Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sharpen the Pencil Too Often and the Point Will Break

I've been reading Distance Running by Robert Lyden. He breaks down the training season into five categories: Base, Hill, Sharpening, Peak, and Post Season Recovery. If you believe traditional endurance training philosophies then you are probably deep into your base period right now. One word to describe the base period is: Quantity.

Quantity is not Long Slow Distance training. I prefer the term steady state training. Fatty acid training sounds even better, but may cause confusion. How much training you undertake depends on many factors such as training age, goal distance, and number of weeks until race day. But i'm getting ahead of myself.  I don't want to discuss base training so much as what happens if you skimp on your base training.

While skimming the book in its entirety I was captured by the following thought where Lyden is discussing the sharpening period: "The primary factor limiting how much quantity and quality can be assumed during the sharpening period is the aerobic ability and strength of an individual". How do you build aerobic ability and strength? With sufficient time and energy spent in Base and Hill Training.

Lyden continues, "Many are misled by the fact that when athletes begin to conduct sharpening workouts, their performances begin to improve dramatically". This is what we want: snappier legs, quicker turnover, faster pace. Yet far too often we are blinded by our improvements. Sharpening works well for the prepared athlete, perhaps so well that it may becomes the goal of every workout. Unforunately sharpening can only take an athlete so far. Again Lyden, "An athlete who enters the sharpening period with the aerobic ability to run a 4:10 mile can conduct sharpening work to realize that potential. No amount of sharpening work will enable the athlete to raise his aerobic ability sufficiently to realize a 4:00 mile."

The point: base training and hill training must be completed properly before sharpening. If not, no amount of sharpening will suffice to sufficiently enhance the aerobic system which is a necessity for continued improvement. Sharpening is the icing on the cake. Or better yet the bacon in the salad.

What is proper base training?  What is the best way to build the aerobic system? That's a topic for a different day.

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