I want to first note that this post relates to running in preparation for a particular event; if you're just running for the heck of it - good for you.
Let's kick off with some background:
Running training is the combination of work and rest, built up within a training cycle using the concept of periodisation.
At the broader end, let's assume you are training towards a particular event in "x" weeks time. This total "x" week block of training for the event is your MACROCYCLE. * Note that for some people looking to tackle several events in a given period, a macrocycle might cover multiple events
We then look to structure your training within this "x" week period such that you have adequate periods of work, followed by adequate periods of rest. So we might do 2 weeks of "work", followed by a reduced week of "rest", where the total 3 week block of training is generally working on a particular component of your fitness. Each block of this type (3 weeks in this example) is a MESOCYCLE. You will have multiple mesocycles, which combined make up your macrocycle.
Within each of these mesocycle blocks, we can further break down the training into weekly snippets, and each of these weekly bites of training are called a MICROCYCLE. So for this example, we have: 2 microcycles of work + 1 microcycle of rest = 1 mesocycle. Repeat a given number of mesocycle blocks based on training strategy, with the total sum of the mesocycle blocks making up your event macrocycle.
Got it? Good, so let's get into the crux of this post. Before each and every run, you need to ask yourself the following question:
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS RUN?
Generally speaking, each run in any given microcycle has a purpose and can fit in one of three categories:
- Recovery/preparation - you are doing an easy run to recover from a previous run and/or to prepare for your next run.
- Aerobic development - you are developing aerobic fitness and muscular endurance.
- Workouts - these are targeting a particular aspect of running fitness (e.g. running economy, power hiking, downhill running, lactate clearance, etc)
In asking the one question above, you should be able to answer simply, and the response should align with the 3 categories above:
"I'm doing this run to recover from yesterday's long run"
"I'm doing this run to develop my hill hiking ability"
You get the idea.
If you ask this simple question before each run, you ensure that each microcycle of training is purposeful. And as a microcycle is the building block of training - blocks of which when added up form a mesocycle, which in turn add up to form your macrocycle - by ensuring they are purposeful you give yourself the best shot of constructing a targeted and efficient training cycle for an event.
Importantly, when asking the one question you need to know where the individual session sits in each of your micro, meso and macro cycles. For example, if you know you are in a recovery week (microcycle) in the sharpening period (mesocycle) of your training cycle (macrocycle), your answer to the one question should align with this - answering with "I just feel like flogging myself today" wouldn't be smart at that point in your preparation.
1 question. Simple really. Kinda.