Run Less to Run Faster

You read that title right. Running while in graduate school has been quite eye-opening this summer, but I learned something important that I only had an inkling about prior to this summer: it is possible to run less yet still run faster (in my opinion and experience).

The nutrition program at National University of Natural Medicine where Val and I now both go to school has been incredible on all levels. Meeting new people was and always is wonderful. Learning about nutrition and whole foods as medicine has been great. Getting into the community and visiting local farms was a new and rewarding experience that occurred weekly.  But the busy-ness that comes with school eventually caught up with me and began to affect my running. At the beginning of the program, I had no choice but to keep up with my training. I was scheduled to run The Oregon Marathon 2 weeks into the summer term and so I was still fitting in short speed workouts during week 1 of school and a few workouts during week 2 as well.With only 7 weeks of training after 2 months off from running due to a glass-puncture in my foot, I still managed to run a 3:01 best time at that marathon on July 16th and secured a second Boston Qualifying time. I was thrilled and excited to see what this heightened fitness would lead to this summer, but after the next week of just a few light runs to keep my legs moving yet still allow me to continue recovering, graduate school was definitely in full-swing and my hopes at achieving running goals diminished.

With my energy and ability to train every day newly diminished, I needed to make adjustments to my goals for the summer and fall. I had to reevaluate my desire to run an ultramarathon in August or even September–I just didn’t have the time for the required training–and if I was going to set any shorter distance goals, I had to make the most out of the times when I was actually able to get out for a run . The biggest change to my training was that I was (and am continuing) only running about 3 days (sometimes 4) a week. It wasn’t that that’s all I wanted to do; it was all I had time for. When I realized this, I didn’t want to waste a single one of those runs. I ran some 10 milers and one 15 miler, but I did a lot of shorter distance training runs which were run at quicker paces than I was used to running even on a speed day. I quickly found myself running 7 miles at 6:30 pace without much effort. I had a couple track workouts where I recorded the fastest workout splits of the year that included: back-to-back mile times of 5:18 and 5:19, 400m at 68s, and a 200m sprint at 28 seconds on a wet surface. All of these timed intervals, as well as all of the track workouts I do, were run as part of a workout and not as a solo time trial so I’m never running them more than 90% of my current ability. But it was the result of running a few 6-8 mile runs and hitting a 5:50-5:55/mile pace for a couple miles without intending to do so or feeling like I was putting in that much effort that I knew I had to focus on 5ks to half-marathons this fall.

A possible running week for me looked like this:

Monday – zip.

Tuesday – 8-10 mile run; moderate pacing

Wednesday – zilch.

Thursday – 5-7 miles; intense pacing

Friday – nada.  (or maybe a 4 mile run; easy pacing)

Saturday- 7-10 mile run; combination of moderate and intense pacing

Sunday – 90 minutes of pick-up soccer; moderate activity

There were some inclines and declines and those runs and occasionally I would swap out a moderate run with a track day or if I was lucky I got to run 4 days in a week instead of 3, but I never stressed about it. Why? Because I was getting faster without trying to and all I could do was scratch my head and wonder how this happened. Did I gain a bonus fitness level from the marathon back in early July? Did graduate school somehow give my energy levels a boost? No. None of that. Rather, I attribute my noticeable bump in fitness to more rest. 

Let’s be clear: by  “more rest” I do not mean more sleep, although that wouldn’t be a bad thing; the benefits of increased rest and sleep are well known and supported. Rather, I simply mean that my body was allowed to rest and better recover from linear running more this summer than I can ever recall in recent years of running/training 5-7 days a week. I suppose you could say that graduate school has been a bit of a Catch 22: I get less sleep due to being so busy, but being so busy has been forcing me to take more rest days from running.

Resting and super delicious and healthy Made in Nature snacks? Most definitely part of my summer.

min2 I cross-trained with soccer a lot this summer and still consider this a rest from the demands of road running.

In August, I ran the first ever 5k at the Portland Meadows horse track on a hot August morning and clocked a 19:48 on a sand course which made this 5k one of the most difficult 5k experiences I’ve ever had.

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I also raced a 5k this past weekend and I ran my fastest time of roughly 17:03. The best part: it was in the rain, on wet pavement, I started about 3-5 seconds behind the line (no separate time for gun time and chip time as there were no chips), and I ran well in the lead for the entire race. I know my body can go 16:45 with better conditions and am hoping to achieve that this fall as well as achieve a half-marathon PR. With the support of great people and teams such as La Vida Veggie, Nii Foods, and possibly others, I’m hoping for a great fall running season.

