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Lower mileage - but still effective?

Posted: Sat Feb 16, 2008 2:27 am
by Tinman
Tonight I opened an email from a fellow named Jason who wanted to know how to train better for 800-1500m races. He had been running some 3ks and 5ks recently, too. He hates doing higher mileage and last fall he tried running fewer miles but quicker. He did have good success in the 3k at the end of the fall, setting a personal best time. However, in the winter he has done a lot of intense intervals and speedwork to improve his race times. It turned out that he lost instead of gained! So, below is what I said in reply.

(Note I have slightly modified it because (now) some typos and small things I should have added (like striders in the first month) have become apparent.
Hi Jason!

It appears that you would be a candidate for the medium-distance, medium intensity approach, along with short power / speed work. First, you really get bored with distance work (as do I). Second, the 3-5 milers you did last fall at a pace around 6:00 pace, reaching a time of 9:14 in the 3k) shows me you are one who needs plenty of aerobic-stamina paced training, to run well. (This is true for me, too!). Third, it appears that really hard intervals workouts are not what make you a well-rounded runner.

Very few people can handle extensive, hard interval training. It takes months of consistent training to reach a point where you can do a large number of hard intervals without feeling like you are racing in training. And, even then, many people really don't need them. Instead, all they need to do is tack on some short speed/power reps at the end of medium intensity workouts (endurance & stamina zones) and bam! they race very well.

If you can run 9:14 (3k) now, here are you training paces on the same track, in the same temperature and no wind (assuming you had no wind indoors). Note these are not percentages of velocity but, rather, the equivalent pace required for a given percentage of Max VO2. This is very complex and hardly anyone in the world understands the difference):
Zone 1: (basic endurance and recovery running - just hard enough to improve your fitness but not so hard it takes away from your faster running days/workouts.

Slow pace: 7:23 per mile (60% of Max VO2)

EZ pace: 6:57 per mile (65% of Max VO2)
Moderate pace: 6:33 per mile (70% of Max VO2) - For most people, except slow marathon and ultra-distance runners, this pace / intensity should be avoided. It is intense enough to burn up your glycogen stores (sugar stores) quickly but it doesn't cause much improvement over the slower paces in Zone #1.

It isn't quite intense enough to cause similar results to zone #2; the one harder than this.

Question: Is this intensity (pace) bad for you? No, it's just that when you have faster workouts scheduled it is wise to avoid it. If you are not running faster workouts, then by all means go ahead and use this pace / intensity as you please.
Zone 2: This is the lower end of the Stamina Region. The important point to understand it (this zone) develops your ability to consume and use oxygen efficiently so that you don't build acidosis and leg fatigue in your slow twitch muscle fibers.

*If you omit this zone and the one harder than this (zone 3), you'll "rig" in a 1500m race after about 2 minutes of racing; meaning your legs and lungs will scream and the fatigue will force you to slow down from your expected goal pace. You'll get dropped by your competitors and no amount of will power can keep you "in the game."

S.T. (Slow Tempo) pace - 6:12 per mile (75% of Max VO2)

F.T. (Fast Tempo) pace- 5:53 per mile (80% of Max VO2)
Zone 3: This zone develops your fast twitch fibers capacity to consume and use oxygen to form ATP (for work). Consequently, training at this intensity prevents acidosis from accumulating at faster (race) paces.

Stamina pace - 5:33.7 per 1600m rep (85% of Max VO2)

CV (Critical Velocity) pace - 3:18.9 per 1km rep (90% of Max VO2)
Based on your preferences and aptitudes, I suggest you figure out how to use the above three zones wisely.

Here is what I recommend:

For the next month, do this (to build stamina) -

Day 1
: 5-6 miles in Zone 1 (basic aerobic endurance and active recovery)

Day 2: 1 mile in Zone 1 to warm up and then 3-5 miles in Zone 2), perhaps some easy 100m striders during the last mile.

Day 3: 1 mile in Zone 1 to warm up, striders, then either 3-4 x 1600m at Stamina Pace (5:33.7 per rep) (jog 1.5-2 minute recoveries) or 5-6 x 1km at CV pace (jog 1-1.5 minute recoveries). You can do some 100m striders, too, to enhance neural coordination, but don't run them hard and don't use short recoveries!
I am confident you will find the above schedule very productive. Be sure to adjust to weather, surface and wind. Don't run too hard!

