Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Double Up Training

By double up training I’m referring to doing two quality training sessions back to back on consecutive days. Most athletes tend to follow a hard day of training with an easy day, however, depending on what you have done on your hard day, it is possible for athletes to train hard on consecutive days, particularly if you have a good support system around you. I’ve heard of athletes who train really hard for half a week and then take it easy for the rest of the week, it all depends on how your body copes with hard training and how strong you are physically and mentally.

I was coached on the hard/easy principle and it works well for me, I can, and do, train hard but if it’s been a long and hard session my body, usually, can’t cope with anything more than an easy run the next day. I run to a pattern, quality runs on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, Friday is a day off running and the rest are steady to easy running. Most runners have their hard weekday runs on Tuesday and Thursdays, I’m just different. It’s not because I’m anti-social, I used to do the Tuesday/Thursday thing, but the Monday/Wednesday thing stems from a time when I was working really long hours and could never guarantee I would be able to get a run on certain days, starting on a Monday meant if I couldn’t manage a run that day I still had plenty of time to try to fit in two quality runs and if I could run on Monday it was in the bag already. I’ve stuck to the pattern and it gives me that extra recovery before a Saturday race or, if I fancy, an opportunity to throw in an extra quality session before a Sunday race.

There are, however, times when I have doubled up my quality sessions, but I know my body is only capable of doing this for a short period of time. For this same reason I never run two legs in a relay and rarely run two races on two consecutive days. I know plenty of runners who do but I just can’t, and I accept that. In fact another thing that amazes me is how sprightly some runners jog down after a race, I’m usually so spent I can barely move, though usually this is for races over 5 miles or more.

This first time I tried double up training was in 1995 when I first visited New Zealand. I was being coached by Arthur Bruce at the time and, knowing that I would be travelling a lot when I got to New Zealand, he suggested I did a little bit of fartlek most days to keep me ticking over. It was as simple as that so I just formulated my own training based on what space I could find. I did two, three and even four consecutive days of repetitions in the morning, but these were short duration. I then did another, easy, run in the evening. In between sessions I’d be sightseeing and travelling. After a few days I needed a rest or just went on a long run, it all depended on what I had planned for the day and what the scenery provided in terms of running. I came back to England on 16 March and six weeks later I set my 3000m pb, taking a silver medal in the South of England Champs. So ever since then I’ve utilised this type of training leading up to an important short race.

This last week I’ve been to Spain again, Carole needed a break and with a big short race coming up I thought it would be an ideal chance to use my double up sessions. Knowing the area well I knew exactly what I was going to do before I went, the sessions I did were as follows; on one day (1 min – 30 sec rec – 2 min – 1 min rec – 3 min – 1 min rec x 3), on the next day (20 x 1min – 15 sec recovery) and on the 3rd day I did a session of 30 second sprints with Carole, at her pace, with 15 seconds recovery. Then I’d repeat this, although 2nd time round I did 21 x 1 minute reps. The 7th day would normally be a rest day but as we weren’t flying back until the evening I threw in another session of 1,2,3. To round it all off the first day back I finished off with another 21 x 1 minute. Now I was tired but had planned an easier week this week. I felt that I’d been training really well all week, the road surface had given me back the pace that the soft grass of Tatton Park had dulled and my body didn’t seem so tired as it had been recently, until the end of the week.

Monday I planned an easy 8, only it wasn’t, 3.5 miles in and my back spasmed. It was just a quick spasm but I could feel the tenderness for the rest of the way home. I’d known my body was tired and I guess all the stress on the hamstrings had come back to haunt me. The pain got worse throughout the day and I spent a sleepless night twinging every time I moved. I took Tuesday off but hit the kettlebells, I find it helps my back whenever I get a spasm, and so it appears to have done. It’s now Wednesday, I managed a run this morning, albeit a slow one, followed by another session of kettlebells. I’m hoping I can run properly tomorrow as I’m due to train with Lee Riley as he gears up for his next challenge, the 10k world record, carrying his 40lb pack.

Speaking of Lee, one of the things I missed by going away was his attempt on the 5000m world record, carrying the 40lb pack. But I can report that on Sunday 4 November Lee was successful in breaking the record with his time of 20 min 1.86 sec, agonisingly close to breaking 20 minutes. So another world record goes to Lee Riley, that’s his 5th, hopefully that figure will soon be up to 6 with the 10k.

Another race I missed was the British and Irish Masters International Cross Country Championships which was held this Saturday in Belfast. This year I didn’t put myself forward, the hamstring injury I suffered in the summer prevented me from feeling confident I would make the team so when Carole requested a November holiday I planned it around this event because I thought that I’d have an easier chance of making the Herne Hill team for the British Masters Cross Country Relay Champs. Of course that was before I decided it was time to move on and join Salford. Still it was good to see many of my friends performing well at the event. I was particularly pleased to see Andy Robinson representing England in the M45s. I first met Andy in the early 90s, when he was running some great races, it was a big boost for me when, in 1993, I finished 2 seconds ahead of him on first leg of the TVH relays, but he remained a challenge to beat for some time. Middle age and children slowed Andy down for a few years but since he turned 40 I’ve noticed an improvement in form and he’s now looking as formidable as I remember. It would be interesting to see how I would fare against him in a race now.  

I also missed the Manchester Cross Country League on Saturday, which means I’m drifting down the Salford championship tables.
One other event I couldn’t take part in was the National Cross Country Relays, held at Mansfield on 3 November. It was fantastic to see my old team, Belgrave Harriers, win the event again. Mind you it would be even better to see my current team, Salford Harriers, take that title one day. Interestingly, whilst I’ve been a member of Belgrave Harriers, Herne Hill Harriers and Edinburgh AC, each team became National Champions. So with that in mind I’m hoping to continue with my string of good fortune and see Salford Harriers become national champions again.

Written by Roger Alsop


  1. I ran 34:10 with a cigarette behind my ear and a banana in my pocket. Record?
    Not? Well I also had different coloured socks. That must be unique enough to make my slow time a record?

    1. Perhaps you should submit it to Guinness, though I don't believe there is a category for self delusion.