I’ve started my ultra training … by walking for 5 minutes. I had an operation 8 weeks ago (not running related) and I was told not to run for 8 weeks. I asked if I could walk and was told exercise would promote my recovery (?!) As a Chi Runner, I immediately explained about low impact, relaxed techniques and the four gears of Chi Running. I asked ‘can I run if it barely alters my breath rate?’ and got the answer I was looking for.
And so I found myself, 2 days after the operation able to walk for 5 minutes at a pace that was far too slow for my 7 year old daughter (but she didn’t mind.)
This progressed to 10 minutes of flat walking. Then I moved on to10 minutes of walking on a hill. All this was done at a slow-medium pace. Why am I saying all this? Because 8 weeks later I’m walking for 30 mins, with a 5-10 minute run in gear 1 in the middle of it and am ready to upgrade this to 30 minutes of gear 1 or gear 2. In Chi Running, Gear 1 is warm up pace and Gear 2 is anaerobic pace. The difference is the amount of lean. These gradual forward steps have been taken very gradually and I feel very confident that I have listened very carefully to y body throughout. It’s taken some discipline to slow down and be careful. Mindfulness has also been a real corner stone of this process and I believe this skill is at the very heart of Chi Running (but that's another blog in the writing.)
One technique I used was to treat myself to a new torch for walking / running off road at night on a nearby bridleway. That way I really enjoy my walk.
Now my walk to run program is complete, I’m considering the way to progress. My aim is to get back to my 5k pb pace by about 8-12 weeks from now. There’s always the 10% rule of running (google it) which has been around for many years. Many coaches insist on this type of approach and for many it is very helpful. But there’s so much more to gradual progress than this. Each stage in your training must form a stable foundation for the next. In the Chi Running book, Danny Dreyer talks about 1 upgrade per week. It might be one speed upgrade or one distance upgrade or an upgrade from flat to hilly etc. This is expanded further in the Chi Marathon book, where Danny talks about form work first, followed by maintaining that form over distance. It’s only then that we work on speed. Speed it the icing on the cake, the final ingredient. There is no point working on speed if your form is not ready for it. If you are going faster or further than good form will allow, you are not following the principle of gradual progress and will be risking injury.
All these thoughts are taken from my reading as well as my experience as a runner who has prepared for long races in the past… but not an ultra yet. A lot of my reading is about Chi Running and I really put my faith in that approach when I trained for the Three Peaks Race in 2011. It came off well and I was injury and pain free whilst running the longest and hardest race of my life. So the next step is the ultra. If any of you have any suggestions for a UK ultra I’m listening. For the time being, here is a diagram to show my thinking around gradual progress.
One final thought. I try to keep in mind you are always training for the longest and fastest race of your life… your best running is always ahead of you.