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  • Writer's pictureJessica Jones

Let's Talk About Running

Updated: Apr 8, 2018

(Photo credit: Bear Bait Ultras)

Last week I mentioned the three aspects of my training: running, cross-training (or fitness), and nutrition. Today, I want to expand a bit on my approach to the running part of my training. I’m a relatively high mileage runner. And trying to be even higher. I believe that the closer my training mimics elites, the better I will be. Makes sense, right? Well, if they run 100+ miles a week training for a marathon, then I should too. Or at least try to get close. Plus, with my big goal of the World Marathon Challenge, I will need to have the endurance to race a full week of marathons. It seems like the more miles, the better.

Thankfully, I have learned by experience that my body is quite durable and can handle my higher mileage weeks. One thing that I truly live (run?) by is that each training run has a purpose. Have a purpose for each and every run. Keep that purpose in mind during the run. General types of runs that I use: Recovery, Easy, Speed/Interval, Tempo/Speed endurance, and Hills (Speed work in disguise). Check out the table for a summary and below for a little more detail on what each type of workout entails. I usually do three “Quality” runs a week. In my book, these are anything other than Recovery or Easy.

Recovery is just that. To help recover. Active recovery. I prefer these super easy-paced runs for recovery over biking, walking, or rest. It helps keep my mileage up without too much wear on my legs.

Easy is easy, but not too easy (that’s recovery). These runs are to get base mileage on my legs at a comfortable pace.

Speed/intervals runs are to work on developing fast-twitch muscle recruitment and cardiovascular adaptation. I do a variety of these types of workouts, but the focus is on hitting paces to get the leg muscles working at speed and doing the appropriate rest (varies depending on the workout) for the cardio adaptation.

Tempo/speed endurance runs are something I lacked for a while and now consider a backbone of my training. Longer intervals than the speed/interval runs, but at slower pace. These are typically one of my two long runs in a week. There are a lot of physiological reasons why these types of runs are so important, but for me it is also mental. Hitting goal paces in training for a few miles is a big confidence booster. If I feel really good that day, remembering to keep it at goal pace, and not faster can be tough. But, these days are not the days for raw speed. Every run has a purpose.

Hill workouts. Some coaches think that hill-specific work isn’t necessary so long as your easy and some of your tempo runs can be done on a hilly route. I’d agree with that, I think. However, I live on a barrier island. My normal routes have about 15 feet of elevation change. But, there is a bridge to get on the island. That’s a hill. So, most of my long runs (whether easy or tempo) go over that. However, that’s one hill (two if you count over and back) in a long run. So, I do hill workouts. Up and down.

Grinding out high mileage weeks like I try to gets mentally and physically tough. There’s not much time for a break. Especially because this is not my job. I have plenty of other responsibilities. Life gets hectic and I struggle to find the time or energy to run. I try to keep in mind the purpose of the planned run. Modify to get a similar effect. Sometimes that isn’t feasible, so my philosophy becomes some miles are better than no miles. I do not believe that “junk miles” exist. All miles count. I make an effort to stick to the plan, but leave room to listen to my body and mind. Time for life to get in the way. And not be too hard on myself when it does. Own it.

This past week was a great example of needing to modify. I was on travel for work. Long, busy, mentally draining days. Coworkers heading out for dinner and fun in the evenings. People I actually like to hang out with! How in the world was I going to get in my miles? And keep up with enough sleep? No apparent trails or good places to run. And not many non-working daylight hours. The treadmill. Dreadmill. Ugh.

Let’s complicate this even further. Rewind to last Thursday when I flew out to Little Rock. On the plane, the lady across the aisle dropped her cell phone. She couldn’t reach it, so I offered to help. Reached. Stretched. Ribs pushed into the arm rest. Then a pop. Somewhere in my rib area. Pain. Thought, eh, okay, this will go away. Different movements stopped me cold. Pretty confident that I didn’t break anything, so went on about my days (including that 10K and marathon last weekend). By Tuesday this week, it felt much better. So, after my run as part of my stability session, I hopped down into a plank. Ouch. New shot of pain. Worse than before. Thursday’s afternoon run, it hurt to breathe deep. Skipped Friday’s run partly because of the pain, partly because I was just worn out from the week and I was flying home. Applied some KT tape and it’s feeling a bit better, but still noticeable on the run. Really? I injured myself picking up a cell phone?

