Training


Spring Training - Intermediate Schedule, Week 6

Monday: This week, your sixth in my 12-week Spring Training program, features a race on Sunday. It will give you an opportunity to test your fitness level. Also, for intermediate and advanced runners races offer an opportunity to push yourself beyond your normal training level. Too much racing can result in staleness, but occasional races can help you fine-tune your speed. The schedule suggests a 5-K race on Sunday, but if your local calendar offers a race at a different distance on a distance day--or even in a different week--don't be afraid to adjust accordingly. Today being Monday, run an easy 3 miles to recover from yesterday's long run and do some strength training.

Tuesday: Today's run is 5 miles. I've been running a long, long time and have finished more than 100 marathons, and I find this a comfortable distance for mid-week workouts. At the pace I currently run, it fills the better part of an hour, a good length of time to be out running. One way to do this workout is to run half the distance in one direction, then stop to walk for a minute or two. Then turn around and--starting at the place you stopped--begin running again headed home. Often, I find myself running faster on the return journey than going out. That should not necessarily be your goal, but you might want to do this 5-miler at a pace slightly faster than your easy 3-milers on Monday and Thursday.

Wednesday: Today is Wednesday, so that means you probably are going to be asked to run hills. Let me check the schedule. Yep, that's correct. Hal told me to do it! Run 5 x hill. After six weeks in the program, this is your final hill workout. Next week on this day, you switch to the track and begin doing some interval training. Combining hill training with interval training in this manner was an approach pioneered by the New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard, whose runners included Olympic champions Murray Halberg (1960: 5,000) and Peter Snell (1960, 64: 800, 1,500). Jog a mile or two to warm up, then stretch, before tackling the hill. Cool down with a mile jog and do some more stretching afterwards.

Thursday: Three miles at an easy pace, then do some strength training. Learn to breathe right when you do your lifts. The worst mistake you can make while lifting is to hold your breath, warns personal trainer Cathy Vasto. That simply tightens the muscles that you want to keep loose. Inhale while you prepare to lift the weight, then exhale while lifting it, inhaling again while lowering it. "The best way to breathe is naturally," says Vasto, "so that you’re not even aware you’re doing it."

Friday: . Rest is always an important component of any training program. Sometimes rest is important for the mind as much as for the body. Although I love running and find that my day is not complete without a run or some sort of aerobic workout, I realize that not everybody feels the same way--yet! So Friday is the day when you don't have to think about what course you're going to run or how to fit your workout into a busy schedule. You can even skip taking a shower, but if you brush your teeth, don't forget to floss. Relax. Take a day off.

Saturday: This is the weekend when I send you to the starting line of a 5-K as a test of your fitness level. For this reason, I have programmed in an extra day of race--if you want to take it. Often I like to rest two days before a race, then use the day before to do some light jogging and stretching to loosen my muscles and also to relieve some of the pre-event nerves that come with competition. Typically, I jog a mile or so, sit down and do some easy stretching, then do 3 or 4 strides (100 meters at race pace), then jog another mile. All this time, I'm contemplating the race ahead: thinking of strategy, deciding what pace I plan to run, etc. Not every workout needs to be hard to contribute to your ability to compete.

Sunday: Race day. As your strategy, you might want to consider going out at a conservative pace in the first mile with your goal "reverse splits." That is, try to run each successive mile faster than the one before. This takes some of the curse off the necessity to set a P.R. in this race, since the purpose is more to do some very fast running to compliment the rest of your program. When you cross the finish line and complete your cool-down jog, you will be halfway through this12-week Spring Training program! Break out the champagne--or at least a bottle of Perrier. If you race on Saturday rather than Sunday, you may want to juggle the workouts around your race. This would mean resting on Thursday and Friday and using today for an easy run of about a half dozen miles.

Running Tips: In colder weather, nylon tights will keep you running without limiting your ability to move fast. They are generally more comfortable and practical than the old floppy sweat pants runners once wore when I started running long before the Lycra Age. And actually they will not slow you down that much, if any. At least one study I saw suggested that tights allowed runners to run faster because they improved aerodynamics. I don't know about that one, but I do know that at a certain temperature level, I will race in tights vs. shorts. The temperature dictating this switch is about 35 degrees, but wind chill and wet affects my decision. Other runners may have different comfort levels. Experience will tell you how to dress for different weather conditions.

How to Improve: Planning to run a marathon? You won't find a better training schedule than the 18-week program available on this web site. But sometimes it's a bother to go on-line to check your training plan. (Paper still does serve a purpose.) Consider ordering a copy of Hal Higdon's Marathon Training Guide. It's a simple and convenient, 48-page booklet that reprints my on-line schedules for novice and advanced runners. It costs only $4.50, and you can obtain a free copy by ordering Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide. To order an autographed copy of these and other of my books, go to Books by Hal Higdon.

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