Working with a variety of running clients, including many runners who feel the need to run their easy runs in the moderate zone. Limiting their ability to safely build mileage and make adequate gains following their quality sessions.
The challenge? The individual runs feels fine, but the athlete is slowly building fatigue and not recovering from the previous training. This compounding fatigue can negate the hard work and benefits of the prescribed quality sessions a runner completes, while also increasing the risk of over-training and injury.
One of the ways I like to address this issue with my clients is by giving them what I call, the week of slow. I limit my runners to 7-10 days of easy running. Retraining their mind and body to recognize how easy pace should feel and break the habit of pushing through all of their runs. It seems counter intuitive to many runners, to slow down, in order to get faster. I have covered this topic in detail in a previous post; Slow Down! Running Your Easy Run, Easier.
As a VDOT certified coach, I utilize the training zones in Jack Daniels Running Formula for my athletes. Before I can begin building speed sessions and lengthening the long run, the runner must understand the importance of the active recovery run. Runners improve by training at a variety of paces. . The faster and longer sessions a runner completes are designed to create a stimulus/stress to the runner’s body. The body responds by rebuilding after this stress, adapting so that it is stronger the next time. Similar to the way your skin scars after a deep wound. The easy running allows the athlete to become a more efficient runner while fatigued and can safely build on the aerobic fitness levels without adding too much additional stress to the body.
When completing the week of slow, a runner is given a variety of training tools to support their running; including dynamic warm ups and form drills. As a coach, I look very closely at the runners entire run pattern for each run session. When a runner first begins, they will often roller coaster their paces. As their body relies on the old habits, they will hit the front end of the training zone and back off repeatedly during the run. As the week progresses I can see the ups and downs begin to level out. The runner will begin to run much more by feel and not continue to check their watch. Ideally, I will begin to see the runner backing off on pace when they hit elevation gains as they are now running more by effort and not by the watch.
Active recovery is an important component in a training cycle. Getting in small recovery runs helps build an athlete’s endurance base and aerobic fitness. The more miles a runner can safely complete the better the training cycle.
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