Circuit training; gingerly

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Nearly a year after I restarted running, I’ve been trying to build up to a style of training that suits my current fitness. There are two parts to this:

First, by any runners’ standard I am shockingly unfit. I feel overweight (5’10, 170 lbs or so). I have suffered repeated tendon injuries over the past few months, which took me out of action for nearly eight weeks on each side of Christmas. And as I try to build myself up to running again, I live in constant fear that I will re-tear my achilles.

Second, despite all that, I think that I have retained some fast-twitch muscle, going back to my teens, or going back maybe to some relatively intense gym work I was doing 2-3 years ago. My best evidence of this is my most recent 5k time (at the end of October last year) – just under 23 minutes. In age terms, this is no worse than my half marathon time of 7 years ago: 1 hr 41.

Given that this was the first time I’d run 5k, even in training, for 5 years, I was delighted by how fast the time was.

So how to develop this base fitness, without running too far and injuring myself again?

Inspired by recent research that even very small bouts of exercise, so long as they are conducted at very high intensity, can be as fruitful as long runs at a gentler pace, I’ve been experimenting with a form of fartlek that is based on the sort of track running I used to do in my teens.

I’ve found a small park near me with a circular area, just 100 metres or so in circumference. I run laps of it, building up my sprinting distance until I am running at a relatively high intensity for the entire “circuit” (and then recovering to a very slow jog in between).

I am running gingerly: I keep the number of circuits low and I am even now going at a “slow” version of my top pace. But my plan is to build these up – slowly – until I can run maybe three sessions of these mini-circuits mid-week, then break for a day or two before a longer weekend run.

If it works; I’ll report back on progress.

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