ST: How do i manage my training sessions?

First published on The Sunday Times on 17 June 2018

 

#AskMok

  1. What is/are examples of a bad training plan? How do you / should we space out “hard” workouts in a week? – Andy Kek
  2. How can I integrate double training sessions into my training program (i.e. running twice a day)? Do you have any recommendations for double sessions? – Leow Wen Jun

 

Hi Andy and Wenjun, thank you for your questions (see top).

Last week, we learnt from Dr Ivan Low that the key components of a good training plan are; (1) individuality (customised to one’s self), (2) specificity (specific to the race one is preparing for), (3) progressive overload (graduated increase in intensity and volume), (4) variation (not monotonous), and lastly, (5) recovery (allowing the body to regenerate and restore). However, it would be over-simplistic to deem every training plan which lacks any of the above components as “bad”.

Adopt a suitable plan


The definition of “bad”, in this context, is subjective. Whether a training plan is considered “bad” is highly dependent on the individual – there is no “one size fits all”.

For example, there are some people who are able to load their bodies with high-intensity and high-volume workouts within a short span of time, and yet manage to avoid injuries. There are also some who repeat the exact same workout every day for a whole year, and yet manage to improve their physical performance.

A “bad” training plan is simply a training plan that just does not work for you. Give yourself some flexibility to adjust your training plans as and when required to suit your body’s needs, and pay attention to how your body responds.

Allow Supercompensation


To address the question on spacing out hard workouts, let me first explain the principle of supercompensation.

When training, your fitness levels can be broken down into 4 phases in the following order:
1. The baseline level of fitness – where you start off;
2. Fatigue – you get tired;
3. Recovery – your body regenerates and repairs damaged tissues; and
4. Supercompensation – brings your fitness to a higher level than before.

Supercompensation occurs when the human body automatically adjusts itself to a higher level of fitness in anticipation of the next training session. It is why after a couple of consistent runs, you no longer experience the same body soreness which came with your first run. However, if you do not capitalize on your newfound fitness due to supercompensation, you will return to a baseline level of fitness (phase 1). So, if you only run once a month, you should expect to feel sore every time you run!


The graph above illustrates how your fitness level changes when training. Note that there are 2 variables which affect the optimal amount of supercompensation – time and training load.

The first variable is time – “X”. The time between each hard session is crucial. Ideally, the next hard session should take place at the end of time “X”. “X” is highly variable, depending on each individual. You will need to experiment to find your “X”, but when you do find it, keep to this sweet spot. For me, “X” is equivalent to 3 days. Therefore, I run my hard sessions on Mondays and Thursdays!

The next variable is the training load. The larger the training load, the larger the drop in fitness level (“Y”) after the training session. Think about how fatigued you are after a hard workout! The larger “Y” is, the more fatigued you will be, but also the higher the potential amount of supercompensation.

Training load is in turn affected by two factors: volume and intensity. A load of an easy 2-hour long run may even be equivalent to the load of eight 1-min high-intensity interval runs.

Prioritize active recovery

Clocking double training sessions a day increases the training load for the day in a cumulative manner. Personally, if and when I incorporate double sessions into my training schedule, it is solely for active recovery. My main session for that day would be a 70-min easy long run or workout, and the second session would be a 30-min jog. Most runners do well without having to do double sessions a day, so avoid this unless you really need to.

To add to the complexity, “X” and “Y” are largely co-dependent – a change in “Y” is likely to affect “X” (The more fatigued you are, the more time you need to recover and compensate!).

Mok Ying Ren squeezing out an easy run amidst an overseas trip, to retain the fitness baseline. (Image by: ONEATHLETE)

As complex as this scientific approach seems, this is really foundational to a good run! Running is simple but can be as difficult as it is made to be. But you will do fine if you follow RunONE on the #runwithmok programme!

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