When you finish a month of the above training, take a couple days off and then do 1 more month of the above, adding a mile or so to each workout and a rep or two. Start doing 100m striders at 1500m- pace x 4-6 (with 100m jog recoveries) at the end of your longer rep workouts, if you haven't already!

Once you finish two months of the above training, you will be ready to incorporate 30-45 second hill charges at 1500m-race effort for 6 weeks. At that point, you'll reduce the number of Zone 3 reps by 2 and add the hill charges (4-6 is about right). *This is my modification of the Arthur Lydiard "hill bounding or hill springing phase."

An Example workout follows (note, this is month #3):
1 mile EZ, striders to loosen up, then
3-4 x 1600m at Stamina Pace (jog 1.5 minute recoveries) +
4-6 x 30-45 second hill charges at 1500m race effort (jog down slowly for recovery) +
4-6 x 100m at 800m speed (jog 100m recoveries) +
1-mile EZ cool down!
*This workout is harder than it looks. So, don't hammer away in the early reps! Otherwise, you will have to "gut out" the latter part of the workout, thus turning it into a race.

You should not feel like you are over 90% of maximum capacity at the end of the workout. You should feel like it is a solid workout but not a ball-buster!
By the way, it would be a mistake to stop doing the zone 2 and zone 3 workouts during the hardest portions of your racing season. After 2 weeks you'd find your endurance shot!

Take care,

( - I answer questions on this forum every day. Feel free to join us. Also, on the home page, there are several articles to read. You, in particular, don't want to run higher mileage, so the modification I gave you suits your needs well, despite your lack of total weekly volume.

Lower mileage - but still effective?

Posted: Mon Aug 25, 2008 9:15 pm
by mathwiz1
I dug this up. Are the three example days designed to be in that order, then once day 3 is reached, start at day one again? In other words, a three day rotation?

Lower mileage - but still effective?

Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2008 12:49 am
by Tinman
Yes, that's the order I suggest for someone not wanting to "put in the miles." It is akin to my most succesful training and racing days in which I rotated easy, medium and hardish days ( a 3-day rotation). IN my case I ran 5 miles easy, 5 miles moderate to somewhat strong (think Tinman Tempo effort), and 5 miles hardish (over a hill course and finishing at the top of a 1200m hill).

Because I could not do much volume (partly because of lower leg injuries and partly because I was walking 10-12 hours per day on concrete floors at the hospital) 5 miles was all I could handle running every day. Prior to that I tried running further but the abuse on my lower legs made it hard for me to sleep at night. I was a severre insominiac if I trained more than about 5 miles a day. There were days when I wasn't working (a Sunday, for example) when I could have run 8 or 10 or maybe even 12 miles) but I couldn't afford to go into the following work day with tired legs. I would not be able to keep up to the huge workload at the hospital with overly tired legs (tired legs, yes, but not too tired!).

Note, although it was 5 miles of running per day, the fatigue and (more importantly) the swelling in my lower legs made those 5 milers (particularly over hills) challenging. I wasnt running 5 miles per day on fresh legs, that's for sure!

Lower mileage - but still effective?

Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2008 9:18 am
by mathwiz1
Thanks for the reply, Tinman. I'm highly considering this approach. Up to what racing distance would this method apply best? Is there a way that I could run a 10 mile race or a 1/2 with slight modifications without changing the rotational system significantly?

Thanks again

Lower mileage - but still effective?

Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2008 5:45 pm
by Tinman
Math -

There are limits to how much quality running you can do before involution of adaptitive process occurs. In my example, 5 miles per day, easy, tempo, somewhat hard, there was only 25 minutes of tempo and 15-20 minutes of faster (somewhat hard) running done (on different days). Because of my work situation (being on my feet for many hours each day) I could not run much more than 5 miles per day and still improve. Thus, I did what I could and stuck with it.

* I don't think many people can run more than double the amount of quality I did and still improve.

Here is what I might give a sub-30 minute 10k runner who wants to use the Tinman 3-day Rotation Method:

Day 1) 70 minutes of Very EZ to EZ running;

Day 2) 70 minutes, including 60 minutes of tempo running;

Day 3) 70 minutes, including 20-30 minutes of fairly hard to hard running.

