Re-Thinking How I Train

After making the difficult decision, not to run in the Marine Corps Marathon, I have a choice:

  1. either wallow in despair or
  2. make it an opportunity to become a better runner.


Wallowing serves no purpose; I have eaten my Whoopie pie and ice cream, so now I am ready to work on becoming a better runner.

Before I made the decision to not run MCM, I was in the process of reviewing my running to look at why I do things a certain way and if there might be better ways for me to run more consistently. Below is what I have done so far:

  • What are my motivations for running?
  • What I want to achieve as a runner?
  • Which Running Shoe – Post Injury?
  • How Injuries Have Effected my 2013 Goals.
  • Racing Versus Going to a Race

I need to finish this process and that is what this post is about.

Re-Thinking How I Train

This change of plan means the pressure to rush back to training is gone and I have time to put my research, needs, wants and off-the-wall thoughts about running into a training philosophy or framework that I hope works better for me than my previous boom, then break methods of training.

First things First

The first thing that I have to do is finish rehabilitating my present injuries and all the other little aches and pains that have accumulated over the years. In order to do that I am going through physical therapy for my left heel area 2 x a week, which means the PT sessions are not really enough by themselves to resolve the underlying issues that actually caused my most recent injury (besides the part, where I did not listen to my body).

To help resolve these underlying problems, I have been using parts of the Running Injury Recovery Program by Bruce Wilks, in conjunction with my physical therapy sessions and homework, with very good results.

Therefore, I plan to use parts of the next phase of his program in addition to starting to run slowly again according to Budd Coates’ base building schedule in Running on Air – to get me ready to start training again sometime in August.

Yes that is right – August

Does this mean you have suddenly developed patience Harold?

Naw, but it does mean that I know that my Achilles tendon needs more time to heal, before I can get back to full training and that I will take the time I need to do it “mostly” right.

Thinking Back

When I think about when I have enjoyed my running the most and still kept improving, without being injured a lot, it was when I just had a basic plan, a routine that kept things simple, did not overthink what I needed to do and was flexible when life got in the way.

Runlog Week 20 1983 pg1

This didn’t mean that I was not working hard, because I was, but I also was not being pressured or restricted by the parameters of a canned training plan.


As much as I might like to have a coach, so I could just focus on running and let them worry about what I am supposed to do. The brutal reality is that financially, it just is not going to happen.

So I will continue to self-coach myself, with all the limitations and pitfalls that it entails.

Butterfly Runner

One thing is that I want to stop is being a butterfly runner, who continuously flits from one training plan, program or framework to another, based on the most recent book, blog post or other resource that I have read or watched, which might be well-intentioned, but usually only serves to muddy the waters more for me than they help.

I know that like many runners out there, I am overloaded and bombarded with so much information about the “right” way to train and run, that more often than not I am dazed and confused about how I should be training and running.

It is time to stop the madness and get back to basics and train to run faster and farther, not just jumping from plan to plan.

Not just another training plan

Notice that I am not saying that I need – yet another training plan.

You know – do x number of miles in y number of minutes to get z number miles by a certain week. They are simply too restrictive to me and do not take into account my strengths and weaknesses, how I am feeling, or what is going on in my life right now.

Since I got the competitive bug last year, I have added a lot of complexity to my training and I know now, that I really do not need that level of complexity as a recreational competitor, because I am not going to be a national or even local class runner, which it seems many of these plans are more geared towards.

I understand the need for progressive variability and proper pacing in a training plan to accomplish goals, but in my experience, keeping things simple and using things that work for you or working on something specific that you need to improve, is better than trying to make something needlessly complicated or attempt to do too much.

Which I believe too many training programs an some coaches attempt to do in an effort to justify their cost or existence.


What kind of training plan, philosophy or framework, do I want to use when I return to full running and training again?

After the reading and research that I have done recently, there are several training methods that piqued my interests, but for various reasons I chose not to use them, some were:

  • Chi Running
  • Heart Rate Monitor based training – tried it I do not like it – I ignore the H/R monitor
  • Running on Air
  • Run Less, Run Better (the 3 day a week plan)
  • High intensity
  • Runner’s World programs
  • Adidas MiCoach

and so many other training plans that are out there in books or on websites.

However, after all the research and reading the training method that seems to align most closely with my personality, experiences and what I want to accomplish is some sort of effort based training method or framework.


I have had Matt Fitzgerald’s Brain Training for Runners (see my review here) for a while and as I was doing my research have become more and more intrigued by many of the concepts he writes about in that book.

Then I read the reviews and synopsis, from his newer book RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel, which seemed to be even more in the direction I want to go.

I bought the eBook the other night and just finished reading it.

Yes, I have been working on this post for a week now.


There is no guarantee that running with an effort based framework or that Matt Fitzgerald’s method are exactly what I am looking for or will even work for me, but the idea trusting myself to know what is best for me with my running, is the direction I want to go.

