Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Chapter 9: The Fundamental Phase

Note: To me coaching is all about stewardship, using the knowledge and experience I have gained over 40 years as a runner, and 10 years as a coach, to help others pursue their running goals.  So rather than publishing a book you have to pay for, I am publishing it here on my blog, free for all (runners and coaches alike) to read and enjoy, maybe learn something from it, or potentially have it prompt you to look at something from a slightly different viewpoint.  If any of those happen, mission accomplished. 

The third and longest phase of the Hadley Liberty Training Cycle is the Fundamental Phase.  In the Fundamental Phase, the runner is in full training mode, working each facet of fitness to become a fitter runner.  

The Fundamental Phase lays a base foundation of running fitness from which to build to a peak for a certain race distance in the Specific Phase.  So the better we lay this base of fitness, the better position we are in for establishing our peak.  The higher we can raise our base fitness in the Fundamental Phase, the higher our potential peak will be.


With the phase goal established, improving base fitness, how we go about this will depend on what our goal is for the training cycle as a whole. A Fundamental Phase for a 3k goal race will look a little different from Fundamental Phase for a 50k goal race. But lets focus first on the similarities, and there are many, before discussing the differences.

In all Fundamental Phases we will work regularly on all 3 facets of our running fitness: speed, stamina and endurance. Each will come up in our workout rotation on a regular basis and we will seek to build up all 3 over the course of this training phase. At the end of the Fundamental Phase we want our speed, stamina and endurance to all be at significantly higher levels then when we left the Base Phase.

During a Fundamental Phase we are operating in our optimal micro-cycle design (7, 9, 10 or 14 days) as discussed in Chapter 5.  Our stress workouts in these micro-cycles are fairly evenly divided between each of the 3 categories of stress workouts: speed, stamina and endurance.  For example, if we are operating in a micro-cycle where we have 3 stress workouts per micro-cycle then one would be a speed workout, one would be a stamina workout, and one would be an endurance workout.

During the Fundamental Phase, for most distance runners (10k to marathon goal races) the primary focus in each fitness category will be as follows:

Speed: improving VO2 Max
Stamina: improving lactate threshold
Endurance: improving base endurance

Note: I recommend establishing a milestone workout for each of these categories that can help you gauge progress periodically throughout the cycle. Repeat this workout at the beginning, middle (if possible) and end of the cycle to help gauge your progress.

With our goal of improving VO2 Max during the course of this training phase, we will need to have a good amount and variety of VO2 Max workouts in our speed mix, but we also need to work in some Fast Repeats and Groove Repeats workouts as support. If the runner is a strength runner with limited speed, then they may need more Fast Repeats workouts to stimulate growth in VO2 Max. While a speedier runner may need more strength work from Groove Repeats to help stimulate the desired VO2 Max growth. I recommend using 8 x 3:00 minutes with 2:15 jog recovery as a good milestone workout (or a 3k or 5k race or timetrial) to help judge VO2 Max growth (and/or velocity at VO2 Max).

With a focus on improving our Lactate Threshold ("LT") in this phase, we need to attack it from a variety of angles. This means a steady diet of tempos, wave tempos, tempo repeats, and progression runs all centered around our LT. Like pushing a couch across the floor, we can't just push in one place or we'll lose our leverage eventually, so we need to hit/push it from multiple angles with multiple workout variations. While a straight 30 minute tempo may be our milestone workout for LT, we want to do more than just straight tempos to elicit the maximum growth. Additionally a periodic Aerobic Threshold ("AT") workout added in can be a great supportive workout to include as it often is beneficial to sparking LT growth as well. A runner with good basic speed but lacking in endurance may benefit more from periodic AT workout to support their LT growth while a runner with more endurance may not need it as often.

The primary focus in this category during the Fundamental Phase is growing our base endurance. This is most easily measured by the distance/duration we can run on the same effort. We want to end the Fundamental Phase being able to run significantly further, given the same effort output, (or the same longer distance faster) than we could entering the phase. Primarily during this phase our endurance workouts will be moderate rhythm long runs with an occasional steady state or fast finish long run added in for variety and to spark growth. The appropriate milestone workout for this category will be a more individual thing, depending on various factors including the runners mileage level and ultimate goal race distance. A marathoner may seek to build his long run distance during this phase as his milestone, while a 5k runner may seek to improve the time he can run for a set longer distance given the same effort.

