MEGAN FLYNN, PTC, DPT.
When it comes to building a training schedule, most runners and coaches follow a 7-day training plan which usually consists of some combination of speed work, tempo, long run, and easy days. For most, this seems to make sense given that our everyday lives and routines are structured around a Monday to Friday work week followed by a two-day weekend. However, not all runners are the same. If a runner struggles to recover from workout-to-workout, after long runs or continues to face injury, changing from a 7-day plan to a 10-day plan (or longer) should be considered. A longer, non-traditional training cycle has its pros and cons – all of which should be taken into account for each runner’s individual needs and schedule.
A major benefit of the 10-day training cycle is that it allows for extra recovery between quality days such as workouts and long runs. Instead of trying to squeeze in possibly three to four quality efforts in a span of seven days, extending this to a ten-day cycle will build in some extra recovery days. This would allow the athlete to fully recover from the previous workout prior to forcing another high-intensity or high-volume day. For example, if a training plan has a high-intensity workout on Tuesday and Thursday, the athlete may not have enough time to recover between workouts. Instead of forcing this, spreading the workouts out to Tuesday and Friday may prove beneficial and ultimately result in a more successful workout (defined by hitting prescribed paces/efforts).
Not only does a 10-day cycle allow for physical recovery between workouts, but it also allows for mental recovery, permitting the runner to completely focus on the workout at hand. Instead of having a quick turnaround between workouts, the athlete can fully focus on one workout at a time, followed by recovery days, and then switch their focus to the next workout when appropriate. When given this opportunity to fully recover, it allows the quality days to be more beneficial to the runner and avoids the feared “burnout”.
Of course, the 10-day training cycle has some cons. First and foremost, it may not fit into a full-time job schedule. At some point, there would likely be a long run in the middle of the week which would be difficult for a 9-to-5 working individual or for a parent to fit into their busy week-day schedule. In this case, the runner may want to consider an even longer training cycle – say, 14 days. This would allow for adequate recovery, avoid burnout, and fit this person’s schedule. Another con to using a non-traditional length training cycle is that it is more difficult to plan. Instead of knowing, for example, that you will always have a long run on Sunday, a workout on Tuesday, etc., each week would fluctuate. This could make it more difficult for both the coach and athlete to schedule the training cycle.
At the end of the day, when deciding what length of training cycle would be optimal, both the pros and cons should be weighed. If you are a runner who is struggling with recovery time, then a longer training schedule may be appropriate for you. If 10 days is not feasible for your schedule, then maybe consider even a 14-day training cycle. Moral of the story: don’t get stuck or feel forced to use a “traditional” 7-day plan if it is not working for you. Try out different training styles and see what helps you perform at your best!