Did you know that the way that you structure your running week can have a huge impact on the improvements you make, your capacity to avoid injury and maximise enjoyment?! You are probably well aware of the ‘periodising’ concept, which is understood to be the way that you structure your training loads (volume/distance, speeds/intensity, recovery, etc) over the year to peak for a specific event. But I find that often we don’t break that concept down to the weekly unit. We will talk more about the yearly structure in a future post, but for now I wanted to address the smaller weekly ‘unit’ which will be very easy for you to modify and maximise your gains.
You will be amazed how often I hear this from people when they tell me about their weekly running: “I don’t have a lot of time during the week, so I get in a couple of 5km runs before work, and then I do my long 10km run on the weekend”. Often those two 5km runs are at the same speed, and around the same route. And then we DOUBLE the training load for that weekend run. This can be a quite a large jump! So while there is a bit of variety going from the shorter runs to the longer one, we can do a lot better than this!
“Variety is a key to minimising injury and maximising improvements”
Minimising injury: The best predictor of a future injury is a past injury – and this is where the right health professional as a part of your team is soooo important – to develop a tailored re/pre-habilitation program for you! The next best predictor of injury, in my opinion, is high repetition of loads. By this I mean applying very similar forces, over and over, to the same body structures… hmmm… sounds a lot like running doesn’t it?? running at similar speeds (maybe your constant 5min/km) on the same surface (the roads around your house), in the same shoes, for the same distance, is a pretty good recipe for an injury.
Maximising improvements: The body improves by having to adapt to new stimuli. If we don’t challenge the body in new and different ways, it sits on a plateau. A key concept in training is progressive overload. You slowly and periodically increase your training loads; be it by increasing speeds, distances, reducing breaks, etc. (again, more on this in our upcoming post on periodising).
So how do we put all this together? here are a few points to help you plan your week’s training:
- Vary your running distances during the week. Program your distances to cover a good spectrum. So, for example, instead of doing your 20kms for the week as per the example above (5+5+10), a better spread could be 3km + 7km + 10km.
- Vary your speeds. For example, in the structure suggested above, the 10km run could be your easy long run, at a comfortable pace (perhaps at or just over your average 5min/km pace); the 7km run could be broken up into some threshold intervals (or quicker). For example, you could warm up and cool down for a kilometre each, and then alternate a faster kilometre, with a slower kilometre, for the middle 5kms; and the 3km run could be an easy spin of the legs! This way not only are you providing variety, but also starting to work on different components of your fitness!
- Change the surfaces you run in. Try to run in different environments. For example, one of your runs could be on roads, your faster interval session could be around a gravel path, and ideally one of your runs (even if not weekly) should be on trails. Trail running provides great variety through constantly changing surfaces, as well as inclines, no two steps ever look the same!
- Ideally change the shoes you run in. While we all have our preferred shoes, it is also a great idea to vary these. So you may have a pair of trail running shoes, your preferred longer distance shoes, and maybe a slightly lighter show for your speed work. This will be more expensive to start off with, but they will all last you longer afterwards!
If you need any more specific help structuring your program, I’d love to help. You can contact me here!