Friday, April 8, 2011

Nike: Three Day-a-Week Training

originally posted April 10, 2009 by Coach Jay


Coach Jay, I have limited time to jog because of a new infant and a growing counseling practice, so I often have to choose between runs, baby and making money...so here is my question: can I squeeze out enough time to train for a distance run (either 1/2 or full marathon) if I only train 3 days a week?

I can usually get in Monday, Wednesday and Saturday runs (although if you thought it would help, I could probably do a Sunday as well). Most training programs are so time intensive that it doesn't fit. If I ran 3 miles Mon/Wed and long on Sat, how long should my Sat run be? Any help would be appreciated. - - Mike "the new dad" Hamilton

Mike - I can empathize with your question as I'm a new father (6 month old) as well and unfortunately, I'm a person who functions well on 8 or more hours of sleep. So, I've been a bit dysfunctional for the past 6 months. Seriously though, I love the question and no doubt others have the same question, but probably feel silly asking it because all of the canned training programs have you running every day. The truth? You don't need to run every day to finish a 5k, 10k or half marathon, but I would say 95% of people need to run more than three days a week to run a marathon safely (i.e. run it and not have an increased chance of injury following the race).

The first thing to be honest about is your previous athletic and running background. Let me illustrate the point. As a college coach, I could always run a 8 mile run with DI athletes on their easy day. It was hard, but I could grunt/slog through it even if I was horribly out of shape and a little overweight. The reason? I have an "aerobic history" of five years where I averaged 70+ miles a week each year (specifically, most weeks at 75-85 and then a couple of weeks completely off in the summer and 5-6 days in the winter). I also had a couple years in grad school where I would do a weekly 2+ hour run slowly on the Mesa Trail in Boulder while also running 40-50 miles a week. I bring this up to you because at the core if your question is the real question, "Are you new to running or are you a runner who is coming back to running?" If you are new to running, then I would suggest running 5ks and 10ks first (with a 3 day-a-week schedule), then training for a half marathon in the fall. This will give you 5-6 months of base training before you venture into longer distances. But if you're a former runner then you might be surprised at what two harder, longer days a week and one maintenance run will do for you. Are you faking it? Sort of, but again, if you have that aerobic history and if you just want to finish and enjoy the experience of a half marathon, you'll be fine with three good days per week.

Either way, I highly recommend that you find 10-15 minutes each day for some foam roller work or active isolated stretching (AIS) and some general strength from our videos (found on the video wall). You can do the first two without breaking a sweat and you could do the general strength after mowing the lawn. The idea is that you do something to support your running training while keeping two of the three days a week of running intense, longer workouts.

I hope this is helpful Mike and I appreciate your email.

*Coach Jay’s advice is provided as general training information. Use at your own risk. Always consult with your own heath care provider for questions relating to your specific training and nutrition.

Coach Jay coaches athletes at RunnersCoach.com and blogs at CoachJayJohnson.com. If you have a question for Jay, email him here: coachjay@nike.com.