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half marathon training program. Is this legit. Only 3 days a week? (Read 2467 times)

    Nobby, without my trying to be an advocate for FIRST:

     

    Suppose you had an older (masters) athlete with a large appetite for training and hard work, one who had shown clear indications of high potential, but one whose body didn't seem able to withstand that high workload without incurring injury (and yes, I recognize the irony in constructing this particular hypothetical to you).  How would you train this athlete to achieve the best racing fitness, season after season?  Let's assume the traditional approach would result in more injuries -- something has to be altered to get off that merry-go-round.  Let's also assume that this athlete will follow your instructions to the letter.

    “Everything you need is already inside.” -- Bill Bowerman

      Nobby, without my trying to be an advocate for FIRST:

       

      Suppose you had an older (masters) athlete with a large appetite for training and hard work, one who had shown clear indications of high potential, but one whose body didn't seem able to withstand that high workload without incurring injury (and yes, I recognize the irony in constructing this particular hypothetical to you).  How would you train this athlete to achieve the best racing fitness, season after season?  Let's assume the traditional approach would result in more injuries -- something has to be altered to get off that merry-go-round.  Let's also assume that this athlete will follow your instructions to the letter.

      Clive:

       

      First of all, you need to define "traditional approach" to me.  If you're talking about "the more the better", then you'll also need to define "more" as well.  I believe in more OFTEN.  Doing "less often" but, within the scheme of those few days, cramming in all the quality work, as well as the longest workout, is not the safest approach as far as I'm concerned.  Which approach do you think has more potential to get injured; (1) run 2-3 miles nice and easy 5 days a week with the 6th day 6 miles nice and even easier; or (2) 3 days a week of 10-miles at MP, 5 miles of hard intervals and 3-miles of fast tempo run?

       

      You give your body the appropriate amount of stress followed by appropriate amount of RECOVERY, your body actually gets stronger and you can handle more stress eventually.  If you take approach (1), most likely, and I'm sure many people here on RA can agree, you will soon realize you'd be running 4 miles a day, 5 days a week, then 5 and then 6...and the long weekend run would become 7-miles, then 8 and 10...  Injury is nature's way of telling you that you are doing either too much or too hard (besides all the issues you'll face with ill-fitted footwear and poor running technique, etc.).  It has been proven time and again that all quality almost always fail.

       

      Interval type of hard quality workout was refined by a couple of German doctors and coaches back in the 1940s and 1940s.  They had good results--naturally, you are pushing your body to the limit and hard race-like effort produced good results, Olympic titles and world records.  Then came Human Locomotive, Zatopek, who went nuts over the volume of intervals.  Soon he was trying some un-Godly number of repeats like 70 X 400!  The truth of the fact is; he was covering over 20-miles day after day and, the reason why he did it that way was because he had nowhere else to train but on the army track and he was bored if he ran the same pace over and over.  As most here know, he won 4 gold medals.  Then came Russians.  They thought, why run so many 400s so slow; why not cut it down and run them faster--it's more race specific with nearer to the race pace!  They got results...for a while.  Then came, interestingly, 3 coaches from 3 different countries, almost at the same era, with the same kind of concept--they went far at slower pace.  Their runners dominated in the 1960 Olympics.  That approach has become the mainstream of the rest of athletic history.  Why do you think Kenyans are dominating the world running scene?  Is it because they are running a few days a week, all hard quality?  Or is it because they run 3 times A DAY and they run to school and run home while young?  I can see some people might get offensive and say, "But we're not talking about Olympic champion or world record holder!"  I'm not talking about just running fast; I'm talking about physiologically sound approach; the reason why those who run more often at easier effort "first" would dominate those who would run less and hard all the time.  I'd say THE ONLY reason why people want to chase a program like FIRST is, and the FIRST advocate guy actually said it himself, he's not dedicated enough to run more often (or "more" period) and they would like to justify it by saying, well, I did well with this program.  Sorry to burst the bubble but 3:30 ain't that impressive.  I know of this woman who ran 3:30 by doing almost all easy running, enjoy her running so much more, without any hint of injury, improving 10-minutes in 4 months of working with me.  If you want to say, "I ran 3:30 marathon by only running 3 times a week but I pushed each and every workout!", well fine.  If you want to say, "I ran 3:30 by doing lots of easy running and had lots of fun doing it and no hint of injury," well, all quality ain't the way to go about.

