Thursday, November 15, 2007

On Training: A Rest Day Rumination

After running intervals last night for the first time in two decades, it occurred to me that I had never really paid much attention to "training" when I was running competitively. That was back in high school. So it stands to reason that I wasn't paying much attention - to anything - but it is still a bit unfortunate, upon reflection.

You see, I was never better than a middle-of-the-pack runner. I think my fastest 5k was in the mid-18's, which keeps you in the varsity 7 but means that you won't be winning any races outright or advancing to the state finals. I can also say with some certainty that I had almost no talent, if you want to call it that, or genetic predisposition for running. It was always a struggle. What made me any good at all was training. And if there was any natural talent I brought, it was a capacity to suffer. And even to enjoy the suffering.

So it's all the more unfortunate that I didn't really train smart all those years ago. I didn't know, really, what intervals were supposed to do for example. I called them "speedwork" like many people do. But that's not really very precise.

What intervals do for me today, at age 37, is pretty darn amazing. They have made me faster, but they have done that because they push the lactate threshold up. In short, they increase your ability to sustain a near-max effort and, at the same time, they increase the amount of effort you can sustain.

I wish I would have understood this better back in the day. I won't say my coach(es) didn' try to explain it. They might have. I do wish, though, that we had done interval training for cross country on bikes from time to time.

Today is a rest day. Tomorrow: intervals on the bike!

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