Spring Training - Advanced Schedule, Week 7
Monday: Today's scheduled workout is to run an easy 3 miles followed by strength training. This week's schedule features another race, this one tentatively set at the 8-K distance. It's not as easy to locate 8-K races compared to the more popular 5-K or 10-K distances. If your local race schedule fails to yield a race of this distance, feel free to modify the program. With six weeks behind you, you now have completed half of this 12-week Spring Training program. Six more weeks to go!
Tuesday: With a base of six weeks of hill training behind you, head for the track today. Today's track workout is 16 x 200 meters, jogging and/or walking 200 between. Run the 200s at about the pace you would run in an 800-meter race. In other words: very fast! When you run this fast, you need a very thorough warm-up to prevent injury. Jog a mile or two, stretch, then run 3-4 strides at close to the pace you plan to run your repeats. Don't forget to take a few minutes to cool down afterwards. Be cautious during this workout, since 16 is a lot of 200-meter repeats. A lot! Even though you did run an equivalently hard 10 x hill workout last week, you may not be used to the rhythm of fast track running yet. So start by running the first three or four 200s conservatively and only pick up the pace after you begin to feel comfortable with how this much speed feels.
Wednesday: Three easy miles plus stretching. Since yesterday was your first day at the track, you may experience some unanticipated muscle soreness. This is natural, and it's also why I schedule an easy workout for you the day after a hard day. With Friday and Saturday scheduled as days of relative rest, you'll have time to recover from Wednesday's hard workout before facing your 8-K race this weekend.
Thursday: Your tempo run for today is 30 minutes. Given that relatively short time prescription, you can afford to run somewhat faster at peak than if you were running longer. Assuming you plan to run an 8-K race this weekend, build to that pace peak two-thirds of the way into the workout. But don't hold that pace for more than 2-3 minutes! Here is how you would do it. Begin by jogging at an easy pace for about 5 minutes to warm up. Then very gradually move a bit faster during the next 5 minutes (10 minutes total) though still a jog. Then begin to move still faster, accelerating gradually for the next 10 minutes so that about 20 minutes into the workout you are moving at the 8-K pace mentioned above. Hold that pace for about 2-3 minutes (or 400-600 meters). Then begin to decelerate, so that at 25 minutes into the run, you are back to the same jog pace at which you started. Hopefully you should finish this workout refreshed and ready to race on the weekend.
Friday: With a race scheduled this weekend, this is a day of relative rest. Run 3 miles followed by strength training. (If your race is Saturday, you may want to take today off entirely.) While doing your strength training routine and moving from exercise to exercise, don’t rush and don’t waste time chitchatting with friends. Stay focused on your workout by stretching in between. "It’s very important while strength training to have a stretching routine," warns personal trainer Cathy Vasto. "You don’t want to lose your flexibility, which can happen if you forget to stretch. Eccentric contractions (which occur when lowering the weights) actually can tighten the muscles." Stretching while strength training provides a double dose of conditioning in a minimum of time.
Saturday: With tomorrow a race day, today is an option day: Either run 3 easy miles or rest. Rest is always an important component of any training program. Remember, the focus on this training program is quality more than quantity. You can't achieve quality in your workouts unless you come into the days you run hard well rested. You'll be able to race 8-K tomorrow much more successfully if you are rested and ready to rip! This means getting a good night's sleep tonight too. Social considerations aside, you probably don't want to hang out all night at the bars, then be forced to get up the next morning and race hard. What's important in life to you? Make that decision and follow up on it.
Sunday: Race day. Run an 8-K race, assuming one is available this weekend. If not, any race shorter than 10-K will do. 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. If you race on Saturday rather than Sunday, juggle the workouts around your race. This would mean taking it easy during the Thursday tempo run, resting totally on Friday and using today for an easy run of about a half dozen miles.
Running Tips: No matter how fit you may be from other physical activities, when you run faster than usual or shift to a different form of training, you're probably going to experience sore muscles. Even after running becomes easy, you're still going to experience sore muscles from time to time--particularly the day after a hard race or hard workout. People get sore muscles for three reasons: 1.) They are not used to exercising; 2.) They are used to a different exercise; 3.) They push their regular exercise too hard. To relieve the pain of sore muscles, first use ice to reduce swelling. Heat, once pain has peaked, helps speed recovery by improving circulation. Massage and pain-relieving rubs may help. But if you want to become a runner, you may need to accept some soreness as a natural part of the conditioning process.
How to Improve: Hal Higdon's Smart Running is a collections of questions and answers from his on-line Ask The Expert column. It covers everything you wanted to know about running, but were afraid to ask. To order an autographed copy of this and other books by Runner's World's best writer go to Books by Hal Higdon.