Recovery and Training: The Basics

Recovery and Training: The Basics

I’m back! It’s been a while since my last post and I’m not sure why. I just haven’t been very motivated to write.  I’ve been back in training mode for two weeks or so now.  As I mentioned in an earlier post my right foot was giving me some grief so I took some time off so it could heal.  It took a little longer than I thought it would.  I mixed in some cross training (biking at the gym) with easy running (alternating days) to keep up my cardio and it gradually went away but the healing process took about 4 weeks.  It’s only been the last few days that I’ve felt 100%.  It’s strange because the whole foot issue was never a problem during my training or the marathon.  I felt it within the first few minutes AFTER I stopped running my marathon.  I know I can’t complain- it definitely could have been a lot worse.  Moral of the story: Marathons (and marathon training) take a lot out of you.  You can’t rush the recovery process.  You have to work with your body and do what you can do. 

I have done an interesting variety of workouts on days I have been running the past few weeks so I thought I would share some here in case you were looking for some ways to change things up in your training.  Before I describe these “quality” workouts I cannot emphasize enough that my most common run is the easy run.  I run more of these than anything else every week.  I typically run my easy pace runs anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes slower than my marathon pace (depending on whether I’m on my own or with a friend).  I love my easy run days.  I need them to be easy so I can push myself on my hard days.

Tempo– one of my first real workouts after the marathon was a 4 mile tempo run.  I did this 15 days after my marathon.  Up until then I had either been running easy, biking or resting completely.  Before any tempo I like to get in at least 1.5 to 2 miles warm-up (or more) before I get started.  The first mile of my tempo tends to be at or a little slower than my half marathon pace and I like to slowly work my way down to 10K pace by the last mile.  For me this is about a 20 second window.  Obviously this can be done on a treadmill but whenever weather permits I like to do this workout outside.  It is always a little more challenging for me to have to set my own pace rather than just “keep up” with whatever I set the speed on the treadmill.  I do not run tempos on hilly, trafficky roads.  I read once in a Hal Higdon book that tempos should be done on flat smooth surfaces.  The workout itself is going to be challenging enough so you don’t need to bring any other obstacles to the table.  You want to feel like you have a good shot at completing it.  I have a 1.66 loop trail I often do tempos on because it is relatively flat and I do not have to stop for traffic anywhere along the way.  I also do them on the track if it is still dark outside because there is no way I’m going to try to run fast and not be 100% sure of the surface I’m running on.

Hill Repeats- I started doing these in August. For years up until then I justified occasionally running in my hilly neighborhood as a hill workout.  I quickly learned that it was not the same thing.  Sure, it was helpful running up hills every once in a while but adding in this workout has given me much more confidence going into any race with hills.  Basically I found the steepest and longest hill in my neighborhood.  I run up it at hard effort pace and then once I reach the top I walk for about 5-10 seconds before starting my slow recovery jog downhill.  A typical hill workout for me might look like this: 10-14 x 300m uphill hard effort w/ easy downhill recovery jog between sets.  I like to warm-up about 2 miles before this workout and typically cool-down about a mile making this an 8-9 mile (total) workout.

Monday’s hill repeat attire- 25 mph winds made it a little more challenging than usual

Fartlek- I started doing these again this past fall as well.  (Before then I had only done them in college- 13+ years ago.)  I must say that fartleks are the most fun out of all the speed work I do.  When I first started doing them months ago a typical workout looked like this: 15 sec. HARD, 15 sec. EASY, 30 sec. HARD, 30 sec. EASY, 45 sec. HARD, 45 sec. EASY, 60 sec. HARD, 60 sec. EASY. And I would do this 8-15 times.  For some reason this workout always looks shorter on paper than it is in real life.  Then I started doing 1 min HARD, 1 min EASY- Repeat 15 times or once I had to repeat 30 times.  Recently I started doing a new twist with it: 1 min HARD, 1 min EASY, 2 min HARD, 2 min EASY, 3 min HARD, 3 min EASY and back up and down the ladder a few times.  The miles go by fast and it is fun because it is always changing.  I run the hard effort pace at or faster than my 5K pace.  The easy effort is whatever easy, recovery pace I feel like doing.  I usually wear my watch to keep track of overall pace/ time and then I carry my small light kitchen timer to keep track of each individual hard/ easy effort repeat.

I taped my fartlek workout on the back of my kitchen timer which I set for every repeat.

1K Repeats- I started running 1K repeats last summer.  I refer to them as my nemesis workout.  After a 1K repeat disaster one morning last fall (I actually quit 2/3 into the workout) I’ve come to the conclusion that they require my “A” game every time.  They are a beast but when I get it done right I feel like I could do just about anything.  A 1K is 2.5 laps around the track (0.62 of a mile). When I started doing these I think I did 6-8.  The most I’ve done is 12.  After a good 2 mile warm-up I run the 1K, then jog a full recovery lap before starting the second set.  I like to get progressively faster with these which adds to the challenge.  I run these a little faster than 5K pace.

800 M Repeats-  This workout is very similar to the 1K workout but much more common thanks to Bart Yasso!  800 M Repeats were actually the first form of speed work I did when I got back into running a few years ago.  I have incorporated 800’s into every marathon training cycle and truly believe they work!  When I was running a 3:35 marathon my goal was to keep them under 3 minutes and 30 seconds (followed by a 3:30 recovery jog).  Then when I wanted to break 3:20 I ran them in the 3:10-3:20 (minute) range. I just a 12x 800 workout a couple of days ago and my goal was 2:50-2:55 range.  (Currently aiming for a 2:55 marathon goal.) I jog an easy 400 recovery lap in between 800 repeat sets.

