An Easy Week of Training

OK, most everyone knows (or should know) that in order to continue your improvement you have to allow recovery. That recovery is not just integrating easy days or cross-training days. It is also easy or “down” weeks of training.

Why do you schedule easy training weeks?
It is all based on the hard-easy training principle. Recovery weeks function much like easy days of training in contrast with the hard days. Workouts break a body down. They allow your body to rebuild. It is through that rebuilding process (rest) that you actually become faster/stronger not during the workouts themselves. An easy week of training within a complete training program has been shown to give great gains in actual physiological measures. This is important wording! If you train the same day-in and day-out and have highly disrupted, disjoint, inconsistent training, the effect of an easy week will be limited.

How often do you schedule an easy week?
You should schedule a lower volume week of training anywhere from 4-8 weeks. This is highly individual because of individual responses to training as well as mental make-ups. I have some runners who tend to thrive off 8 weeks of solid training before getting an easy week. I personally need a down week every 4-5 weeks – and that has not changed even since my college days. Know yourself. It is not just physical rest – it is also for the mental break from intense and continuous training.

What exactly do you do in an easy week?
It does not mean taking a week off… you will lose conditioning if you do. It does not mean running some easy miles on a few days.

There are several key elements to an easy week.
Plan on a reduction of about 40% of your usual weekly mileage. For instance, if you run 40 miles in a typical week, you back off to about 25 miles. If you run 30 miles in a typical week back off to about 18 miles.
Your goal is to have complete days off with an easy run or two interspersed with two high quality low reps workouts that week.

For instance:
16 x 200m @ mile pace with a walking 100m in between each 200m.
8 x 400m @ mile pace with a walking 100m in between each 400m.
1 x 1600, 800, 400, 200, 100 @ progressively faster paces for each rep (i.e. 5k, 5k, mile, 800, “faster” paces)

Of course it depends on your overall condition as to how many reps you do. And there are limitless combinations of quality workouts to try out. But, these workouts should not leave you totally fried! Most often athletes are surprised at the bounce in their legs after such workouts. The high quality running assures that you will not lose conditioning despite lower mileage while actually enhancing conditioning with the intensity.

Is there any practical flexibility in easy weeks?
If you are a busy person – work, home, volunteering, church, etc. – there are times that your training schedule can be disrupted. It might be as simple as travel for vacation or work. Life happens. This can be tough on many runners who want to “stick to their schedule and not lose ground.” In fact, more often than not runners get pretty bent out of shape and their psyche is adversely affected when those weeks occur as well. This is of course becomes a double whammy. You lose the physical conditioning of the week’s workouts and your confidence get dinged!

No worries – this is the ideal time to use that unscheduled “bad training week” and turn it into your “good easy week” on your schedule. It’s just a lesson in flexibility. You simply replace the easy week that was supposed to be two weeks from now for instance with last week (the “bad” week) and take last week’s workouts and move them to this week and continue the progression. No training is lost. And mentally you are still on track.

I have used this approach for years with many of my athletes with great success. The hardest part is getting an athlete to understand that a training schedule is not written in stone and with intelligent flexibility “life” as well as high performance running can coexist.

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About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - trailrunningclub.com. I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for Running-Advice.com. I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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One Response to An Easy Week of Training

  1. carrey says:

    Hi! I’ve been meaning to start on a running program but have no idea how to. I’ve been running races from 5 to 10 kilometers for the past 4 months and have not improved my endurance so far – although I cross the finish line. I had a cramp on my last run which included an uphill and downhill course – my first time. I chanced upon your blog when I was looking for a coach. What is the easiest program that I can start on to avoid the cramps and improve my endurance?

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