Spring Training - Advanced Schedule, Week 4
Monday: Congratulations! You are about to begin your fourth week of Spring Training, which means you have three weeks behind you and nine ahead. It's always a good idea at the beginning of each workout week to take a few minutes to both evaluate running past and contemplate running future. You can do that while floating through your 3-miler today (assuming you run alone and don't have someone to converse with). There will be increases in the number of hills you do this week (to 8), the length of your Wednesday run (to 6 miles) and the length of your sorta-long run (to 9). In fact, this is one of the tougher weeks in the 12-week program. Next week, you will climax the week with a 5-K race. Strength training after today's 3-miler, and don't forget to stretch between lifts.
Tuesday: Run 8 hill repeats, being sure to warm up before and cool down afterwards. Olympian Marty Liquori lived and trained in Gainesville in a state that is flat as an alligator's profile. To do "hill" training, Liquori would run up the stadium steps at the University of Florida. He did this during the transition period between distance and track work (same as our plan). "When you run a lot of distance, your stride shortens," says Liquori. "Your leg muscles are not extending, so they become fairly weak. You go to a hill phase to make a transition, to force you to open up your stride by bounding up hills. You exaggerate knee lift and arm swing, push off with the toes and the calves. This strengthens your quadriceps and buttocks muscles before going back onto the track."
Wednesday: Six miles today and stretch afterwards. In my instructions leading to the weekly schedules, I suggest that most of the Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday workouts should be at a conversational pace. Nevertheless, you might want to do your Wednesday runs somewhat faster than your Monday and Friday runs, which are geared much more to recovery. Speaking in terms of target heart rate, I normally suggested doing easy runs at a pace that would raise your pulse to between 65 to 75 percent of maximum. Thus, the Monday and Friday runs could be done closer to 65 percent with Wednesday runs closer to 75 percent. In stopwatch times, it might be the difference between 8:00 pace and 7:30 pace. Don't agonize over hitting those numbers exactly if you're wearing a heart monitor or looking at your watch. Look to your own body for pace cues.
Thursday: Today's fartlek run is 45 minutes, a slight increase from two weeks ago. In all honesty, does it really matter whether or not you run 45 rather than 40 minutes? At the risk of giving my secrets away: No. Most important is to have a plan. Balancing hard and easy days with rest is part of my overall plan. Once you complete this 12-week Spring Training program and hopefully move to other training programs--perhaps one for the marathon--you'll begin to understand the overall wisdom of the hard-easy approach. In the meantime, simply have faith. And enjoy the workout. Fartlek workouts can be challenging, but they're also fun.
Friday: Run 3 miles with strength training afterwards. If you're training for speed, you don't want to bulk up. Extra weight will slow you down. To avoid putting on body fat pounds, keep the poundage low. Personal trainer Cathy Vasto recommends lifting 50 to 60 percent of the maximum weight you can lift in a set of 12 repetitions. Two sets of 12 work well for most lifts. The reason for doing your strength training after you run, is that lifting can at least temporarily diminish your flexibility. You'll have a harder time running after lifting than before. To retain flexibility, do your stretching exercises between lifts.
Saturday: Thirty minutes for the tempo run today. This can be a relatively easy half-hour run, depending on how hard you push in the middle, or a very hard run. Yes, a certain amount of judgment is required on your part. I can't be hovering over you in a helicopter--and wouldn't if I could. One of the purposes of the tempo run is to serve as a "swing" workout to allow you to adjust the level of difficulty of your training for the entire week. Quality is the key to success, one reason I emphasize it in this Spring Training program. Rest, however, is important to maintain quality.
Sunday: Run 9 miles. Regardless of the distance, you should be able to maintain about the same pace used for your previous workouts at 6 to 8 miles. Remember: the pace should be "conversational," meaning that if you are running with a friend, the two of you should be able to talk without undue strain. If you are wearing a heart monitor, your pulse rate should fall in the zone of 65 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. At the end of your workout, listen to your body. How did it feel? Legs tired? Out of breath? Some fatigue is normal, but you don't want to finish exhausted, otherwise you are training too hard.
Running Tips: The single most important piece of equipment you must purchase as a runner is a pair of shoes. With some exceptions, it doesn't matter how you dress. You can get by without a heart rate monitor, treadmill, or computer diary for recording your workouts, but you won't get very far without a comfortable pair of running shoes.
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.