Spring Training - Intermediate Schedule, Week 10
Monday: Three miles today followed by strength training. Nine weeks done. Three weeks to go. You are three-quarters through your 12-week Spring Training program. While running your 3-miler today, contemplate your race run yesterday. One reason for doing an occasional race--even if you don't run that much faster than you might in training--is to check out the sights and sounds of the racing world. Races are fun. If you plan to shift to marathon training at the end of this 12-week Spring Training program, doing an occasional race at distances between 5-K and 10-K will get you used to procedures around racing: everything from how to position yourself in a large field to how to use the aid stations. Try to learn from every race you run in.
Tuesday: Four miles today, a shift downward in distance from the 6 miles run last Tuesday. One of the reasons is to allow you just a bit more recovery after the race you ran last weekend. Make this an easier workout than usual. While I sometimes suggest you move a bit further on Tuesdays that on Mondays, today is not one of those "sometimes."
Wednesday: Today's track workout is 7 x 400 meters, jogging and/or walking 200-400 between. Continue to focus on your running, and don't allow your mind to drift, particularly on the back straightaway when the fast pace may feel painful. I find that when I head to the track for speedwork early in the season, I sometimes have difficulty keeping my mind on what I'm doing. And this slows me down. Usually after about three or four track sessions, my concentration improves, and I find myself able to run faster. This is partly from improved muscle conditioning, but partly because I'm more focused. Using associative strategies in races isn't enough. You have to learn to associate in practice too, particularly during speedwork sessions.
Thursday: Three miles followed by strength training. And don't forget to stretch after you run and between lifts. Warm up is important. Research shows that warm tissues stretch better than cold tissues. Many runners interpret this to mean that you jog 5-10 minutes before stopping to stretch. Robert Forster, however, offers another opinion. "Nobody said you can't stretch cold muscles," says the California physiotherapist, who included Jackie Joyner-Kersee among his clients. "When people are prone to injuries--or if they've been sitting down all day--they need to stretch before exercise as well." Forster recommends that runners develop a routine that begins with some simple pre-workout stretches, then continues after a short jog warms the muscles. Stretching after the workout also is a good time to increase flexibility. "There is no best time to stretch," he concludes. "You need to continually work on your flexibility to achieve success as a runner."
Friday: On this day of rest before a weekend during which you have some of your toughest training scheduled, pause and consider how far you have come since starting to run. Individuals who have been running for several years or more don't notice improvements as much as beginning runners. You may not have lost 10 pounds in the past 10 weeks. You may not have discovered muscles you didn't know you had. But you should begin to notice some improvements in your fitness level and, hopefully, some improvement in your overall ability to run fast because of the speed training you've been doing. You should be able to race better too.
Saturday: The fartlek workout for today is 45 minutes. Runner-journalist Merrill Noden once wrote: "In any interval session--on or off the track--you are measuring two variables: the distance you run and the time it takes. Real fartlek always leaves one or both of these variables unmeasured." As a result, Noden concluded, you make it impossible to pass judgment on your effort. As such, fartlek lends itself to the cross-country setting, because training venues away from the track are almost always unmarked and undefined. The burden falls on the shoulder of each runner to make each fartlek workout as it good as it can get.
Sunday: Seven miles of running today added to yesterday's fartlek workout of 45 minutes means that you will have logged a fair number of miles this weekend. And, assuming you are training in the late spring, the weather may be getting warmer. Unless you're a speed demon, you're going to be running for a relatively long period of time today, somewhere close to an hour. And if the weather is warm, you may dehydrate. Take a good swig of water just before you start to run and if there are any water fountains on the course you choose, don't run past them. You might even consider carrying a water bottle. Dehydration becomes more of a factor the longer you run and the higher the temperature. It is also cumulative, meaning you still could be somewhat dehydrated from yesterday's fartlek run as well. Nevertheless, enjoy your run.
Running Tips: One way to benefit from your speed sessions is to pace yourself so that you finish each workout faster than you began. For example, Coach Robert Vaughan of Dallas, Texas suggests that in a workout featuring 400-meter repeats, run the first 200 meters of each 400 four or five seconds slower than the concluding 200 meters. "You shift gears in the middle," instructs Vaughan. "You kick at the end of each rep." There's nothing magic about 400 reps and nothing magic about 200 meters as the kick point. Sometimes Vaughan has his runners start their kicks 100 meters out--or 300 meters out. "Our runners seem to enjoy the pace changes," he says. "It provides an adrenaline rush, both in races and in workouts. Their bodies adapt to quick shifts, and they learn that they can go fast at the end of a race."
How to Improve: Running a marathon may be far from your thoughts, but when you do contemplate training for a 26-mile race, the best book to buy is Hal Higdon's Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide. It will help get you to the starting line and, most important, get you to the finish line. To order an autographed copy of this and other books by Runner's World's best writer go to Books by Hal Higdon.