I have tried all sorts of running routines from running every day to running only 3 days a week. When I first started running I tried everything and of course, got a lot of things wrong. The main thing I did, in the beginning, was to not take any easy days. I always thought I should be running as fast as I can. I also thought running farther every week is better and going from 20 miles a week to 40 miles the next week is perfectly doable. I will run through four scenarios of what I did and what I learned.
Two weeks on, two month off running plan
I have been experimenting with running since I was in High School. I ran for the Armstrong Cross Country team for maybe one and a half years. The idea of running never really got into my head. My dad has been a runner since the mid-’70s and I can remember trying to run with him when I was 10 years old. Nothing ever quite stuck. Even as I grew older and I signed up for a 5k, I would run for 2 weeks, then take a long time off then get back to running again. This only amounted to being sore and tired than going back to fat and relaxed and generally feeling unhealthy. This plan culminated in the 2000 Twin City 10 Mile race where Susan and I trained until September of that year, then I got sick and stopped running and we just showed up on the day to run the race. I remember being passed by walkers and jogging down the hill on Summit, then the next day being in so much pain I couldn’t walk. I can tell you that this plan is NOT a good plan to be on.
Three days a week
I ran the 2018 Chicago marathon with three days a week of training. I had been injured and I thought that easing back on my running routine would help me and prevent further injury. The training itself went well and followed the plan that the LifeTime run club published. We would run Mon, Wed, and Sat with the club and I would do the odd bike ride as cross-training. I can say I did not specifically do any planned cross-training or weight training. (This was a mistake). I did follow the plan and did all the workouts. The Chicago marathon is very flat but even running the flat race I was increadable sore afterward. I would attribute this to my “lack” of training and more importantly the lack of cross-training.
Four to six days a week
This is my “Go-to” plan and has worked in the past for me. My previous marathon PR’s have all come from this plan where I mix up the amount of runs I do during the week. I take days off and make sure I do some easy runs. I think the big mistakes I have made is still pushing all my runs and even trying to run back to back speed workouts or not resting at all between hard runs. I have to emphasize how important cross training is and I have been the most successful when biking alot. More recently I have focused on strength training and doing Zoom workouts with my daughter Madeleine and my wife Susan. I would recommend running and taking days off to all runners. It is important that you have down days and let your body recover. This leads me to my last workout routine, one that I would not recommend but has worked for some runners.
Run everyday plan
When the global pandemic hit it seemed like everyone was doing challenges, mainly to take our minds off being cooped up day after day. I started following a runner from the UK who did a daily video of her 30 days run streak that included a virtual London Marathon run in the middle. (Like to be found later!). I thought this seemed like a good idea for me to try so I set off on the same challenge, even recording a video every day. The videos soon stopped but my streak continued. When I got to 25 days I told my dad about it and he said he could remember doing a 39 day run streak. I thought to myself that “Of course I need to do 40 days”. After I made it to 40 days I thought I could go to 50 days. 50 days turned into 100 days, 100 days turned into 200 and here I am at 277 days. Now I am just hoping to make it to 365 days then take a break.
What did I do differently on this plan? I took my down days seriously. On my off day, I did one mile slow. I purposefully slowed down my other runs outside of my workouts and I started doing a lot more strength training. I biked more and swam more. I regularly swam then got out of the water and ran a mile. If I needed to I would walk-run my one mile. The important part was to take it easy, but keep moving. I have to also emphasize that cross-training is just as important.
In my first month of doing this, I was exhausted. Soon I found that I wasn’t as tired and I had more energy. I started looking at my miles but more importantly, I looked at the total time I exercised during that week. I also focused on building up to a distance level, then dropping down every three weeks to give my body a break. I peaked at 50+ miles a week before my 50k race and then my marathon. I am now training for yet another marathon and I am taking the same practice into motion. The only difference now is I have hired a coach to help me. My coach reluctantly puts 1 mile onto my off day. Time and my body will tell how this goes but so far after 8 months, I am still going!