Runners World Articles: Archives
All Gain, No Pain
I admit it. I believe in the three-day-a-week workout plan. Run
three days, take the other four off. Call it lazy, wimpy, absurd.
Call it whatever you want. But the three-day workout week works
for me and many people I coach. Itís pure gain without the pain.
You only need to run three times a week to maintain or boost your
current fitness level. On this schedule, you can improve race performances,
train for and complete marathons, recover from injuries more quickly
and have more days free for your family, work, social life and other
Hereís why it works so well. Every time you run long or hard, small
microtears may occur in your leg muscles and tendons. Even if you
shorten the distance of the workout and run slowly the following
day, you might prevent those tears from healing quickly.
So if youíve been struggling to find the time or motivation to
run six days a week, relax. You have another option: my three-day
plan. To do it, cut out slow recovery runs instead. For instance,
letís say youíre currently doing a weekly long run of 8 miles and
four shorter runs of 4 miles. Just switch to three 8-mile runs instead.
If you have any doubts abut whether the method works, remember
the story of the late Dr. George Sheehan. He experienced a slowdown
in his marathon times during his late 50s. So he switched from running
5 miles a day, six days a week to two 10-mile runs and a weekend
race. At age 60, he ran a lifetime marathon best of 3:01.
Convinced? Hereís how to do it.
Do a long run. Running long distances once a week
can significantly boost your fitness. Increase your long run by
1 mile each week until you reach 10 miles. If youíre training for
a marathon, keep adding 1 to 2 miles every other week until you
reach 18 miles. At that point, you can increase the distance by
2 to 3 miles every third week. The pace of your long runs should
be about 2 minutes per mile slower than your marathon race pace.
On the weekends when you donít add miles, your long run can equal
about half the distance of your longest effort. For instance, if
your longest run equals 20 miles, you can run 10. Or substitute
a race for your long run.
Do a fast run. To boost performance, devote one
day each week to speedplay. If you don't want to run with a stopwatch,
simply accelerate for at least 100 meters, slow down, speed up,
slow down. Repeat five to 10 times. Make sure to include a warmup
Do a fun run. Explore. Find a scenic trail. Run
with fun, talkative people. Let your kids chase you around the yard
for 45 minutes. Do something new. By adding novel, entertaining
components to one workout each week, your running wonít become stagnant.
And youíll subconsciously carry the fun into your other runs, which
will keep you motivated.
Cross-train. Now that you gave four free days
a week, you can cross-train. Aquajogging can improve your running
form. Using cross-country ski machines can strengthen the leg muscles
that arenít employed heavily during running; they can also give
you an arm workout. Those who enjoy strength-training can do extensive
upper-body work. (For recovery reasons, I donít recommend legwork
on nonrunning days; instead, schedule it after your fun run.)
To keep cross-training interesting, pick a few different exercises
you can do for 5 to 15 minutes at a time. For instance, try riding
an exercise bike for 10 minutes, throwing some weights around for
15 minutes, then hitting the pool for 5 minutes of aquajogging.
Make up for your losses. On your days off, youíll
miss the stress release of running. Just remember: your legs will
feel better tomorrow, and resting will allow you to go farther,
faster. I guarantee youíll get fitter, too.
Have a training question for Jeff? Write to: Galloway on Training,
RUNNER'S WORLD, 33 E. Minor St., Emmaus, PA 18098. For Jeff's free
newsletter or information on his training groups, call (888) 282-1502.
World, July 1998, p. 40
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