So, winter drawers on, as the old pun goes. We’ve just had our first sharp frost, the shortest day is here in a fortnight, and spring will be here soon, I’m sure. And what is this older athlete doing at this time of year?
I confessed to you in my last blog that I’d started running in my local weekly Parkrun. Well, several weeks on, and I’m still doing it. I still hate it, every step of the way. Well, except maybe the last, uphill hundred metres, into which I can pour the remainder of whatever energy I have left. A couple of times, that’s been pathetically little. It counts, though. Last time, I gave the hill everything, and broke my Parkrun 5k personal best by three tiny seconds. There are some fast guys in our local run. I was probably more chuffed to come third in my age group. Age groups are important in Masters athletics. They give you a relative benchmark to go with the absolute one supplied by the stopwatch.
Mind you, my Parkrun days are definitely numbered. Once the build up properly begins to the indoor track season, I’ll have no real need of a highly aerobic, but essentially slow, running session like that once a week. I have some faith in what’s called specificity in my training. The Parkrun has been useful as a bit of a shortcut to good aerobic fitness, if I’m honest, but as training for the mad thrash of 60 metres indoors, pretty useless, of course. It may have helped a bit with my sometimes faltering speed endurance – a vital component of every 200 metres race – but specificity in training now demands my attention shifts to speed and power, or power and speed.
My wrist injury (healing steadily now, thanks for asking) occasioned me turning my winter around, and do the aerobic/ endurance stuff before the power work this time, while bone healed. A bit of me can now see an advantage in that, which wasn’t obvious when expediency was the driving factor behind the change. My more usual regime would have allowed only around a month, between Christmas and the indoor track season, to attend to my aerobic fitness. This year, I’ve had the best part of three months, and towards the end of this, been able to taper in some speed and power work, without suffering the panic of knowing my first races are just around the corner. Racing this winter begins for me in February, so time, for a change, feels like it’s on my side. (Hence my choice of music-related blog title. This time from the Rolling Stones)
The plan is one more Saturday Parkrun, followed by a week on holiday, and possibly, just possibly the Christmas Day Parkrun. The latter is for a little mental boost next summer – when I remind myself that few of my rivals will have trained on that particular day in the calendar! If any of them read this, of course, they’ll now all go out and train on 25 December, though, I suppose.
There are, I’m sure, some other benefits. Parkruns are really quite sociable events, even when you suffer in them, like the sounds I make convince me that I do. Most of my other training is pretty solitary. I admit a part of that is by choice – I like the space of a relatively empty gym, and not having to queue for weights, etc. Plus, I have always hated group training sessions on the track. Having the luxury of being free these days to train at off-peak times (and prices) means there is little temptation to restrict my activities to the times of day others find suit them best.
Another benefit has been weight loss. Normally by now, I’d be at or around my top winter weight, worrying about Christmas weight gain, and needing to be sure to do enough to shed some before competition. This time, the reverse applies. My weight is the lowest it’s been for years, and I need to put some on, which will come with my power training, I hope. But I’m not just lighter, I think I am a heck of a lot leaner. A couple of weeks back, I did some tests at Manchester Metropolitan University, who are looking long term at some things that might mark Masters out as physically different from “normal”. One aspect of the tests included a full MRI scan of my thigh. Looking at segments of this, the tester pointed out how very lean the meat of my thigh musculature was.
So, by choice, would I reverse my winter regime like this again? A little early to say, as I need to see how the next couple of months go, but I’d give it a cautious maybe. But specifically as a means to an end, you understand. I will never, ever, come to enjoy a 5k run!