You have an opportunity now to create good habits, reset your body and strengthen your mind. Use this time well.
I created the 21 day lock down program with very specific objectives in mind.
- Minimize endurance fitness losses.
- Reset the bodies biomechanics to near optimal.
- Build strength and agility.
- Cultivate a disciplined and resilient mind.
This is what the basic schedule looks like
- Morning – meditate
- Morning – run or ride or run/skip
- Midday – conditioning
- Afternoon – run or ride or run/skip
- Evening – mobility
In all the research I did there is agreement that exercise assists in maintaining a strong immune system but too much exercise will compromise the immune system. What’s not agreed upon is how much exercise is too much. Most of the research points to reduced glycogen levels being the root cause of a compromised immune system. We know that muscle and liver glycogen in the body is depleted around 90 minutes of aerobic exercise and a little quicker at high intensities. I decide to err on the side of safety and keep the running workouts below 45 minutes for running and 60 minutes for cycling. Conventional Strength and Conditioning sessions will have a small impact and the High Intensity Interval sessions will have slightly more. So once again to be safe I kept the S&C sessions to 30 minutes. The final piece of the puzzle is to schedule these sessions in such a way that there is at least 3 – 4 hours between them. Which will allow for a good recovery and maximum replenishment of glycogen.
For an endurance athlete there is no muscle that needs more work than the big one between the ears. No amount of aerobics, speed, power or strength will help when your mental discipline deserts you. This 21 day reset period is the perfect opportunity to work on your mental game. The morning meditation session is an integral part of working on your mental resilience. Mindful meditation is a skill that when applied to endurance running can greatly enhance your ability to deal with stressful situations. Through mediation you will learn how to avoid getting sucked into self pity and self doubt. Successful athletes are able to assess a potentially bad situation, come up with a plan to deal with it and then allow the plan to unfold. For instance, you drink your last water, you are feeling thirsty and the next aid station is 30 minutes away. Your fear of dehydration could force you into a downward spiral of panic which will push your heart rate up and cause your body to pump a lot of stress hormones. None of that will help the situation, just the opposite. If instead you allow your plan to unfold and put your Mindful meditation skills to work, you will greatly reduce your stress response and in likelihood get to the next aid station a little dehydrated but none the worse for it. Having the skill to stay present will always stand you in better stead than a mind that is leaping all over the place. Keep your focus on yourself and what you have to do step by step to achieve your goal. Don’t get sucked into a different narrative, which can easily happen if you don’t have the coping skills that Mindful meditation will teach you.
The aerobic training sessions will depend on your circumstance and the equipment you have. The absolute ideal is a treadmill. Next best is a garden big enough to accommodate a 200 m + route. Then a tiny garden that allows small loops and finally being apartment bound. An indoor bicycle is also good and will allow you to maintain your aerobic capacity but since it’s not running specific and the running muscles will detrain somewhat. These sessions are scheduled for both morning and afternoon. This is to avoid one single session which could totally deplete your glycogen stores. It is intentionally conservative and one single session will not be longer than 45 mins on the run and 1 hour on a bicycle. Glycogen stores should never be depleted and you will be partially recovered by the time the second session comes around if you consume carbohydrates within 2 – 4 hours of the first session. Preferably within 2 hours.
There are a couple of hidden benefits in running twice a day. Firstly there is the mental discipline required to get yourself up for 2 sessions a day. Secondly 2 sessions a day are a great way to accumulate distance which is what every endurance runner needs when building a base. By habituating yourself to 2 daily runs it becomes easy to include a second run when this 21 day reset is over.
Strength and conditioning are usually neglected in runners. After all if you have spare time you should just run. Right? Wrong! Having a body that is stronger and more explosive will allow you to run farther and faster with less energy. Time spent on improving leg, glute and calf power will have a significant impact on running economy which leads to improved running performance.
Mobility is the last piece of our reset program. This is when we focus on returning the body to it’s biomechanical normal, or as near as we can get it. Many of us spend a lot of time sitting and this compromises our mobility by tightening up our hips and disconnecting our glutes and hips. The mobility drills we do are designed to return your body to factory settings. An improvement in mobility will reduce running related injuries caused by poor movement patterns.
Another good habit is a daily weigh in. It’s been proven that daily weight measurement is the most effective way to manage weight loss or gain, depending on what you are trying for. The simple of act of a daily weigh in has an effect on weight management. For a detailed statistical analysis and explanation of why a daily weigh in works please read this article by Carl Sandrock https://negfeedback.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-fallacy-of-infrequent-measurements.html
The final habit I’d like you to cultivate is checking your resting HR and HRV every morning before you get out of bed. An elevated HR of more than 10 beats above normal or an HRV that is noticeably below normal are early indicators of illness coming. If you see these readings – DO NOT TRAIN that day.
This 21 day Reset program is not haphazard. There is an overall design and strategy. Every single workout and week leads into the next. If you stick with the program for all of the sessions, there is no doubt in my mind that you will come out of this period a much better athlete then before you started. If you’ve fallen off the wagon a little, don’t despair. Get back to your program, tick every box. Do all the work and you will be moving more naturally with improved power. A more resilient and better runner.