Back to the drawing board!


After being out of running for almost a year, my coach, Lindsey Parry and I decided that it was time to get back to the drawing board and do some proper base training, but we could not afford to take any short-cuts in my getting back to shape. – BY RENÉ KALMER

Building a base is the first phase of a training cycle, where you prepare your body for the more challenging workouts to come closer to your goal race. The main goal of base training is to increase one’s endurance (aerobic capacity), and it must include the following three components: Increased mileage, long runs and faster workouts. But first things first, I had to report for duty at the High Performance Centre (HPC), because it was time to face the facts (and the fats) with the dreaded body composition and VO2Max test.

The VO2Max test is a scientific way to measure your fitness at the present moment. You start off very slowly on a treadmill, with your mouth covered with a mask to measure your oxygen consumption. This is to determine how well the heart and lungs work to deliver oxygen to your working muscles, and blood is drawn from your ear every time before the speed for your next level increases, which is used to determine your lactate threshold. I nearly caught a speed wobble when the speed reached sub 4min/km in my first test and I had to call the test quits, but I am happy to report that I was able to get closer to 3min/km on my next test six weeks later.

It was awesome to see the improvement over the weeks, and a great motivator for the long road back to full fitness as I built up the three components of my training.

1 Increased Mileage: With the help of the data from the tests, my coach could personalize my training program to make sure I do all my morning runs at the correct heart rate in order to optimise my training. At this stage pace was irrelevant, but it was good to see how my pace increased week after week at the same heart rate. In the build-up phase, it is important not to increase both pace and distance at the same time, as you might risk injury in the process.

2 Long Runs: They say “A long run puts the tiger in the cat.” A long run is synonymous to endurance events and is a critical component to successful training. Not only is a long run the best way to increase stamina, but it also helps to improve mental toughness and muscular strength. So happiness was… when I started to hit double-digit kilometres and was able to join my sister on Sunday and midweek long runs again. For now, in most of these runs I’m more than happy to watch Christine’s back, but I’m looking forward to run side by side to her soon, instead of chasing her.

3 Faster Workouts: Going faster is not the main focus during base training, but is a great way to maintain leg speed, and faster workouts can be anything from progression runs to interval training or fartlek sessions – or a set track workout. Still, I was a bit concerned when Lindsey suggested I add a “Math Test” to my weekly programme. Luckily, it turned out that the MAF test is an 8km on the track run at a specific heart rate – 180 minus your age – and clocking each kay. It might sound boring, but I enjoyed the weekly outings to the track, and I loved seeing how I literally shed minutes off my 8km time week after week. (This is also a good reason to keep a logbook to track your progress.)

Seeing is Believing
Over the past few months I have become a huge advocate for slow running after witnessing the benefits first-hand, having logged endless LSD (Long Slow Distance) kilometres day after day. In the past I thought slow running and recovery days were just showing your weakness, but in my current journey back to fitness after pregnancy, I have improved my 10km time month on month without doing any quality workouts on the track or road.

That’s why I was thrilled when I ran 48 minutes for my first 10km in more than a year, at the Spar Women’s 10km in Durban in June. Then at the Spar Women’s 10km in Pretoria, I definitely had the biggest smile when I crossed the line in just over 41 minutes. Then I added some faster interval and fartlek workouts to my training programme, in order to dip under 40 minutes again! #40mustfall