So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Necessity Is The Mother Of Adaptation

Some of the athletes I work with remotely have their own special set of constraints, having much to do with maternity or Mother Nature, both of which are a force stronger than E.F. Hutton. The good news for me when I begin to lay out a training plan for them is they usually have a treadmill for running purposes close by. The only place treadmills are used as a clothes valet, as far as I can tell, is Florida.

The difficult part, however, is how to figure the proper training intensity. I can spend thirty minutes in an e-mail discussing what some call Coach Mike-speak, a variant ot terms used by my former coach, Dale Fox, his coach (1964 Olympic 5,000 meter Gold Medalist) Bob Schul, & his coach, Mihalyi Igloi...which works great when the individual athlete is on the track with me over the course of five or six weeks, because they'll catch the understanding eventually. But when dealing with remote coaching situations I can get a good effort approximation from some other really good coaches; Jack Daniels or Greg McMillan. Daniels' run intensity calculations are easily figured out through a table in the front end of his seminal work, Daniels' Running Formula (which I consider one of the three absolute must have running books), or you can find calculators and reference charts on many different web sites on the Internet ( has what I would call Daniels In A Nutshell). I've encountered a fantastic spreadsheet you can use ( to determine the training effect of a particular workout, given the heart rate & run duration, but I recommend it for calculation's sake. McMillan also has a web-based chart, located at which aligns closely to Daniels'. I'm more familiar with Daniels, so I'll use his terminology to talk about run intensities here.

To determine your VDOT score, which Daniels explains is an estimate of a runner's VO2max at velocity, you'll need the results of your races (1,500 meters, mile, 3,000 meters, 2-mile, 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters, 15,000 meters, half-marathon or marathon) from the past year or so; if you have a variety, so much the better. Find your time for the particular race on a Daniels VDOT Values Table, then look at the number under the VDOT column. A list of best performances over more than one race distance will provide a more-accurate calculation; if you race more long events, focus on the findings based on those results and not so much on the shorter races. I'm one to err on the side of a lower VDOT score, personally, as your body can adapt to a training intensity that is a little too low better than it can an intensity which is too high. Once you have a VDOT score, a second table shows the training intensities based on that particular score for distances from 200 meters up to the easy/long run for the week, depending on the intensity level. For example, the athlete I talked about when I wrote about heart rate monitors has a VDOT score of 44 based on her recent 5K racing. She's training for a marathon in November - given the right conditions, a VDOT of 44 equals a 3:32 marathon performance prediction, but that's another story. Based on that performance I recommended she run her easy runs & her weekly long run at a sliver over nine minutes per mile. Her runs to prepare her for the pace she'll need to run in the marathon would be a little over eight minutes per mile, & the pace I recommended for tempo runs on the track is a little slower than a 7:30 mile. Once the runner knows their specific paces, they can use one or more of a few good 60-minute workouts for the treadmill-bound runner. I recommend one long run, one tempo & one repeat workout per week, with easy runs filling the remainder of the time available. If the athlete finds the workouts a little difficult based on perceived exertion or heart rate, we adjust the pace/s downward or extend the recovery period a little:

Progressive Tempo - 30 minutes at Easy/Long pace, increase speed by .1 mph every four minutes until Marathon Pace is reached. (Runners training for half-marathon or shorter races can continue on to Threshold pace.)
Marathon Tempo - 2 miles at Easy/Long pace, increase speed by .1 mph every two minutes until Marathon Pace is reached. (Runners training for half-marathon or shorter races can continue on to Threshold pace.)

Long Repeats (improve lactate threshold) - 2 miles at Easy/Long pace, increase to Threshold pace for up to five minutes, followed by Easy/Long pace (recovery) for up to two minutes.
Medium Repeats (improve velocity at VO2max) - 2 miles at Easy/Long pace, increase to Interval pace for up to three minutes, broken up by Easy/Long pace (recovery) for up to two minutes.

Short Repeats (improve economy and speed) - 2 miles at Easy/Long pace, increase to Rep pace for 30 seconds to one minute, broken up by Easy/Long pace (recovery) for up to two minutes.

How do you know when you're ready to move the intensities higher? Daniels says race performances are the test of when you're ready to move up...under no circumstances does he recommend trying to beat the training intensities for specific efforts.

While many persons will say a treadmill (simulation) workout is not as good as getting out on the road or the track, I consider it an "eighty-percent solution" for those days when the weather conditions are less than optimal or the runner has a limited amount of time available to train.

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