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Training on the go

August 31, 2009

I sometimes find it difficult enough to fit the training I’d like to do into my average weekly routine, but it feels even more complicated on holiday. But, as I discovered this weekend, that depends on the kind of holiday you take.

In the summer I went to Sicily with my partner for a part-beach part-sightseeing holiday. This fell early enough into my build-up for the half marathon that I just needed to maintain my fitness, but I didn’t feel I could go nine days without squeezing in a few runs.

The local climate made this more challenging that it sounds. The temperature quickly soared to high twenties or low thirties and stayed there until late in the afternoon. Realistically, that left a narrow opportunity for a run between around 7 and 8 in the evening, when the temperature had dipped but the light remained. It transpires that evening runs have started to become absorbed into the Italian passeggiata (where families will walk out before having their evening meal – generally a bit like an informal catwalk), so I was accompanied by local runners kitted out in all the finest gear.

The conditions weren’t ideal. For a start, I didn’t know how long the route was that I settled on, and although I could run for about 45 minutes at what felt like 10km pace, I had no way of telling whether that was accurate or not. I managed to fit three runs into the holiday, all along the same circuit. They certainly helped me to maintain my fitness, so I ran a 20:15 5km at Waddesdon Manor two days after we got back to the UK.

But still, I like to have some metrics on what I’ve done…

Time for something completely different…

So, taking advantage of the bank holiday weekend, supposed good weather and an opportunity to catch up with old friends, I headed to Scotland for a four-day bike ride from Glasgow to Inverness along the 7 cycle path. With each day consisting of between 50 and 60 miles of cycling over some scenic-if-challenging terrain, it transpired that I didn’t really need to think about training.

However, I don’t yet know what the effect will be of substituting my usual running programme for 215 miles of cycling. I once heard – and I don’t know how true this actually is – that cycling will shorten your muscles, while running requires longer, more flexible muscles. This kind of rings true, especially with the rather restricted leg movement of cycling and high pressure generated through the higher gears.

The other quandry, and hopefully just a blip rather than something to worry about, is that my knees started to become quite painful after a few days. I tend to cycle in the higher gears, and for the first couple of days used a standing riding technique – both of which probably didn’t help. I now need to rest my knees to give them time to recover, squeeze in a couple of maintenance runs and then it’s the Headington 10km on Sunday 6 September.

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