We’re back! Kristen is in week nine of her training and things are cruising along! The half is five weeks away so there’s still work to be done before we can celebrate with post-race brunch. She has completed an 8-mile long run and is consistently running three to four times a week for 3-4 miles, which is pretty much spot on with her training program. We decided to not add the speed workouts into her program this time around so she can focus on the long runs and consistently building up mileage.
I caught up with her to see how she felt her training was going. Here’s what she had to say: “I think things are overall going well. My short runs feel good, but it has been mentally hard for me to do the longer runs. I was putting them off until later in the week and then I wouldn’t get to them. I tried doing my long run earlier in the week and that feels a lot better. For the next two to three weeks I want to prioritize my long runs. It’s hard to make it all happen with life, work, etc., but getting my long run done early in the week has me feeling more confident.”
Going back in time to her program design, two important details we discussed were her goals and running and medical history. In the following paragraphs, I explain why these details are so important to discuss and how they will affect program design for a runner.
Coaches and runners must start with the goals/purpose of a program. This does NOT mean it’s only about the outcomes i.e. a specific finishing time. This can span a wide spectrum, such as consistency of training, incorporating prep/recovery routines, inclusion of speed work, avoiding injury, etc. The process is more important than the outcome because if you nail down the right process for the person, the outcome usually takes care of itself. In Kristen’s case, she is aiming for a specific finishing time (Goal A is 1:50, Goal B is sub 2:00) but also has goals of running the entire race and building up the consistency and mileage of her training. It’s beneficial for runners to have one, two, or even three goals with their program because when the focus is entirely on one goal, the athlete may become too rigid with their training and become blind to when adjustments need to be made. Or worse—if the goal isn’t reached, they feel all of their training was for nothing. Goals should be realistic and objective, but also lofty so it’s not easily reached except through hard work and perseverance.
Running and Medical History
This piece of a training program includes items such as training history, medical/injury history, time available to train, resources, potential barriers to training, and more. If the runner is new to training, then it’s going to be a little more trial and error with program design because there is no history to look back for comparison of what worked and what didn’t. More experienced runners are able to provide insight into their past training such as what they felt worked and what didn’t, what level they reached with frequency/mileage/duration/intensity, past race experiences and what type of training they enjoyed and disliked. The past can provide important clues when designing a training program, so don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to.
Medical history is important for the obvious fact of making sure the runner is healthy enough to begin a training program and at what level. Illnesses, surgeries, medications, past running injuries, etc. are necessary to know so the program can specifically be tailored to the runner for correcting weaknesses, enhancing strengths, and building an overall balanced runner. Even if there is a significant medical history, often the program can be modified to accommodate, or a discussion may need to be had with the runner about the appropriate race distance or intensity so as not to cause any harm. In Kristen’s case, she’s had a few minor past injuries that could show up in her gait especially with an increase in mileage or addition of speed work so we made a plan to address those issues with mobility, stability and strength exercises for her to do pre/post-run.
All in all, Kristen has made significant progress thus far and has put herself in a great position to run well, enjoy the race, and come away with a PR. And who knows, maybe in the end I’ll have converted her to a lover of distance running…
Dr. Ivy L. Jordan, PT, DPT, CSCS
Performance Physical Therapist / Running Performance Specialist
Dr. Jordan received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from The George Washington University in Washington, DC and her Bachelor’s in Exercise Science from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. She competed for four years in cross-country and track and field while attending UMary with areas of specialty in the 1500/1600m, 3000m, 5000m and 3000m steeplechase. She continues to be an avid runner who has a strong interest in working with the running population, whether it’s achieving a personal record or taking the first step towards joining the running community. Dr. Jordan is also a high school cross-country and track and field coach specializing in distance events.