Run Less Run Faster
Hello! Thank you for your insightful comments on my last post about focusing on health. Go and have a look if you haven’t already because there are some really good points that I had missed or skimmed over. Health, weight, fitness and eating are topics that could wax lyrical about forever, so writing something a bit shorter than a novella was a challenge!
Last week I promised an update about my current fitness routine, so here it is. I still love running, but I hate being stuck in the same routine for a long time, so after a year of consistently running with not much cross-training I thought that it was time for a change. I also wanted to push myself to improve my running performance. I don’t fancy tackling longer distances at the moment, a half marathon is long enough for me, but I do want to try to get faster.
That led me to pick up a copy of Runner’s World Run Less Run Faster which I had read about a few times before, but finally bought when I started to think seriously about trying to increase my speed. The basic premise of the programme is that you do three runs a week that have a particular purpose and two cross-training sessions. This really appealed to me because I always struggle to get a fourth run in (and often ended up skipping it) and the thought of running five times does not fill me with enthusiasm.
The book is mainly focused on marathons and on qualifying for the Boston Marathon, but there are plans for 5k, 10k and half marathon, and as a mediocre runner with no marathon ambitions I still found it useful. I’m kinda, sort-of following the half marathon plan to train for Bridlington in October, but the programme is quite prescriptive, so I’m following the basics of the plan with more flexibility so that it fits in with my life. I’ll lay out the different components and how I’m adapting it for me.
Three runs a week
All the running sessions have a particular purpose. One run is track intervals, one is a tempo run of about 7 miles and the final one is the long run. Each run is done at a prescribed pace based on a recent 5k time. The difference between this and many other plans is that the long run is fairly fast at just 30 second per mile slower than half marathon pace.
I’ve been doing the plan for two weeks now and I’ve done the tempo and long runs. I was really intimidated by the suggested paces as they were much faster than I’d normally run in training, but once I got going I realised that, although it was challenging, I could maintain the pace over the full distance. I haven’t done the track runs for two reasons, firstly I don’t have access to a track, and also I want to keep going to running club. At some point I will do some intervals on a flat bit of road near my house, although busy road crossings means it’s not as good as a track.
My major criticism of the running workouts is that they don’t include hill work. The book is very focused on going as fast as possible, so assumes that you will be running flat races. I happen to enjoy running hills and there are plenty of them around me, but it does mean that the paces have to be adjusted when I’m on hilly routes.
Two cross-training sessions a week
The purpose of cross-training is to improve fitness without putting additional strain on joints and tired running muscles. That means that only non-weight bearing exercises are advised, in particular cycling, rowing and swimming.
I’ve bent the rules on this one because for a couple of months I’ve been doing a TRX Bootcamp class every week, which I love.
TRX is suspension training where you use your own bodyweight to pull yourself on ropes attached to the ceiling. Half the class is TRX exercises, including lots of squats, lunges and some killer core work. The other half is intense bootcamp exercises like mountain climbers, burpees and jump squats.
I’m more compliant with my other cross-training session and have been doing a workout on the stationary bike once a week.
The book recommends strength training three times a week. There are suggested exercises, mainly using your own bodyweight and light weights. It’s a short routine designed to be done after some of the other workouts. I don’t like strength training, but even I think the workout in the book is a bit paltry, which is one reason why I’m sticking with TRX once a week.
There are suggested stretches to do after each workout. I’ve found these really useful as I can be a bit aimless when it comes to stretching.
Two rest days
… and relax. The programme is quite intense with a big jump in speed, so these rest days are needed. I’ve been practicing yoga on at least one of my rest days and also doing some additional practice most mornings. Yoga isn’t a recommended part of the programme, but I think it’s a valuable part of any fitness routine to stretch, and strengthen the core and upper body.
I guess I’ll see whether my new routine has produced results later in the autumn, but I already feel faster and fitter. As I said, it is quite intense and involves keeping to particular paces, so I imagine that over the winter I will take some time to run without a plan again before training for a spring race.
I think the fitness routine you choose is a really personal choice, and I know this plan isn’t for every runner. However, I think it’s a good fit for me at the moment with my time and motivation constraints, as well as my tendency to get injured (my feet, ITB and lower back give me problems periodically).