A cautionary tale, and advice for starting over | Uphill Athlete

A cautionary tale, and advice for starting over

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  • #6077

    Hi all,

    Firstly thanks for the amazing resources, TFTNA book, and training diary.

    My post is looking for advice about re starting training after a period of intermittent training and sickness, and volume recommendations. But first my experience over the last 12 months may provide a cautionary tale regarding capacity / utilization and over training.

    Background: 30y/o. climbing for 12 years, many years of intermittent training, started training with TFTNA ‘philosophy’ 2 years ago.

    2015 – 2016 training year accumulated around 400-450 hours volume. Peaked with running a 28km 2700m trail race in 6hrs. (longest training run 2.5hours)

    2016 – 2017 total volume also around 425 hours with the goal of completing the same trail race in a faster time.
    Nov – Dec were spent building slowly in transition phase and doing a lot of strength and prehab work
    By January my long run was getting to 4 hours, feeling good (although probably already pushing toward taking rather than depositing from the bank!)

    In April I was on a ski touring trip in Iceland and managed my biggest day out in the mountains (9hours, 2200m, 24k all pushing through 1m of fresh powder) I should have realised after the week it took to recover that I had taken too much out of the bank, but I kept training.

    In May I had a period of high stress due to studies.
    June -July were spent in India at 3500m, I was hoping to keep running but a series of stomach bugs kept me from any real training.

    Mid July I was back home with 2 months to race day and keen to keep running in order to be ready for the race, I stupidly went back to my 3hour long runs, which of course was a bad idea after no real running for 6 weeks.

    The end result was a couple of months of ‘training’ feeling flat and not getting the results I was hoping for. Another bout of illness means that I am not racing this year! Written down my mistakes seem obvious but I think the lessons (which have been stated many times on this website) are:
    1) you cant build capacity and use it at the same time
    2) you cant just pick up where you left off after a period of illness
    3) its very tempting when you start feeling fitter to ‘use’ that fitness, but this utilization can completely derail the training!

    And the question:

    How to restart after such an unstructured period. I was thinking a couple weeks total break followed by 6 weeks or so of easy transition.
    Is it realistic to aim for around 500 hours the next training year, and therefore start at around 5 hour volume a week?

  • Inactive
    Anonymous on #6090


    Sorry to hear of your troubles. As you point out: In hindsight it is easy to see where and why the wheels came off. However it is often really hard to see those signs when you are in living it day to day. This is where a detailed training log can really save you. We learn best from our mistakes so this has not been a total loss.

    As for starting over: The biggest risk you run is that you are not fully out of the over training hole yet. You must evaluate whether it is even advisable to start back to a structured plan at all. Do this by going out for a short (30min) easy run and see how you feel. If you still feel flat then you need more time to recover. If you feel good after and then still feel good the next day then try again with an easy run for 35 min. Do this for a few days. If easy runs wipe you out or if you legs still feel like lead then you need to rest. If you handle these fine then you are ready to ease back into training.

    The component of your physiology that has taken the biggest beating from the long lay off is your basic aerobic capacity. So you need begin with several months to re-establishing you previous AeT pace and HR through longer Z1-2 runs and hikes. I’d not bother setting an ambitious hourly goal like 500 hours which is larger than the past when coming off over training and illness. You may very well find that just repeating a 425 hour year and doing it well will provide a boost to your fitness. Is it possible that you were being overly ambitious with those previous hour targets? If so training within your capacity might surprise you.

    It is much easier to start low and bump hours up later than it is to start too aggressively and find your wheels coming loose again after 6 weeks


    maxf on #6092

    Scott, many thanks for taking the time to reply.

    I’ve just gone through my last 2 years of training logs, and it’s pretty clear that since April it has been peaks and troughs of volume, but nothing that could be described as consistent training. That said the 6 months previously from October – April produced great gains and I am very keen to see what is possible applying the same approach without getting carried away!

    The last two weeks of 30 – 60 min easy runs have felt good, but I am glad I decided not to attempt the 6 hour race again (which would have been yesterday). It was very tempting to race anyway, which would probably have necessitated several more weeks of recovery. It’s amazing how the ego tries to get in the way of sensible decisions.

    Having felt good the last 2 weeks I will gently ease back into training. Looking at last years 430 hours, some of it was achieved in peaks and troughs (a big trip, then an idle week, rather than consistent weekly volume). So I will see how a similar set of hours goes with more consistency.

    maxf on #6350

    Update after 3 weeks:

    I last posted after 2 weeks of taper for a race that I decided not to run as I was fighting off a cold and had had a summer of intermittent training due to stomach problems while travelling in india.

    I decided after the 2 weeks of taper (almost no training) to start back with a very gentle progression based on a scaled down version of the transition weeks in the 24 week plan with my weeks looking like this:

    Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
    W1 Rest 45str 40-Z2 easycycle 45str 1h Z1run easy hike
    W2 Rest 45str 45-Z2 easycycle 45str 1.15 Z1run climb
    W3 Rest 45str 50-Z2 easycycle 45str 1.30 Z1run easy hike
    W4 planned easy str 30 z1 easy/off easy str 1h z1 run off

    I feel great 1 month back into structured training without overdoing it. I have bought the 24 week plan (as it fits perfectly for my next planned trip in april) and was considering using it as an outline but perhaps slightly reducing the hours. I am absolutely ready to back off at the first sign of overtraining after my experiences over the summer.

    A few questions with the 24 week plan:

    1) Each week has 3 main aerobic workouts called “Run/Hike”, “Aerobic Threshold Run/Hike” and “Hike on hilly terrain” – Should I be aiming for any difference in intensity between these workouts? Is it ok to push into Z2 in one of them?

    2) For the “Hike on hilly terrain” should I carry any weight? If not and I have the choice between running / hiking, is it preferable to run? When hiking my heart rate is typically well below AeT except on the uphills, whereas running I can hold a higher heart rate downhill.

    3) lastly my local hill is only around 150m high, it has lots of terrain though and a typical 1.5 hour run will include 750m of up and down. Is this “Hilly” enough? 1.5 hours is about the most boredom will allow on this hill although it does seem to involve more elevation my other option

    Alternatively nearby are bigger hills which I can access at weekends suitable for up to 4-5 hour runs. here a 3 hour run/hike gets around 1300m up and down. Is this suitable for the sunday “Hike on hilly terrain”?

    For any of the “Steep uphill hike” later in the program should i do laps on my hills, or suck it up on a stairmaster?

    maxf on #6352

    Apologies my beautifully formatted weekly log didn’t quite work out once posted…

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