Variety is the spice of life – so the age old saying goes!
If you have been following the training principles series, you will recall me regularly emphasizing that training is all a matter of stimulus and response. Think about what happens when you eat hot spicy food. The first time you want to call the fire brigade to come put out the fire in your mouth, however, the more you keep eating hot food, the less of a reaction you get as your taste adapts. The same with training. Initially there is a big
response to a certain stimulus, but if it is kept constant, well then once your body can handle it all fine, then no more reason to adapt, and no more response. The aim is to repeat a stimulus often enough to get a good response from the body, but then to know when the benefits are dwindling and it is time to switch things up. This could mean changing the type of training, distance, speed or frequency.
A good guideline is to repeat a similar stimulus for 6 weeks and then change things up. So you might focus on hills for 6 weeks, then shift the focus to fartlek for 6 weeks and so on and so on… For the marathon and ultra running junkies, it is also very good to have times in the year when you drop the mega long runs and focus on shorter faster workouts and on developing good strength. (something that is hard to do with long run fatigue in the legs!)
It is also important to change pace, distances, routes, terrain regularly to prevent reaching a physical plateau and to prevent mental fatigue from doing the same over and over. Varying the types of routes and terrain is also very helpful in reducing injury risk, especially changing to softer surfaces like gravel or wood chip paths instead of hammering the tar day in and day out.
Finally, the most important variation you need to regularly include is REST!
Happy holiday training and use the extra time on hand to explore new routes!