In the corporate world, there's a tool called "Stop, Start, Continue" that many companies use this time of year for budgeting and "resource allocation" purposes. I've never been one to espouse the virtues of corporate tactics and strategies, but I do think it's a great idea for us runners to occasionally look at how we're training and racing and consider new approaches while letting go of bad habits.
With my training for the Rock 'n Roll Arizona Marathon now under way, here's what I've started doing, stopped doing and continued doing.
What I've Stopped
I'm no longer pushing myself to hold a good pace on a daily basis. On my easy days, I'm trying to run easy, and usually that's around 8-8:30 pace. I'm no longer obsessing over my GPS and making myself run a certain pace on easy days. Easy days=easy pace.
Also, I've stopped breaking long runs into two workouts. Over the past few years, as my free time has become more limited, I've gotten in the bad habit of running, say, 16 miles in the morning and then 4 more miles later that afternoon, so that I could tell myself I covered 20 for the day. Such an approach, while occasionally a good tactic when training for 100-milers, instills a false sense of security.
I've stopped doing back to back long runs every weekend. My Saturday mileage is now capped at 11, and on Sundays I'm going long. By limiting my Saturday mileage, I'm able to enjoy greater quality in my Sunday long runs. When Leadville rolls around, back to backs will come into play again, but for now they're off the table.
Finally, and as noted in a previous post, I've stopped wearing Hokas. I'm now mostly wearing lightweight trainers with good stability (Ascics Gel DS Trainer 17s and Nike Lunar Glide 4s are my favorites) and the right amount of heel lift.
What I've Started
I've started emphasizing long runs. On Sunday, I covered 20 miles in the Parker hills in 2 hours and 35 minutes (with 1,100 feet of climbing mixed in). In training, there are many ways to skin a cat, but one thing you can't do--if you really want to break through--is skimp on long runs. Twenty miles all in one go will benefit you a lot more than 16+4 over two workouts in a single day. For one thing, two workouts in a single day may slow your recovery and can sometimes lead to burn out (you need that sense of accomplishment without another run hanging over your head). But, most important of all, when you push yourself to 20 miles and beyond you realize some great benefits in terms of physical and mental conditioning. I plan on doing another seven or eight 20-milers (including at least one 22-miler in 2:50 or less) to get ready for Phoenix.
As noted above, I'm also trying to go easy on my easy days. Your biggest gains come from your quality days, not your easy days--so there's no need to push yourself on easy days. Rather than obsess about a certain number of miles on easy days, I'm just running at a gingerly pace (8:00-8:30) and going more on feel than on a certain distance.
I also have a renewed focus on flexibility. I'm doing some yoga stretches to try to help prevent injury and promote recovery--critical during this time of year when the temperature is cooling off.
What I've Continued
Quality is king--it's how you make big gains. Long runs of 20+ miles are great quality, but so are intervals and tempo runs. I've always been great with regular tempo runs but my commitment to the track over the past few years has been sketchy. Intervals will get me faster while tempo runs will improve my strength and long runs will condition me for the challenge of running 26.2 miles at 6:40 pace (or faster).