I received a question yesterday (Friday actually... it got caught in my spam filter) regarding volume and speed increases. It generated some good thoughts about plans that correspond to increasing volume and speed while at the same time minimizing the opportunity for injury. Here's a summary of what I emailed.
You can definitely run every day, but just keep an eye on what you’re doing in terms of speed and distance. I’d say stick to a plan where you’re going one or two days of speedwork, with easy days in between. One day off a week doesn’t hurt as well. Example:
Tuesday: Speedwork (sprinting 400s with 400 easy recovery and a warmup/cooldown of about 800)*
Thursday: Tempo run (easy warmup and cooldown with a moderate run for a mile to 2 miles)
Saturday: Long Run (easy run pace… start increasing your total run time of your long run each week by half a mile)
*If no one is familiar with the terms “400” and “800” I’m simply referring to a track workout, a “400” being one loop around a standard track… 400 meters. Also known as a quarter mile or “quarter”. To put this in perspective, collegiate level front-running track athletes will run ‘quarters’ around 60 seconds with an overall mile time that is sub-4 minutes. Steve Prefontaine’s best time for the mile was 3:54.
The way I’ve found easiest to monitor tempo, sprint and easy speeds is first to figure out the speed I can comfortably run at for a long period of time. That’s my easy speed. Then my tempo speed is a mile per hour faster (I think of it as my 10K race pace) and my sprint speed when I do my speedwork is a mile an hour faster than my tempo run speed:
6.5 – easy
7.5 – tempo
8.5 – speedwork
I cycle through a 4 week period with each of the first three weeks increasing distance and intervals each week, then the 4th week is a rest week where I do nothing but easy runs, but up my ‘easy’ speed a bit before starting the cycle over again.
Tempo run of 1 mile with a warmup and cooldown of 800 each
Speedwork – 800 warmup and cooldown with 4 intervals (400 sprint, 400 recovery)
Long run of 3 miles
Tempo run of 1 ½ miles with warmup and cooldown of 800 each
Speedwork – 800 warmup and cooldown with 5 intervals (400 sprint, 400 recovery)
Long run of 3 ½ miles
Tempo run of 2 miles with warmup and cooldown of 800 each
Speedwork – 800 warmup and cooldown with 6 intervals (400 sprint, 400 recovery)
Long run of 4 miles
Easy runs bumped up by 0.1 to 0.2 miles per hour
No tempo or speedwork runs
Long run of 3 ½ to 4 miles
The next cycle follows the new speed pattern, and the long runs continue to increase by ½ mile each week until you’re doing whatever you want your long goal to be. If you’re training for anything half-marathon length or shorter, your long runs should be at least as long and ideally longer than your goal race length. Anything longer, it becomes a little bit more complicated to plan your long run length because it becomes more about overall training volume with some ‘key’ long run sessions planned throughout the training period leading up to the race.
What I’m doing in terms of a plan is a little different because I’m doing longer distances. My speedwork centers around 800s with a 400 recovery, but for the most part it is the same. My long runs go anywhere from 7 to 22 miles.
This is a fairly safe plan in terms of volume and overall speed increases, but if you experience any sharp pain (aches are different… aches aren’t necessarily to be ignored but they can be expected and you can usually train through them with sufficient recovery) in your ankles or legs it may point to increasing distance or speed too quickly.
One more tidbit of wisdom – try to negative split your easy and long runs if you’re running outside. If you’re running on a treadmill, it isn’t as difficult to keep your time consistent but if you’re running an easy run outside, start out slow. Start out feeling like you’re running too slow, then after a period of time (half a mile to a mile) pick it up. Continue to do so each half a mile to mile until you feel like you’re at a comfortable pace. If you’re racing, it doesn’t necessarily hurt to follow the same practice. The Prefontaine movie “Without Limits” is a great example of why this works. Watch Bowerman scold Prefontaine because he goes out too fast, advising him that if he actually saved up some energy in the first and second 400s he would have more kick at the end and his overall race time would go down. Same holds true for 5K racing. If you don’t go all-out in the first mile, you’ll be able to more easily increase your speed throughout the race and this will have a huge impact on your total time.
I’ll shut up now and let you run. Have fun!