Which is very different idea from how I have been approaching my training recently, using the canned training programs and attempting to modify them to meet my needs.


So what would my effort based training framework look like if I had to start it tomorrow?

Runlog Week 20 1983 pg1

My potential 7 Day running cycle:

  • Day 1 – Base Run*
  • Day 2 – Base Run* on Trails – possibly a second easy run later in training
  • Day 3 – Speed workout – alternating weeks track*** and other forms of speed work or a trail race series run
  • Day 4 – Recovery Run**
  • Day 5 – Base Run* – Trails or Road
  • Day 6 – Long Run with tempo run embedded (Trails or Road)
  • Day 7 – Rest**

*Base run days would also include strength training (yes that includes lifting weights), strides after the 2-4 run and plyometric drills on non-consecutive days.

**Recovery or rest days include mobility and stretching exercises – this includes scheduled and unscheduled.

***Track would include multiple barefoot strides on the football field. My primary track workout would be  6 x 400m, with 400m rest laps, 1.0 mile race pace, 400m rest lap, 1 x 400m race pace, 200m rest, then 600 meter as fast as I can go – to practice having a longer kick.

Every 4th week would be a recovery week.

The runs would get progressively harder over the cycle and I would plan for a recovery week and in between cycles.


In this plan I would only do two high quality days a week, the rest are base or recovery runs. I have found that three quality days of running in a 7-day period is too much for me and when I did this this during my last training cycle I broke down.

Also I have found that weekly track workouts are too much, so I would move them to every other week, with the off-week working on building strength and speed in other ways.

No I don’t like it the changes, but at the same time if I want to keep running consistently, I need to be smart and take into account the changes that are part of the aging process, instead of continuing to beat my head and body into a cement wall over and over again.

The above are concessions to being almost 56 years old – I know that I can’t train like I am 25 (as much as I might want to) and have to take into account that damn aging process that happens to all of us.

What this really means is that I have to think more about how I train and research more about the affects of aging in running, instead of just running blindly down the road.

Other Changes

First – I believe that I am going to change my primary way to measure my running from mileage to time based. This change is huge, since I have always used mileage and pace. I am sure that I will still track miles and pace in my running log, but they will not be my focus.

Second – I am planning to start my week on Sunday instead of my typical Monday start – a minor but substantial difference for me.

Third – I am seriously thinking about switching to a 14 day training cycle like Budd Coates advocates in his book Running on Air, versus the typical 7 day cycle. I haven’t quite decided on this method yet, but I am intrigued by it and doing more research to see if it fits what I want to accomplish.


There is also more of a focus on trail running, to help me recover both physically and mentally (I believe that trail running recharges and re-energizes me), it also builds strength and proprioception in different ways than road running does.

Besides I like trail running a lot, I just have not been able to do it as much as I wanted when I was focused on prepping for the MCM.


Believe it or not, I like routine and believe that it helps me run more consistently.

Once I find a routine that works, it helps to keep things simpler, which I believe is the problem with too many training plans, they are overly complex and attempt to have runners do too many different things over the course of a training cycle.

Looking at the above possible 7 day cycle, there is lot variability in the actual courses I could run and the workouts I am looking at doing, so I would not get bored, but I would have a good idea of when and what I would be doing.

I have set courses and workouts that have baselines, to gauge my improvement or use as checkpoints to see what I need to do differently to keep improving.

The best thing about having a routine is that it allows me to focus on my running, instead of whether I am meeting the requirements a canned plan and stressing out when I do not do what the plan’s author says I should be doing to be successful – after all their authors all know more about running than I do…

but they don’t know more about me, than I do.


Sometimes when we take a step back, look at our running objectively and peel away the layers between where we are and what we want to achieve. It can be very surprising what we might find when we do look and what some of the possible solutions might be. Especially, if we are willing to do the research or think a little out of the box.

Runlog Week 20 1983 pg2.jpeg

What I want to achieve it to run consistently and keep improving – even as an old fart!

I know that to do this I need to move away from the attitude of “I have always done it this way” approach and change some things to make me look at my running differently.


I do know that I am very excited about the possibilities that this different perspective towards my training might provide and hopefully these changes will give me better outcomes than my old boom and then break training style did.

The part that I like most about the changes that I am looking at implementing to my training and running philosophies are that I am taking responsibility for my own training and cannot blame how I do on anyone, but me.

Will I make mistakes – yep, will I be injured again – probably, will I keep running – no doubt about it, but they will be my mistakes and I will learn from them.

I still have a lot to think about and I may not have all the answers, but at least I know more of the right questions to ask and attempt to find those answers.


Since I have some time before I actually start training in August to incorporate some of these training idea, I was wondering if anyone has any experience with the training principles or plans in Matt Fitzgerald’s RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel or know of other resources that I should look at, to learn more about using effort based training.

Also does anyone have any experience with 14 day training cycles versus the typical 7 day one that predominates running right now.