Here’s a sentence you don’t often hear: maybe you should be running less. That’s right, there’s a growing number of experts who believe that running three times a week is more beneficial than running five or six times a week. It’s an argument in favour of quality over quantity, one that says it’s not how many miles you run a week, but how you run them that counts. Sounds great, huh? Well, here’s the rub: you have to make every run count, and that means embracing the pain. Still, think of all the time you’ll have to recover…
What should my three runs a week consist of?
This is where you have to get ruthless. On three runs a week you can’t afford to host any junk miles or pointless outings; everything has to count and the margins are smaller.
Having said that, the key ingredients remain the same and will look familiar, but they now have to all count. A bit of creativity may be required, such as a long run that also includes your weekly hill session, some threshold running or marathon pace work. It’s a case of maximising the time you have available and making each workout count.
1.The long run
This has to be progressive and increase in duration by ten to 15 minutes most weeks when training for a half or full marathon. In the final six to eight weeks of preparation, make sure you add some half or full marathon pace into the final third of the run, e.g. a 2:30 run, with 1:45 at easy pace and the final 45 minutes at marathon pace.
You could even run your regular 90-minute run and add 4 x 6 minutes at threshold pace off a two-minute jog recovery into the final 30 minutes of the run. Or you could run to your favourite hill and add 3 x 10 mins of continuous hills in the middle (check out our hill training guide on p34). Think outside of the box and make the long run interesting.
2. The threshold run
Include it in one run a week and it won’t let you down. Even if you only have 45 minutes to spare, don’t run junk miles, instead add in 4 x 6 mins at controlled discomfort pace (80-85% max heart rate) with a two-minute jog recovery. Aim to progress and build these blocks if you can. When working towards 5k and 10ks, this may become a faster, race-pace interval session, working faster than at threshold but not until the final few weeks before the race. Build the threshold first.
3.The hill session, progression run, interval session or pre-breakfast run
The third run of the week should include any one of these elements, depending on your current goal and what you squeezed into the long run earlier in the week. If tired, make sure it’s a pre-breakfast recovery run (this is great for teaching the body to burn fats and not always carbohydrates), but run really easy at about 60-65% max heart rate, or fully conversation pace.
Add some cross training and core conditioning work where you can. If you really can’t find another day to do a whole session of it, just add ten minutes of core exercises when you can. Just ten minutes after one or two of your weekly runs can nail this area for you. Make sure the finger crusher, plank, bridge, one-leg squats and lunges all feature.
Alternately, if you have extra days in the week but can’t or don’t want to run, it’s definitely time to add in clever cardio cross training sessions to boost fitness and strength. Check out the cross training article on p46 for tips.
I only have 30 minutes to spare… what should I do?
1.Threshold flip overs
Run five minutes easy pace into five minutes threshold pace; repeat continuously for the full 30 minutes.
2. Out and back
Run out at a steady pace for 16 minutes, turn and aim to get back to the same spot within the 30 minutes. You only have 14 minutes to get back so will have to up the pace and work hard!
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