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As promised awhile back, I am going to pursue some of the Caveman topics that have developed in my head over the past 25 years of distance running.

This installment: Training over your head.


With a renewed interest in marathoning in recent years, the baby-stepping approach to training has certainly gotten many a runner able to cross off their life list "do a marathon", but is this the only approach or more importantly is this the best approach to improving your race results? I would certainly argue that for the later-in-life runner the risk likely doesn't outweigh the gain when the goal is to simply finish. But when the competitive fires begin to burn and personal bests become racing benchmarks along with rivalries and improving beyond what you might have ran last year, I'd say it's time to consider, training over your head.

As is all Caveman running lessons, training over your head isn't going to entail a trip to Radio Shack or memorizing a new slew of acronyms. No, training over your head is as simple as it sounds. Going beyond your "perceived" abilities.

Few places in America are not filled with runners. There are clubs and groups and organized runs pulling together runners of all abilities every week of the year. What I would encourage you to do is find a group, whether that be 2 or whether that be 102, but somewhere to go for a run with runners that are faster than you.

The results here are twofold. One being that you break some self-imposed mental barriers. As much as physiologists will tell us that we are limited to a certain pace because of our lung volume or our heart rate, they are still unable to take a pulse, measure a lungfull and determine just how fast we can get and how long it will take. And it is this improvement curve that training over your head can push forward more than we can do in the confines of our own mind.

The second barrier is the physical one. Over the years I've spoken with many runners in a "rut" of training at the same pace, week after week, month after month and year after year with little difference from day to day. What the occasional run with faster runners will do is take you out of that rut and pull your legs out of the accustomed groove and awaken a level of running that's hard to find on your own.

The best example of training over your head is all the high school and collegiate programs in this country. Teams are throw together with the hodge-podge of students that happen to show up for practice on day one. A team of 30 runners won't have 30 different workouts. There will be one workout and through the course of the workout, there will likely be a breaking into two or three groups as the run goes. But as the weeks of the season go by, the composition of those sub-groups will change. Runners will drop off the fastest groups pace less and less frequent. It will take longer and longer for the division to happen. And by season's end, a well coached team will have a core of solid runners running together day in and day out. Sure their race times my vary as much as 10-minutes for a 10km from the fastest to the slowest, but in training, those slower runners are running the same miles and pace as the faster.

So the lesson being for Midpackers is one that a tried-and-true method of reaching for that next level of race performance is to train over your head. Find a place to run with folks already at the next level. Train in their "wake" so to speak and you'll find yourself one step closer to the front of the pack.

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UGG say :1:

i agree with the "percieved abilities" you think you can only do a specific amount and that is all you will do.

train harder, more, smarter whatever the "er" is step it up and the plateau will crumble and your performance elevate.


but i still like my geek gadgets
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i know it's only rock and roll, but I LIKE IT.... :banana: thanks jrjo!
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I agree. I've been in over my head for a year now. I race and train regularly with two younger guys that run in the 15s and 16s and a Masters runner that is only a few seconds behind me.

We get most of our training advice from a group of people with world class racing experience.

It is a very humbling experience, but I went from 19:00 to 17:30 in less than a year, and I am still improving at a pretty rapid pace. I couldn't have done that on my own. And I now regularly beat people I once thought invincible.

I don't think you could ever list all of the advantages of training with a group. Especially a group in which you are the least talented runner. It can be stressful at times. Other times it is discouraging to run a PR which translates to the rest of the group's training pace. But on race day, it is well worth it when you consistently finish in the top 5% and continue to set PRs well beyond what you once thought possible.

:twocents:
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Excellent post jrjo. I should break down and take some of this advice.
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3 thoughts in response.
A) Word. It is very easy to get into a pace rut, that is the on-again, off-again story of my running life.
B) True dat. Training with a group is the best thing that ever happened to my running. so I need to break down and start running with them again... :duh:
C) You. da. man.
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there is one group that i know of that runs early sunday mornings in this area. i was asked to join them once and they said they weren't running anything fast (translated to about a minute faster than i felt comfortable) so i never went out.
annnnd, that would make me a losah. or a loner. whichever.
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It sounds like great advice...except for I live in the middle-of-nowhere. I've thought about joining a running club that is a 1 hour drive away. I haven't done it yet. People always look strangely at me when I collect my 3rd place AG awards-where did she come from?
I've asked around at my gym, for people into serious running. I haven't gotten any takers yet. I've never run anything besides a race with another human being. (Dogs seem to love to run with me!)

I just wish the population of this area seemed to be more into physical fitness. I wish there was a running club closer than 60 miles. I wish I had more flat land to run on.
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Very well thought out post jrjo. Some great advice contained there.
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It might be worth driving at least one day a week for an LSD run with a faster group on Saturday or Sunday. Long runs are the best for hooking up with people. The group makes the run easier.
Contact the running club. They might have members that live only 30 mins from you that would be interested in a weekend or mid week run once a week.
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I agree too..earlier in the year I ran regularly with 2 other faster guys during tri club interval running sessions. It sort of motivates me to push myself during these sessions (other than the coach) when I'm doing the workouts with them. Ended up with PRs during the spring so I can't complain!
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I do have a running club in the area (a couple of them actually) I can look into. Only about a half dozen runners who train out of my gym, none I would seriously consider training with. Cross country coach at the local high school was training out of there and we had scheduled some runs together last fall. He injured his foot, haven't seen him since.
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