Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Less is more: Quality race training

Streaking, setting mileage goals...those posts are filling my Facebook feed these days. Kara Goucher challenged followers to run 2016 miles in 2016. Her husband Adam is sponsoring the challenge on his Run This Year website. You can sign up for $25 and complete the challenge solo or as part of a team with 1 or 2 other runners. 2016 miles? That's a heck of a lot of miles for the average runner.



I've already posted about why I won't be streaking. And this year, I won't be setting any mileage goals. In 2015, I set a goal to run 2015 kms, which is 1252 miles. On December 31, I completed that goal, which is the most miles that I have ever run in a year. After that, I took 2 weeks off to let my body recover.


That mileage goal of 1252 miles in a year was harder than you might think. I'm a recreational runner, a nurse practitioner who works full time, and a married mom of 2 teenage boys who runs a few half marathons and maybe one marathon per year. I have a full life outside of running. I run for stress relief and health. My average weekly mileage is between 20-25 miles. My highest weekly mileage during marathon training was 38 miles. I simply can't do more than that without risking injury.

In the past, I've gotten some flack for my low mileage marathon training. Common wisdom for runners is that to run fast, you have to run far. According to an article by Matt Fitzgerald in Competitor magazine, "the more we run, the better we race". Makes sense. But he also says that there is a point where too much training leads to injury. The key, it seems, is to know where your limit is.

For me, that limit is pretty low. I'm ok with that. I've been running for 25 years, and there are a lot of miles on these legs. I'm grateful to still be running and at paces that make me competitive in my age group. But when I train for a race, I try to make every run a quality run. So for those 4 runs I do in a week, each one has a purpose. There's a long slow distance run, speedwork, and 2 short-mid distance runs at race pace.

My marathon training plans capped the long run at 18 miles. What, no 20 mile run? Yep, I heard plenty about that from other runners. Bring it on! There's nothing magical about that 20 mile run. Legendary running coach Jack Daniels sums it up nicely:
"Don't worry that you won't be able to complete a 4:30 marathon if you have never run beyond two and a half hours in training. In fact, it is not necessary to train at such a high percentage of your race distance no matter what the course."--Jack Daniels
Remember too, I'm not only running during marathon training. There's cross training in the form of cycling and those HIIT workouts that Becky has me do. Some weight training as well, and yoga to stretch me out. The naysayers are going to naysay.

This is marathon training.
I read a funny quote in an article about CrossFit Endurance attributed to Jay Johnson, a former track coach from the University of Colorado regarding CFE: "No Kenyan has ever seen a kettlebell."

This non-Kenyan sees a lot of kettlebell.
Most likely not. But I'm not a Kenyan. That's a whole different genetic makeup. Have you ever really looked at the runners around you at a race? Unless you line up in the front of the pack, most of the runners are made up of all shapes and sizes. Not a Kenyan amongst us in the middle or the back of the pack. Since the majority of us are not genetically gifted like an elite runner, we need to ask ourselves, why are we training like elites? Why not cross train? Why not run for time instead of distance? What about running quality miles instead of massive quantities of miles? Why risk injury?

What about "junk miles"? Laura at This Runners Recipes sums this up nicely. A lot of runners run "junk" miles. I do too, especially when I'm not training for something. Sometimes it's nice to "just run" without a goal in mind. There's still that love of running, and those "junk" runs are all about that. We all need those runs. But in a low mileage training plan, there isn't room for junk miles. Adding in a run just to run is increasing your chance for injury. That includes streaking.

I'm not saying you should do CrossFit Endurance to train for a marathon. In fact, my coach Becky, who is a CrossFit coach instructed me NOT to read the book. But what she has me do is a happy medium of some of the components of CrossFit incorporated with smart running. For me, this has kept me mostly injury free (I'm currently battling PF) and running at paces I haven't seen since my 30s. Her approach is all about quality workouts. The proof is in my finish times.

Besides, this training is fun!

Fun for my coach too!
You know my motto, everything in moderation. So that's why you won't see me streaking or chasing a high mileage goal. I love to run. I love to race. I like to have fun. And I don't like to DNS.

I'll see you at the starting line of Big Sur.

Do you run a high mileage plan to train for a big race? Do you incorporate cross training into you race training? What do you consider a quality training plan?

I'm linking this post up with DebRuns for Wednesday Word, which is quality!







