Spring Training - Advanced Schedule, Week 5
Monday: Three miles today, followed by strength training. This is a week with a 5-K race planned for the weekend. Hopefully you have one in mind. Also, if you haven't already done so, now is the time to evaluate your equipment beginning with your footwear. On this day of relative rest, consider how well you are being served by your running shoes, both those you use in training and in races (assuming you also have a lighter pair for when you want to run fast). Are they beginning to wear? Will you need to replace them soon? If so, you might want to get a new pair now and gradually break them in on easy days like today, rather than having to suddenly switch to a new pair. Usually it's a good idea to have several pairs of shoes so that you can alternate shoes from day to day. This allows them to dry out between runs, both prolonging their life and allowing them to "bounce back," so they provide all the cushioning they were designed to provide.
Tuesday: Today's midweek speed workout in this fifth week of Spring Training is 9 x Hill. Warm up by jogging a mile or two before running your hill repeats and cool down with about a mile afterwards. Think "1500/mile" pace while heading up the hill. Most hard workouts should feel about the same, regardless of how long and how fast. The numbers may change as you gradually get in better shape, but your perception of them as difficult should not. Any time that you finish a workout exhausted, you probably have run too hard. If you're training properly, you should finish each workout looking forward to your next workout.
Wednesday: Three miles for today's midweek run followed by stretching. Since running a 5-K race at the end of this week will add extra stress to your total work week, I ask you to cut back on mileage making this more of a rest and recovery day than it was the first four weeks of the Spring Training program. The two most important factors for improvement, claims Coach Jack Daniels, are consistency and moderation. Consistency means identifying long-range goals to work toward while achieving short-range goals, such as this weekend's 5-K. If you allow enough time for your long-range goals, you can employ moderation. You won't need to overtrain. "Doing unbelievably strenuous workouts in order to get in shape fast doesn't work," says Daniels.
Thursday: Today's workout is a 30-minute tempo run, shortened from the 45 minutes you did last week because of the 5-K race scheduled for the weekend. Remember: three or four hard workouts a week are probably all you need as an advanced runner. And most of these hard workouts (including today's tempo run) don't have to be that hard. The secret is to continue at a steady level throughout the year, limiting the amount of time you lose either because of injury or because of mental fatigue. The tempo run is my favorite workout. That's because I usually do my tempo runs at Indiana Dunes State Park, a beautifully scenic spot where the trails (both flat and hilly) are perfect for training. No mental fatigue comes from training there. You too should seek scenic spots for your training runs. It will make doing them much more pleasurable.
Friday: Three miles today, followed by strength training. While lifting, concentrate on your form. You want to look good lifting--not for vanity, but to prevent injury. Think 90-degrees. Most seated lifts work best if your body parts are at right angles: legs straight, feet flat against the floor, trunk erect, chin up, eyes forward. Practice the pelvic tilt where you press your torso back against the chair, or floor, to keep your back from slumping. "Good form works in lifting as much as it does in running," says physical therapist Cathy Vasto.
Saturday: With a 5-K race scheduled for tomorrow, either jog an easy 3 miles or take a complete day off from your training. This is the first actual "rest day" I've put into the advanced schedule during the first five weeks--although you always have my permission to take a day off if fatigued or injured. With the extra time you have today, maybe this is a day to head to that running store to purchase some of the items of clothing discussed earlier in the week. And make sure it is a running store. While you might be able to find better "bargains" at chain stores in the mall, it's better to shop in a specialty store owned by runners who understand our sport. (Please note the purposeful use of the word "our.")
Sunday: Run a 5-K race today, and I hope you can find a convenient race at this distance in your area. If not, you can manipulate the schedule to run another distance either on Saturday or at the end of another week. (Don't jump in your car and drive 8 hours to a 5-K in another state if one is not near home.) Somewhat frequent racing is important for advanced runners. It helps motivate them and also helps fine-tune their speed legs. I find it very difficult to push my body to near its maximum during midweek workouts, but I can always motivate myself to run faster in race situations. This is partly because I take more rest before races than before regular hard workouts. Race hard enough to get the feel of the wind in your hair, but don't get too nervous about today's competition. Consider it more a speed trial than a chance for peak performance. I'll give you another chance to run a 5-K toward the end of the program when you can go for a P.R.
Running Tips: Running faster than race pace from time to time will help develop your basic speed, which can be translated into better performances. But it's not a good idea to go flat-out in practice. Coach Jack Daniels suggests saving your best efforts for races, because races require a higher level of intensity. "Achieving that level once every two weeks or so is fine," says Daniels, "but if you train to that intensity in practice too often, you won't have anything left for competition." Except during periods when you're not racing, workouts should never approach race-level intensity.
How to Improve: Run Fast is one of Hal Higdon's most popular books, having sold over 50,000 copies so far. It is designed to help runners improve their 5-K and 10-K times, but the information you'll find in this handy book can help you with all of your training, from beginner to marathoner. To order an autographed copy of this and other books by Runner's World's best writer go to Books by Hal Higdon.