Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Running Frequency


When we talk about running frequency there are two kinds of running frequency. The first is your stride rate, the second is the number of days each week that you run. Both are important, but I am going to be talking about the latter here.

For many the off-season is here and it's time to shake things up a bit. They say the off season is the best time to work on your weaknesses and from what I have seen in triathlon of late, no one is running terribly fast. This represents a great opportunity for those who are serious about improving their running.

There are a whole bunch of ways to really improve your running and if you ask 20 athletes and coaches you will get a broad range of ideas about how to do this. Increasing the number of days a week that you run is really straight-forward - increase the number of days/week that you run to 6 or 7 days and do this for a minimum one month. Now this is where many triathletes start to loose the trail. "Run 7 days a week", they say. "You are kidding"! However, the tendency here is to over-think this. If they are like most triathletes that have been given a program that has a nice balanced approach to swim/bike/run. That's good to get going, but it will only take them so far in each of the individual sports - soon they will plateau. Furthermore, each of their run workouts is perhaps a little bit longer and harder, because they are only running, perhaps two or three times a week. So, what they need to do first is figure out what is a typical run week for them in miles/Kilometers, and then divide that number by 6 - 7. Start there. Start running that distance, every day the first week and just run. See how you feel.

The next question is what about the bike and swim? To maintain swim and bike fitness, try and squeeze in 1 - 2 shorter (30 - 45 mins.) higher intensity swims/bikes each week, but keep the focus on the run.

For the more advanced - make it a goal to run a minimum of 20 minutes every day. That would be your shortest run, and your longest would be about an hour. Again - don't over-think it. Just run. If you feel like picking it up a bit - go ahead and do so. However, this is key - whatever you do, needs to be repeatable the next day. No single run should leave you so wiped out that you cannot run the next day. You see, great fitness and a really deep base of fitness is not built around individual or special workouts, it's built around day after day, and week after week of putting in the time at a modest level of effort. Endurance training is really not that complicated. It's about putting the work in and getting it done every day over a long period of time.

Be careful to monitor how you feel. If you feel tired at the start of a run, that's OK - often as you get into the run the fatigue goes away. However if it stays, make that a 20 minute and done day! Also note aches and pains - note the transient pains that tend to come and go as compared to the permanent ones that will not go away. If it is the latter, stop the run-every-day-routine. Do not force yourself through this, if you have more serious injuries.

After a week or two of running every day and if you feel good, start increasing the total weekly volume by 10 - 15 percent. Don't add all the distance onto one day - spread it across the week. There is a tendency to worry about, heart rates, and zones, and tempo and intervals and all that other stuff - again, just run. If you feel tired. Take it easy. If you feel like picking it up for a bit, do it, and keep it relaxed and flowing. But know that you have to run again tomorrow!

Keep this up for a month, but ideally try it for two months. The gains are often significant in terms of fitness and efficiency. Schedule a bit of a taper and then find a 5K or 10k running race. Many are shocked and surprised, to set significant new personal best times, after this focused block of what many would consider unstructured training - again, it's not the individual workouts, it's the cumulative effect of all of the running over time.

Final note. This also works for swimming and cycling. A focused block of doing almost all one sport, for period of time, in the off season, is never a bad thing.

Hope this helps.

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8 comments:

joe said...

Looking for a little clarification/direction.
I currently am in off-season and don't plan on starting spring marathon training until 01/01/2011. I currently run 6/6/10 and planned on doing that until 01/01/2011. Would your plan put me at approx 6/3/6/3/3/10/3? Biking and swimming where able, of course. Thanks! Joe

STEVE FLECK said...

Joe,

Jumping right to 34 miles/week might be a bit much. You might want to ease into that and see how you feel.

Start with 4 miles/day as you base, with one slightly longer run each week and see how it goes.

As I point out in the article the key is being able to run the next day. If you are too sore or tired to run the next day, then you have gone too hard or too long or both!

Best wishes.

SF

Thiago said...

How does a taper for a 5k look like? Any specific workout during the previous weeks?

Brian said...

Great write up. This is right up my alley. Thanks for the great post.

STEVE FLECK said...

Thiago,

Take a week of some really easy running - your minimum daily run amount with a few days off and race a 5k the following weekend.

See how it goes.

Thanks for reading.

SF

STEVE FLECK said...

Brian,

No worries. Glad that it was timely for you.

Keep it rolling and let us know how it goes.

FYI over at the www.slowtwitch.com forum there is usually a 100 day run challenge that goes on sometime over the winter. You can have your own virtual daily run group.

SF

Stephen said...

Great post as usual. How would you recommend doing this for training for a marathon? Would you aim for a target weekly mileage, and then break it up over 6 to 7 days. Or would you aim for one long 2 hour run, and break it up with smaller runs?
Stephen

STEVE FLECK said...

Stephen,

My apologies I missed your comment/question. I would do two phases. 1) Break-up the weekely mileage into 6 - 7 pieces and stick to that for a few weeks, maybe a month. See how it goes then 2) Start to work in one longer run/week and build that up as high as required.

Hope this helps.