92 comments :

  1. I have learned through life and thru watching my sister race only in parenting is MORE MORE.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Except when you have teenagers. Then it's all about quality. Because quantity makes them uncomfortable.

      Delete
  2. Absolute total agreement.

    Unfortunately, some people believe they're not a "real" runner unless they run XXX miles each week/month/year. And they get great joy (validation?) in bragging about it. Good for them, but I'm not with them.

    I know a gal who runs all the time. I think she's doing a little bit of cross-training these days, but very minimal in comparison to her miles in the running shoes. It works for her, but she has been plagued with constant injuries and is always coughing/sneezing and really looks worn-down. Over-trained? (I think so) Anyways,I think running has given her a new sense of confidence, but I suspect her running career will come to a crashing halt much sooner than those of us who are more conservative with our mileage. To each his (or her) own.

    Another great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been at this running thing a long time and I know what my body will tolerate. I think that's the key--to listen to your body instead of comparing your training to what others are doing.

      Delete
  3. Agree 10000% with this post! We are not streakers either or people who set goals on a number of miles to run in a year. We have each had one 1,000 mile year and that was when we were training for multiple marathons. I know my body well (former competitive swimmer) and I can't handle it. As I'm currently on the road to running again (knee injury - blargh), I'm excited to run some junk miles and just be on the road. Sometimes those are great, cathartic runs. But when I'm training for something, I agree wholeheartedly that it's game on with 3-4 focused runs each week and cross-training. -C

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm battling PF and I can't help but think that some of that is due to the "high" mileage (for me) from last year.

      Delete
  4. I totally agree with this. I've always cross-trained...because I need to switch things up and because I'm a heavy runner and not a distance person in general. I was a swimmer growing up and my races were 50, 100, 200 yards/meters. Nothing longer. Anyway - I found running more than 4 days a week doesn't work for me. So, glad to have that validated by someone who knows way more about what she's doing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha--it's an illusion. I'm just winging it like the rest of you...

      Delete
  5. You know I totally agree with everything here. Quality training, quality miles. I trained for Twin Cities running 3 times a week, and for Chicago running 3-4 times a week. I probably could have benefited from more speed work just to prepare my body for the way I ran the race, but to be honest, I had no idea I would go like I did!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You did great for running 3-4d/week! The speedwork runs were a game changer for me. Plus I love to run fast!

      Delete
  6. I am with you on this. I run because I enjoy it. I enjoy spinning too. And cycling. And strength training. And I hope to try Orange Theory soon. So, overall I exercise plenty, but running is only 3 x week. And if that means I don't win any AG prizes that's A-OK!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do like those AG prizes, tho! Of course, the competition is pretty low in my old lady age group!

      Delete
  7. Like you I am not built like a Kenyan and cross training is key for me to stay healthy and strong. I also do not do the run streaks or the mileage challenges just for the sake of doing them. My runs are precious to me and I want to stay healthy so I can do them for many more years. Quality indeed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Too many injuries and time off the road has taught us well!

      Delete
  8. This is exactly the approach I took to marathon training this past time around! Last year even though I followed a training plan, I think I over trained and caused an injury. This year I focused on "quality" runs and and actually got through the marathon injury free!
    I will be "helping" my sister with Run This Year, but only because I'll be running anyway to train for other races. I know she'll be doing the bulk of the miles...lol. -M

    ReplyDelete
  9. I loved this post! I think so many people are focused on running x amount of miles or working out for no less than an hour everyday, etc. What happened to just focus on moving? Can you only be a runner if you run over 20 miles a week? Of course not! Great post and great reminder to us all! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I think it's great if you can handle the high miles. But most of us can't, and we need to know that's ok!

      Delete
  10. I used to run every day no matter what. I have logged enough miles and streaked enough days for a lifetime. No more streaking for this gal! And my current marathon PR occurred when I ran less and lifted more. Quality over quantity. I went from a 3:38 to a 3:28. I never thought I would see the 3:20s but it just turned out for me and MY body, I needed more quality and not just pounding the pavement every single day.

    Also, I want to run forever, and going hard all year long is not going to get me there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Since I started weight training, I've seen a huge improvement in my race finish times. Isn't that interesting?

