I admit it. I believe in the three-day-a-week workout plan. Run three days, take the other four off. Call it lazy, wimpy, absurd. Call it whatever you want. But the three-day workout week works for me and many people I coach. It’s pure gain without pain.
You only need to run three times a week to maintain or boost your current fitness level. ON this schedule, you can improve race performances, train for and complete marathons, recover from injuries more quickly and have more days free for your family, work, social life and other athletic pursuits.
Why Does It Work
Here’s why it works so well. Every time you run long or hard, small micro-tears may occur in your leg muscles and tendons. Even if you shorten the distance of the workout and run slowly the following day, you might prevent those tears from healing quickly.
So if you’ve been struggling to find the time or motivation to run six days a week, relax. You have another option: my three-day plan. To do it, cut out slow recovery runs instead. For instance, let’s say you’re currently doing a weekly long run of 8 miles and four shorter runs of 4 miles. Just switch to three 8 mile runs.
IF you have any doubts about whether this method works, remember the story of the late Dr. George Sheehan. He experienced a slowdown in his marathon times during his late 50’s. So he switched from running 5 miles a day, six days a week to two 10 mile runs and a weekend race. At age 60, he ran a lifetime marathon best of 3:01.
The Weekly Plan
Run 1. Do a long run
Running long distances once a week can significantly boost your fitness. Increase your long run by 1 mile each week until you reach 10 miles. If your training for a marathon, keep adding 1 to 2 miles every other week until you reach 18 miles. At that point, you can increase the distance by 2 to 3 miles every third week. The pace of your long runs should be about 2 minutes per mile slower than your marathon race pace. On the weekends, when you don’t add miles, your long run can equal about half the distance of your effort. For instance, if your longest run equals 20 miles, you can run 10. Or substitute a race for your long run.
Run 2. Do a fast run
To boost performance, devote one day each week to speed play. If you don’t want to run with a stopwatch, simply accelerate for at least 100 meters, slow down, speed up, slow down. Repeat 5 to 10 times. Make sure to include a warm-up and cool-down.
Run 3. Do a fun run
Explore. Find a scenic trail. Run with fun, talkative people. Let your kids chase you around the yard for 45 minutes. Do something new. Be adding novel, entertaining components to one workout each week, your running won’t become stagnant. And you’ll subconsciously carry the fun into your other runs, which will keep you motivated.
To keep cross-training interesting, pick a few different exercises you can do for 5 to 15 minutes at a time. For instance, try riding an exercise bike for 10 minutes, throwing some weights around for 15 minutes, then hitting the pool for 5 minutes of aqua jogging.
Make up for your losses. On your days off, you’ll miss the stress release allowing you to go farther and faster. I guarantee you’ll get faster.