Not all workouts are aimed at running really fast, really long, or really hard. They shouldn't be anyway... If I set out to tear around the track or push over the Red Line of my lactate threshold every day, my body will soon deteriorate. I will never recover and, honestly, I will not get the highest yield of benefits from my training. What then? If I'm not performing a hard workout, do I have a "purpose" for an easy run? Is that why they're called "junk miles"?
I do no more than three hard workouts a week: a long run, a speed workout, and some form of a tempo workout. In total, these runs take about 4 hours each week. When I'm running my best, I'm running about 12 hours every week. Why would I want to run 2/3 of my weekly training mindless and without purpose. Now, I do love to get outside, forget about anything else going on in my life, and just get lost (mentally, not geographically) in a run. One great benefit of running so much is the ability to make my way down the beach or through winding trails for hours and really just enjoy running (see Love the Run). BUT in pursuit of high goals, to get the very most from myself, to challenge how fast I can get in a season, a year, and in my lifetime, eight hours out of twelve on the road every week is far too much to spend mindless! Far too much wasted time that could be spent mindful of SOMETHING toward my running goals. Furthermore, how detrimental that could be to form and mental strength.
Finding a purpose for a workout can be easy at times, but more often it's tough to define. It's rarely as simple as Tempo, Speed, Long, or Easy. If that were true, you would see runners all over the world doing the same workouts every week. Instead we see teammates training for the same race doing different workouts with different purpose to focus on his/her specific needs. Runners are doing all different kinds of interval and tempo workouts of various distances, times, and efforts. Recognizing that every run should have a purpose is only half the battle. The hardest part is recognizing WHAT that purpose should be. It could be based on a certain pace, heart rate, effort, distance, or infinite combinations of any of those to cater to your very own needs in pursuit of your running goals.
Actually, after writing this, I can't say that it's simple enough to write down in a blog post. Everyone is different. Every season is different. Every week of carefully planned runs is different. All I feel like I can say right now is "purpose is important" and it's worth the effort and research and thoughtfulness, if you have big goals for yourself, to find out what your purpose for the day should be each time you tie your shoes.
I will try my best to give you a few thing to take from this and implement a purpose to your running everyday.
- 3 Workouts A Week. Earlier I said that I do "NO MORE than three workouts a week." This means that sometimes late in a training session I do only two! The Purpose of this is recovery. To allow your body to recovery from hard efforts will help you get the most out of your next workout. If you're not properly recovered, you won't perform well and get the most benefit out of your next workout.
- Easy Running. If we're only doing three workouts a week, why run 9 times!? Why not just rest to recover faster?! Actually, to run slow and easy will help you recover even faster. Your heart rate speeds up getting more blood flow to your muscles which helps flush out acid built up from your last workout. PLUS running again soon trains your mind and body to recover quickly to get ready for your next run, even if it's an easy one. PLUS PLUS if you're running easy enough you won't be overworking your muscles, but you will be training them and your respiratory and circulatory system. Not running on non-workout days wastes a lot of days that you could be raising your aerobic and muscular capacity.
- When You're Running Easy. As mentioned above, your easy runs through the week provide a lot of time to focus on form. Improvements in posture and cadence can go a long way in improving running form and are the easiest to monitor on your own.
After years of training as studying the sport, I have gained more than just knowledge. I have gained, through training myself and other, insight and understanding of how our bodies and minds progress as we train. If you're looking for guidance in pursuit of your goals (or know someone who is), I'd love to help you reach them. Visit the TRAINING page at thecarboload.com and let me know how I can help coach you past your current goals and onto the next.