      Delete
  11. This post came at such a great time. I accidentally ran over 1000 miles last year, but I never intended to. My goal is to remain healthy as a 62 year old runner. And yes, you can Boston qualify and reach other goals running only 3 days per week if they are quality runs. Keep up the good work -P

    ReplyDelete
  12. I find myself guilty of a lot of junk miles. I'm also trying to set a purpose for every run and doing some cross training. Best of luck!

    PS: If you want some great hill training pushing a large heavy object you can come mow my lawn, lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha! There's actually hill near my house where Walter Payton used to train. If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me. Hopefully it won't be snow covered when I head over there in a couple of weeks..

      Delete
  13. I can't imagine running 2016 miles in one year. Not this old gal. If you think about it, I actually trained for two marathons within 6 months last year. Ask me which type of training got me to the start and finish lines. The answer is the one without all the running. You keep being you...because it works!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We'll get to the finish line "our way"!

      Delete
  14. This is a great post! I too have a low threshold for injury. 40 miles/week is my absolute max --even for marathon training. I am usually around 20 mi/week. I love my bikram yoga and weight training so i mix it up. Do i wish i was faster or could do an ultra? Sure.. but being happy that my body works at all is its own reward at this point!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think most of us have a low threshold for injury. Running is hard on the body! That's why we need to do work to get strong and flexible.

      Delete
  15. I'm so excited for you and Big Sur - I do think that this will be a bucket list item for me! And, I totally agree with "junk" miles increasing your chance of injury. But, sometimes, they are nice too! Just to run and enjoy the moment is magical!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I love to run just to run. But it's all a balance when you're training for a big race!

      Delete
  16. Really glad to read that a strong runner such as yourself isn't into burning up the miles - I used to feel like I wasn't giving it my all because I "only" averaged a certain distance per month, but you know, after battling injuries, I'm OK with less, because I still get to run. Loved your analogy about the elite Kenyans and kettlebells - that is just perfect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You called me a strong runner? Did I tell you how much I love you? You know I'm just a regular runner...and as one of the commenters above noted, I have a low threshold for injury. Since I love to run so much, I really have to behave myself!

      Delete
  17. You know I've never set a mileage goal. Ever. Whatever I do is enough FOR ME. I think I was spared the criticism because I BQ'd so quickly. What I do obviously worked. As a coach I see people who do well with high mileage, and those who do well with lower mileage and more crosstraining. Everybody's different. Everybody does better when there's strength in the mix and I think many, many elites work very hard in the gym, we just may not see that. I love blogging because I love seeing people achieve things they never thought possible. What I don't like is when it becomes a pissing contest and honestly I think RW feeds into it with their run streak thing. I highly question the value of that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 100% agree with you about the streak. I watch people do the streaking with bated breath. I'm always worried about injury.

      Delete
  18. Ah yes, we do think alike. I like my off season for the fun running, and then it's time to get down to business and make those runs count.

    Those Kenyans? A lot of them didn't grow up with the luxuries we first world people think are necessities (myself included). They got their cross training just living life.

    Great post, Wendy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Truth about the Kenyans--they also run in the mountains and genetically, they are a whole different human!

      Delete
  19. Yes, yes, and YES. I am always on the low-mileage side when I train. I have a very finnicky IT band that loves to let me know when I start adding too many miles in. I work hard to help my clients learn to incorporate more cross-training into their lives so they can get better at running all while running less.

    I heard something similar at IDEA World last year, about how Kenyan's don't ride bikes or do any strength training, so we shouldn't either. I had to laugh at that a little bit ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Comparing us mere mortals to the Kenyans just cracks me up! Seriously? It's not a one size fits all world. Thankfully!

      Delete
  20. I'm all about quality over quantity. I switched to the Run Less, Run Faster plan, which only has me running 3 days a week, and I've seen VAST improvements in my running. I also haven't experienced burn out since switching to this plan. I pair 3 running days with 3 CrossFit days when I'm in race training mode, and I've been doing great :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. I agree totally. I don't really care about numbers. I run lots of race because I enjoy them. I ran 969 mils last year. Yeah, I could have stretched it to 1000 but I finished uninjured and that's more important.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You sure did! There's something to be learned from us "older runners" who just keep on keepin' on...

      Delete
  22. I'm not streaking either, nor setting a mileage goal. 2016 miles or k's is still a lot of miles on these legs. I think the running 3x a week during my marathon training worked fine for me and I'd do it again. I'd like to up that to 4x but still short runs, to try and get rid of some post holiday, post marathon weight. So we'll see. I'm like you I think balance and adding in other things is key, I know it is for me.
    Oh, I'm playing around with StumbleUpon too and "Thumbsup this page" on there. You can see if anything comes from it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I need to check out StumbleUpon. It's on my to-do list, once I figure out Pinterest!

