After two months of medical problems, I returned to the track today to do my first session in five weeks. The session in question was rather simple, just 10 x 400m reps off 60 second recovery. This time last year I could complete each rep comfortably in 63/62 and still muster up enough energy to pull out a sub 60 second final rep. However, even though I am in good shape, and have been hitting multiple sub 5:00 minute miles on my acceleration runs, my coach advised a different approach.
My coach – Luke Gunn – Is a four times British Champion over the 3000m Steeplechase and a has represented Great Britain. From years of his own experience, he is very knowledgeable when it comes to breaking into your track season. Instead of setting me target times of around 63/64 seconds per rep, he suggested I do them all at 67 second pace.
This may sound funny, because even though I am capable of hitting the faster times, he sets me times that will not push my body too much, even though it is supposed to be a tough track session. Why? You ask. It’s to ease my body into the track. A lot of runners do not understand; running is running right? Why will it be any different on the track? Well, there is a huge difference between doing 5+ mile runs on the road, to doing short – fast repetitions on the track. For one, your form must change; you will be up on your toes, keeping your hips and knees up, and using your arms more vigorously than you would if easy/steady running. This can cause you to use different muscles in a different proportion than your body is used to – consequently leading to possible injuries and niggles.
If you go from running on the roads to doing sessions on the track, it is easy to hit the track sessions hard to test yourself. Which can sometimes be good, because you can give yourself a bit of a confidence boost with how fast you are running. However, your body is not used to it, and just like everything else, you have to ease your way into it. Take it from my personal experience – I have torn both of my hamstrings, both times the reason behind it has been because of my faulty transition from cross country sessions to track sessions. Both times, I had hit the miles hard over winter, clocking big mileage and feeling comfortable over the grass, then I have come into track season with high hopes, in really good shape and rearing to go. I started my track sessions early (late March/early April) and started off straight away with short and fast repetitions – to develop my raw leg speed. Both times, my hamstring was torn by the end of April, ruining my season ahead.
My whole point behind this post – if there was to be one – is to inform any runner transitioning into a different form of training, that they need to do it slowly. Run below your own standard for a few sessions, allow your body to adapt and reap the benefits, and you will be thankful in the end and be rewarded with a long season, hopefully without any major injuries.
Watch those hamstrings, it isn’t nice when they tear.