I wanted to end with what I think a possible week could be or should be if you were to try and alter your weekly routine to include more rest days. Here’s just one possible scenario and it should certainly be modified depending on your experience, goals, and fitness:

Monday- Rest

Tuesday – 10-12 miles (medium distance run; final couple miles or 15 minutes at a slightly faster pace; include some hills on the route if possible)

Wednesday- Rest

Thursday – 5-8 miles (shorter distance run; a few of these miles–middle to end miles–should be around or slightly slower than half-marathon race pace) OR Track day- intervals can include 1 mile repeats, 800m repeats, 400m repeats, or a combination of these and other speedier short distances)

Friday

Saturday- Long run (relative to your goals and fitness; easy to moderate pace); e.g. 15-20 miles

Sunday – Rest

If you’d like help with your own running goals such as running a faster time, running your first race of any distance, or any other goal, I would be honored to have you reach out to me so we can discuss! Comment below or email Wilfredoben@gmail.com so we can connect.

Happy Running!

 

 

 

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3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Neglect The Rest Day

Some people despise exercising. Others are addicted. A happy medium is obviously the healthier choice, but even those who don’t consider themselves addicted may get down on themselves when they let even one day slip away that they don’t workout.

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When I fall asleep at any other point than nighttime, my body is telling me that it needs rest. Sometimes I can’t help but listen.

Rest days are something I used to struggle with a lot more than I do now. I always had this guilty feeling like I couldn’t eat normally that day or I got antsy because the weather was beautiful and I wasn’t sweating it out on the road. I still should probably get much more sleep than I currently do, but I have disciplined myself to take at least 1 day off a week for recovery and mental rest. Even someone who loves running as much as I do needs a mental period of rest to avoid the rut of not running for several days or weeks. This used to happen to me all the time!

To avoid forgetting to take rest days when I’m race training, I write the rest day into my training plan for the extra accountability. If adjustments to my training plan occur, I simply move the rest day to a nearby day that I know I could use a rest such as before a hard day or after one. Amby Burfoot, 1968 Boston Marathon winner and running guru, once said, “You could spend a lifetime regretting the days when you continued running; you’ll never regret the three to seven days of rest.” He was speaking about resting or easing up when dealing with even a minor injury, but I think his main point can be applied to rest and recovery in general terms as well.

For runners, triathletes, swimmers, cyclists, crossfitters, rock climbers, speedwalkers, and everyone else who has a heavy weekly training regimen, taking a rest day is important for so many reasons. Let’s keep it short and dive right into the top 3 reasons why I think you shouldn’t neglect the rest day.

 It’s Important for Muscle Recovery and Strengthening

If you think exercising and working out is helping you become stronger and more fit…you’re not entirely correct. When your body is able to rest (and I don’t mean the 2 minute rest in between track intervals) it is also able to start repairing muscle damage accrued during your workout routine. When you run, lift weights, etc., you’re actually breaking muscle tissue and that tissue needs repairing if you want to continue your healthy lifestyle. Have you ever gone out for a morning run after a previous hard day and feel like your legs were lead? You probably could have benefited from a bit more rest.

Taking an entire day off to recover is a great decision for the benefit of your body’s health. This doesn’t mean, though, that it’s necessarily okay to lay on the couch all day because you don’t want to use the leg muscles you use for running. In fact, walking is a great way to also help your muscles recover because it will promote oxygen and blood flow.

 It Can Help Reduce Risk of Injury

Exercising hard every day is a lot on your joints and muscles. Inflammation increases in the body after you run–this is natural–so you want to give your body the opportunity to reduce that inflammation and to prevent injury. Proper nutrition can help reduce inflammation, but rest is also essential. Stress fractures, strained muscles, soreness, tightness, and other injuries are much more likely to happen when you keep your body in overdrive every day without turning off the engine. Speaking of engines and overdrive…

 It Can Help You Avoid Burnout

If you’re running and working out 7 days a week, there’s a good chance you enjoy what you’re doing. There’s an even better chance that you at least enjoy the results of your efforts. But there’s always the chance that doing too much of what you enjoy doing can result in burnout. Hopefully you like your job; most people hope to. Do you think you’d want to continue working there if you didn’t get at least one day a week to yourself where you didn’t have to report to the office or check-in with your co-workers? You may have no choice due to bills and other responsibilities, but your feelings about work and productivity would likely take a turn for the worse if you suddenly found yourself in that situation.

Too much of a good thing, may not actually be a great thing. If you love running or any other type of exercise, you’re more likely to continue loving it by giving yourself at least one rest day–one day to recoup. Think of it as a mental health day. The best part is that your exercise of choice is not going anywhere. It will be right there waiting for you tomorrow and you’ll be much more refreshed to take it on!

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A rest day when on a vacation is never a bad thing. Especially when you have certain amenities to take full advantage of all day long!

So give yourself some TLC and treat yourself to some weekly R&R…You won’t regret it!