I’ve been working my way up gradually to competition-level fitness. I stopped doing triathlons, running, and bike races around age 31 as I just didn’t have time for the long training anymore. Now I have the time again, and I’m being smarter about it. I’m training for some 10k, and half marathons on trails coming up in 2014 and I’d like to not suck, considering I’ve never sucked at any of the sports I trained for in the past.
I’m 47. For the past 6 years, I’ve done nothing but stair climbs. My stair climb of choice is a 900-foot high elevation block of limestone in southern Thailand close to where I live. There are 1,256 steps up the side of it. The steps average 8.75 inches high, much higher than a normal stair height. So, it’s a nice challenge to do in 95F heat and high humidity. I’ve climbed it over 1,200 times now – way over 100 vertical miles. It feels great to have done it, and I was happy doing that 5 to 15 times per week as I had time for. I knew I was just training my anaerobic system and my body was burning pure muscle glycogen as I climbed, but again, I wasn’t competing so there was no problem. I felt like I was in good shape. My heart rate was down to 45 BPM most times I measured it, and I had no health problems except I was gaining weight since my mid 40’s.
Today I’m ramping up to longer trail runs of 6 miles to 13 miles. I hope to do a marathon and some ultra runs in 2014, but even just a marathon would be a great milestone reached.
So, I found a 3-day program that I really enjoyed doing. I’ll share it here.
The problem with working up to running every day is that my joints are only ready to walk up and down stairs. There is no variety in the angle of the steps, no roots, no stones, no sand, no dirt. My main focus is trail running so I started out my 3 days of intense workouts with a trail run up 1,500 feet of elevation on a mountain trail bordering the ocean. It’s a wonderful run, very technical, and I bust my ass to get up in 41 minutes. Then I turn around and run halfway down, then back up to the peak, and finally down to the bottom. Bottom to peak, it’s 3.7km, though my GPS has tracked it as between 3.7km and 5km. I think it’s closer to 4.5, but it’s just a guess. Anyway, that’s my first workout. It takes about 2.5 hours to do it, and I’m trashed at the end of it – but could still run on the flat some if I had to. It’s my favorite run, by far.
The next day I run at the park near the river. It’s a 1.1 km perimeter run around the park on a concrete trail. It’s flat, with 2 little bumps just to aggravate runners. I do 8-10 km. The first 3-4 km go pretty fast (for me) at 8:30/mile pace. It’s so funny to write that. When I competed I was doing 6-minute miles for races, and I never did try a one-mile to see how fast I could go. Under 6, but no idea what my fastest pace for the mile would have been.
I feel good after that, and tired. The next day I head up to the stairs and do 1 to 2 climbs. The first – quickly in 13-14 minutes. The second, slower in 15-16 minutes. By the end of that, I still have energy, and could climb a couple more times on most days, but the following day is a rest day and I know I need to curb my enthusiasm.
My goal is only to work up to running nearly every day at 5-6 miles per day. Then I’ll ramp that up and add a long-run and some intervals into the mix.
So, this schedule works for me. It may work for you if your goal is to run up mountain peaks on trails. My times on the trail have been dropping considerably since I’ve combined these three exercises, and it doesn’t even feel like much work. I’ve also lost 8 lbs, so it’s like not carrying a gallon of water up the mountain. Feels great.
By running my favorite trail up the mountain first – I can do it at speed and with all the effort I can put into it. That makes me feel emotionally, spiritually happy inside. That’s essential. The next day is basically recovery by running on the flat concrete at the park. When I can I move over to the grass if it’s flat enough. That helps. Day two at the park, though I run 5-6 miles, feels like an easy day. The next day is another hard one up the stairs, but it only lasts a short time for both climbs. In 1 hour, I’m finished and on my way home.
At the moment there is this one nice trail leading to a peak around here. I hope to add another, very nice climb to 4,300 feet elevation once I can get a guide to go up a closed trail with me to scope it out and make sure it’s safe to run on. There was a landslide there two years ago which killed about 18 villagers below during a wicked rainy spell.