Thursday, August 25, 2011

Stay In Motion

People in motion stay in motion.

Law of inertia, right? I learned that in high school science.

I have a tendency to train for one or two big races a year and then just go into no-man’s land with running once the race is over. I love it, but after training for a big race, I always need a break. My intention is always to keep my running up after the race, but (often without a plan) I get lax about it very quickly.

And that happens every. single. time.

So, I was on the plane to Charlotte, headed right into the path of Hurricane Irene and reading the backlog of my Running Times magazine and there is an article that really struck a chord with me. It’s about running an endless season: not training for a specific race, but being race ready all year long.

So, if you’re like me, what I’m about to share with you is how to make a paradigm shift in your training mentality and give you a way to put that into action. Effective immediately.

The components to the “stay in motion” plan are (in no particular order):
  •  Intervals – also known as speedwork, up to 6 miles of high intensity intervals; mile repeats at 5k–10k effort with recovery jogs in between; 800m repeats at a 5k effort with recovery jogs in between; 100m sprints; fartleks of any shape, size or flavor. Whatever kind of interval is singing to you on a given day, but keep switching it up to keep your body continuously improving.
  • Frequent weekend races, or VO2Max runs (high intensity) – this is a sustained, unbroken efforts at 85-95% of your current best 5k effort, or a 5k or 10k race. The adrenaline associated with racing more often than not, causes you to sustain a more intense pace than you would on any normal run-of-the-mill run day. If you’re not racing, this might be a shorter, faster tempo run anywhere from 20-40 minutes long.
  • Easy runs – slower, more relaxed runs anywhere from 30 – 60+ minutes that will make up the bulk of your weekly mileage.
  • Midweek longer anaerobic runs – the second longest run of the week, at a moderate effort. I’d recommend running with a running group or a fast running partner or running hills for this one. Just so you don’t get sucked into letting this fall into the “easy run” category.
  • Weekend long runs when not racing – this is your long, slow distance run when you’re not otherwise occupied with a race. Roughly at the same effort as your easy runs, just over a longer distance, just keep this run mellow.
  • A true recovery day –the most important part of the stay in motion plan. Even if you do a short run-walk, walk, easy bike ride, hike, etc., our strength coach in college used to call this “active rest”.  Take this day for yourself (I use it to get my life back in order, cook, clean…) Something to get a bit of blood flow to your muscles on your recovery day is good, stretching is great, smiling is a must.
  • Strides and accelerations – 50-150m hard efforts, but done without too much straining. I like to throw 4 or 5 of these “strides” in at the end of my easy runs to help teach myself to kick into gear at the end of a race.
  • Cross-training – this is the second most important component of this plan. Give yourself a break from pounding the pavement, but stay active and get your heart pumping. I regularly practice yoga as a form of cross training and try to use my Nike Training Camp app for body weight circuits as often as possible. Whatever works for you.

There are a couple of other important parts of this plan. One is f.l.e.x.i.b.i.l.i.t.y. I think I mention this every single time I do a post about my workout schedule, but I can’t stress it enough. You can always plan a plan, but you can never plan results. Sometimes you just don’t feel like working out, sometimes your commute to or from work takes WAY longer than you expected it to. Whatever it is, take it one breath at a time and just be flexible.

The second important part of this a bi- tri- or quad-weekly week of lower mileage. Especially if you’re a new or injury prone runner. I found this chart in a different Running Times magazine that suggests how often to have a down week:

Your “score” is how often to take an easy week. So if you fall into the first category, you should make every other week and easy week. If you are in the second category, you should make third week and easy week, and so on and so forth.

I, for one, am going to start with an easy week every other week, to avoid burn out and injury. So, when most training plans go through a 7-day cycle, my stay in motion plan will be more of a 10-14 day cycle. Here is an example of a two week rotation:

Then you just start over again at week one. For me, Tuesdays and Thursdays are my “date night” runs with Brandon. Since he’s the expert in all things speedy, he is going to orchestrate our speedwork.

{Aside: I am so lucky that he’s willing to stay with me when we run. Honestly, he is SO FAST.}

The cool thing about this plan is, theoretically you should be able to continuously improve if you approach this properly in terms of intensity. You can keep a comparison of your race times and use any good running website (Runner's World Smart Coach or Greg McMillan’s pace calculator) so you can determine what your workout paces should be. By continuing to work out at the correct effort you for now, as your race times drop, you’ll start training at faster speeds. So essentially, fitness will come to you rather than forcing workouts to make races happen.

Oh, and one more thing. Say you want to lay it all out for a certain race, you can tailor your workouts to be more event specific for a few months (plus a taper period!!) and you should be good to go!

How do you stay fit, even when you’re not training for a race??

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