Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 Training Plan 2023

Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 Training Plan 2023

It's the final part of our blog trilogy and today we're focusing on the use of tech to monitor training. Undoubtedly, when used in the right ways, there's many benefits to the available tech, but as with anything, there's pitfalls. If we’re going to set a schedule, then we also need to discuss training zones and associated physiology. As part of that, we need to talk about ‘thresholds’. This means we’re going to have to get slightly technical later in this post, so prepare yourself before we go any further, you might need a dose of mental resilience. Hold tight. 

Intensity V Output

The first thing to consider is the difference between intensity and output. Intensity refers to how hard you are working and output refers to the outcome of your intensity (your running speed). We generally measure intensity using physiological markers or perceived effort:

> What's your heart rate?
> What's your breathing rate?
> Does it feel hard?

These are all pretty accurate gauges of intensity. If you feel like you're working hard, you're breathing hard and your heart rate is high, then it's fair to say you're working hard. Output measurements are different, they don't tell you how hard someone is working, they just tell you the resulting outcome. Running speed, whether it's minutes per mile or kph, is an output measurement. It doesn't tell you how hard someone is working, it just tells you how fast they're moving. Output can be a poor gauge of intensity. For example, if you’re tired and running uphill on a muddy track, you may be working very hard to go very slow. 

With the development of GPS devices and watches, there has been a trend for many people to move towards output measurements as a guide for training. People run to pace (even if they don't realise that they are), rather than intensity. Output measurements can become addictive... If during your Sunday run you averaged 10 minutes per mile, then there's a tendency to try and match or better that the following week. People are constantly checking their average pace. If your speed is slower, then you feel disappointed with the result. The issue here is that you're not training to a specific 'intensity' ... you're simply trying to hit a certain speed, however hard that may be. Understand that speed is NOT a measurement of intensity and therefore shouldn’t be used to dictate training in most cases. 

When you follow this training plan, you should always aim to run at the correct 'intensity'. The speed, to a large extent, is irrelevant. If your training requires you to maintain a heart rate below 130 beats per minute, then you should stick to that 'intensity'. If you have to walk on the uphills, then so be it. Don't panic about the average speed, switch the watch off if it bothers you that much. 

So output is a waste of time?

Certainly not. There is a time for output measurements, but only in specific circumstances. If you are running at a track, then you may want to complete each repetition in a specific time. If you're practicing for a race (or taking part in one), you may want to run at a specific pace to see if you're capable of your goal time. Outcome measurements are very useful, but they should be used sparingly to 'test yourself' or 'gauge your progress'. You may want to do key workouts or enter events, to see if you're making improvements. But understand this... every time you use output, whether consciously or not, you are 'testing yourself'. At the end of the run, your average speed will tell you how well you 'performed' and when you're following a long term plan, you simply cannot 'perform' every day. 

Training is designed to add stress to your body, which in turn leads to adaptation. Training also causes fatigue and as every runner knows, you'll have good weeks and bad weeks and you won't simply get faster every week. Don't get drawn into 'testing your performance' every day by monitoring pace. If the plan says 'run easy' then use heart rate, breathing and perceived effort as your gauge of intensity. If the pace is 1 minute per mile slower than last week, who cares... you still ran at the correct intensity, administered the correct stress and will gain the correct adaptations. The only day when the 'pace' matters is race day. 

The social media effect

As I've stated above, it's very easy to get drawn into output based training and obsess over your run speed each session. People worry when their pace is slower than the previous week. This 'worry' is made significantly worse when you're not the only person watching. Thanks to Strava, all your friends can also see that you were slower than last week. Be careful of adding such pressures to your training plan, because it's neither physically or mentally sustainable for most people. Take the pressure off, remove the output, just go run and enjoy. 

In the zone

For our plan, we will have very simple training zones. For the purpose of calculating our zones, we will use the terms 'Ventilatory Threshold 1' (VT1) and 'Ventilatory Threshold 2' (VT2). Even the use of such terms brings me out is a mild sweat, as the terminology of 'thresholds' is a complicated subject and I really don't want to open that can of worms. Stick with me... 

Zone 1 - Easy aerobic & Full Conversation

Zone 1 is running and being able to hold a full conversation. As the pace increases slightly, your conversation continues but you will notice that it is now slightly broken. You have to pause slightly and catch your breath between words. The 'threshold' at which you switched from FULL to BROKEN conversation is the VT1. You're now in zone 2. 

Zone 2 - Steady aerobic & Broken conversation

The intensity is still comfortable in zone 2 but as we've stated above, conversation is broken. The pace increases further and you now have to stop talking altogether because you are breathing harder. You're still in control and this is the kind of pace you could probably hold for an hour. It's hard, but it's still 'aerobic', welcome to zone 3, nice to have you here.

Zone 3 - Hard aerobic & No conversation

The pace build even further and your heart rate is climbing rapidly. You feel like you're going to lose touch with the group and push a little more which triggers very rapid breathing, you feel as though you're on the verge of hyperventilation and know that this pace is not sustainable. That rapid change in breathing, the feeling that your breathing is about to go out of control is VT2. 

Zone 4 - First feelings of hyperventilation


So those are the 4 main zones or physiological reference points that we'll work from. You should use perceived effort as your main gauge and heart rate can also be used in conjunction with it. Stick with me here, as it's about to get technical, here's some things of note:

1. Most people will run is zone 2, when they should actually be in zone 1. Pushing slightly harder is natural for most people, especially on hills when we feel the pace dropping. Very few people successfully manage to run in zone 1 when prescribed as they simply feel it's 'too slow' and perceive it to be a waste of time. This is one of the reasons why people fail to achieve the correct volume and consistency of training. 

2. When giving 'training zones' most people move towards the upper limit. For example, if zone 2 is 120-140 heart rate beats per minute, they'll generally opt to run at 139-140. 

3. Ventilatory thresholds and lactate thresholds are not the same thing. One is measured by breathing and the other is measured by taking blood lactate measurements. There are 2 lactate thresholds, LT1 & LT2. The first lactate threshold (LT1) generally falls pretty closely in line with the first ventilatory threshold (VT1). However, the second lactate threshold (LT2) doesn't fall in line with VT2. If you were to measure blood lactate, you'd probably find that lactate threshold 2 (LT2) would be somewhere in the middle to upper half of Zone 3, lower than VT2.

When people talk about running a 10k at 'lactate threshold' they are referring to LT2. When running at LT2, it feels like 'hard but sustainable' aerobic running. By comparison, VT2 is the first signs of hyper-ventilation, this is not a sustainable pace for 10k. This is the main reason why people generally do their 'threshold training' too hard, they run at the point of hyperventilating (VT2) which they perceive to be 'threshold' but in reality it is generally way above the lactate threshold (LT2) which occurs within zone 3. 

4. Endurance athletes like to focus on the 'high intensity figures'. They like to know VO2 maximum and likewise they talk about the 2nd threshold point and related 'threshold training'. Ironically, for longer distance events, the first threshold point (VT1), the point at which you go from full to broken conversation is the critical one that nobody refers to. That's generally the best guide for performance in event such as Ironman triathlon and long distance running.

Raising the VT1, the border between zone 1 and 2, the point at which you can no longer hold a full conversation will be something we'll very much focus on over the coming months. You need to raise your VT1 as high as possible and that should be your focus. How do we achieve that? Well I can tell you that running too hard doesn't help you very much. You need to slow down, have patience and give it the chance it deserves. Doing high intensity workouts gives you quick gains but they don't continue for long. Much better things come to those who are controlled, consistent... and wait. 

And you'll need to wait until Monday afternoon then we'll post the plan. 

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