Thursday, September 2, 2010

A crisis of faith

I am having a crisis of faith, and it started on Sunday with a terrible long run. By the time I stepped out for my 6 miler, it was 95°F...of course it did not look that hot, so I thought I would just go for a quick run at a good pace and left without even a drink. After 2 miles, I was soaking wet, and feeling terrible. I walked the rest of the way home. Come Monday (a rest day), I ran the remaining 4 miles, and was that an effort! It was so hard that I started questioning the type of training programme I am following. Needless to say, these doubts are compounded by reading other people's blogs - people who are pounding out miles and miles and more miles.
So on Tuesday I looked at another programme which has quite a lot of miles per week, and began to think about switching programmes. Not ideal, but I was feeling slightly desperate: I do not want to get to November 21 and find that I do not have the 'legs' to get through it. I had a quick chat with Stuart who felt that my current programme is of a better quality with regard to the type and intensity of workouts. I also had a chat with a colleague of mine who only does triathlons, but her response left me dissatisfied. Why can't people think outside their own little boxes for once??
Well, Tuesday's training was HR1 mile E, 6x1 min HR, 1 mile E. Did the first mile on a 2% incline, then 6 x1 @ 6% and 6.5 mph. Last mile at 1 and a half % incline. I Felt a bit better after my previous 2 runs, but not much since by now I was in the midst of a full crisis of faith. After yet another unsatisfying conversation with another colleague, who seemed convinced that one has to run quantitatively, I took matters into my own hands.
I emailed the creator of the programme directly, and have spelled out my concerns to him. This is a beginner's marathon programme that I found in Women's Running (May/June 2009). It has been designed by Matt Fitzgerald, who also writes for Triathlete. In fact, I first got to know him through that magazine, and always liked his advice and approach to tri training. When I saw his marathon programme (that was not geared towards triathletes), it seemed like a gift from the gods.
So whilst I am waiting to hear back from him, I have also read a bit more about his approach to training. Matt's approach is that Feel Good Training = Better Results. No, he is not advocating cruising along, doing little or no work. He believes that runners should train by feel. The reason is that how a runner feels during runs and about his or her running generally at any given time is the most sensitive and reliable indicator of how well the training process is going. The mind and the body are deeply interconnected. He goes on to say that "There are two enemies of feeling good in training. The first, as I’ve already suggested, is lack of fitness. If you train too lightly to stimulate steady improvement in your fitness, you will not enjoy your training as much as you would if you worked harder, suffered more, and grew stronger for your pains. The second enemy of feeling good in training is fatigue. The more fatigue you carry into a workout, the lousier you will feel, regardless of your fitness level. Therefore, maximizing your enjoyment in training requires that you minimize fatigue".
So far so good, but what does this translate into? It would seem that he proposes shorter and better quality workouts, rather than just grinding out the miles. I have to say that on the few long runs I have done thus far, it does feel as though I am running at a more consistent pace with each mile, rather than falling off midway.....still, Sunday is a 12 mile run, and I am anxious to see how that works out. In the meantime, I will do a short test today, with my 4 mile Easy run. Has anyone else ever had a crisis of faith with their training programmes? If so, what did you do about it?


  1. For me the main thing is to be sure my goals are realistic and then work towards them. I’ve never followed a program other than my own. I try to push through the tough times and usually come out the other side stronger and fitter. Rest enough, that’s crucial.
    Nick Bester says: “Over training is over rated. Rest better so that you can train even more!” I follow that approach. The “more” training gets you through the tough buildup phases. I’m sure you’re in one of those phases now. You will feel stronger soon.

  2. credere in se stessi, con disciplina, fino in fondo e senza esitazioni... questa è l'unica ricetta scaccia crisi! i risultati ottenuti così duramente ti daranno soddisfazioni maggiori di qualunque altra cosa mai provata.....

  3. Hi Natalia. I found your blog purely by accident and am finding it fascinating...though frustrating to read. I too love Matt Fitzgerald's work, and I think that you'll find that Matt, like most distance trainers these days believe that the shorter distance runs, combined with fartlek and high intensity speedwork, a single long weekly run...all peppered by rest or active rest is the way to distance running success. Fatigue - from over training or stress is indeed a enemy of the workout.

    I have also had a crisis of faith in my workout schedule - specifically for a half marathon. In my case, the crisis was definitely in my head. As runners we tend to be very Type A and rigid in terms of our training. But what we don't realize (and most trainers will tell you this) is that it's OK to adapt EVERY training schedule to your specific needs as long as you listen very closely to your body.

    I think I noticed in your BIO that you have been a sprinter and a tri in the past - which may mean that your fast twitch muscles are your strength right now, while maintaining pace and allowing yourself some LSD time is what you need to start racking up the miles. Don't know.

    Anyway, if you are doing 12 miles this weekend, you are probably somewhere around weeks 8 in your training? While you wait to hear from the Fitzgerald folks, may I extend an invitation to you to come on over to - an online community specifically for women runners. We also have a Facebook Page. Just search for in Facebook.

    We have quite a few women in the community who are triathletes and marathoners and I know they would be eager to help you with your questions.

  4. I think you might be over-reacting to one bad workout. The heat and humidity can have lasting effects. I know that when I've tried running in similar conditions, it takes much longer to recover than you'd expect. As far as training plans go, if the one you're currently on has been working, I'd stick with it. Otherwise, I think you might be better off making small adjustments to your routine to see what works best for you as an individual. We are all different and what works best for some may not work at all for another. I used to follow an intermediate plan I found in Runner's World, but I'd always get injured around week 7. Now, I have an idea of what I want to do on a weekly basis, but if my body has other ideas then I adapt. There's my 2 cents. I hope it's more valuable than that, but it might not be. Best of Luck, Natalia.

  5. @ Johann: Thanks for the encouragement. I think you are right, I need to stick it out and hopefully the results will show. You are a good inspiration, and your love of running is quite infectious! However, I noticed that you do not do any fartlek or speed training?

    @ Beth: Thank you for stopping by, and a big thank you for the additional information on Matt Fitzgerald. It was great to read your experience as well, since it is so easy to develop tunnel vision with training programmes. This business of trusting your body seems to be very important, and even though I do try and take note, sometimes, I lose my way and just need to hear those reinforcements again! Thanks, I will have a look at Traxee, and find you. It sounds like a great forum.

    @ Frank: Thanks, I really needed that perspective! Good advice, I will stick to my current plan, and that way I will be able to assess it in full at the end. In fact, the second programme I was looking at was the The Rookie Marathon Training Guide which I also got from Runner's World. I usually tend to avoid their programmes because they seem just a little too intense for my level. Anyway, this programme just has lots and lots of miles, and I am not too keen on it, but the doubt seeped in since everyone else seems to be doing so many, except me. I have not read a blog (except maybe Christina's - and she is in a different category anyway), with workouts similar to mine. I think your new strategy is working, since your running sessions seem to be quite formidable!

  6. @ Yogi: Questo si che mi garba! Faro' cosi'...punto e basta. Grazie mille x l'incorraggiamento!

  7. Crisis is a part of day to day process...It all depends on how we face it and react to it...

  8. We just have to know how to deal with it..