       

      Okay, I've digresses a bit (as usual).  So how would I go about it?  Well, if injury is an issue, more of a reason, to avoid "ALL QUALITY", wouldn't you think--oh, by the way, yes, I totally agree that FIRST pace chart is WAAAAAY too fast!!  It is, as far as I'm concerned, a typical case of "throw a whole bunch of eggs against the wall and see which one won't break" approach, wouldn't you think?  Some won't break and they may worship it but, surely, it's almost a sin, if you ask me, to suggest that to others.  Okay, before I digress again...  So, again, I don't know what kind of "traditional approach" you had followed in the past; but I would definitely keep "him" on nothing-but-jogging-only approach for a few months until "his" legs and "general fitness" is high enough to handle quality workouts without breaking down.  One of the benefits of going slow first is that you'd be strengthening your tendons and ligaments while doing it without going through undue stress to begin with.  Then, to me, a logical approach is to strengthen your legs even further, so you won't get hurt, by going up and down the hills...  Now it all starts to look familiar, doesn't it?  It's just a logical way to approach, isn't it?

        Nobby, I guess by "traditional" I meant "conventional", as in "run lots, mostly easy, sometimes hard".  I may well be wrong, but my sense is that the typical and accepted approach is to run more days rather than fewer, with cross-training an optional supplement and not a key source of desired racing fitness.  (And if it matters, I'm picturing a masters runner with a day job and life, not a sponsored athlete.)

         

        If it's fair, let's assume you have a training load in mind that is appropriate for this athlete's fitness and goals.  It contains some easy running running, with dollops of tempo running and some faster-paced repeats (track, road, fartlek, whatever).  Ideally, the typical week would see mostly easy running, with one harder/quicker day and one long day.  I think that's fairly representative of what a somewhat-good masters runner's week might look like.  Unfortunately, this athlete's body won't hold up under the load.

         

        My completely uninformed reasoning would be that if you had a master athlete as I described -- the muscles, lungs and whatnot can handle the load you'd like to throw at them, but the bones and/or tendons will falter -- you'd need to figure out how to apply some of the training load in a less impactful way.  To be clear, I'm not suggesting ALL work be done via cycling or AlterG rather than on the pavement.  But it seems plausible to me that instead of having the athlete run seven days/week with an intensity day and a long day in there, you might have him/her run five days/week and, say, cycle the other two at an effort that correlates physiologically to a running effort.

         

         

        I suppose all this is meant not to defend FIRST or advocate for shortcuts, but instead to see if there are circumstances where a FIRST-esque approach might permit someone to achieve better results than would a more conventional approach.

        “Everything you need is already inside.” -- Bill Bowerman

          PS: And, by the way, again I think this is what Scout is also talking about, I really feel like you're misunderstanding the real meaning of "general fitness".  Looking like Greek God on the beach in the summer, which you actually may, is not really "generally fit".  I'm sure there are a lot more people with lots of muscles sticking out all over the place, impressing girls on the beach, dying of clogging heart arteries than runners dying at the finish of the road race.  If "generally fit" means being able to lift 200 pounds on the bench press to you, that's your choice of definition--though not correct.  But to say you're trying to be "generally fit" by pumping weight (I'm assuming this is what you mean by "going to the gym") than running is very much misleading. 

           

          Yeah, I'm no Adonis, far from it - 160 lbs dripping wet, with arms high school football players would laugh at. The time I spend at the gym is in "boot camp" type classes using light (10-12 lb) weights for resistance while performing core-building, plyo exercises, or in the pool or on a bike. I enjoy all those things quite a bit and would have a hard time giving them up for more running, though I thoroughly enjoy that too.

           

          The FIRST running workouts are very hard. When I saw the paces for my fitness level, I immediately questioned if I could hit those paces. The idea of doing mile repeats on a regular basis faster than my 5K pace seems very daunting to me -- I know how much I hurt at the mile mark in a 5K  After reading the book, I decided to try it.  At the time I was injury prone with calf issues. Within 2 weeks I reinjured my calves while doing one of the interval workouts on the 5K plan.

           

          I agree the workouts are hard and seemed a bit daunting at first, but I did like the intensity. I'll bow out of this discussion with this, I firmly believe training programs exist that will allow you to achieve better race times than FIRST, but the FIRST plan worked with my schedule of cross training at least twice a week and running at least three times a week. The more intent I become on improving race times, the more likely I will be to consider other plans. Or as Nobby put it, not "shortcut," which has an element of truth to it. Good spirited debate though. Cheers.

