The race season in Ontario takes a bit of a break over the summer if you’re not ready for triathlons (hoping to do these next year, but still waiting for the stroller that will allow us to bike). We’ve got two 5K races coming up in September, but our new goal race is the October 22 Toronto Half Marathon.
Since we only started this journey back in May, it’s asking a lot out of Trevor’s body to build up our distance for a half marathon. So to get to that, we’re in the midst of some serious training days.
We’re using a ‘slow-and-steady-wins-the race’ base training strategy. Base training is a fancy-sounding word that just means we keep to a moderate intensity – slow enough that we can continue to have a conversation as we go. There’s no fast sprints, and no crazy hill repeats, just slow and steady.
And then we take that base training approach and apply it on a four-week cycle that quickly escalates our distance. Our first week out running with my chair we only did 11.3 km. By June 11, we were up to 35 km. We dropped down a bit and began a second ‘build’ cycle that left us at 65 km by July 9!
Then we decided to get technical about it. We’ve got a spreadsheet, and an algorithm whereby we add incrementally over the course of four weeks, then drop down for a ‘rest week’ (that’s still longer than it was four weeks ago) before building up from there.
As you can see from the chart above, this moves us into some quite lengthy weeks and long runs very quickly.
While many people will do some base training over the winter, most people believe in the need to do speed work during the main season. However, Mark Allen (a triathlete who won 6 Ironman World Championships between 1989 – 1995) used base training as his primary training strategy under his coach Phil Maffetone. His technique helps to build speed while preventing injury – which is key for the kinds of demands we want to ask out of Trevor’s body over the coming years.
But we were talking today about the fact that this kind of training isn’t very common – people want the buzz of speed work, the adrenaline of pushing themselves, the excitement of beating their friends on Strava or at the group run. All of these things help to motivate us to do the hard work of getting out there and training, so they’re good – to a point.
For the many people who find themselves up against a wall, unable to break through to a faster time or facing injury yet again, however, this technique might offer some potential.
And for those who find that progress in other areas of life is difficult, it’s possible that this training regime might have something to offer us as well. The truth of the matter is that we as humans weren’t designed to function at a frenetic pace – we weren’t designed to make life changes in a single massive leap – we weren’t designed to rush through the process of growth and change and development.
All of these strategies carry huge risks for us physically (burn out, health issues, repetitive strain injuries, accidents); emotionally (stress, anxiety, depression, anger, shut-down); relationally (clipped tones, short tempers) and even spiritually (feelings of worthlessness, losing our sense of centre and grounding).
Instead, we were designed to work slow and steady through whatever challenges are in front of us.
Need to finish a big work project? Slow and steady, with regular breaks for healthy food and exercise is much more effective than head-down-grind-it-out-for-eighteen-hours-straight – especially if it needs to be correct, or you need to get up and go to work again tomorrow.
Need to work through an emotional, relational or spiritual issue that’s been dogging your steps? Slow and steady, taking the time to examine each piece of the issue as it comes up will give you far more insight into the issues in question, and will give us the emotional space to continue to do life while we go through the process.
It’s not exciting. There’s no big adrenaline rush. But the progress can be significant, all the same!