‘What now?’ asks many a runner just days after Comrades… After months of hard training and the massive toll 87km will take on your body, it’s time to plot those running goals for the second half of the year, but do it wisely!
Your past three months would have consisted of many long runs, anything from 20km and up, all run at a slow, Comrades race pace. These runs are called LSD or Long Slow Distance runs. The point of LSD is to train the body to: (1) withstand the pounding of running from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, (2) become efficient at using fat as an energy source in order go the full distance, and (3) become biomechanically efficient at the slower Comrades race pace and therefore train the muscles to run for hours on end at that pace.
However, the problem with running LSD almost every weekend for the last three months is that you have trained the body to run slowly. If you’re hoping to run a few PB’s in the second half of the year, there are a number of things you’ll need to address.
1 Don’t Hibernate
Recovering from a massive undertaking like Comrades is extremely important, but avoid falling into the trap of going into hibernation for months. From a physiological perspective, the body only maintains what it feels it needs to survive. This means that we quickly begin to lose muscular endurance and strength when we stop exercising completely. Studies have shown that we lose about 10% of our strength and about 30 to 40% of our muscular endurance within eight weeks of no training.
Therefore, give your body enough recovery time to repair the muscle fibre damage caused by Comrades, but then get going again. Take 10 to 14 days full rest and then gradually start to introduce cross-training and a few easy runs. If you still have an ache in your legs, then hit the pool.
2 Need For Speed
With recovery done and dusted, set yourself a few goals for the second half of the year. It’s difficult to get up in the cold mornings if you don’t have a purpose for doing so, and setting goals gives you something to work toward. Post-Comrades is the ideal time to take your training to a new level. For months you’ve essentially been doing a few thousand kilometres of base training. If you stay off the road until September, you’ll have a lot of work to do before you’re back to the level you are now. Instead, focus on the shorter distances and gradually build speed. Improving your times over 5km or 10km has a knock-on effect for your marathons and ultras. This will take your training to a new level and put you on the front foot for your goals in 2016.
3 What weaknesses?
There’s a good chance that as your weekly mileage increased in the build-up to Comrades, so you started to experience a number of niggles, or even full-blown injuries. Every year, a large number of runners, against better judgement, will arrive at the start line and attempt to complete Comrades while nursing an injury. Often it’s these runners who risk their lives by taking anti-inflammatory drugs during the race. If you need a drug in order to finish a race, then you should not even consider starting! These great races are not going anywhere.
Niggles and injuries are a result of muscle imbalances or specific muscle weaknesses. These are exploited through repetitive motion (lots of LSD). The increase in mileage pre-Comrades places such a big energy demand on the body that one cannot focus on endurance, strength and speed training at the same time. It’s a recipe for disaster. This means that pre-Comrades training should have a main focus of endurance. Now, with Comrades behind you, the second half of the year is an ideal time to identify your imbalances and weaknesses and to work on improving them.
The bottom line is that there is life after Comrades, and these guidelines will give you some direction.