Keep it ticking over in December

There’s a strange trend in South Africa when it comes to club running and I guess it may have something to do with Comrades.

Firstly, I’m not knocking Comrades, I love Comrades, it’s one of the most amazing events in the world and I think a must do for all runners. But the problem with Comrades and club runners in south Africa is this…. the running calendar revolves around Comrades and as such club runners tend to go into hibernation in July, come out for a few runs in October and November, go into hibernation for December and then want to start Comrades training on the 1st of January the beginning of the year.

 “So, what’s the problem with that? Comrades is only in May, that’s plenty of time isn’t it?” you might be asking. There’s nothing wrong with that if you want to run a very high risk of picking up an injury or if you want to run a mediocre Comrades. But come on, who of us really want to be injured and how many of us wouldn’t opt for a PB at Comrades if on offer?

January to Comrades is simply not enough time to cram both speed and endurance into our bodies. The truth of the matter is that after giving ourselves 6-8 weeks activce recover after Comrades we should forget about long distances and turn our focus to shorter distances with the aim of getting faster over those distances. Like it or not, getting faster over 5 and 10km’s means we get faster over 21km’s which means we get faster over 42km’s and therefore faster over Comrades. The faster we get the more we are able to put into the legs when we hit the peak training weeks for Comrades which means we are able to run faster over 90km’s than if we simply started in January. But I digress.

So, after recovering from Comrades we should focus on getting our speed up over 5 and 10km distances building gradually to a goal at the end of the year sometime in October or November. For many runners in Gauteng this is traditionally The Tough One 32km. If you’ve focused on the kind of training and build up I’ve been talking about then you’ll realise that actually Tough One is not as tough as everyone makes out. But because most club runners have been in hibernation, Tough One turns out to be an extremely long day in the hot sun!

If we spend the better part of the second half of the year focusing on speed by the time we hit January we are fast and ready to start our build up to Comrades or Two Oceans, and we’re on a much better wicket then we were the same time last year. January see’s us building gradually to a qualifying marathon sometime in Feb and beginning of March and because we’ve come into the new year faster we end up running a much faster marathon and securing a better seeding for ourselves.

Once we’ve qualified our focus then shifts to distance. March and April are the peak training weeks for Comrades and this is where we clock up the mileage and get time on the legs. Again because we’ve been consitent for the past 8 months as we pick up our mileage we don’t run the risk of injury. If we’re only starting in January we’re simply expecting too much too soon from our bodies and we’ll have injury and illness knocking on our doors quicker than Santa can slide down the chimney.

Ok, back to December. At this point I hope it’s become clear that December is an important month and why it’s important to keep our fitness ticking over through December. This is not to say that December must be a hard slog no rest training period. By all means take your training back a notch or two, but don’t stop completely. So instead of training for 6 days of the week you might only training for 3 or 4 days. Try as a minimum to train for at least 3 days in the week. Training sessions can be light interval, fartlek or strength sessions. An interval session would be something like 6 x 800m or 8-10 x 400m or 20 x 150m. A fartlek session is limited only by your imagination so something like 1 lamp hard 1 easy or 5-10 x 45-60 secs hard, 60secs easy or around a soccer field you can do 1 length hard, jog 3 lengths, 2 lengths hard, jog 2 lengths, 3 lengths hard, jog 1 length, 4 lengths hard, 2mins easy and then repeat. A Strength session would be powering up a short steep hill of 15 to 80m’s (the steeperer the hill the shorter the repeat), plyometric box jumps are also great for leg strength and power or short burts up stairs.

Personally I find December a great time to train. Work pressures are off and heading out for an early morning run (before the family wakes up) in the fresh, crisp still air of summer is a great way to get your day off to a great start.

Good luck with your December training and enjoy your holiday and time of rest.

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