So, how did I get through my week of running? Treadmill and resolve, mostly. Live it. There were some changes to the plan this week, as you’ll see below. But, I stayed focused. Listened to my body when I needed. I know that this week, though unusually hectic for me, may be ordinary for others. Few of us have the privilege to be professional runners. We have other responsibilities. A life. It’s important to make a plan that keeps that in mind. But also maintain the flexibility for the unexpected. Be able to adapt. Planning runs with a purpose allows adaptation with minimal loss of training effect.

67.4 miles for the week. 80 was the goal.

Paces: R (recovery) = 9:09 or slower; E (easy) = 8:08-8:36; S (steady) = 7:30-7:50; M (marathon pace) = 7:15; T (threshold) = 6:58; WU/CD (warm up/cool down) = easy by feel

Monday – planned: 6-7R in AM and stability session

3.3mi @ 9:04 in the AM on treadmill. Cut short because of time, but felt good. No twinges (aside from the ribs) from the hard weekend. Also, skipped the stability workout.

Tuesday – planned: 2E, 6M, 1@10K, 4M, 1@10K, CD

4.5mi @ 8:54 in AM on treadmill. Recovery/easy only to add mileage from yesterday.

11.1mi @ 8:15 in PM on treadmill. Modified planned workout to shorten, but kept some speed. 2 warm up, 4 @ 7:19, 1 E, 2 @ 7:19, CD. This was a struggle. Tough breathing. Hard to focus mentally.

Stability: 10 leg swings (front and side, each leg), 10 clock lunges (front, side, back, each leg), 6 pistol squats 20 mountain climbers (here's the rib tweak!), 2x20sec superman.

Wednesday – planned: 5E in AM/ 3E in PM

7.1mi @ 8:21 in AM on treadmill. Combined most of the mileage as I knew I wouldn’t be able to run in PM. Felt good. Strong. Comfortable.

Thursday – planned: 2E, 8S, 1E

3.1mi @ 9:45 in AM on treadmill. Tired, so slowed to recovery pace.

5.1mi @8:52 in PM. Fully intended for this to be at S pace after the first mile of WU. But, just couldn’t get my body moving. Rolling hills. Constant discomfort from my ribs. Legit pain on deep inhale.

Stability: 10 leg swings (front and side, each leg), 10 single leg deadlifts (bodyweight), 10 squat side leg raises. Skipped the planned planks.

Friday – planned: 8E and upper/core session

Nothing. I did nothing. Except eat. Very much hoping a rest day is what my ribs need. My mind and body certainly needed it after this exhausting week of work and not getting my normal amount of sleep.

Saturday – planned: 16-18E

17.6mi @ 9:27. With my mental and physical energy levels low from the week, I did this easy by feel, rather than E pace. It felt fantastic! The miles just flew by. A runner’s dream training session. So happy to be back home and running on my home turf!

Sunday – planned: 4WU, 6M, 1T, 2M, 1T, 2CD

15.6mi @ 8:02. This type of workout is always the toughest for me. Today was no exception. WU was no problem. The first set of M pace miles were not great, 7:50, 7:32, 7:37, 7:46, 7:41, 7:27. In fairness, from the middle of the 3rd mile to the end of the 5th there was a strong headwind. First T mile was 7:10. Not terrible. Then, two at 7:17, 7:15. Nearly perfect (I had a cross/tailwind at this point). Rounded it out with a 6:59 before hitting the cool down. It started raining about halfway through. Pouring about 12 miles. Once I came off pace for CD, I started to get cold. Then there was lightning. Called the hubby for a pick-up.

Until next week.

Own it. Live it. Be it.

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