I'd be quite surprised if someone could do more than the above and continue to improve. The above schedule may look easy but it will take a heavy toll on a runner. And, I'll tell you one secret I learned the hard way doing the 3-day rotation: it's better to run the same time or distance every day than vary it. I found that keeping the same distance was best, and varying the pace was ideal for stimulating growth.

Again, the above 3-day (sample) rotation would be for a person nearing or at their upper limit of capability. It is very tough and a person needs to build to it slowly or else they will crash and burn.

Lower mileage - but still effective?

Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2008 7:46 pm
by Harry Hood
Thats schedule looks insane. Basicly you would be doing 4 workouts per week, most of them falling back to back. Also I stongly believe in runs of 90 minutes or more which you would not be doing in that plan. Even a low mileage runner should include a long run(IMHO). I could see doing those 3 workouts within a 7 day week- something like M- zone 3, Th- zone-2, Sat- 90minutes in zone 1. The days btw could be 40-60 minutes zone 1 or slower.

The other thing and I'm sure Tinman addressed this with his runner is the "issue" with high mileage. Obviously high mileage is not for everybody. However when a runner comes along saying how he/she "breaks down" from it, the idea should not be to keep them below their "break down" threshold by keeping the mileage low. Instead runners need to understand how to go about INCREASING their capacity to run more. This is done through strengthening the muscle's and tendon's. It's common for runners to see this imbalance that allows them to handle more intensity as compared to volume. With running your cardiovscular system developes much faster than your muscle's, bones and tendon's can adapt to. For this reason you find yourself playing the balancing act of keeping the load lighter(how much you run)balanced with your capacity(how much you can run). Rather than simply increase the load and pray the capacity follows you should be using your light days working on strength and flexibility. Simply raming in a greater amount of intensity because you "hate" high mileage(or break down from it) is not the answer IMHO.

Lower mileage - but still effective?

Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2008 11:25 pm
by xxsprint

You told me that most runners get injured in the next 2 days after they take a day off, and that it is best to run every day. Here you say to take a couple days off after a month (yes i know this is just one approach), and in your "rule of multiples" article you tell "Jane" to take a day off from running every other week and just walk instead. Just curious why the difference?

Also, this has always confused me - what is 1500m (or any other distance) "race effort"? You are going to feel differently at the beginning of the race than at the end of the race.

Lower mileage - but still effective?

Posted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 12:02 am
by Tinman
XX -

I think you worry too much. Get out there are run as often as possible, don't kill yourself every day, run a few races but not more than your body can handle, and get used to doing the work. Remember, 90% of success in life is simply doing the work. The other 10% is a combination of strategy and opportunity.

Generally speaking, competitive runners should take as few days off as possible. I don't mind if a runner takes a day or two off after a long stretch of hard training. That's fine, just don't make it a habit to take a couple of days off every week and expect to reach your potential.

It annoys me to no-end when people whine about not running fast times yet they are unwilling to listen to my simple instructions about training, which follows:

1) Run a lot! Volume done just below your personal limit, week after week is gold!

2) Vary your training intensity (some easy paced, some moderate, and some faster). A mix of about 75% EZ, 15-20% moderate, and about 5-10% faster is about right for the vast majority of people running 5k races or longer.

3) Run hills in training 2-3 times per week. Specific leg strength is vital to running success. The stronger your legs are the more training you can do without breaking down. The more training you can do without breaking down the better your race performances will be, on average.

4) Don't overthink. Set up a simple plan, as I have outlined many times, and stick to it. Stop worrying about all the x and y parts of training and just execute a well designed weekly schedule over and over and over.

A weekly that includes 1 CV interval session, 1 tempo over hills or tempo plus hills, and a long run or a 2 runs of about 45-60 minutes with some of it moderate, plus 2 strider sesisons per week (5-15 x 100m at 5k, gradually increasing the speed as you legs warm up, and never straining), plus plenty of easy distance work is going to place 95% of the runners at 95% of their peak fitness - or better.

5) Race intelligently. That means don't go out too fast! Use self-control and know your current limits. Stay under your limits early in the race and you will run a solid race overall. Patience is virutue!

