When you've to train hard - train smart

A good training regimen is one that works for you - there is no one-size-fits-all solution

Mok Ying Ren taking an easy run. For him, the ideal timing for the interval between each hard session is equivalent to three days.
Mok Ying Ren taking an easy run. For him, the ideal timing for the interval between each hard session is equivalent to three days. PHOTO: ONEATHLETE

Hi Andy and Wenjun, thank you for your questions (see box).

Last week, we learnt from Dr Ivan Low that the key components of a good training plan are:

•Individuality (customised to oneself);

• Specificity (specific to the race one is preparing for);

• Progressive overload (graduated increase in intensity and volume);

• Variation (not monotonous);

• Recovery (allowing the body to regenerate and restore).

But it would be over-simplistic to deem every training plan that lacks any of these components as bad.


The definition of bad is subjective. Whether a plan is considered bad is highly dependent on the individual - there is no one-size-fits-all.

For example, some people are able to load their bodies with high-intensity and high-volume workouts within a short span of time, and yet avoid injuries.

  • #AskMok


    What are examples of a bad training plan? How should we space out "hard" workouts in a week?


    How can I integrate double training sessions into my training programme (i.e. running twice a day)? Do you have any recommendations for double sessions?

    •For more details on the training programme #RunwithMok or to #AskMok, go to www.straitstimesrun.com

There are also some who repeat the same daily workout for a whole year, and yet manage to improve their physical performance.

A bad plan is simply a plan that just does not work for you.

Give yourself some flexibility to adjust as and when required to suit your body's needs, and pay attention to how it responds.


To address the question on spacing out hard workouts, let me first explain the principle of supercompensation.

When training, your fitness levels can be broken down into four phases in the following order:

•Baseline level of fitness - where you start off;

•Fatigue - you get tired and fitness drops below baseline;

•Recovery - your body regenerates and repairs damaged tissues as fitness starts to climb;

•Supercompensation - your fitness is at a higher level than baseline.

Supercompensation occurs when the human body automatically adjusts itself to a higher level of fitness in anticipation of the next training session.

It is why, after a couple of consistent runs, you no longer experience the same body soreness that came with your first one.

But, if you do not capitalise on your new-found fitness, you will return to baseline level. So, if you run only once a month, you should expect to feel sore every time you run.

There are two variables that affect the optimal amount of supercompensation.

The first is time (X). The interval between each hard session is crucial. Ideally, the next one should take place when optimal level is reached. For me, X is equivalent to three days so I run my hard sessions on Mondays and Thursdays.

It varies from individual to individual. You will need to experiment to find this sweet spot X.

The next variable is training load. The larger it is, the larger drop in fitness level (Y) after training. But potential supercompensation will also be higher.

Training load is, in turn, affected by volume and intensity; an easy two-hour run may even be equivalent to eight one-minute, high-intensity interval runs.


Clocking double training sessions a day increases the load for the day in a cumulative manner.

Personally, if and when I incorporate double sessions into my schedule, it is solely for active recovery.

My main session for that day would be a 70-minute easy long run or workout, and the second would be a 30-minute jog.

Most runners do well without it, so avoid it unless you really need to.

To add to the complexity, X and Y are largely co-dependent. A change in Y is likely to affect X; the more fatigued you are, the more time you need to recover and compensate.

As complex as this scientific approach seems, it is the foundation for a good run.

You will do fine if you follow RunONE on the #RunwithMok programme.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 17, 2018, with the headline When you've to train hard - train smart. Subscribe