I think the biggest disservice us amateur runners can do is to try to copy the schedule of a pro runner. There are so many reasons why this is a bad idea, yet I see all too often: Runners trying to push the limit of how much they can fit into their already very busy lives—and then ending up totally confused when they are burned out, overtrained, or injured.
We have to remember that it is a pro’s job to run. Their “9 to 5” is putting in the work for running. Rest and recovery (i.e. naps) are a part of their job. And that extra rest is what helps them to sustain their really intense training loads. You can’t do the training without the recovery.
When I was a newer more zealous runner, I would try to do it all. I did 80 mile weeks—usually double runs plus two hours of strength training a day (a barre class and a home strength workout). I was livin’ la vida loca, newly dating my now husband, Tyler and not really sleeping that much. Let me tell you how this turned out at my next race: I ran a full 19 minutes slower than my previous marathon. And I was totally confused how that could happen since I worked so hard in my training.
What totally escaped me is that the work is only so good as the recovery. In my mind it was a simple equation: hard work = results. And the more work, the better the results, right? Maybe that is how it is with most things in life, but I promise you in running, it’s not that way.
The running equation is actually: hard work + recovery = results.
And so many of us runners miss that when we go to make up a schedule.
We focus so much on the hard work and completely ignore the recovery, taking on an almost masochistic approach to training. We’re too “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” and show up to start lines so exhausted before the gun even goes off.
It took me forever to realize this, but now I have totally mellowed out with training. I’m no longer trying to copy anyone else’s training, because I realize that training needs to fit into my life, not have my life fit into training.
I don’t have unlimited time for workouts. I don’t have unlimited time for recovery. So I had to figure out what fits with my life. And that’s the best advice I can give any runner: Figure out what is smart and sustainable for you and for your life—and that will keep you LOVING running. Not feeling totally pressured and overwhelmed by a schedule that is not realistic.
I’m a real estate broker with a high stress/time consuming job. I’m a new mommy. And as much as I love running, I have limited time in my day for it—so I have to make the time I do have count.
I landed on five days a week of running (which also is just three days during my work week), plus two to three strength workouts a week. It doesn’t sound that intense, but it’s not about having the most intense schedule.
You never need to feel bad about doing the schedule that works best for you—no matter what anyone else is doing. It has to work for you first. If it works for you, then you’ll thrive on it and progress.
It’s crazy how being overworked and under-recovered can hide potential. I know that it hid my potential for too long. I had no idea I had speed in my legs because I was always exhausted. How could they run fast when they never got a chance to recover?!
Slimming down my running from doubles everyday (that’s 14 runs a week—because “I love running and had to prove it by running the most miles!”) to 5 runs a week completely changed my running. I found speed in my legs, I was excited to run again, I started to feel confident in my running, and I had restored balance in my life.
It seems counterintuitive that doing less (but higher quality and smart training) can actually produce way better results for us amateur runners, than overworking and trying to copy training that was never intended for our lives.
Here’s a snippet of my training, just so you can see that if it can work for me, it may be a great fit for you too—but remember, don’t base your training on anyone else’s.
Five runs a week:
- two hard workouts a week
- three easy runs (all in the 10-12 minute pace).
I ran a 1:27 half / 3:11 marathon with that training.
You can find balance with running, have it fit into your life in the perfect way, and also improve as a runner. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
If your schedule now is overwhelming you, take a step back and see what would feel more manageable and having you enjoy your runs more. The key to success in running is to love it, and you love it a lot more when you feel great doing it.