Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Free Form Training

I woke up and my body said, "take today off," so I did. Now I'm feeling so strong I'm likely to do a double session tomorrow. But what it's all about for me is "running by feel," and "free form" training . . . more below . . .

Free Form Training

If you haven’t had a chance, you should purchase the April, 2011 edition of “Running Times.” On page 12 is an article on Ryan Hall and his new training philosophy. The article provides more specifics but at a high level, Ryan isn’t counting mileage or ledgering a schedule of his workouts. He is truly “running by feel,” and in fact, the author says Ryan “has taken this free form training to its extreme . . . “

I read a recent post by Ryan on his blog where he said he no longer counts miles or distance, and, god help us all, Ryan Hall actually takes 1 day off each week and does no running. Boy, he better be careful because that’s almost anti-American . . . we all must follow a pre-set schedule or life will end as we know it. I’ve also read a few books by Matt Fitzgerald in which he cites several East African runners that run without watches, only document their running activities at a high level (i.e., time only), and truly run by feel (there’s something to be learned here).

I’m posting for others than may be curious or interested. I’ve enjoyed running more over the past month than ever since I started running, and I’ve fully adopted this “free form running,” or “running by feel” philosophy and it has changed my life.

A few changes I made, and for me, they were drastic and it took some time for me to fully adopt them (I never realized how dependent I was on a gadget instead of relying on my own body):

1. Majority of my runs are with “no” watch. I run 6 out of 7 days and I only carry a watch on 1 run per week, generally my tempo run (I just recently quit using a watch for my long run and the joy and love has returned to my long runs; I even do my intervals at the track with my track club with no watch . . . I’m the only one!). I’m also slowly working toward doing my tempo run with no watch so I can truly run without a watch. Ultimately, my goal is only to use a watch when I’m a few weeks from an actual race to check where I’m at in terms of pace and feel. Lastly, I hope to progress to the point that I can race competitively without a watch.

2 When I get tired, I walk. If I get out of breath, I slow down. If I get too tired or sore, I stop and go home. Removing the pressure of any watch, gadgets, or pre-set pace or distance parameters has actually forced me to only rely on my body (I figure the best runners come out of Kenya and they can’t afford watches for many years yet they run beautifully). No technology on the face of this earth is as effective as that device of yours called your body but the trick and challenge is to learn how to listen and understand what it’s telling you.

3. Although I run 6 days per week, I’ve worked with my coach to identify key runs over a 14 or 21 day cycle and while I have a general outline of the week, my goal is to hit the key runs (tempo, interval and long run) but not in a pre-set defined order. I do try to hold Saturday’s for my tempo run but otherwise it’s a free for all and I have no problem deviating if my body so desires. Today, I decided not to run because I was too sore but now half way through the day I’ve recovered (mentally and physically) to the point that I’ll probably do a double session tomorrow (easy morning run, then track workout that night).

It’s wonderful when you remove “rules” from the natural world of running and just run . . . or, don’t run if you don’t feel like running. Some may think this “lack of discipline,” would prevent one from being as competitive as possible. Well, I’m running my “fastest” times and running “more” and “longer” than I ever did before. Funny how that is . . . let's all see how Ryan does at Boston!


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