6) Take care of the details. Sleep enough, eat wisely, hydrate often, and prevent or take care of injuries before they side-line you. Stay away from people who are sick, and wash your hands with soap and water often. Use alcohol gel to kill germs and viruses that your hands come in contact with on a daily basis.

7) Always remember that you must keep the ball rolling. Momentuum is the backbone of progression!

That's it; I gotta study and get some sleep!

Lower mileage - but still effective?

Posted: Wed Aug 27, 2008 2:02 am
by U.N.O.
Tinman, what you say about program of two weeks hard/one week recovery and so on compared to your personal favourite (?) of steady moderate week after week program? Should I still keep some kind of recovery week after about month or two or so? Of course you say I should listen to my body but anyway :)

Lower mileage - but still effective?

Posted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 11:11 am
by Tinman
U.N.O. -

I prefer to schedule training so that no "down weeks" occur. I don't like pushing a runner extra hard to the point that they need a week of reduced training to recover. It is my observation that most people will progress more by running below their point of exhaustion (which would require a down week).

Lower mileage - but still effective?

Posted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 7:04 pm
by Harry Hood
[QUOTE=Tinman]U.N.O. -

I prefer to schedule training so that no "down weeks" occur. I don't like pushing a runner extra hard to the point that they need a week of reduced training to recover. It is my observation that most people will progress more by running below their point of exhaustion (which would require a down week).[/QUOTE]

I have found this to be very true in my own running. It occured to me that if you are running to the point that you "need" a recovery week you are running beyond what your body can handle.

Lower mileage - but still effective?

Posted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 9:30 pm
by mathwiz1

I am no 30 flat 10K guy, but trying to find "the way" after struggling mightly the past 2 years. I've tried to run by feel twice and messed it up twice -- this year. Without knowing race times, I have estimated 17:45 on two occassions and have run 18:10 and 18:25, two months appart. Effectively, I overtrainned by running CV reps and TT runs too fast.

I would jump on the bang waggon that is being promoted in this thread in a hurry, but I honestly want to be able to run a 15K, 10 miler, or 1/2 at the drop of a hat, so it makes sense to do trainning that would have me in shape for anything from the 5K to the 1/2 marathon.

Would I, in your professional opinion, break-down by doing something like the following:

M - 5 slow
T - 1 up, 3-4 at current 5K + 1mintue/mile, 1 down
W- 1 up, 3-4 x mile @ STAMINA (or 7-8 x 800 @ CV), w/ hills, etc., 1 down
R - same as Mon.
F - same as Tues.
Sa- same idea as Wed., but opposite workout this day
Su -10 miles SLOW!!

mileage = ~ 42 mpw

(Sufficient strides/hills/etc on harder days)

It's a similar concept, but would it do the trick, or would I cross the red-line?

Lower mileage - but still effective?

Posted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 11:55 pm
by Tinman
Math -

Yes, that basic weekly schedule will work well for you, but you must error on the low side of volume in the early-going. Run a bit less than what you list and stay there for 12-15 days. Once you feel well adapted increase the workload by about half a mile or so.

As an example, after Basic Millitary Training, I decided to train using a a rotation schedule (Day 1 = easy, Day 2 = moderate, and Day 3 = somewhat hard) I started with 3 miles. I did that for 4 or 5 cyles (until I felt strong) and then increased the workload by half a mile per day.

At one time I had my training logs to refer to, but no longer. However, as I recall my progression sort of looked like this:

first-ever rotation cycle:

3 miles at 8:30 pace
3 miles at 7:45 pace
3 miles at 7:00 pace

I went through that 3-day rotation 4 times before reaching times like this:

3 mles at 8:15 pace
3 miles at 7:30 pace
3 miles at 6:45 pace

I continued that rotation routine without fail. Six months later I was running something like this:

5 miles on a flat course at about 7:30 to 7:15 pace
5 miles on a slightly rolling course at about 7:00 to 6:45 pace
5 miles on a very hilly course at about 6:15 to 6:00 pace

Another 3 months later and I was running something like this:

5 miles on a flat course at about 7:00 pace
5 miles on a slightly rolling course at about 6:30 pace
5 miles on a very hilly course at about 6:00 to 5:50 pace.