      Delete
  23. I am not streaking either, and I don't think i have ever set a mileage goal...It just doesn't work for me! Some ppl so GREAT with high mileage and some do not...the high mileage just does not work for me either! Look at those cross training pics! I love it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That cross training stuff is fun! Hard, but fun.

      Delete
  24. So true! I did a running streak once and it was enough for me! I think all runs should have a purpose when you're in training mode. I hate the expression "junk" miles but I do think quality is so important to prevent injury!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with you on that term "junk miles". I don't think any miles are junk. But some are more meaningful than others, I guess...

      Delete
  25. The last time I streaked I got injured. I did join the run the year challenge but I plan to walk some of the miles and not run them all, I do think more is not always better when it comes to running. Thanks for the great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so afraid of injury and time off the road!

      Delete
  26. I'm on the same page with you here! I ran my 4th marathon in November - my training had my lowest miles of running with lots of cross training thrown in for the first time. I made sure I did my key workouts - long runs/speed work, but didn't stress when I chose to ride my bike on "easy" run days. I had a 7 minute PR (from 3 1/2 years prior) and finished injury free and NOT burned out.

    Have you ever read, "Run Less, Run Faster"? I have not, but I've been thinking about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have not read that, but it has been recommended to me. I may have to check it out!

      Delete
  27. Great words of wisdom and no one can argue with the intention (and some fun) that you have with your training and balancing it with a life away from running. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, it's all about having fun, right?

      Delete
  28. I can't even tell you how much I agree with this! There are so many boneheads out there screaming that you're not a real runner if you don't run 50 miles a week or whatever. I'm a low mileage runner. I don't run more than 3 times a week. I know what my limitations are, and running for the sake of racking up miles will result in injury.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder why those naysayers feel that my training or your training is any of their business?

      Delete
  29. Definitely quality over quantity for me. Three runs a week is suiting me fine. My body is still loving me and I want to keep it that way. There are so many training plans an philosophies out there, everyone needs to find one that suits them, their lifestyle and objectives. No way would I ever run 2000 miles or a streak, my body would never forgive me. And I would be afraid of burnout or bore out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For the majority of us regular folks, quality is the way to go!

      Delete
  30. I agree with so much of what you said here Wendy! At the end of the day, elite or no, we all need to do what works for us personally. Different people and bodies respond differently to training. And, IMHO the most important thing is to HAVE FUN! Otherwise, what is the point? Keep doing what you're doing and I have a feeling you will reach all of the goals that are important to you :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know I'm all about a good time.

      Now about that BQ...

      Delete
  31. I had such a hard time NOT signing up for the 2016 in 2016!! I was so tempted, but then I knew that in trying to hit those miles, what is now enjoyable would become stressful and another thing on my to do list. It would also sometimes force me to skip yoga to get in the miles, because I don't have to go to yoga and get in a 5 mile run on the same day.... like you, I have no mile goals for 2016. My really only running goal is to make sure that I can continue running for as long as I can...and that means less miles than I'd like to run sometimes, and also strength training which I really don't enjoy (other than yoga).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, there's no way I'm missing yoga...or CrossFit...or cycling! It's all about balance. Now work, that's one thing I'd like to skip...

      Delete
  32. So I'm totally out of the high mileage race game (13.1 is about the highest I'll go from here on out). I would love to work on some of those mileage and streaking challenges, but I struggle to hit 600 miles a year - there's no way I'm pushing for 2000+, especially without a marathon in the foreseeable future (read: ever again). That being said, I do have to run way close to my goal mileage for any race - it's a mental thing for me (so 12 for a half, 8.5 for a 15K, etc).

    But I do notice a difference when my miles are focused with purpose, than when I run for running's sake. I try to keep my quality up, but sometimes, you just have to get out there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those runs always take us back to why we started running in the first place.

      Delete
  33. Great points! I know my body cannot handle a lot of miles, luckily I love cross training (former swimmer) and strength training too.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I think my marathon training topped out at a couple of 40+ mile weeks last year. It was a lot for me! I'm usually around 20-30 miles a week. I'm trying to incorporate cross training this year, because I'm terrible about doing it. I'm finally liking yoga, but I haven't found other cross training that I like and will actually do more than once.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always "dabbled" in weight lifting but I never got serious about it until I started working with my coach a few years ago.

