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Polarized training and the benefits of having a coach and teammates
by on Monday, May 19, 2014  (8 comments)

Sorry beet juice fans but no news on beets or juice derived from them this week. I hope you don't mind.

What I do have is still interesting, though.

Olympic speed skaters and polarized training

I've often talked about making your easy days sufficiently easy so your hard days can be sufficiently hard. Ed is probably sick of this topic and I'm sure others are ready for me to stop harping on it also.

Well, here's a review of the training programs for Olympic speed skaters over a 38 year period. The main factor in performance isn't time spent training or time spent on skates. In fact, there seemed to be no relation (of course, Olympic speed skaters are all spending a lot of time training obviously). The difference in times at that level was most closely correlated to how polarized their training was.

When they discuss polarized training, they are basically discussing the idea of keeping your easy days easy and your hard days hard. The easier your easy days are and the harder your hard days are, the more polarized your training is. As this research suggests, the more polarized your training is, the faster you are.

Of course, this is looking at speed skaters but it's a good indication of what works. I wouldn't be surprised at all to find the same in distance runners. I'd love to see this kind of review done with distance runners.

The benefits of having a coach and teammates

It should be no surprise that I'd argue there are a lot of benefits to having a coach. I'd argue the same of teammates. In a coach, you should have someone who is committed to your success and should be capable of guiding you down the right path. In addition, though, both a coach and teammates can give you people you feel accountable to. You don't want to let down your coach or your teammates.

Well, that seems to be the case for masters swimmers.

In short, the swimmers were more committed to their training, whether doing it individually or in a team setting, when they had the support of a coach and teammates. Of note, though (emphasis added by me):

The findings suggest that in order to increase participation in masters swimming teams and reduce non-supervised training, coach and teammates should exhibit a supportive attitude and avoid over expectation.



None of this "old school" tough guy coaching. Your coach and teammates should be supportive and not place the burden of expectation too high. I'd agree with this. I don't like the "old school" philosophy. It's never made sense to me. Your coach should build you up and fill you with confidence, not beat you down.

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8 comments
Ed

Not sick of the topic - LoL. Need the constant reminder because sometimes it seems counter-intuitive.

The idea of teammates that are counting on you is a good one. My main goals are to get better so that at Al's run - we can win any division in which they decide to stick us as a team. Some times when I feel like I want to wimp-out on a workout I think about Al's Run and Team Hillrunner losing by a couple of seconds that I left on the training runs. That usually helps me push a bit more.

I know coach Hill will be proud of his (our) team regardless but to make him and our fellow teammates proud of a win - that is powerful stuff for me.

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Ryan

I think it seems counterintuitive to a lot of runners, especially beginners. The more you learn, though, the more intuitive it is.

I think the Al's Run team has been a great motivator for many of us. I think of my teammates when I'm slogging through workouts in the August heat and keep reminding myself that they are counting on me. On race day especially, when the going gets tough in mile 4, I often channel the energy of the team. Every second counts. Every place counts. My team needs me. That's a very powerful motivator. It's harder to give up when others are relying on you.

By the way, it's our team, not mine. I'm just honored that you all are willing to run under the HillRunner.com banner.

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Charlene

I see people post their workouts all the time on FB. Their easy day runs, long runs, and hard runs are all about the same speed give or take 10 seconds a mile. On race day their speed for 5ks is not much faster and you all know what happens to them in marathons after they just raced their 20 miler. I run super slow on my easy days. So slow that it is kind of embarrassing. But it seems to work somehow.

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Ryan

That's the type of thing I see a lot of. Maybe 10 seconds is extreme but 20-30 seconds seems pretty normal for some.

There's nothing embarrassing about running slow on easy days. If someone I know is slower than me keeps up with me or passes me while I'm on an easy run, I just remind myself who will be faster on race day. You might have to swallow your pride a bit on that easy run day but it's all worth it in the end.

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Diane

I may be missing something here...I try to run>1 - 1.5 min/mi faster on my hard days.

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Ryan

Diane, I don't think you're missing a thing. Some people have very little variance between their "easy" and "hard" days and they pay for it on race day, when they run essentially the same paces as in training.

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Diane

The only drawback running easy has for me is sometimes a lack of confidence that I'll actually be able to run goal pace on race day. It's ok to run hard on speed work days and hit a great pace for short durations but it leaves you wondering "how long a distance can I maintain it?" Maybe that's the seductive lure to why we sometimes run too fast on easy days.

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Ryan

I can see that as a potential holdup for runners. It's hard to understand how everything fits together. The key is that you'll be more rested on race day after a taper and that you should not be running race effort in training so you should finish each workout feeling like you could have kept going.

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