Another week in the books. I'm starting to feel a lot stronger and fitter, which is nice.
I think this improved sense of fitness relates to how I've been approaching this spring. More specifically, one of my big goals right now is to keep the pace of my workouts under control to the point where I feel like I'm slacking off. It's a leap of faith, but it seems to be working well for me - I'm seeing gains from week to week.
As background for why I'm "blowing off" my workouts - I've kept my training log since I first started running back in 2007. With a record that long, I can browse back through it and identify trends. There are a few things that seem to be correlated with my best fitness at the 5K-half distance:
1) consistent weekly mileage in the low to mid 60s;
2) regular long runs of 16-17 miles (just slightly over 2 hours), run as a progression;
3) focusing more on the volume of my workouts than the speed - eight to ten 800m repeats at a controlled pace do more for me then six repeats at lung searing effort.
4) running my workouts at about 75% effort - trying to stay relaxed and resisting the temptation to dig deep or try to hang onto a pack.
5) racing at 95% effort, rather than giving it my all.
[what's correlated with failure/injury? Short hard running (mile races, 200s), slacking off on yoga/crosstraining, lack of a weekly long run, balls to wall track workouts, low weekly mileage, back to back days of hard running, aggressive plyometrics, stress at work, lack of sleep, not eating protein post workout]
The first two are easy; the third is a bit harder, in part because the final two points are very challenging for me. I tend to be a "give it everything you got every single time" type person, which makes it very hard to keep the brakes on. Especially when my teammates are digging deep - I feel like I'm abandoning them. But running my workouts hard seems to fry me - it's too much stress for me to recover from before the next workout, and so I dig myself into a hole, and don't improve.
I can see how other runners who are more explosive or younger can see greater gains from working hard in their training and being willing to hurt a bit. But for me, the optimal workout effort is where I feel sheepish because I'm not working anywhere near as hard as I could, or as others are. And that's the effort I'm really trying to target the next few weeks.