Frequency training for running

I am a fan of frequency training; my body seems to respond to it. The best gains I have main in strength have been when I lift heavy often and playing with the volume to make sure I am recovered enough for the next day. The best example of frequency training is squatting every day, working up to a heavy single each day but never pushing it too hard. 

Frequency is how often you train, for example, three times a week. Frequency is increased by training a greater number of times each week. Intensity is how hard you train, for example faster, heavier, less recovery.

Frequency training is challenging, and your legs are heavy every day. Often, you don’t know how you will feel until you warm up when your body just responds. The key to this high-intensity weight training is never to go too hard, never having to get excited to lift and stressing the nervous system too much. You just get in, warm-up, work up to a heavy single and then get out. It works with strength training, but does it work for running?

Middle distance runners such as milers in the preparation and races stages of the season seem to run hard every day. This is particularly true for intermediate runners at the high school and college level, where they run on the track most days of the week, making sure that they never push so hard that they can’t complete training the next day. Greats like Herb Elliot and Emil Zatopek ran hard each day and built world record pace. Emil Zatopek training famously focused around 200, and 400-meter repeats up to 40 times each but paced off feel and never all out.   

Why should I practice running slow? I already know how to run slow. I want to learn to run fast.

Emil Zatopek

I am going to do a block of running frequency training to get faster. I am taking the rough layout from an old Frank Horwill article of training for the mile.

The weekly layout will look like this:

  • Monday: 3k pace, 2 x (1 x 400m + 1 x 800m + 1 x 300m)
  • Tuesday: Tempo, half-marathon pace
  • Wednesday: 4x 400m at mile pace
  • Thursday: Intervals, 5k pace
  • Friday: Recovery
  • Saturday: maximal sprints, 1 x 350m, 1 x 300m, 1 x 250m, 1 x 200m, 1 x 150m, w/ 400m walking rests
  • Sunday: Tempo, marathon pace

The volume and intensity for each workout will be adjusted by feel using the weekly layout as a guide. If I am not doing so well, the training will be replaced by a 35-minute recovery jog or, if really bad, some light 200 and 400m strides to just get the legs moving.

I will let you know how it goes. 

The Stotan Creed by Percy Cerutty

‘Stotans, will, by virtue of their philosophy, be nature lovers, with a respect and appreciation of all evolved or created things. They will appreciate the sanctity of creative effort both in themselves and in others. They will strive to understand the significance implied by reality, will be able to discern the real from the spurious, and see no anomaly in nudity, either in body or mind. But neither will they cast pearls before swine. Stotans, for all the reasons that their philosophy stands for hardness, toughness, unswerving devotion to an ideal, and many more – will look upon the sea as their pristine element and endeavour to associate themselves with their primeval source of life by going into the sea at least once per month in all seasons of the year. No practice is more disposed to toughen both the body and the morale than this. Stotans believe that neither the body nor mind can be maintained at a high pitch of efficiency unless sufficient regular rest is obtained, and aim at a daily average of eight hours sleep (that is for young men-older men need only six hours). Stotans, also will not be found in social places after midnight. Stotans shall regulate their lives so that at the end of a period, varying with the intensity of the effort, each shall realize that he has attained, without conscious striving, to a state of knowledge and a position of leadership in the community. It is axiomatic that only the pure can understand purity, only the cultivated appreciate beauty, and only the strong measure their strength. Therefore, only the self-disciplined can command genuine respect.’

Percy Cerutty

Taken from The Golden Mile: Herb Elliott’s biography as told by Alan Trengove. The word Stotan was made up by Cerutty by joining stoic and spartan to describe his philosophy to life and athletics.

The greatest miler in history

I finished the biography The Golden Mile: The Herb Elliott Story today. His mental and physical training would best be described as character building. If you like to run, think that modern methods are a little tame and want to read about how the best athletes trained in the ultra-amateur era of athletics, this book is a must-read. Once you are finished with this book, pick up a copy of Why Die: The Extraordinary Percy Cerutty ‘Maker of Champions’ to learn more about the famous Portsea camp and Cerutty’s coaching methods. 

Camp activities followed a fairly regular pattern. A typical day went like this: 7 a.m.: A five mile run before breakfast in any direction our whim took us, followed by a dip in the ocean. 8 a.m.: Breakfast of uncooked rolled oats (without milk) sprinkled with wheat germ, walnuts, sultanas, raisins and sliced banana. Perhaps a few potato chips to follow. 9 a.m.: Swimming and surfing or outdoor chores like chopping wood, painting and carpentry. Noon: Training and lectures at Portsea Oval, followed by another swim. 2 p.m.: Lunch – fish and fresh fruit. 3 p.m.: Siesta. 4 p.m.: Weight lifting. 5 p.m.: Ten mile run along dirt roads ending once more at the beach. 7 p.m.: Tea and a general discussion led by Percy on a wide variety of subjects. 11 p.m.: Lights out.

Herb Elliott

Herb Elliott, the 1500m gold medalist at the 1960 Olympics, is regarded as one of the greatest middle-distance runners of all time. The Percy Cerutty athlete saw running as the ultimate expression of the human body and embraced his coaches methods of natural eating, long runs in the mountains, sprints up dunes, sea swims, and weightlifting to develop extreme levels of strength and conditioning. Besides his physical abilities, mentally Elliot was a highly intelligent savage who through reading philosophy and embracing suffering, cultivated both unwavering confidence in his running performance and a will to win that saw him unbeaten in the mile and 1500m in his short adult career.

Most athletes imagine themselves at the end of their tether before they’re even seventy-five per cent exhausted. I was so determined to avoid this pitfall that if at any time I thought I was surrendering too soon to superficial pain I’d deliberately try to hurt myself more. In apparent conflict with this self-inflicted scourging was Percy’s theory that running should be a free expression of the body; that my body in motion, in the words of the song, ought to be doing what comes naturally. I trusted that my intelligence and enthusiasm would produce a happy compromise between this theory and my striving for perfection through pain.

Herb Elliott

While reading this book, I found my mindset changing towards heavy training. I started to see my quality sessions as an opportunity to push hard and embrace the pain a little more, driving with my arms and lengthening my stride when it started to hurt. I have begun heavy deadlifting and overhead pressing again on the journey to a double bodyweight deadlift and bodyweight overhead press, the standard that Percy Cerutty set his runners. And I have picked up my old copies of Stoic philosophy books and started to listen to Classical music from time to time including Beethoven’s Tempest III Allegretto when I need some inspiration.