(Warning: Your coach may not like you reading this)
As science and professionalism have opened up more and more opportunities for athletes to increase their training workloads, and add all the little components to their schedules, the pure simplicity of running has started to lose its way. Peter Snell in the 60’s and John Walker in the 70’s paved the way for New Zealand middle-distance running following a simple formula of running, and more running (their times and abilities would still be incredibly competitive today). My greatest fear is that more and more young athletes think that in order to succeed, it is required for them to put their life on hold, put family and friends as secondary priorities and sport must take the number one spot. Having been around the block a few times, I have come to the conclusion that regardless of result, the most enjoyable seasons are those where sport has a healthy place in a balanced life. The truth is, a more balanced life often brings out the best long-term results anyway.
For the past twelve years, I have experimented with training schedules but have now decided to end the experimentation and simplify my running life. This entails focusing on what has worked for me in the past, and eliminating all the “fluff” that I never noticed any real benefit from. Enjoying family, balancing other interests, being a full-time master’s student and an overall quality of life is the main driver behind this decision, but ultimately, I believe it will produce better, and more sustainable performances.
My basic week involves running once a day with one day off a week. I have removed the two to three 30-minute secondary runs I used to do in order to top-up my weekly mileage, and this has greatly opened my days to focus on my studies or family activities. What real fitness gain was I getting from a few extra jogs anyway? Now I have more recovery time to give me spring for my sprint training. I have also removed gym work (my least enjoyable aspect of training). To offset this, I run hill sprints once a week, and do 5 minutes of plyometric drills 3-5 times/week. I do believe weight training is an important part of many training programs, but for me, the benefits are far outweighed by the negatives. Five minutes of plyos is a far less invasive time commitment, than a 60-90 minute trip to the gym.
Here is the basic layout of the week:
Monday – Day Off
Tuesday – Two-hour workout (total of around 10-12 miles including warm-up and warm-down)
Wednesday – 60 minutes easy jogging (7 min/mile pace)
Thursday – 75 minutes of steady running (6 min/mile pace) + drills and 4x70m hill sprints.
Friday – two-hour workout (total of around 10-12 mile including warm-up and warm-down)
Saturday – two hour run (17-18 miles at 6m30s/mile pace)
Sunday – 45 min run + plyo drills and 5x100m sprints
This past February, my wife and I traveled the length of New Zealand, showing her parents around our beautiful country. Most days included sightseeing, driving, and plenty of walking – far from the ideal that most of us runners would want in preparation for important races. At the end of the trip, I had no idea how I would go, but ended up running a solo 3m36 1500m in Auckland, and a world championships A standard qualifying time of 3m34.6 in Sydney. By running at sunrise, I was able to get my training completed, without it being a hindrance to our travels. This is enough evidence for me to believe in this approach, and I am very thankful that I could discover this while still in my prime.