            My completely uninformed reasoning would be that if you had a master athlete as I described -- the muscles, lungs and whatnot can handle the load you'd like to throw at them, but the bones and/or tendons will falter -- you'd need to figure out how to apply some of the training load in a less impactful way. 

             

            What makes you think that a careful buildup of mileage that includes running regularly (even every day) would cause bones and tendons to falter?

             

            I fail to see how running a couple of easy miles would put greater stress on bones and tendons than the other everyday activities that we do. But I clearly see how those easy miles, over time, work to improve the aerobic system--and I also see how those easy miles, over time, work to strengthen the bones and tendons that you're concerned about.

            It should be mathematical, but it's not.

              Nobby, I guess by "traditional" I meant "conventional", as in "run lots, mostly easy, sometimes hard".  I may well be wrong, but my sense is that the typical and accepted approach is to run more days rather than fewer, with cross-training an optional supplement and not a key source of desired racing fitness.  (And if it matters, I'm picturing a masters runner with a day job and life, not a sponsored athlete.)

               

              If it's fair, let's assume you have a training load in mind that is appropriate for this athlete's fitness and goals.  It contains some easy running running, with dollops of tempo running and some faster-paced repeats (track, road, fartlek, whatever).  Ideally, the typical week would see mostly easy running, with one harder/quicker day and one long day.  I think that's fairly representative of what a somewhat-good masters runner's week might look like.  Unfortunately, this athlete's body won't hold up under the load.

               

              My completely uninformed reasoning would be that if you had a master athlete as I described -- the muscles, lungs and whatnot can handle the load you'd like to throw at them, but the bones and/or tendons will falter -- you'd need to figure out how to apply some of the training load in a less impactful way.  To be clear, I'm not suggesting ALL work be done via cycling or AlterG rather than on the pavement.  But it seems plausible to me that instead of having the athlete run seven days/week with an intensity day and a long day in there, you might have him/her run five days/week and, say, cycle the other two at an effort that correlates physiologically to a running effort.

               

               

              I suppose all this is meant not to defend FIRST or advocate for shortcuts, but instead to see if there are circumstances where a FIRST-esque approach might permit someone to achieve better results than would a more conventional approach.

              If that's what you mean by "traditional" or "conventional", I'd say it's wrong though popular.  You work out today; and you'll be better/stronger/fitter tomorrow...  Okay, maybe it won't happen that quickly; let's say you'll be stronger and faster and fitter, say, in a week time...or maybe 2 weeks time.  Human body is not like a machine...or garage door opener.  It's not that you use it often and it'll wear out and get worse.  In fact, you actually work out more often, it'll get stronger (if applied correctly, that is).  To me, traditional or conventional training program involves, first, steady increase in volume at low intensity; then move on to add some intensity.  It's a natural way of progression.  To me, although sounds cool, "sometimes hard" doesn't mean a thing.  So when is this "sometimes"?  Do you do that from the get-go?  Or do you just do it (run hard) whenever randomly?  If you think THAT is "conventional" training, like I said, you had been misled...or had misunderstood it correctly.  You need to think logically and sensibly.  

               

              Training and training effect is series of applying stress and your base fitness level going down; and taking recovery and let the base fitness to come up and go beyond.  It's the wave of this activity.  Thinking logically, if you put too much stress and apply another hard stress before your base fitness level comes back up, you'll continue to go down and get chronically fatigued.  You don't give enough stress and it won't fluctuate much at all.  You give yourself adequate stress and your base fitness comes back up and beyond and you'll get training effect; but then you let it slide for too long--I don't know if it's 2 days or 3 days or a week--, then your training effect would diminish.  If you're putting your body go through such stress that it won't recover enough within 24 hours, you'll be flirting with a dynamite.  If you're taking it so easy and, on the top of that, you're taking 2 or 3 days OFF in between, you won't improve much at all.  To me, a logical approach is to do little often.  If I have to say it again, I will; why do you really think there's a higher likelihood of getting injured by following a training program such as; 2 to 3 miles easy for 5 days with 6-mile easy on weekend, than one day 10-miles hard, one day 5 X 1 mile hard, one day 3-mile tempo run?  Do you REALLY think the latter is safer approach because you are "only" running 3 days a week instead of 6?  If you do, I don't think I can help you.  Your logic seems to be something completely different from my logic.

