While I was busily minding my own business the other day...okay, that's a statement this guy rarely writes. But I was, seriously.
Actually I received an e-mail from a race promotion/registration web site the other week, not long after a training modality recommendation was read by one of my runners. I began to think about the fact I write a great deal about the mental, emotional, economic and sociological side of the running thing and not so much about the "what's the best training" thing.
I do this for a lot of reasons. First is that old "n-equals-one" which we all learned from statistics. Simply stated, there is no "one size fits all" training strategy which guarantees faster race times, better running performances, and world peace. Again, it's trial and error, with more emphasis on "error" than we care to admit. Perhaps that's why most folks who work with me have better race performances than I.
If you ever see a barber who looks good, don't get into their chair.
So when a running enthusiast asks "What's the best training?," they stopped the question two words too early. Add "for me?"
I don't discount the intelligence or the merits of an exercise physiologist, especially one who has earned a terminal degree in their craft. I tend to get irritated when those around me forget the statistics thing. You see, we have an interesting anomaly, those of us who live south of Interstate 10 in the Gulf Coast. There's a profound lack of hills around here. So when a guy as smart as Jason Karp recommends downhill run training in order to develop speed I have two options:
Smile and move along, keeping the information in my hip pocket, or...
Ask if the runner has qualified for Boston or intends to race Bay-to-Breakers this spring.
So what can you do if you live in pancake flat (I've already had my breakfast so talking about food does not bother me...) terrain what methods can you use to develop speed? More importantly, without being limited to training sessions on a track? Don't get me wrong, I love track training, but sometimes - especially in the spring, when scholastic meets are happening - you can't make it there. Or there's too many people.
Marshall Ulrich describes using a tire to develop speed and endurance. At first this seemed rather counter-intuitive; every time I've observed a person using a tire for resistance it's been to develop short-term explosive power. You know, the type of power necessary to get past a guy who 's probably about fifty pounds heavier and wants to, um, crush you like a grape? But, I can see the benefit of reasonable resistance over an extended period of time. Ulrich talks about runs of up to 90 minutes...which might be beyond the pale, but I'm not one to argue (much) with an ultra-runner.
If you're one of those treadmill-using fools like me - once again, I love the TM because I can control all of the important variables and shut down a run once things "go south" - you have the choice of adjusting the treadmill pace up (or down) to accelerate or decelerate. Dr. Jack Daniels, in later editions of his "Running Formula," has developed a pace/elevation matrix for treadmill users. Daniels' rationale, if I rightly recall, was that treadmill running was less stressful than road running because of the lack of wind resistance. Of all of the reasons to not use a TM, I will buy that for a dollar...but I'm not going to go there in this space. If I were going to jump to Dr. Jack's "T" (threshold) pace and the easy pace I use to recover between efforts I could either punch up (or down) the 1.6 miles per hour...or keep the pace the same and elevate the treadmill by six percent...somewhere between a three and a four-degree incline. Six of one...
Most of my friends who enjoy the occasional run out on Pensacola Beach know that after a certain point in the morning the chances are high they are going to run either into the teeth of a breeze out of the east, or be pushed along...which isn't so bad, save for the fact it's harder to sense the cooling effect of the wind. If you have a particular route which is notable for "in your face" windy conditions that's a tailor-made resistance training run location. Push the efforts (try a range between one-to-five minutes, as tolerated) into the wind and take the recoveries while the breeze is at your back.
So there; I've provided a few speed, resistance and endurance training options which can cost as little as the fresh air or let you get in touch with your inner do-it-yourselfer.