Do More With Less

For most people, the long, idle summer days we enjoyed during vacation as kids are a faded memory. Now there is more to do than ever. Softball and beach volleyball leagues, street festivals, concerts, bike trips, barbecues, pool parties, and if you're a parent, all kinds of sports and activities to chauffer the kids to. That's a lot to compete with a daily running schedule, and many people just can't fit a run in every day. Yet some people thrive on a minimalist schedule of three days a week, to the point where they can be quite competitive.

I've known a few people who thrived on three days a week consisting of intervals, a tempo run and a long run, averaging rarely more than 30 miles a week. Not everyone has the natural talent to run sub-2:50 marathons on such an abbreviated schedule, but it's certainly possible to improve PRs if you were only jogging four days a week to begin with, or maintain fitness. As long as you're able to do some sort of active recovery on days in between and keep your muscles stretched and loose, the minimalist plan could be right for you.

The bare minimum required to at least maintain fitness is about three 20 minute runs, just long enough to boost muscle strength and aerobic capacity. If you're starting from nothing, of course, anything can improve your fitness, such as a couple 15 minute jogs. At this baseline, don't expect to run any PRs. For that, you need to increase the intensity, to at least two days of short intervals, long intervals, or tempo runs.

Short Intervals - Three to six repeats for 3 minutes, at slightly faster than 5K race pace or goal pace, with a recovery jog for 2 minutes.

Long Intervals - Two to four repeats of 800 meters, 1200 meters, 1 mile or 2 miles at 10K pace, with recovery jog approximately half the distance.

Tempo Run - 20 minute tempo (or slightly longer or shorter) at threshold pace. See my previous blog entry, Determine Your Threshold Pace.

Long Run - Depending on whether you aim to run 5Ks or marathons, your long run can vary from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

Things rarely go perfectly, so you may need to get a couple runs in consecutive days. Or you feel any tight muscles or pain, you'll need to skip the intervals and just run 30-45 minutes at a pace that is comfortable. But it should keep you as fit as you want to be through the summer. In the fall you may decide to up your mileage to improve on times, or find that the schedule is perfect for you year round.

There are many ways you can approach maximizing every mile. If you have your own training tips, feel free to share!

Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.

Tags: This Week in Runners, Y, YMCA, Running, minimalist training, three day running plans, summer running

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