28 May 2013

Every Body's Different

My experiment with the FIRST training regimen lasted about a month.  While I enjoyed how quickly that plan allowed me to gain some initial fitness, I soon grew tired of having to run a specified workout each day I ran.  I missed just going out the door and running easily for 40 minutes to an hour.  I yearned to recover by running gently, not by biking or swimming.  I look forward to gradually loosening up during a recovery run.  I do not look forward to swimming or biking.  I merely tolerate swimming and biking.  I guess at heart I'm a runner, one who believes that volume is important.

But I'm a runner who needs variety.

That is why I also did not last long while trying in February once again to follow the Maffetone method of building an endurance base.  To go out and run with the same heart rate restrictions every day bores me.  And I do not like wearing, nor paying attention to, a heart rate monitor during every run.  Additionally, I can't say that I feel like the Maffetone method gets me any better results than following my own method of base building, where I ignore heart rate and run according to how my body feels, which is usually at a pace that generates a little higher heart rate than the one prescribed by Dr. Phil Maffetone.

So, where does that leave me now?

Through my experiences over the last six months, I have discovered a few things about myself:

1) I like running and I like it more than any other form of exercise.
2) I can still handle running six or seven days per week.
3) I feel better running for 40 minutes gently the day after a hard workout than I do when I take the day after a hard workout off.
4) I need at least three recovery/easy days after a long run or a hard workout before I can do another long run or hard workout.
5) I need to reduce my mileage every third week to keep my legs feeling fresh.
6) My easy runs and recovery runs have gotten much slower in the past few years.
7) My interval workouts, tempo runs, and long runs have all gotten a bit quicker over the past few months.

Taking these things into account, I am now running almost daily, only taking a day or two off every month.  My schedule is not based on prescribed runs each day of the week, but on making sure that I have at least three recovery/easy days in between hard efforts--and I count long runs as hard efforts.  Therefore, I can go long on any day of the week, and I can go hard on any day of the week.  Because I have introduced back to back long runs into my schedule in preparation for my first ultramarathon in November, I am working on a nine-day schedule.  As an example, my last full nine-day rotation looked like this:

Day 1 - 15 mile run
Day 2 - 10 mile run
Day 3 - Gentle 40-minute recovery run
Day 4 - Gentle 60-minute recovery run
Day 5 - Easy 5 mile run
Day 6 - 7k tempo run--Eight total miles with warm up and cool down
Day 7 - Off
Day 8 - Gentle 60-minute recovery run
Day 9 - Easy 60-minute run

The plan for the next two days is to run back to back ten milers.  Because I am in the midst of a lower-volume week, I took a day off and I have shortened one of my long runs.  I know it's odd to be on a nine-day schedule but to still look at my weekly mileage, but it seems to work for me, and it seems to ensure that I do not run too much volume for too long.

I think we make a big mistake when we wed ourselves to running on a schedule that depends more on what day it is than on how we feel or on what our bodies are capable of.  I can no longer run long one day, run intervals on another day, and tempo on yet another day in the same week. That's three quality workouts in one week, and at 43 my body can't recover quickly enough from hard effort to hard effort during such a strenuous week.

Is my nine day rotation perfect for every runner?  Absolutely not.  But neither is the FIRST training method, nor the Maffetone method, nor the many regimens available online and in books.  What will be perfect for you, may be perfect for no one else.  But what you must do is understand who you are, what you're capable of, what you enjoy, what your goals are, and how much time you have to dedicate to running, and then read the many ideas out there and devise a plan that will work for you.  Or you could just send me an email and let me help you through the process.

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