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Running 4 Days a Week

Sunday, December 01, 2013

I ran a 10K on Thanksgiving Day. It was a lot of fun, I met or exceeded my pre-race goals, and I spent the remainder of Thursday plus all day Friday on a high from having done so well.

Come Saturday and Sunday, and I have a void to fill. I had been focused on that 10K as an intermediate goal, and that goal is now in the past. The ultimate long term goal is to keep running regularly for as long as I can, and the next major goal along the way is a half marathon at the end of April 2014. April is still a bit far off, and the 10K is done. What do I do next to support the running goals?

When I talked to the coach/avid runner/2nd place finisher in my age group after Thursday's 10K, he asked me how many miles I ran. I told him 15 to 20 miles per week. [Pause to check records . . . the recent peak week I ran 16.06 miles. Then I backed off to 8.51 miles the week before the 10K, counting weeks as Monday through Sunday.]

This fellow was blown away at how little I ran for my 10K performance. He claimed that the number one way to run faster was to run more total miles. That may or may not be true for someone training for a race with the idea of competing on speed. From a personal perspective, I did not set out to compete on speed. I set out to simply be able to run the distance, and the speed just kind of happened. Yes, Mr. Testosterone always tells me to run faster; but I've got better at ignoring him, and he's quieter in non-race settings than he used to be.

Still, the more miles idea is attractive to me. It's not attractive for speed; I run fast enough to satisfy myself. It's attractive in terms of training up to that half marathon, which will require I run more miles. And it's attractive in terms of running more days per week. Historical review: I've been running three days a week. Why three? Because I kept getting injured, and restricting myself to three was an attempt to avoide injury.

It was an unsuccessful attempt. I got injured the last time running three days a week, and that motivated me to get into physical therapy.

Out the other end of physical therapy, I'm better at listening to my body. I listened, and took time off from running the week before the 10K. My body rewarded me with a PR time in the 10K even when I was just trying to run sustainably, and with feet that feel as good as they have since getting out of PT.

A side effect of the pre-race injury-recovery taper is that my running schedule was disrupted. I had been running Tuesday - Thursday - Saturday. After the disruption, I ran Saturday, then had a 6 day break, then ran Sunday - Tuesday - Thursday race. And I felt great after that 10K.

The end result of this was that I talked myself into not having a long run this weekend, but instead trying to transition to a four day a week running schedule. So I just ran around the section to the west on Saturday, faster than a slow run pace but slower than a tempo run. The idea was to have enough of a run to support mileage for three days a week, but not so much as to totally eliminate the possibility of a Sunday run and conversion to a Tuesday -Thursday - Saturday - Sunday running schedule.

Today is Sunday. Sunday is typically a tough day to get my 10K steps in, particularly for a non-running day. Today started out with a bit more challenge than a typical Sunday; I got home from church with barely 2000 steps on the pedometer. So, check the weather. 40° F, 3 mph wind, sprinkling rain. Better running weather than walking weather.

So I set out to just run for 30 to 40 minutes, thinking more like 40 to get those steps in. I went around a new running route that would not be advisable on a weekday due to traffic, then tacked on some familiar pieces of the neighborhood at the end. My comfortable but not pushing things pace was a little faster than yesterday, but I avoided hills. Late in the run, 40 minutes felt too aggressive, so I ended up near my driveway at 35 minutes. Total per RunKeeper, 4.86 miles in 35:05 for an average pace of 7:14 per mile. The mile splits were 7:20, 7:15, 7:15, 7:08, and a 7:09 pace for the major fraction of mile 5.

That took care of the problem of fitting my 10K steps in, as I got to the post-run stretching with over 9K steps. Had some minor aches in the feet, but iced them down and they're feeling really good this evening. From what my body is telling me so far, this is a good plan.

By the numbers, that pushes the weekly mileage from Monday through Sunday to 20.02. This is a bit of a big step up from the previous high of 16.06, in violation of the common wisdom to increase mileage no more than 10%. But I would have that problem whenever I went from 3 days to 4 days.

My inner hypochondriac looks at those numbers and worries about injury. Mr. Testosterone looks at those numbers and says to keep doing this, only start stretching one of the weekend runs into a long run. Prudence says that if my feet don't tell me to slow down, I should run a week or two of the 4 day schedule without trying to stretch for more miles, then think about stretching the long run.

So I sit and write this blog, mainly to remind myself of the thought process and to encourage myself to adhere to the prudent path. Four days this week, four days next week, and don't stretch the miles much until mid December.

This will scare my inner hypochondriac, and frustrate Mr. Testosterone; but that's the way I need to play it. Push just a little, and be ready to back off if I'm pushing too much. But don't presume it's too much without testing the limits.

And watch the weight trend. It might be necessary to adjust the nutrition level if I'm running an extra day per week.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I have read a lot of authors that support 3 days a week. Probably optimal for Masters runners. However, going to 4 days will better support your goals, with the sole exception of avoiding injury. Since you will be listening to your body as adjust to the new schedule, it is a calculated risk.

    I believe a valid exception to the 10% rule is via adding a day vs same days 10% rule. What to avoid is following a half training plan that increases the long run(s) by 10% and you end up adding miles to both buckets (e.g to the 3 day bucket AND the 4 day bucket).

    I'm trying to go from 4 to 5 days so I'm going through the same process as yourself. I have a priority assigned to each day, although my holiday travel disrupted it. The Long Run is the #1 priority and the low priority days are recovery days. So, a 4 day plan would include a Long run, Steady State and a Tempo run with the Recovery Run the variable day between a 3 and a 4 day week.

    If you had no injury history, my only advice would be to get the long run back in the schedule pronto, but you do (have history). I think you have a great handle on your goals and your training needs. I enjoy your blogs, and find myself curious as to whether your natural speed ability gets better at a half or if you are a better short distance runner.
    1631 days ago

    Comment edited on: 12/3/2013 7:25:03 AM
    My husband is a huge fan of this book. He recommends it to anyone who is training for their first HM.

    1632 days ago
    Generally speaking, having three more moderate distances and a "long and slow" that gradually builds to your HM every other weekend, alternating that weekend "long" run with a more moderate distance one.

    My first HM training plan said I should be running 4 - 4 - 6 (miles) on my 3 days a week for the four weeks leading up to STARTING my 12 week training plan. Eventually the 4's became 6's, and the 6 maxed out at 12 miles two weeks before the first HM. Some training plans have you going 14, 15, or even 16 in a "long and slow" before a HM... Google, pick your plan, and go for it!

    Happy running!
    1632 days ago
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