2015-09-04

Running Smarter Not Longer

This year I've adopted a new running training methodology and so far I've been very pleased with the results.

Last year I was running a training plan prescribed by triathlete coach Joe Friel. It had me running four days a week, cycling through tens of different workouts. I made decent progress and set a few PRs but I didn't love it. My legs were sore throughout most of the week, I had a hard time fitting in non-running exercise, and it frankly took a lot of planning time just to stay on top of all the complex workouts, which ones to do when, etc.

Around the beginning of this year I learned that Aaron Olson, whose Paleo Runner Podcast I had been listening to for months, was promoting a new running training methodology, which is based on his own experience and insights from many of his podcast guests. He recently published a book on this methodology called Low-Mileage Running.

The methodology is pretty straight forward:
  • Focus on few high-quality workouts rather than many low-quality runs each week.
  • Only work out when you feel 100%. Allow adequate rest/recovery between workouts.
  • Frequently return to benchmark workouts to gauge progress.
For me this means:
  • Two workouts each week, one middle distance time trial, and one high intensity intervals workout
  • If I don't feel awesome during a workout, I abort and do a recovery jog.
  • As much easy jogging as I care to do throughout the rest of the week
  • As much beach volleyball, weight lifting, hiking, ping pong, and any other activities as I care to do throughout the rest of the week
In short, I have been loving it. This simple approach, with a relatively small workout menu from which to choose, is trivially easy to administer. I don't have to obsess over training planning anymore; my plan essentially writes itself each week. Also, because I frequently return to the same workouts, it's easy for me to gauge my own progress.

Performancewise, I've continued to set PRs this year and have remained injury free (which is more and more important with every new birthday). Perhaps I would have set the same PRs if I had been following a higher-mileage training plan . . . but I'm glad to hit those numbers with less time spent training.

Perhaps most importantly, I have returned to the joy of running. Instead of viewing running as something I have to do, slogging through it even if it hurts, now running is a real pleasure. My two hard workouts each week feel really good because I'm fresh and fully recovered. Any other running I do throughout the week is with friends and/or just to commune with nature. I can't overstate how psychologically important this is - I guess I had been burning out on running previously without realizing it.

Finally it's nice that I can devote so much time to other things. I'm already slammed for time, so freeing up multiple days a week of hard running workouts has really helped.

At the end of the day, running just has a much more positive place in my life again, which I love. This training methodology may not be for everyone, your mileage may vary, etc. However, if you're burning out a bit on running, plateauing, or even just looking to get started, I'd suggest that you check out Aaron's book. It's a really fast read and offers sample training plans to get anyone going.

The weather looks great this weekend so I think I'll do some trail running in the color-changing Appalachian forests - not because I have to, but because it will be a joy!

1 comment:

Aaron Olson said...

Thanks Bryan. Glad my program is working well for you!