Monday, February 22, 2016

Coach Jeff Might be Right

My friend and informal running coach, Jeff, said my Hanson's program for the half-marathon was going to be too tough for me. Too many days/week and too hard of efforts. He may be right. I just came down with another cold. I rarely get colds/flu, but now I've had one in October, early January, and late February. Is it the stress of training? Maybe it's just being around 40,000 undergraduate students at the University of Illinois. Especially the almost 8,000 in engineering that I am passing by on a daily basis (probably twenty met 1-1 each day, others in classes, and many walking around the engineering quad). Those students always seem sick with something! Or maybe I'm just getting too old to regularly fend off these tough new viruses?

I have a feeling I'm always exposed to new strains of the common cold or flu around campus...but I've managed to have a strong immune system that fights them off well. With my new, more intense training, I think I'm creating greater stress and a lowered immune response. Thus, more low-level illnesses. In essence, Jeff is correct. My training is too intense for my current fitness. I've always been a low-mileage runner with lots of rest days (typically running 4 days/week). And my speed work has been about once a week. Usually a tempo effort on the trails. The Hansons program has me running 6 days/week with 2 hard speed sessions and one long run. If I moderated the speed duration and/or intensity, then I might be OK. But I "blindly" follow the plan based on my goal of a 1:32 half-marathon finish. That goal may be out of reach (for now). Push too hard and you crumble. The frequent illnesses seem to indicate too much stress.

The solution is less intense training. I need to cut back the dosage (duration + intensity) of my hard workouts. Keep the pace, but shorten the duration (each fast repeat or total number of repeats). Or run the speed session slower and keep the same number and duration of fast repeats. Similarly, I believe the rest intervals need to be longer. I'm not in my 20s or 30s anymore. In fact, I'm now 50 years old. I need more rest to recover within hard workouts and between hard days too!

So, what's my new plan? Not sure. This week will be an easy week as I try to shake this new cold. No speed sessions. Shorter and lighter efforts all week. If I recover quickly, then I'll re-examine the Hansons program. Maybe target a slower half-marathon time so the resultant training sessions are more feasible. Or ditch the program completely and run by feel. I can still incorporate the lessons and major themes from Hansons. But make them my own.

Or, maybe, I just need "Coach Jeff" to devise a personal training schedule based on my goals and his understanding of my reaction to training stresses. He knows me better than any generic running program. He may know me better than I know myself when it comes to running.

For now, I just want to sleep and watch TV. Between doses of DayQuil and NyQuil.

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