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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How I train: Running volume

A quick note - Thanks for the questions. If I don't answer your questions here, I will do a Q and A post at the end and answer everything I miss.

 Day one of How I Train: 
Ah, volume. I know it's important, but so is having enough free time to re-read all the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.
Want to know a dirty little secreet? Part of the reason I got faster is because I didn't want to have to dedicate so much of my time to running. Faster = more miles, less time commitment.

Mileage: I run about 45 miles a week. To get faster, I added 15 to 20 miles a week. I think more would be better - probably 70 - but I simply don't want to commit the time. After a race I cut it down to about 30 for a recovery week.
If I averaged out miles for marathon #1, I did about 20 a week. Now I generally stay around 45, but I go over that on weeks that I race or do a 20 miler.
I know mileage has made a huge difference in my running, and I really would improve if I could buckle down and increase that number. Last year when I went from a 4:15 to a 3:27 marathon, I didn't do any speedwork - I just increased my miles. It's that important. If I could make just one change in my training it would be to increase mileage. In fact, I think ANY runner with the time and inclination to build up to and maintain 70 miles per week could meet or beat my marathon time. You just don't get good at anything without practice.
In the future I would like to add miles, so if you are friends with me on Dailymile and see me slacking off, send me a "Get off your tush" motivation.*

Days a week of running: I feel best with six or seven - six on weeks I remember to go to the gym and get my puny muscles pumping. I don't like taking days off. If I do, the fronts of my calves hurt the next day!
This is another change I made that improved my time - running just 4 or 5 days a week, like I used to, gave me fewer quality runs because I felt stiff and out of shape after off days.

Days off: Rarely am I off from running and the gym - probably two or three times a month. If I'm sick I take off, unless I feel like a run would do me good. I prefer to limit the excuses that I'll allow for a day off. When I was 4-hour marathoner, I took days off whenever anything hurt, believing that I was preventing injury. Not only was I injured anyway, I was just hurting my fitness, which in turn led me to more injury. I went into my first marathon with low levels of fitness and low confidence in my running.
This brings me to a point I meant to make: To a certain extent, running will hurt. That's ok. If you maintain a certain level of fitness all the time, you will know if the hurt you are feeling is normal and will go away (ie, sore knees from old shoes, pain from bruised nail bed, stiffness post-race, side cramps during a fast run) or if you are heading for an injury like a sprain, tear, or fracture. So it sounds paradoxical, but more running can actually help prevent injury.

Next up: How I run - the types of running, speed, and distances I do.
Questions? Ask below. If I don't know the answer I will make one up that sounds plausible. 
*You aren't friends with me on Dailymile? Why not, you don't like me?


  1. Enjoyed reading this and I like the way you train and what has helped you improve!

  2. This makes sense! I run fewer days/wk now than I did in college, and the front of my calves have been hurting. I attributed it to old age (27 haha) and shin splints, which makes me want to run less. But I want to try running more often and see what happens now!

  3. I'm bookmarking every one of these! Thanks for all of the information :)

    Don't hate me but I don't do DailyMile - I prefer the old pen and paper route :)

  4. 3:09 on 45 mpw?!?! WOW. (bowing down) you def sound like you were born to run! Oly t's 2016!

  5. I'm with Lindsay now! Girl, I'm thinking you got some natural ability tucked in there too. A 3:27 with no speedwork either?!?! Amazing. I peaked at 58 miles this cycle, 2 days of speedwork and I did a 3:38. It was a hilly course though, so who knows... Plus I am an old lady. That doesn't help matters.

    Great post!

  6. Holy crap!
    4:15 to 3:27?!?!
    That's freaking awesome.
    I'm with you on the volume thing!!!!!!

    1. Ok, the only way I can get a comment in is as a reply, to forgive that! Anyhow, I am a believer in miles, too. My best marathons have come when I'm putting them in. However, I've only gone up to around 60; not sure what would happen if I went to 70!

      So I'm looking forward to your next part--speedwork, 'cause I know you're stinking fast!

      You asked about my shoes--the Brooks Pure Connect. Love them and will do Boston in them. And if Mark is coming to town--GO! He is the nicest, most gracious man and he has fascinating insights to share. Tell him I said hello!

  7. This was really interesting to me. I try to max out at 4 days of running a week with occasional weeks with 5 runs because I am very injury-prone. Anymore than two days of running in a row and I start to feel some aches and pains. I know that most really fast runners (ahem you!) put in A LOT of miles though so maybe it's something I would just need to build up to. I also really enjoy cross-training lots though!

  8. That is nothing short of amazing. No speed work with those results... WOW.

  9. I usually run 5-6 days per week and for me, reducing my mileage has actually been more effective. 45-50 miles per week are usually my max during marathon training. That being said, it could have been the combination of doing more comprehensive workouts (gym, yoga, lifeforce) that has improved my muscle imbalances so I'm not injured like I was before. And perhaps now if I upped my mileage I'd be okay and not hurt all the time. I'm not really sure. But I also know that I don't want to feel so stressed out all the time about having to be a slave to my mileage.

  10. I never knew you were a 415 marathoner!! This gives me hope! I have been increasing mileage as well, although not necessarily for speed. Have no plans on lowering it. Thanks for sharing!

  11. "running will hurt" <--- luv it and say it all the time! i'm sorry, but if u're a regular runner u're going to be sore/hurting in some spot all the time...the people ask me, "well, i'm sore, should i take a day off?" i'm like, "uhh, if u do that u're never gonna take a day ON!"

    anyways, great post, and u're right about the marathon a big part of improving ur time is getting the base/mileage up enough...from there u add speedwork, but u need the foundation. :P

  12. PS - In regards to your comment on my blog (since I don't have your email), you my friend do NOT have big thighs in my opinion. Your are so tiny and don't have a thing to worry about or feel self conscious over. Just had to say that. Go get those PRs! :)

  13. Thanks for the advice! I have been looking forward to these posts. I always see your mileage on daily mile, but never realized (or added, I guess) that you ran that many miles a week. The most I ran during marathon training was 45 a week(4-5 days a week). So I guess I know ONE major change I need to make! Let me ask you, where do you find the time? Do you run in the dark?

  14. I am loving these posts... very informative:) My question is how do you stay injury free with the increase in miles?

  15. So true! I am hoping to start increasing my mileage but have been hesitant to "double-up" after my dress fracture last spring. I know I am over it but I tend to baby my body (you know what I mean).

    You may be getting to all this but I am curious about your running gear. What shoes, etc. I always like learning what things other runners find most helpful.

    I know you mentioned speedwork and I'm wondering about your long run pace , etc. I'm sure I'll come up with more questions as I continue reading these. Love this series!!

  16. Ok, just read your bit on the long run on your next post. Interesting take! I have heard both side so much it's hard not to get confused! For Houston I ran three 20 milers. The first and third were about 55 seconds slower than my race pace. The second 20 miler was only 15 seconds slower than my race pace. For me the variety helped. Best of both worlds?? Who knows- maybe I'll try something different next time!

  17. great to read your training information. I agree with you about increasing the mileage, BUT, I think you have some wicked natural talent going on too. I've max'ed out at 75 miles and this past fall I had several 70 mile weeks and while I am in better shape than EVER before, I will NEVER be able to run a 3:27 marathon. (but I know I have very little natural running ability going on) I'm ok with that! it is what it is. I keep training hard and enjoying my journey. I can't imagine WHAT you can run if you ran speed work and tempo runs......

  18. This is great to be able to read in detail someone else's thoughts on training! Thanks for this post!