As discussed there can and should be variations in the details on how we approach growth in each of the 3 categories of fitness during the Fundamental Phase to address strengths and weaknesses of the individual runner. Additionally there will be difference for runners who have a shorter or longer distance focus than the 10k-marathon range. A shorter distance runner (mile-5k) may want to increase the speed component of the Fundamental Phase modestly and will also do more Fast Repeats as part of their speed mix. While an 50k-50 mile ultrarunner may want to increase the endurance component on the cycle and add in more AT and Brisk pace runs into their stamina mix. This does not mean that endurance isn't important to a 5k runner or that speed isn't important to a ultrarunner, it just addresses the reality that their importance is relatively smaller than to many other runners.
Leveraging Macro-Cycles
To help us accomplish any desired focused work within stress workout categories, we can further break out our Fundamental Phase into macro-cycles (see Chapter 5) depending on any weaknesses we want to address or based on our area of specialty.  For example, we if our Fundamental Phase is 9 weeks long, we may break that into 3 macro-cycles of 3 weeks each.  If we have identified a certain area of weakness, such as basic speed, that may be holding back our continued progress, we may spend 1 or 2 of these macro-cycles with an emphasis on this area (Fast Repeats in this case).  If we will have 3 stress workouts dedicated to the speed category in the 1st macrocycle, and we feel base speed is a major weakness, we may dedicate 2 of the 3 speed workouts to doing Fast Repeats (see Chapter 3) with the other workout being our milestone VO2 Max workout.  An example of choosing workouts by specialty would be if we were in the Fundamental Phase before a goal marathon race, we may spend most of our endurance workouts doing moderate paced long runs in a couple of the macro-cycles with a focus on gradually building up our endurance, before we would add in quality elements to it in the Specific Phase.  

By breaking our Fundamental Phase into macro-cycles it allows us to customize the phase to the individual better, and address any weaknesses or specific needs they have.

Because our training is split fairly evenly between the 3 stress workout categories (speed, stamina and endurance) we can race pretty effectively across a wide range of distances during the Fundamental Phase.  Often runners find they can race well at anything from 5k to the half marathon in the Fundamental Phase.  I recommend racing something in that range (5k to HM) once every 4-6 weeks during this phase, as a great chance to check fitness gains, have some fun, and keep mentally and physically race ready.  Racing can be more or less frequent than that depending on the distance of the races.  Races can also be scheduled to check progress made in a certain focus area during a macro-cycle.  For example, if you have been working with an emphasis on base speed and VO2 Max during a few macro-cycles, then scheduling a 3k or 5k race at the end of the macro-cycles can be a great way to check on progress made.     

During the Fundamental Phase we don’t fully taper for races, as they are not the primary focus of the cycle, but we do what I call a "mini-taper".  A mini-taper for a race between 5k and 10k in length is an extra easy/recovery day before and after the race is added and the day before and after the race is reduced to half normal distance.  For races 15k to half marathon and distance add on a second extra easy day before and after.  

As the foundation of fitness on which we build our peak fitness, our Fundamental Phase needs to be a substantial portion of our training cycle.  The Fundamental Phase is usually between 6 and 12 weeks in length, depending on the length of the training cycle.  This is the longest phase of the training cycle and typically represents about 50-60% of the cycle as a whole.   

As discussed in the 1st Chapter, we need to make any desired increases in our work capacity a slow and gradual process. If we are seeking an increase in mileage during a training cycle (over a previous one), I recommend accomplishing this gradually during the base phase and first half of the Fundamental Phase. This allows our body to have fully absorbed the mileage increase by mid cycle and so it can focus on making quality gains (i.e faster times) in the second half of the cycle.

No Goal Race?
Runners who do not have a specific goal race they are training for, but rather are seeking continued fitness growth over a long period of time may opt to stay in a Fundamental Phase for an extended period of time, breaking it up periodically with a short Regeneration and Base phase and never going through a Specific Phase.  I strongly recommend this be considered in the case of young runners just starting in the sport, as a way to build their general running fitness before trying to peak for any certain races.  

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