On Sunday I ran the Buffalo Stampede 10 mile race for the 4th or 5th time and a friend on facebook asked me to describe my training program.
The first thing to establish here. I’m not a good runner who is looking to be elite. I’ve always been slow, but steady distance runner. Using interval training I moved myself from the bottom 30% to the top 50%. My goals are to stay un-injuried and run for as long as I can and break some personal records (PRs) on the way.
I think the best way to explain how different my training has been in the last 2 years, is to briefly tell you what I used to do.
I’ve been running for over 10 years, focusing on distances greater than 10 miles. Starting out I followed Jeff Galloway’s training and did run/walk intervals for most of my runs - always for “long runs”, variable for the shorter “easy” runs during the week.. That program was based on 2-3 runs M-F that were 20-30 min at steady pace (“easy” runs). The weekends had a long run, eventually a long run every other weekend as the runs exceeded 12 miles, working my way up to marathon distance (26.2 miles).
After a couple of years of doing Galloway, I started following the programs that can be found on runnersworld.com. Go to their site, type in the distance you are training for (26.2 miles) and your “level” (I usually used beginner or intermediate). The increase of mileage on the weekends as long runs is very similar to the Galloway program. The runs during the week are increased to 3-4, with one run done a little faster than the other runs (tempo or speedwork) with the rest of the M-F runs being the same easy runs.
Both of these programs relied on mileage and slow steady runs to build base. There was usually a 3-2 week taper of reduced mileage before a race.
I dealt with a lot of injuries, even when increasing my mileage by the recommended 10% a week. A couple of them are chronic and constantly flare up. I always got sick the first week of training, and the week after a race. I always arrived at the race start trying to mitigate a new or chronic injury, even though I dutifully changed out my shoes, took time off. After each marathon it took me 6 months before I was ready to run again. I took a lot of ibrophen before, during, after runs, sat in a lot of ice baths post-run.
2 years ago I read the 20 minute book and it completely changed how I thought of exercise and running.
So here’s my program now. It’s given me 2 10 mile PR’s, multiple 1 mile PR’s, ZERO injuries, resolution of the three most chronic running injuries I’ve been dealing with over the years, made running FUN again, and I haven’t been sick from training reasons.
On a practical level it also takes a lot less time and I’ve never been more fit.
So here it is.
2-3x a week I go out for an interval run. After a 5 min warm up, I alternate between running 1 minute as hard as I possibly can, and 1 min 15 seconds of recovery - either walking or slow jogging. Repeat 8-12 times. It should take 20 minutes or less. The first time I did this work out, I managed 5 reps.
When I mean “hard as I possibly can” - I mean this: for 1 minute run as close to maximum capacity as you can possibly stand, without regard to the fact you have to do it again in another 75 seconds.
Usually I do interval runs 2x a week and then I do something else for that 3rd workout - a hike, a trail run, a long run, a race, a 1 mile test etc.
Long runs - I try to get in a run that lasts over 1 hour once a month. I still do my walk run intervals.
1 mile test - once a month I run a mile to see how fast I can go - According to the 20 mintue book the 1 mile run is an excellent test of how fit someone is.
The only “rules” beyond my goal of 2 interval runs a week are:
1. Do not run through soreness. It doesn’t work to reduce DOMS, and if you are sore more than a day or 2 post work out it means you need to take extra time off anyways. Soreness is the body healing itself and getting stronger.
2. When in doubt, rest more - didn’t get enough sleep? Really stressed, just not feeling the bounce? Don’t do an interval run that day. Do something else - racket ball, a walk, a ride, or a bowl of ice cream. Get half way through the interval run and feel a twinge? Stop the run, walk back home. You just saved yourself a long injury rehab. And run that wasn’t going to be any fun anyways. Go out again day after tomorrow.
3. Walk every day - whether that's parking on the far side of the lot or taking the stairs in front of the elevator, or taking a walk on my lunch hour. Only training 2-3 days a week doesn't mean I'm sedentary the rest of the week - I think walking is a cornerstone of any active life
4. Stand as much as I can, minimize sitting
5. Try to "lift something heavy" 1-2x a week - whether that's moving heavy boxes, a pylometric workout, traditional weights etc.
It’s amazing how much time/days I have to do other important stuff - like weight training. - that just weren’t possible when I was trying to run 4-6 days a week. And instead of trudging through runs, I’m having FUN!!!!! Do you know how exhilerating it is to run at top speed without regard for pace or timing or anything but the sheer joy of being a kid and running just because? *BTW - you can do the interval training described here on a stationary bike too.
And there I go again, trying to convince you. It’s something you just have to try.
And by try, I don’t mean “I’ll add 2 interval runs a week to my already jam packed run schedule”. Intervals only work if you are resting sufficiently between them. If you do 3 interval runs as described here, you are DONE FOR THE WEEK.
You may have seen the most current buzz coming from places like the New York Times - properly done, less is more.
If you are a running coming back from a break, do a week or two of slow 20 minute runs 2-3x a week and then start doing intervals . Work up to 10 or 12, but start with 4 or 5.
If you are already running regularly and looking for a change, take a week off, and then try doing intervals.
Give it 2 or 3 weeks.
We can debate whether intervals got Farley through some of the best endurance rides we’ve had this season- without significant training beyond those intervals. HOWEVER, I can point to my 10 mile race PR’s and how easy those PRs were, even though I did no significant training beyond the interval training. And of course the lack of injuries.
I’m not even sore 1 or 2 days after my 10 mile race this year. The evening after the race my hip flexors were sore - but by the next morning it was gone. Tight hip flexors are more a function of how much I sit, not the amount of training I have.
The bottoms of my feet were the sorest part of my body - I ran the entire thing in my mocs, and unfortunately I’ve not quite been utilizing my walking desk and standing desk as much as I should and my feet aren’t conditioned for the time on them.
If any of you do decide to experiment with intervals, please let me know how it goes. You might just start looking at your horse and endurance training differently too :).
I’ve put far too many words in this post - Really wish I had the self control to trim all these words, present the program, and let the results speak for themselves....but that ain’t my style :).
BTW - this whole "less is more" concept I've been applying to my eating/diet as well with very good results. By being really strict and controlling of my diet 2 days a week, and following more relaxed "general guidelines" the other 5 days, it naturally prevents "brain fatigue", and I'm getting a "flow over effect" from fasting on my non fasting days which is helping stabilize my blood sugar and minimize destructive routines, and removing the "guilt" factor.
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