The first time that I trained for a race – a half marathon to be exact- I didn’t know much about what it took to significantly increase fitness, despite having played sports and worked out regularly for pretty much my entire life. I wasn’t sure how to train my body to run 13.1 miles without stopping or how to fuel it while I did so. I learned much along the way, but I didn’t begin seriously researching how to train and more specifically, how to improve, until I set out to run a half marathon in less than 2 hours.
During my first attempt, I failed to achieve this goal. At the time I was self-training and for my next attempt I decided to join a training group to step up my game. The running group was through a local San Diego organization called Vavi and we met Tuesdays and Saturdays. Included in the program was not only group runs complete with aid stations and a pre-determined route, but also a training plan, two live coaches and free clinics on all things running.
While I trained for my first two half marathons, I kept things pretty much the same week to week, except that I gradually increased mileage. If my training plan were plotted on a graph, it would have been very linear – a nice line that gradually got higher and higher, peaking at a final 10 mile long run.
However, my training plan with Vavi introduced me to a new concept – train three weeks hard and then take a week to “recover” with lower intensity workouts and a shorter long run. After the recovery weeks, I always noticed that I’d come back refreshed and even stronger. After my first season with Vavi I finally broke that 2 hour mark and a few months later after using this same methodology while completing P90X and I shattered my PR again on a notoriously difficult course. Ever since, I have incorporated this pattern into my training plans, including my recently completed Ironman training plan.
Why Take a Week Easy?
As someone who has a harder time taking it easy than not, the concept of taking a easy week is sometimes difficult for me. However, research proves that recovery is essential for improvement. According to RunningTimes.com, “Recovery weeks are vital to your progress because they allow your body to adapt to the key workouts you put in during hard training weeks. A rule of thumb for recovery weeks is to run 60-70 percent of your previous week’s mileage.”
Basically, a recovery week gives you both a physical and a mental break. All speed workouts are dropped and mileage is reduced. You can use your extra time to catch up on sleep or catch up with friends. By the time the week is over, you are refreshed and ready to dominate the next three weeks. It’s also encouraging to remind yourself while you are busting your butt during those three weeks that rest is coming.
This Week is Recovery Week!
Although today is my first official day of Ironman training, I didn’t work out at all. Starting yesterday, I’m on recovery week. I’ve been training hard for the last 4 weeks (longer than I would have liked but Insanity dictated 4 weeks on, 1 week off) and I’m more than happy to sit back and relax. No Yassos this week (sorry Bart!). As for mileage, Asia and I have been following a steady plan of +2 miles per week on our long runs and this week we backed it down 4 mile, for a 12 mile run yesterday. It sounds crazy to call 12 miles a recovery run but it honestly felt great to get out there and run easy. By the end of this week I’ll be eagerly anticipating my scheduled 16 mile run (ok maybe with not quite that much enthusiasm)!
Do You Train 3 Weeks Hard and 1 Week Easy?