I had a burglar this week. He kicked in the door and decided there was nothing worth stealing, then left. He got nothing (except away) and I have to do some repairs. If he'd asked me for the amount of money I have to spend on the door, I'd've given it to him; I'm one of those guys who gives money to panhandlers - yes, I know it's enabling bad behavior, but they'll get their money one way or another and if it's not given, they rob guys who have little to begin with (like me). I also help people in recovery, so if he was feeding a habit, I could've helped him there, too.
Having discussed training in broad strokes, I'm going to finish my series witha word on how often to run and how often to run hard. I gave guidelines before for race frequency (4-5% of mileage long-term, 8-10% short-term).
Running twice a day is almost always a bad idea. There's no harm in occasionally doubling up one day, if one knows one will skip the next, but two five milers do not equal one ten miler. Those who should run twice a day: 1) Sprinters (they have a low training volume), 2) Olympic and national championship competitors and others who have to race twice in a weekend, 3) Those recovering from injuries with less than three weeks before they have to race and 4) Runners competing in races significantly longer than 12 hours - one of the reasons I've become enamored of 100 mile trail races is that all my "rules" break down.
Days off and easy days
If I miss a day in the summer, it's due to illness or injury; in the winter it's weather related. Only once in 30 years have I gone an entire year without missing a day. A good rule of thumb is that each day off sets one back three days: two days off is no big deal, a week off and one loses "sharpness", six weeks off (bone break or surgery) and it's like one's never run at all.
I try to run every day, with my only planned days off being just before major competitions (usually cinciding with travel). I do think it's important to schedule easy days and I like to have two consecutive 30-minute runs each week to recover from the rest of the week. I find that the short runs speed healing more than days off.
Some muscle damage takes days of recovery to repair. This is sometimes called "DOMS" - delayed onset muscle soreness. Muscle aches the day after a hard workout is usually due to increased intensity. Often, one feels fine the day after, but hurts the second day (this always shocks beginners); this is usually due to unusually protracted workouts. Sprints hurt the next day, long runs the day after. Races hurt both days. If one's muscles hurt three days after, there's usually an injury involved.
Because one often doesn't ache the day after a hard run, some have tried back-to-back hard runs. I've always found this leads to overuse injuries, but it makes sense for 100 mile trail runs, as one's racing for more than 24 hours. Again, the rules break down.
2 or 3 times a week?
In the movie "Annie Hall," Alvy's psychiatrist asks him how often he and Annie have sex. He answers, "Hardly ever. Two...maybe three times a week." Annie's psychiatrist asks her the same question and she says, "Constantly! Two or three times a week." If I run hard twice a week, it often seems like I'm not doing enough. If I run hard three times a week, it feels like I never do anything else. I think this is why so many people incorporate cross-training; they think they can squeeze in one more hard workout - I think any training not specific to one's goals detracts from the next specific workout. I'm in a very small minority in this opinion.
Those racing 5K and under can do three hard workouts per week for several weeks, as the total number of hard miles is not great, but I feel others should stick to two: one fast, one long. If one feels one absolutely has to squeeze in one more hard workout, a set of sprints usually doesn't hurt anything.
Extending the easy day/ hard day idea to easy weeks/hard weeks leads to the idea of periodization. Much can be said in favor of this, but it quickly gets out of hand. Most of the ideas of periodization start with an obscure coach named Bompa, who used the terms microcycles, mesocycles and macrocycles - you know them as interval workouts, weeks and seasons.
Some coaches will have runners do nothing but long slow running for a long base period (van Aaken, Henderson, the low heart rate cult), then incorporate just hills (Lydiard, Galloway), then interval workouts, then a racing season, then an off season. The problem with this is that one risks injury by doing too much of one thing and then risks injury when switching to an unfamiliar type of training. It's interesting to note that evryone who advocates periodization abandons it for some runners - Daniels for elite marathoners, for example, which happen to be the only athletes he's coached (beyond the Cortland women's cross-country team).
I think the proper way to periodize is to do all the types of workouts throughout the year, but to emphasize one at a time. If one cuts a long run short during the racing season, it's no big deal, but not during the beginning base period. Conversely, it's okay to skip a speed workout during the base, but not when sharpening for races. A mature competitor learns one can't do all things well all the time.
The one aspect of periodization I completely agree with is tapering for major races, the details of which I may address in the future.
Next: fueling on the run
Fisher's Big Wheel
1 week ago