      Delete
  35. We totally think alike. I don't streak, and only run 3-4 days each week TOPS. I am a firm believer in cross and strength training as well!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Love love love this post! I need to set some good goals for this year as well!

    ReplyDelete
  37. I'm amazed that you find the time to do all you do (including blogging). I don't set mileage goals. I just want to get out there and be healthy! I am a strong believer in cross training too. Love my crossfit and (now) yoga. It's a challenge to fit it all in. I have to get on my training plan this weekend and it will include crossfit and yoga. I don't believe in junk miles.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The crossfit and yoga have been key to keeping my miles low!

      Delete
  38. I'm all for 3-4 quality runs per week instead of trying to run more than that. I too would rather focus on quality miles and incorporating cross training instead of running more miles just for the sake of doing so. This approach has worked for me, and helped to prevent any serious injury, so its the approach that I'll continue to use.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It will be fun to see you make your comeback from pregnancy!

      Delete
  39. Thank you so much for linking to my post! I did high mileage for Hansons and the combination of the 60 mile weeks and hard workouts left me feeling like toast. I'm following Brad Hudson's methods right now and he emphasizes a balance of moderate volume and moderate intensity, with both factors varying on what the individual runner wants and can handle.
    I sooooo agree with you on the 2016 miles in 2016. I honestly have no idea how many miles I ran last year, because I try to focus on mileage as a means, rather than an end.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's interesting for me because I've already dialed back on the data collection. I'm a numbers junkie, but keeping track of mileage like that can really get in your head!

      Delete
  40. I think a quality plan has to have some variety, yoga, HIIT, throw in a round of golf, horseshoes something! I like having a plan but I am not a high mileage runner either, I simply do not have the time. Coach M had a 5 mile run on a weekday and I starting stressing, that takes me awhile :) I am joining you in no mileage goal. I just want to be healthy and have fun! See you at the start line in Sarasota!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I cannot wait to meet you! (and selfishly, be in some warm weather).

      Delete
  41. Yes to quality runs - every run needs to have a purpose. I am injury prone as well so like you I run 4x/week and incorporate cross training. Staying healthy is my #1 priority. I look forward to hearing about your journey to Big Sur Marathon Start Line.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I could get this PF to go away, I'd be thrilled.

      Delete
  42. I love this. When I met my current coach and told her I wanted to do a marathon, she actually made me run less, strength train more and have one total rest day. I thought she was crazy but I have had a whole year of injury free running. Sometimes I see those tables that say if you are training for X then you should have X number of miles. I say rubbish. It's all about your body and your goals. I now do two speed work sessions a week, one easy run and one long run a week with two days of strength and one day of rest. Every mile is quality versus junk. I also can't wait to hear about Big Sur and am joining you on not making a goal of any number of miles for the year!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to hear that the less is more approach worked for you as well!!!

      Delete
  43. I 1000% agree that you don't need a 20 miler. Before Chicago my longest was 14 miles I think, due to injury. And I finished. Maybe not as strong as I could have, but I did it. When I PRed, my longest run was 18. I'm ok with not going up to 20...I hate long runs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't love the really long runs myself!

      Delete
  44. I have never done a high mileage training plan. I think my highest weekly mileage ever was 40 miles and that's only because I ran Ragnar during training! And I'm like you, too many miles and injury sets in!! Smart running is so important!

    ReplyDelete
  45. I am enjoying reading everyone's take on this Wednesday Word. You're such a great example of balance! It's easy to get so focused on one type of exercise, but I think you need a variety of types of workouts to be successful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've had my biggest successes on the road with this regimen. It's really all about balance.

      Delete
  46. Back when I was young (in my forties - ha!), I consistently ran 50 miles a week hitting over 1,800 miles per year. For my friends and me, it was fun, and those 20+ mile training runs are some of my favorite memories. It worked for me, but I was lucky I didn't over do it. As a trainer, I have to realize that not everyone can handle that. Sounds like you found the perfect trainer for you, who listens to you, knows what your body can handle, and plans your workouts accordingly! Go Becky!

    Thanks for linking up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Becky doesn't love running, so that helps me--believe it or not. She really likes to keep me under control.

      Delete