Long Run- This is one of the most important workouts to any distance runner! I guess I consider a “long run” anything between 15 and 20.  I don’t really run more than 20 miles in any training cycle.  I know I did 21 once but generally 20 is plenty for me.  I like to have two or three 20 milers under my belt in any marathon training cycle.  When I was training for my 5K last summer my weekly long run ranged from 12-14 miles and that was plenty long enough for me!

I had some company the first few miles of my long run last weekend.  Thankful for my good running friends!

So those are some of the workouts I’ve done in the past two weeks- below are some other “quality” workouts I’ve done in the past year (depending on the training cycle):

Mile Repeats- The last time I did these was in October during peak training week before the Bass Pro Marathon.  This is another tough workout but well worth it when done right.  When I do this workout I typically do 3 to 6 sets- depending on my fitness level and where I am in the training cycle.  I also run a slow easy lap recovery jog between sets.  I run these somewhere between 5 and 10K pace. 

400 M Repeats– Get ready for some speed! My current coach loves to throw 400’s my way often which really keeps me on my toes.  A typical workout might range from 12-20 x 400’s (with 20 only at the end of a peak training cycle).  The key is pacing yourself so you can run consistently fast splits.  I currently average low 80’s with these.  I might have one or two high 70’s but it is not the norm.  I guess that is my goal this year with them.  A few days before a race sometimes I will have an easy 6 mile run which will include 4 to 5x 400’s.  Once you’ve done 16-20 in one workout doing only 4 or 5 feels like a breeze!

200 M Repeats-  I really did these a lot last summer (along with 400’s) when I was preparing for my 1 mile race and 5K.  They are short and FAST!

Marathon (and Half Marathon) Paced runs– Last but not least- these are pretty self explanatory but I do like working them into a couple of my long runs.  I do not run the entire run at this pace- just a portion of the miles. 

I’m sure I’m missing some but these are the main ones coming to mind.  If you have any other favorites please feel free to leave them in the comments.  I’d love to get some new ideas!

In other news- my favorite 15K is coming up in a few days.  It will be my first race of 2014.  The 15K is an interesting distance.  (15K = 9.3 miles if you need some math help like I did my first year…) It feels like a half marathon but obviously a little shorter and faster.  I’ve only raced this distance twice but I really like it.  It’s an easy race to divide into sections.  I just break it into 3 5k’s and focus on them one at a time.  I will keep you posted with how Saturday goes at the River Trail 15K.

16 thoughts on “Recovery and Training: The Basics

  1. Great info – thanks for sharing! I have a Hal Higdon plan I am going to be following, but seriously, how do figure out when to place all of those different workouts? Good luck at your race this weekend.

    1. Great question Katie! First- a lot depends on what distance you’re training for (5k vs. marathon, etc). Generally I have 2-3 of the “quality” workouts a week and the other 3 are easy. I never do 2 quality back to back with the exception of a long run. That might still be after one of the speed workouts- it just depends. But I’ve built up to that. A few years ago I started with one speed workout a week (800 repeats) and the rest were easy runs. Gradually I added in a tempo run. Later I started changing things up.

  2. Great info – I did true hill repeats this morning on the Clinton Bridge. We only did 4 of them though. It was a little over a tenth of a mile up so it ended up being a mile of the repeats total. Probably not the smartest thing to do since I’m doing that 15K saturday. I know there are 2 fairly substantial hills. I do like to add in tempos during my long run or pick up the pace for the last 3-4 miles of a long run.

  3. Great post!

    This is a fun one to do the week of a race weekend for speed. I call it Fast Eddies…

    10 minute w-up, 15 seconds hard, 60 EZ, 30 seconds hard, 90 seconds EZ X 6, cool-down. If I am running with someone else one person times the intervals and the other counts to 6!

  4. This is a great post – to build a training plan around!! 😉
    I’m sitting comfortably in the EASY RUN right now… need to start adding in the training runs again. Short tempos are typically my favorite, but with this crappy winter, I have a hard time gettin’ anything quality done on the treadmill. It just kind of steals my #runjoy

  5. You do such a variety! I feel like all I ever do is easy – easy short, easy long, whatever, just lots of easy. And track once a week if I make it. Now, I did start a plan with more to it, but it’s the plan I got injured on, so I must have been doing more than I was capable of. Now I avoid more than one quality workout a week (just track). Glad your foot has healed up.

    1. Thanks Gracie! Yes, I would start with one quality a week for a while and then (after a few months?) build up to two. No need to rush it or risk injury.

  6. You’re so right about marathons taking a lot out of you and how important it is to recover. I had so many people say that I should have backed up my marathon last year with another a few weeks later. But I’d run my marathon under a lot of stress without eating much in the few days before so I’d finished totally depleted. I knew that it would be the worst thing for me to push myself again without letting my body recover so I just ignored all those comments. Good on you for taking the time you need to heal – not all runners are so sensible.

    1. Thanks Char. I know I probably run too many (4 a year) and I keep saying I will do less. Maybe if I ran them at an easier pace they wouldn’t take so much out of me. I guess my compromise is to let myself take it easy for a few weeks afterwards. 🙂

  7. Thanks for a speed work tutorial! With the weather, I’ve been doing a lot of speed work on my treadmill and it’s been working pretty well. The treadmill keeps me consistent in pace. The only problem is I can’t do hill workouts on the treadmill (at least very well) and feeling like that is a problem training for the hilly Boston Marathon.

    Keep up the great, informative posts!

    1. I understand Becky! Hill Repeats are the one workout I just cannot do on the TM. I’m excited for you. LOVE, LOVE Boston!! Best race environment ever! That will definitely help push you up those hills! ;- )

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