Note, some days I was very tired from work and ran that hilly 5 mile course in about 31 minutes (but if I had been fresh, warmed up a mile or two and then run the 5 miler I would have been more like 27:30-28:15 for that course). I was very realistic about my paces and never forced them down on purpose. Well, almost never. Two or three times I let my ego push me too hard. But, the two days that followed the day when I pushed too hard were awful.

*I realized it was better to keep the ball rolling rather by staying under control rather than spending the next two days and the following 3-day cycle feeling horrible.

During a 9 to 10 months stretch I had only missed 1 day of training, so my body was working in perfect synchrony. I was running the same paces (about 7:00-6:45, 6:30 to 6:15, and then 6:00 to 5:50) but with much less effort.

*I knew that my fitness was rock-solid, at that point.

One day I ran about 30:30 for that 5 mile course and timed the last 3/4th mile; noting that my time for that section was about 1 minutes 12 seconds faster than it had been just 10 weeks or so before. I remember running that measured 3/4 mile hill in 3:43 one week before running my first 5k of the spring (where I ran 15:51 - and it was a windy day with sloppy footing: I figure I could have run about 15:30s in good weather). The following week I ran 15:13 in a track 5,000m race (placing 5th, as I recall) behind 2 guys who beat me by 3 or 4 seconds (there were two more guys ahead of me, but they were way out there - about 14:40). I outkicked 2 guys on the last lap - ran about 64 or 63 seconds, but the last 200m had to have been about 30 t 29 flat). The following week I ran a 4:01.98 (1500m), despite having run no track reps or measured reps. My sense of pace wasn't very good and I lost about 3 seconds on the third lap when running alone and between two groups).

My only speedwork, per se, prior to any of those races was a weekly basketball game with buddies from work. I'll note, I think it was the combination of the rotation method, self-control of pace, and the regular use of hill running (every third day) that made my legs feel tireless in those races - compared to what they had in college. I wasn't running much total volume, but it worked.

I believe the key physiologic factor of my success that year was a much better capacity to run without buildup of acidosis. I was simply running tireless due to regular work on the stamina zone (80-90% of VO2 max). My fast twitch fibers, no doubt, became capable of runing fairly fast at a strictly aerobic level. My breathing was never labored and I felt in-the-groove.

*To this day I believe that forcing one's pace is counter-productive. And, another thing, trying to impress oneself by running fast training times is absolutely a waste of energy.

Lower mileage - but still effective?

Posted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 8:15 am
by mathwiz1
That reply was phennomenial!! Thanks!!

So I should begin at around 4 miles for my rotations? I really like the idea of keeping it simple.

As a side note, I have once felt what it is like to perpetually be "in-the-groove" and it is a great sensation.

As far as NOW,

I think that if I had some races as reference points to base my trainning on, then I would be feeling different currently and my race times would have been better.

A combination of poor pacing (5:38, 6:05, 6:02), giving up after the first mile, and sluggishness have been the most recent caveats as to my decision to change my plan.

I had been doing this:

M - 6 easy
T - 6 easy
W - 5 x 1200 or 4 x mile @ 5:56/mile, 4 x 150 hard
R - 6 easy
F - 1.5 easy, 5-6 starting at 6:38 and going down to 6:15 at the end
Sa - 12 easier
Su - 6 easy

As stated earlier, I misjudged my pacing and paid with a 18:25....but still felt like I could have gone faster....but had nothing in the tank with which to do that. I really gave up after the mile b/c my legs were zonked!! Finished feeling like I left a lot of untapped energy on the course.

Two months prior to that (June) I ran 18:10 (5:45, 6:00, 5:49) and finished strong, but with no one around, knowing that I could have broken 18 if someone was there to push me. This June race was my first race in 18 months. Obviously, I digressed, running slower two months later.

I have a PR of 17 flat and just want to be able to run slightly faster, consistently.

Lower mileage - but still effective?

Posted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 11:10 am
by maccy
"Run hills in training 2-3 times per week. Specific leg strength is vital to running success. The stronger your legs are the more training you can do without breaking down. The more training you can do without breaking down the better your race performances will be, on average."

so on recovery or EZ runs one can/should incorporate hills? Apart from a specific hill session, how best to incorporate hills? Is it okay to work harder up the hill to maintain your pace as long as it doesnt tire you out too much?