Thursday, January 7, 2010

Spice things up: throw out the junk miles

I love stalking other running blogs, articles, and websites. I look at a lot of other training schedules in an effort to tweak my own. I find that there are so many different ways to train for a marathon. There is the run-walk program by Jeff Galloway. First time marathoners focus solely on building up weekly mileage and their long runs. There is the newer training program from Bill Pierce that has you run three times a week--all hard runs. At the same time, people are telling you to run slow and long.

I mean, whats a runner to do?!

I was looking at a girl's blog yesterday (a seasoned marathoner, not a newbie), and her training week consisted of a day of speed-work and then all easy runs. She had a lot of miles that week, but her long run was easy, there was an easy mid-length run, and two easy shorter runs. I don't really understand the easy run. If you're a seasoned runner, then a 7-mile easy run won't really do anything for you to improve, other than keep up some fitness and just add a lot of "junk" miles that could lead to over use injury. At least, not during training season.

Yesterday, I had an easy 4 mile run planned, and instead I ran to Capitol Hill and did hill-repeats. It didn't take much out of me, it was still an easy run, but at least I got some hill-speed-work in. I ran up and down as quick as I could (almost a half mile) and then walked around for 30 seconds or so at the bottom until doing it again. I only did three sets, but my quads were a bit achy, and it came to nearly 4 miles of running.

On Friday, I have an easy 3-miler planned, but that's just to loosen up my legs for a Saturday long run, its the consistent, mid-length easy runs that stump me. And, aren't they a bit boring? So spice up the easy runs! Do some fartlek exercises, make it an interval run, ramp up the speed, add some hills (even if its just 2 miles worth)! Try to take something from each of your runs, instead of just burning calories.

To spice up the long runs, here are some ideas: do the last 5 miles at race pace, make it a progression run, alternate easy and comfortable-hard miles, or work toward a negative split.

Its training season folks!


  1. I like to think of "easy" days as recovery days for the next workout or race. They don't stress your body too much and they help you maintain aerobic fitness. Also, I was reading somewhere about a thing called "muscle recruitment" being a key aspect of recovery runs. Running an easy/recovery the day after a hard workout or race doesn't actually help you recover, so much as it helps "recruit" more muscle fibers (presumably the ones that aren't sore/fatigued?). Anyway, just food for thought for a future blog post on muscle recruitment!

  2. I'm a firm believer in the virtue of the easy run, especially if you are are trying to increase into bigger marathon mileage (80+). I have two speed days per week, 1 as a track workout, the other as a tempo run. The rest of my miles are mostly all "easy runs". I have found that intentionally making myself run easy prevents injury and allows me to get into bigger mileage training. And I should add, I don't like running easy and I do find it boring. Thought i should chime in to defend the easy run! Your blog is great.



  3. Joe and Alex, I like the 3-5 mile easy runs, and I get why those are great for loosening up the legs and recovering. Its the 8-10 mile easy runs that I don't understand. That's taking too much of a toll on your body to be recovery, yet you aren't getting much from it. Why not add a little something to improve upon?

  4. Recovery Runs and Training Schedules are both topics worthy of their own posts!

    As Joe Pope said, recovery runs really don't help you recover. In his book, Brain Training for Runners, Matt Fitzgerald goes into great detail about the benefit of the recovery run. Apparently, your body is flooded with a cytokine called Interleukin 6 (IL 6) in response to running hard. IL-6 is responsible both for the fatigue you feel and for the fitness adaptation you get. So, running when your system is still flooded with IL-6 is a way to increase your fitness boost. Fascinating stuff. Plus I feel smart just saying Interleukin 6.