A successful training program is one that gets you to the start line feeling fit and fresh. Most endurance athletes may not struggle with getting out the door and doing some hard work, but in fact allowing themselves to rest and recover enough. We must break up our training in cycles and be as intentional (if not more) about our rest than our hard quality sessions. Below is part 2 (of a 5 part series) regarding smart training cycles:
Our week is probably the most common cycle we also find in our everyday life outside of endurance training. Work week, school week, weekends, rotating shift-work, etc. This usually drives most of us to fit our training into 7-day cycles (although some prefer 10-day cycles). Depending on busy family / work schedules many lean towards running their long runs and/or back-to-back long runs on the weekend. I agree there may be more flex-time in the weekend and you don’t have to get up as early but I’d rather spend that flex time with family and also feel (somewhat) refreshed headed back to Monday so over the last 1-2 years I’ve developed the following weekly schedule:
But to each his (or her) own … everybody’s life, schedule, priorities, commitment is different but with the above pictorial in mind I’d like to share the two simple components to a healthy week of training … quality days and recovery days.
The days that hurt … fast, long, lung-burning, hill-climbing, track-rounding, or a combination of all of the above. These are the days that make you sometimes love and curse the day you ever started running. Tearing down your body is the prime objective. Some quality days are more tearing down your lungs, some are more legs, and some are more mental … but at the end of each quality day, you’ll be worse off than when you woke up that morning. Less fit and definitely less energetic. But HOW or WHAT workouts should be tearing us down? That will be the content of a future post regarding your specific training phase … but for now, looking just a week at a time – these quality days are what break you down. What’s our natural response to being broken down? Get back up!!! Which brings me to “recovery days”.
“Quality Day” tip: Long runs are quality days. Some are “more” quality (i.e. break you down more) than others, but they should be treated with respect and require rest and recovery. In my opinion, every runner competing over 800 meters needs a long run every week.
The fun, easy, light-hearted running you could carry on a conversation with a do with a buddy, family, pet, etc. Leave your watch at home and enjoy yourself! Run on feel if you have a tendindcy to be a watch (GPS) watcher and get discouraged by running “slower” paces … SLOW IS GOOD on true recovery days! Learn to run on feel – if “easy” means 8:00/mi when it was 7:15/mi last week, then you’ve probably stressed it differently and guess what? Your body, legs, lungs don’t care about your watch … your body just wants “easy”.
These days are the perfect time to cross-train if you enjoy doing so and/or just exploring for fun. PROTECT your rest as you should be more fit and more recovered by the time you hit another quality day. As shown in the above table / schedules, appropriate rest alternates your quality days … barring the back-to-back long run (which serves a specific purpose), do not stack up quality days next to one another as your benefit from these workouts will only be determined by the rest you give yourself afterwards.
“Recovery Days” tip – rest days are ultra-recovery days. I used to train 7 days/week, but since implementing 1 day off/week I actually think I train harder. It’s easy mentally and physically to crank during the week and on my long runs knowing when Sunday comes I get to put those mangled feet up and sleep in and/or jog/walk with my sons. It also provides flexibility in your week when things come up in or you can’t run on a random weekday (or you just want to sleep in with your wifey) … shift the rest of your week and you’ve lost no training!
My little guy loves to joke, sing, and look for deer on recovery days with dad!