Why Runners Should Extend Their Training Cycle
Runners always seem to be looking for newer and better ways to train. You want to keep your bodies guessing about what you’re going to do next, to never get complacent, and to add benefits like endurance, strength, and speed in any way you can. With all the different workouts for any given distance, have you ever thought about extending your training cycle beyond seven days?
Most runners understand the science behind getting in different quality runs each week. Any long distance race training plan worth it’s salt will have speed work, long runs, tempo, and a cross-training or strength day. Why try to cram all of those “essential” workouts into seven days? Think of what could happen if you added just two more days to your training cycle.
Planning ahead is critical to getting started with this new format. If you do not already have an online or even handwritten training schedule, you may want to start. At first it may seem pretty foreign to not go along with the days of the week. Try numbering the days and be sure you have access to your plan throughout the day, either on your computer or mobile device. Make notes or changes where needed until you figure out what works best.
For most runners, the long run is done on weekends for obvious reasons. With some tweaking, you can still get your long running days to fall on a Saturday or Sunday, while giving yourself more recovery time. For those of you who don’t rely on a weekend to go long, this may be an even better way to train!
As with any change, adjusting your schedule may feel odd at first. Give yourself time to adjust to the new schedule and allow your body and mind to adapt. If, after trying a single nine day cycle you want to switch back to seven, give it one more try.
One of the biggest benefits to this type of schedule is improved recovery. By extending your training cycle to nine days, you have more wiggle room and flexibility. If you are still too fatigued from Sunday’s long run on Tuesday, you can cross-train or rest instead. With a nine or even 10 day cycle, you can get all your essential training runs done, and still have four days left for proper rest and recovery.
Another benefit is that by adding days in your cycle, your stress level will plummet. When unavoidable training delays occur (i.e. sickness, travel, bad moods) you can easily take a rest day and move your planned workout as needed.
While some endurance runners like to pile on miles, sometimes less is actually more. Since you will have an additional two days there is no rule you have to fill them with running. It may be more beneficial to add in yoga, stretching and/or a massage instead.
A Sample Schedule
Every runner is different and has different goals. The following is simply an outline of what a nine day training cycle may look like for marathon training. Obviously you will have to build your own and fine tune it as your training unfolds.
Day 1: Long run
Day 2: Rest
Day 3: 7-9 miles easy
Day 4: 8-10 x 1 mile at half marathon pace
Day 5: 10-12 miles easy
Day 6: Strength training/cross-training
Day 7: 8-10 miles easy
Day 8: 16 x 400m (@10K pace) with 100m jog recovery
Day 9: Yoga or massage
Every runner needs to find a schedule that works best for their specific needs. To do so, you may need to look past the simple seven day week and work with an extended schedule. Doing so can make your workouts more productive, help you avoid injury, and ultimately help you reach your goals.