Plotting & planning

Posted on December 3, 2011

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This is my final post on RTP but I feel I get asked so much about my training that it’s worthwhile putting my ‘plan’ down on paper.  A week doesn’t go by here in the sandpit, when I don’t get emails from people asking for advice about doing multi-day mountainous events and how best to prepare.  Equally, I find when on a hill, at the mere mention that I live in Dubai, the first words I hear muttered are ‘How do you train for this in a flat, hot desert?!’

The irony is that I am totally against training plans, not because they don’t have their place … they certainly work for many, if not most people regardless of the goal set or the event planned.

For me however, my entire life is organised on colour-coded spreadsheets … I’m a self-confessed spreadsheet geek … so when it comes to running, my hobby, my passion, I want to feel like a racehorse set free.

I don’t wear a watch, I monitor my distance little but I do pay a lot of attention to how I feel, physically and mentally. And when I’m training with a specific event in mind, I do have a loose agenda.

My loose agenda for a race like RTP looked as follows:

Mileage

There exists no shortcut or substitute to just putting in the miles.  I get restless when I try to do mega long training runs so instead I do lots of back to backs. A couple of hours in a morning and then again in an evening or the following day works wonders. The trick is just to get used to running on tired legs. You’ve no option during an event to have a quick massage or a stretch with a yoga band so the more you can prepare your legs for what lies ahead, the better. Pounding too much on pavements however is too harsh on your body and will increase the risk of injury so stick where you can to soft trails.  I run a lot on the sand, beneath the metro. Long runs are chicken soup for the soul when you get used to them … download audio books from audible.com or podcasts from iTunes and off you go.  Better still, run with a girlfriend and immerse yourselves in chatter re men, mountains, Manolos and other such life-enhancing topics.

Mountains

Save the huge long drive for regular visits out to one of the Jebels as let’s face it, who wants to spend half their life behind the wheel, and opt instead for the stairwell.  I wrote about this not long ago and will forever maintain that climbing stairs is a brilliant substitute for the real thing.

On days when the thought of a dark hot stair well is just too much to bear, there’s always the stair master in the gym.  It might not be quite as hard work but still gives you a great workout and I’m often found at 18.30pm on the stair master at Fitness First in Media City … this way I can combine  my workout with a quality episode of the Bold & the Beautiful.

Strength

The extra effort required to carry your pack can’t be overlooked and runners in particular are often quick to neglect their upper half.  Two ways to prepare for this … strength work in the gym and real pack work al fresco.

Fitness First gave me some great exercises to do to strengthen my back and shoulders … and my core as that really takes the weight.  I have fallen in love with the Bosu ball which is unforgiving if you don’t engage those abs! Of course, all that hard work brings the great rewards of a beautiful back and super strong arms to show off the sexiest of tops.

Running with a weighted pack is needless to say, the perfect training.  Lots of competitors I met last week ran up and down the Peak in Hong Kong with their packs full of rice.  I ran a couple of times a week to the mall to pick up any shopping I needed and every Saturday, I run on the sand to Ripe’s Farmers Market at Dubai Garden Centre and fill my pack with my delicious organic veg for the week.

Altitude

As an absolute general rule, the fitter you are, the better your body adapts to new conditions and therefore the less you are likely to suffer from altitude.  But … this is really nothing but a general rule.  Unfortunately, altitude sickness often comes with no rhyme or reason.  I know people who have summitted Everest several times and then suddenly succumbed to dire sickness on a small hill.

The best thing you can do is to really take it slowly and allow your body as much time as possible to acclimatise and to hydrate hydrate hydrate.  Also, never shy from taking altitude drugs.  They work for many and if they save you from DNF’ing, they’re a winner, hands down.

Central Governor

Mental preparation should be given as much time and consideration as physical preparation. Work out what tools work for you be that affirmations, visualisation, meditation, self-coaching or a combo and then use them like your life depends on them!

Ultimately, training for any event is just about time and preparation.  Work backwards and factor in holiday time or periods when you have visitors or work commitments then devise a loose weekly schedule that encompasses all the elements you need to train for. I know everyone hates to hear it but

Fail to prepare and you must prepare to fail.

Besides, when we put so much thought into choosing an event, earning the money to pay for it, considering the logistics and planning our outfits (!), the least we can do is to put the thought and preparation required into getting to the start line in the most equipped way possible.

Bear this in mind as you plot and plan your events for 2012! 

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