               

              I probably wouldn't have a problem if someone decides to run 3 times a week.  I'd prefer 4 but, hey, that's fine.  I guess previous research has indicated, in order to MAINTAIN current fitness level, the minimum is 15-minutes, 3 times a week.  I probably am okay with someone doing 3 days of running a week with 2 to 3 days of cross training.  I can live with that.  But when someone goes with 3 running days and all of them high stress workout, such as long run, intervals and tempo run; then, yes, I do have a problem with that.  You may be able to become an egg that won't break when thrown against the wall but if that egg starts to "recommend" other eggs to do the same, yeah, I have a problem with that.  To me, it's like saying; "Hey, I just drove all the way to downtown at 100MPH and didn't even get caught.  It felt great and everybody should do that!!"  Again, you may PR once...or twice...or a year or two even.  But that is just not a physiologically sound approach.

                What makes you think that a careful buildup of mileage that includes running regularly (even every day) would cause bones and tendons to falter?

                 

                I fail to see how running a couple of easy miles would put greater stress on bones and tendons than the other everyday activities that we do. But I clearly see how those easy miles, over time, work to improve the aerobic system--and I also see how those easy miles, over time, work to strengthen the bones and tendons that you're concerned about.

                Couldn't have said it better myself. 

                  There are a lot of words in this thread and there will probably be a ton more before it runs its course but it seems to me that these threads regarding fad training methods always boil down to one thing:  how you define success.  If you set the bar low enough you can find proof that just about any training method "works."  The fact is most people who follow FIRST, or any other self-described non-traditional plan, usually have never trained seriously or consistently enough to even have a baseline, and they would very likely get improvement from just about any plan that they believed in and that forced them to be consistent.

                   

                  Of course we are all an experiment of one and probably there some person out there who is super fit and cross-trains a ton and has some weird predisposition to a certain type of injury which, for some reason, allows them to do 3 hard workouts per week without injury but if they do easy runs on the other days they get injured.  But that sure is not most people.

                   

                  Most people will not get better results with a plan like FIRST than they would with a more balanced plan that also emphasized frequency of training (like Nobby has described) and they will not be less likely to get injured.  This is why none of the best people in our sport train that way.

                  Runners run.


                  just a simple cat

                    In my running club, the FIRST program appeals to the budding triathletes, because they can get their running in on 3 days and use the other days for swim and bike training.

                     

                     

                    TeamEyeandEar


                      multiple solicitations
                        Of course we are all an experiment of one and probably there some person out there who is super fit and cross-trains a ton and has some weird predisposition to a certain type of injury which, for some reason, allows them to do 3 hard workouts per week without injury but if they do easy runs on the other days they get injured.  But that sure is not most people.

                         

                        Most people will not get better results with a plan like FIRST than they would with a more balanced plan that also emphasized frequency of training (like Nobby has described) and they will not be less likely to get injured.  This is why none of the best people in our sport train that way.

                        Of course you weren't responding to the recent conversation Nobby, Troy and I are having.  But for pete's sake.  Like no one out here in the GSP suffers Achilles trouble or PF or ever got a stress fracture.  FWIW, I said:

                         

                        My completely uninformed reasoning would be that if you had a master athlete as I described -- the muscles, lungs and whatnot can handle the load you'd like to throw at them, but the bones and/or tendons will falter -- you'd need to figure out how to apply some of the training load in a less impactful way.  To be clear, I'm not suggesting ALL work be done via cycling or AlterG rather than on the pavement.  But it seems plausible to me that instead of having the athlete run seven days/week with an intensity day and a long day in there, you might have him/her run five days/week and, say, cycle the other two at an effort that correlates physiologically to a running effort.

                         

                        I'm not a FIRST disciple, and I'm not taking a FIRST-v.-conventional-with-no-in-between stance.  I don't think it's unreasonable to find a non-trivial number of people, even on RA, who DO battle Achilles or other issues, are running fewer than seven days per week, and who could benefit more from an hour of non-impact aerobic work than from sitting on the couch on their non-running days.  The issue, then, is two days of non-impact aerobic work (e.g. cycling) v. two days of higher-impact running with its attendant increase in injury risk (I hope no one is arguing that the risk of injury is the same or higher in cycling as running) v. something in-between.

