by John Schrup
It’s about to get real hot up in here. I don’t think we’ve hit the three digits yet, but it’s coming. You know it is. And around here, around the ATX, summer means building the foundation for race season. Ok, ok, it means other things too, like vacation with the kids, backyard bbq’s, and all that shit. But for the dedicated marathoner, those things are, like, so way less important. Summer is the de facto base building phase for the marathoner in the know. It’s really too hot to do anything other than put in absurdly high volumes of relaxed, easy running.
Experience has shown that those who can endure the summer and put in the time will almost invariably have a good training block once the weather changes to something less prohibitive. It is unknown why, exactly. Whether we build a mental toughness in having to survive the heat and put in the miles, or whether the temperature essentially forces us to run easier than we would if the weather permitted, I don’t know. Likely, it is a bit of both. Whatever the reason, we know if you get through the summer with consistency, you are primed for a good fall training block.
One of the things that I like to suggest to the group is to remove some of the familiar variables of their training. Over the summer, the goal to run a vast majority of our miles as relaxed and easy as possible. True, we do some light fartlek here and there, and there is the extemporaneous progression run on mornings when the humidity is just this side of suffocating, but most of our running is easy. Our focus is internal, so we leave the watch at home. Maybe not literally, but we certainly don’t pay attention to it. The tendency for the endurance athlete’s mindset is to require a regular monitor: Heartrate, GPS, chrono or a ridiculous combination of all three. But in the summer, our monitor is our own internal gauge. We learn (or re-learn) to run by feel.
The easiest way to do this is to remove all but one of your external monitors. Either go by distance, or go by time. But do your best to resist combining the two. If you go by distance, leave the watch at home. Or if you feel too naked without it, don’t start the chrono. If you go by time, don’t check your watch at every geographic marker you are familiar with. Instead, if you have an hour run on the schedule, set your watch for 31 or 32 minutes and run very easy until the beep signals time to head back home. (IF you do it right, you’ll come back a couple minutes faster without an increase in effort.) Once you learn to run by feel, you’ll open the door to becoming a more complete runner.
If you are really serious about reaching your goals, the summer is also the best time to introduce doubles to your training. Doubles are the real deal. And the summer is the right time because you are doing mostly easy runs, and the added stimulus is appropriate before the intensities climb as well. The science geeks will argue whether longer single runs have more merit than doubles, but if they were better, then all the best runners in the world would be running singles. Doubles don’t need to be anything more than two or three miles, and the benefits will be huge. Yes, you will get tired. I promise. But I can also promise that you will adapt. And when you do, the benefits will be most obvious. Do it. Doubles aren’t for just the elite. They are for anyone who wants to take their training to a new level.
Enjoy your summer! Please pass the water.