Monday, March 16, 2009

One Week? Screw That

For whatever reason I've had a lot of people in the past few weeks ask me for tips about training for ultras. The problem is that I don't really have a set training plan that I follow from race to race. There certainly are general guidelines that I stick to but I almost never actually plan specific workouts more than a day or two ahead of time, and even that's pretty rare.

One general guideline that I do use that tends to be different from most people is that I never break my training down into one week cycles. A one week cycle makes sense from a schedule standpoint, since so many other things in our lives revolve around weekly cycles. From a training standpoint though a one week cycle doesn't really make sense to me. Often I just train on a linear path that never seems to cycle back around, but when I do break my training down into cycles I usually do either 10 or 12 day training segments. The problem with a one week cycle is that you don't have enough space in there to make fine adjustments. A lot of people seem to do weekly cycles in which they do one long day, one day off, 1 speed day, 1 hill day, and the other 3 days as active recovery days. The problem with this is that running a long run once every 7 days is too much, as is a rest day once in every 7 days. One speed day and one hill day is probably not enough but if you added in another day of either of these it would probably be too much. By using a 10 or 12 day cycle you can add or subtract a day of a certain type of workout and it isn't such a drastic increase or decrease. A typical 10 day cycle for me would consist of 1 long day (about 20-25% of my total mileage of that 10 day cycle), 2 hill days, 2 speed days, 2 cross training active recovery days (weights, bike, ski, etc.), and 3 active recovery running days (sometimes one of these days completely off if I'm feeling unusually tired or busy). With a longer cycle like this I can adjust things to more closely fit the work that I think I need at the time without feeling like I'm making a drastic change to what my body is used to. I know this isn't a huge difference from a one week cycle, but for me it's enough that I couldn't imagine ever again breaking my training into 7 day cycles.


Anonymous said...

whats your average mileage range during a cycle,and do you prefer back to back longer runs or one very long run?

Bryon Powell said...

Very thought provoking post. It makes me wonder if my training schedule would be on a different cycle if it weren't tied in with my work schedule. Heck, I know the content of my training schedule would change if I weren't bound by the work schedule. In truth, in a week-based setting it would be adding another mid-week long run (20 or so at easy effort), but it would change things.

This will be something I need to consider if/when I leave the week-based world.

Geoff said...

anon, for a 10 day cycle i'm usually in the 125-175 mile range. i've used back to back long runs a little in the past but unless training for a multi-day race i think it makes a lot more sense to do one longer run. the idea behind back to back long runs is to train your muscles to perform when they are still in the middle of recovering from the previous day's run. this just isn't something that you need to be able to do in a single day run so it doesn't really make much sense to me to bother training for it.

bryon, yeah, i didn't mention that i usually use at least one of my active recovery days as a secondary long day of about 15-20 miles. but you're totally right, a weekly work schedule can make it really hard to fit this all in.

Vik said...

Good point about the ability to fine tune a cycle on a 7 day rotation - hadn't thought about that.

BTW - enjoy your time in the desert.



Hone said...

Running is for the birds.

That is why I have quit. Now I just sit around eating Chili Cheese Fritos and snort Pixie Sticks all day. I have never felt better.

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

From a running or cycling or fencing point of view: I Totally Agree With You! A weekly training cycle (cycle, hah! good joke) is kinda silly. Imagine doing the same thing (or type of thing) every Friday (or pick a day) just cus you think you should. Man oh man that would get BORING. Even when I was doing 3/1 I'd never be doing the same thing each Saturday. As you say, listen to your body.

Anonymous said...