all that’s what its all about isn’t it?

I also spend some time in the gym every now and then to try and correct the muscle imbalances that running creates, for example strengthening the inner quads, core and hamstrings.

Listen to your body when you train, use training plans as a guide only. After all we’re all different.

The thing I love about running, I mean really LOVE. For those of us with no natural athleticism, no co-ordination or ability to catch a ball you can still run. As long as you put your trainers on and leave the house and RUN you will get better, you will improve. So don’t sweat it too much about how you do it.

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