Learn how you can benefit from a longer and more flexible training schedule.
Competitive runners are always looking for that extra edge to help push them to the next level and beyond. They’ll scrutinize their diet, turn their training logs inside out, and search the Internet for that one secret workout. However, finding that extra bit of improvement might not come from tweaking a small aspect of training. Instead, it might be time to reassess one of the fundamental structures of the training plan: the 7-day training week.
The 7-day training cycle evolved through our natural inclination to conform to the traditional calendar. Monday was the start of the new week, weekends afforded the most time for training, and two other hard workouts needed to be fit in during the week. If our work and family life is structured around these principles, it would make sense that our bodies would naturally follow the same path in training.
Unfortunately, our bodies rarely conform to man’s manufactured measurement of time. Monday doesn’t automatically mean your body is starting fresh, nor does Sunday automatically provide the optimal training benefits for a long run. Sometimes, your Sunday long run wipes you out and you’re not nearly recovered enough for another hard workout on Tuesday. Likewise, you might find that doing a long tempo session on Friday leaves you too tired to run a quality long run over the weekend.
In the 7-day training week, it can often be difficult to fit in all the quality workouts you need to engage all the right energy systems. Likewise, for the injury prone or Masters runner, a 7-day training week may be too intense to stay healthy, given the tightly structured recovery periods.
If you’ve found yourself at a plateau, or you’re constantly getting injured or rundown, perhaps transitioning to a longer and more flexible training calendar — be it a 10, 14, or 21-day training cycle — might be just the change you need to break through to the next level. Interestingly, elite runners have long adopted extended training cycles in the quest of improving performance; perhaps the most well-known implementation of an extended training cycle has been the Hansons Olympic Development Program, which uses a 10-day training cycle. Here’s how you can benefit from a longer, more flexible training calendar and how, with a little extra planning, you can make it work with your schedule.