by Elevate Fitness Running Director, Kevin Collins
In Running, more is more up to the point of diminishing returns. Once adapted to more, your body can sustain paces for longer than before. Remember that speed is also having the ability to resist slowing down miles earlier in a race or not at all at various distances. Diminishing returns or the point at which more running over any given timeframe is no longer making you stronger are different for everyone depending on 1) How much their body can handle currently and 2) How much your lifestyle can handle.
A young All-American Post-Collegiate Runner who is working a full-time desk job and working on an MBA with a newborn, for example, may be perfectly fit and rested enough to run more than 15 minutes per day, but their lifestyle cannot sustain it. Likewise, a 70-year retiree with a long history of sports may have plenty of time to handle 60-75 minutes per day or perhaps even two workouts per day, but their body can’t handle the stress. An All American living under cheap rent and part-time work may be able to run 2 hours per day every day which would undoubtedly lead to adaptations that are on the fringe of the most elite over time. Diminishing returns is different per individual.
The six-day rule is a solution in that it allows the runner to run the maximum amount of miles/minutes per day under the least amount of stress to the body and lifestyle.
If a runner tells me they are “advanced” I might ask them: “By what measure?” They might tell me it’s the speed they can run or how much they can run at one time. My measure is: How much running are you doing per week? What does that look like? After all, a two day per week plan of one 30 minute run and one 60 minute run is nice variety, but it’s essentially the same # of steps, breaths of air, and weight-bearing in a 7 days stretch as a runner packing in 6 days per week of 15 minutes per day. 90 minutes = 90 minutes.
This is not to say that you should not do a long run once per week, but if runner #2 adds just 5 minutes to each of their 6 days per week, 15 minute runs, that adds up to another 30 minutes or 5k per week for some. Multiply that by 52 weeks or one year and that’s an additional 156 miles on Runner #2’s legs at the year’s end! Who is going to have better muscular endurance for running?
The second reason for six days per week is it holds everything in balance. For runners attempting 3 days per week of running, the truth is, nobody sticks to a perfect Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule. It’s much easier to develop an unhealthy mindset for training in which you are looking for excuses not to run that day rather finding solutions to fit it in. Monday/Wed/Friday schedule oftimes become Monday, Friday Saturday schedules one week followed by Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday schedules the next. Look at this on a month calendar and you’ll see vast irregular patterns of amassed mileage into tight frameworks of days followed by random gaps. Sometimes you can count the mileage between one Thursday and the next and see that your mileage has in fact doubled in a seven day stretch not readily visible looking at the standard Sunday-Saturday 7-day week. You can blame many injuries on these irregular and unbalanced patterns of running!
Another problem with a two or three day per week training plan is raw conditioning. Think about it: three days. One should be long run, one is a speedwork, what’s left? One base run per week is not building any base whatsoever. You do not HAVE the base conditioning to 1) Run hard (or fast) or 2) Run long, perhaps even finish them. These two are stressful workouts that challenge the limits of your running potential. Where is your training to do so on one per week? You are conditioned for neither stress.
TIPS for six days:
Be flexible. Excluding a hard day or long day, don’t commit to a wholly rigid distance or time that is absolutely like say 30 minute or 4 miler. Have a range. 30-45 minutes per day or 4-6 miles. This is a way of easing back when tired and advancing when you feel good. Your own habits with this process can be a sign of fatigue or peaking during many cycles throughout the year.
Embrace the 15-minute minimum rule. NEVER go below 15 minutes or 2 miles (choose either rule that suits you). Think of this as a “faith run”. It’s something you do come hell or high water. A run that is solely about keeping in good faith a habit for consistency. It’s a run that reminds you that EVERYONE’S body and lifestyle can handle it and sustain it. Pace be damned!
Know when the day begins and ends. A 12:01 am can start a day’s run just as 11:59 pm start counts as a run that day. I personally love these challenging situations when I confront them. Night runs rock! ☺
Document every run. You will have a greater chance of running daily when you document not only the days you run but the days you skip! Once you stop paying attention, days off will become months!
Want more information about the Elevate Fitness Run Club or other running programs? Drop us a line below!