Speed Spurts, or The Ups and Downs of a Training Cycle

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Today, I was scheduled to run an easy three miles. What a pain in the butt they were.

Literally, the muscle in my right backside hurt; likely a leftover from my 21-mile run on Saturday. Like they say:

So I ran slow and steady, taking all of 30 minutes. Normally, I would’ve breezed through the distance — or, as would be more typical, rushed it at a tempo pace, even though the schedule calls for “easy” and there’s a good reason for that.

Anyone who’s trained (properly) for a long distance race – or any race, for that matter – will tell you that periods of increasing intensity of workouts must be followed by brief periods of respite. It varies program to program, but usually I’ve noticed that after three to four weeks of building up the mileage and intensity of runs, there is a week that pulls back.

For example, you may do an 18-mile long run one week, followed by 16 miles the next week, then 21, then back to 15.

Those pull-backs are intentional: to give the body the time it needs to recover and build up strength and endurance without getting injured. If you’ve ever experienced it, you know that your legs may feel like lead for two or three days after a peak-long run, but the next time you have to test your speed at intervals: Bam! You can go faster!

It really is like a growth spurt in babies. A speed spurt, if you will.

I recognize one coming by the following symptoms:

  • sluggish/ lead legs (or sore butt)
  • notable increase in hunger, but no weight gain
  • protein cravings (eggs, meat)
  • need for more sleep

All these things used to frustrate and even worry me before, but I’ve now come to appreciate them. I know that my body is responding to the training cycle and is about to reward me with faster splits and easier long runs.

In the end, there’s not much you can do about these periodic “set backs,” but stick to the schedule and sit them out… in my case, on a baseball.

Your turn: Have you experienced a speed spurt? How did it feel?

PSA: Have you seen my 408K Race to the Row entry giveaway? If you live in the Bay Area and are up for a fun and fast 8-kilometer race, that one’s not to miss. Click here for the deets.

Today’s run

RunKeeper lies, this was 3 miles, not 3.29. Possibly because it had me run straight through my neighbors’ houses instead of the sidewalk in front of them?

Anyway. No point posting split times, they’re wrong. And I was slow.

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