27 February 2015

The Build Phase

The Build Phase

This time last year I had read a lot into running, trying to source as much knowledge as I could to improve my own running. From journals to texts to magazines to blogs to websites, everything that stood out I read it, some in more detail, others just a glance. From there I felt ready to approach my training with knowledge to burn, a program loaded of macro-cycles, micro-cycles, phases of training, target races, key runs and so on, it looked very pretty on paper. But I got injured and it all went wrong.

Knapsack - my only focus race for
the Summer
So I dropped it all and ran to feel aiming to build my fitness by listening to my body’s response to the load and allowing enough recovery to get the adaptations. I still was planning and programming but not like earlier, I targeted a fortnight at a time based upon what was coming up and it was working for me. I made some good choices and some bad ones in 2014 and had a year that reflected this. I wanted 2015 to be better, I had knowledge and experience in my programming and the realistic attitude to approach running as both a runner and coach with my views and theories.

I have been helping Brendan Davies with his new business UP Coaching and have been fortunate to be able to coach people individually and in a group. I was lucky when Brendan decided to help me in 2012 and now working alongside him has been brilliant. It is great to be able to continue to be associated with such a great athlete who with time will continue to succeed as a coach if he has the same attitude and focus for his coaching as his running.

But this has also worked on my views on coaching, programming and training, views that I plan on developing over time with further study, training and practice. These views take time to develop and like my own running I must be patient and allow the experience to come, not go chasing after it.

So my build phase over summer is now in transition with this week a shift occurring towards the month of March and in line with my racing plans a much different month of training awaits in the lead up to the Buffalo Stampede in April. I have been able to meet all key objectives over the build period and having seen others in the same mode of training. I have been learning so much more than through just reading. Both the theory and practice have been beneficial to me on many levels and this with a real effort to try and achieve a better training, family and work balance. I am feeling fit and ready for the year ahead.

The build phase is a vital component of any distance runner and from reading (Lore of Running, Little et al. 2010) there are many approaches towards this model of training. My experience has led me towards the view that the build phase is vital for the following reasons;

  • It allows long and gradual conditioning of the cardiovascular, muscular and skeletal systems. These adaptations take time and can not be rushed, so the view for development aerobically should be over years not months, with the build phase being the ground work for this each year.
  • By operating at a lower intensity there is greater requirement for additional time to be focused upon strength and conditioning as well as lowering the likelihood of injury.
  • The training completed in this phase should not only build the athlete physically but also allow gains in mental development. It is a good opportunity to run your longest distance, longest time or biggest climb without the pressure of doing it quickly.
The phase also has its negative or danger points. These are purely from my experience and only limited reading (Lore of Running);

  • You can lose track of time-spent training. I had a moment where I reflected upon waking feeling particularly ordinary, I checked my 7 day progress and I had trained for a total of 21.5hr with big kms (167km) and 6100m elevation included in that. It was there I decided that in the build phase I needed to be more aware of my training log and listen to the body, so yes I took the day off.
  • There is definitely room for too much similar training, too many long slow hills, too many easy paced runs and so on. I have been making a point of including a weekly interval session that is fartlek based for 30min and with this some middle paced runs to keep the muscles guessing and gaining.
  • The timing of the build phase is tough, how long is enough? When to change and transition? And what to do? These are questions we all have. I have been running with fortnightly blocks checking off set runs in that period with a gradual build for 3 weeks followed by a de-load week, it has helped but is it right?

So the build phase is something that we all do as distance runners. Some are more planned and prepared, others more ad-lib or ad hock. Some of us run more and some run less. I have looked towards other coaches’ methods and they all have their particular way of training athletes, this I am sure has come from time, experience and practice. I feel that we all are different and no person should do the same thing in training, we can complete similar training but it must be specific to the individual, their goals and their ability.

My own views on my training and coaching are definitely growing as I push myself further into running. I am by no means close to being ready as a ultra runner or running coach, I’m still very new to this area and understand that what I wish to do in the long term is still a long way away. What I know is that I am willing to learn, listen, evolve, adapt and grow, with this I can continue to grow and hopefully assist others with their growth as well.

My thoughts re my latest phase are simple – be consistent, be prepared, be committed and be reactive.


Lore of Running 4th Edition, T. Noakes, 2003

Run For Your Life Magazine, Various issues/articles/authors 2013/14/15.

Billat, L.V. 2001. Interval training for performance: A scientific and empirical practice. Special recommendations for middle- and long-distance running. Part I: aerobic interval training. Sports Medicine, 31 (1), 13-31.

Daussin, F.N., et al. 2008. Effect of interval versus continuous training on cardiorespiratory and mitochondrial functions: relationship to aerobic performance improvements in sedentary subjects. American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 295, R264-72.

Helgerud, J., et al. 2007. Aerobic high-intensity intervals improve VO2max more than moderate training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 39 (4), 665-71.

Joyner, M.J. 1991. Modeling: Optimal marathon performance on the basis of physiological factors. Journal of Applied Physiology, 70 (2), 683-87.

Joyner, M.J., & Coyle, E.F. 2008. Endurance exercise performance: The physiology of champions. Journal of Physiology, 586 (1), 35-44.

Kubukeli, Z.N., Noakes, T.D., & Dennis, S.C. 2002. Training techniques to improve endurance exercise performances. Sports Medicine, 32 (8), 489-509.

Laursen, P.B. 2010. Training for intense exercise performance: High-intensity or high-volume training? Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 20 (Suppl. 2), 1-10.



Coaches of Influences

Brendan Davies - UP Coaching, www.upcoaching.com.au

He has mentored and coached me since December 2012. I have learnt so much from him and value his input and feedback on both my running and coaching.

Andy DuBois - Mile 27, www.mile27.com.au

I have had limited interaction with Andy but I value everything he has to offer.

Hanny Allston - Find Your Feet, www.findyourfeet.com.au

Similar to Andy, Hanny offers a unique and educated approach to coaching.

Others that have had an influence;

Sean Williams - Sweat
Matty Abel - DBA Project
Charlie, Dan and Jess - Believe Bootcamps Bathurst

For those interested in my build data it is below, I began 17th December and finished 27 February.

Quality Elevation was a focus.

More time based than distance based training.