                        “Everything you need is already inside.” -- Bill Bowerman

                          Clive, I am having a hard time understanding what's at stake in the argument.

                           

                          Running 5 days a week plus two days cross training is very solid. I don't think anyone would argue against that as a "bad" training approach. It could even be better for some runners than training 7 days a week. I think a great schedule would be 5 days of doubles with two days off, but this is impractical given people's lives and habits. All of this is a far cry from 3 days a week of intense running.

                           

                          I am not so sure that the common maladies that you describe: PF, AT, stress fractures, etc. are correlated with frequency of training or the number of days per week that someone runs. To my mind, these are much more correlated with intensity of training and improper recovery--which could be related to volume or pace.

                           

                          However, it is very possible to run 7 days a week and get proper recovery. It is equally possible to run 3 days a week and not get enough recovery! The important point is the "wave" of training that Nobby talked about in his above post. Balancing load with recovery. To my mind, it is easier to "ride the wave" on 5+ days a week of running, simply because you are more in tune with how you are feeling on a daily basis.

                           

                          Running 3 days a week almost has you feeling "too fresh" and would encourage the runner to go too fast without adequate preparation, risking injury that way. On the other hand, sometimes when folks are out streaking 7 days a week, 30 days a month, they forget what it feels like to be properly recovered and can run themselves down too easily. This is why a regular day off is a good idea as well.

                           

                          MTA: I'll just add that a guy I ran with in college (DIII nat'l champion in XC) ran 3-4 times a week for 35mpw or so because he was very prone to injury. This program worked because he was just about as good a swimmer as he was a runner and put in 7 days a week in the pool. Was this ideal training? Probably not. But it worked for him.

                            I don't think it's unreasonable to find a non-trivial number of people, even on RA, who DO battle Achilles or other issues, are running fewer than seven days per week, and who could benefit more from an hour of non-impact aerobic work than from sitting on the couch on their non-running days.  The issue, then, is two days of non-impact aerobic work (e.g. cycling) v. two days of higher-impact running with its attendant increase in injury risk (I hope no one is arguing that the risk of injury is the same or higher in cycling as running) v. something in-between.

                             

                            By all means, if a person would rather cycle than sit on the couch, I say cycle.

                             

                            But if you're asking if two days of cycling will make a person a better runner than two days of running would, I say no. Running, more than any other activity, makes a person a better runner.

                             

                            And I still fail to see how running a couple of easy miles (or whatever distance is incredibly easy for the hypothetical person we're talking about here) would put greater stress on bones and tendons than the other everyday activities that we do. No one here is suggesting that anyone train hard seven days a week. I think what many of us are suggesting is that there is an easy but productive pace and distance a person can run on a recovery day--the key point here is to be able to recover while running because the workload on a recovery day is substantially easier (in both pace and distance) than on other days.

                            It should be mathematical, but it's not.

                              I am not so sure that the common maladies that you describe: PF, AT, stress fractures, etc. are correlated with frequency of training or the number of days per week that someone runs. To my mind, these are much more correlated with intensity of training and improper recovery--which could be related to volume or pace.

                               

                              Also, this.

                              It should be mathematical, but it's not.


                              Right on Hereford...

                                Just saw this advertisement for the book, Smart Marathon Training: Run Your Best Without Running Yourself Ragged, by Jeff Horowitz.

                                 

                                TRASH THE JUNK MILES

                                 

                                Running a million miles a week is old school. Those endless miles of dull, slow slogs take a steep toll in time, injuries, and motivation. For marathon and half-marathon, less really can be more.

                                 

                                Smart Marathon Training offers a sensible new approach. You'll train in less time and suffer fewer injuries by running more effective workouts.

                                 

                                You'll focus on three runs a week, building full-body strength with core workouts, and improving your fitness base through crosstraining.

                                 

                                This season, trash the junk miles. Hit the startline feeling fresh and ready with Smart Marathon Training.

                                 

                                Interesting that "old school" is being badmouthed. In the USA, "old school" is when we used to win. And, we are in the beginning of a resurgence in American distance running right now, in large part because our elites have gone back to old school training (like the East Africans have been doing the whole time).

                                 

                                From the "About Me" page of Jeff Horowitz's website:

                                 

                                Jeff is a certified personal trainer with a specialization in weight training, and is also a certified running coach and triathlon coach.

                                 

                                He lists 145 marathons that he's completed, most in the 3:30 to 4:00 range.

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