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4 Week Running Plan: How I Set Training

How do you plan the first four weeks of training after you’ve had a long break from running?

This post will take you through my plan.

4 Week Running Plan

To start out with I’m working in four week blocks. The reason for 4 week blocks it tends to match my work schedule. You could do it in 3 or 4 weeks or even as a month. Something around that range would work. I’d say you need least three weeks to get an idea of whether or not the training program is working. Training takes a bit of patience as you don’t see the results straightaway.

I set up a four week grid:

  • days of the week across the top
  • weeks down the side
4 week training template

Key Runs: Intervals

Start with the main key sessions for this cycle. I’m using interval sessions. These begin with intervals 3 x 4 minutes as the set. Then I’m going to repeat this about every four days. They might jump out to 5 or 6 days depending on how my body reacts.

After a second 3 x 4 minutes interval run I hope to be able to increase the volume. I’ll do that by adding another 4 minute interval. Then in the 3rd week I’ll try to add another interval. Making for 5 x 4 minutes. I’m not sure how my body will take it. I might still be stuck at 4 x 4 minutes. This is the plan if everything goes as expected.

The goal during these intervals runs is to be able to run hard, but maintain the same speed throughout the first interval as well as the last. Of course hard still means hard.

Intervals plan

Long Runs

Next up we’re gonna a secondary key session. That is the long run.

We’ll space it out away from the intervals a little bit so it’s gonna be 2 days after the intervals and 2 days before interval sessions. We’ll be starting at 60 minutes. After 2 runs we’ll extend out by 10 minutes to 70 minutes. Repeat again 4 days later. Beyond that I aim for another 10 minute increase to 80 minutes in the final week.

In the 4th week I want a bit of a break from the higher intensity work. Give the body a chance to recover. A chance to absorb the training and make the adaptations that are needed. If things go to plan two days after that 80min long run I may get in a 90-minute run there.

At the moment long is a relative concept. The long run is mindset at the moment. That mindset is to keep moving in a way that’s sustainable all the time. The long runs are guided by time and effort. That effort is easy.

Long run in the running plan

Easy Runs

Between all these key runs there is one thing left to do. Fill in the gaps. These gaps are easy runs. I’m going to make the first easy run up to a maximum of 60 minutes. Anything shorter is fine. Just fill in all the gaps over the next week Same again for the 3rd and 4th weeks.

We’re keeping the pace way down. So easy it should allow me to be fresh to push the pace on the intervals. It should allow accumulation of run volume relative to what I have been doing.

Why so slow?

Ironically it’s so I can do more and go harder. This comes back to polarized training. Make your easy, easy. Make your hard, hard.

Overtime that slow pace gets faster. You just need patience.

Easy runs

Strides

There’s one more part to these easy runs.

Strides, run throughs, striders, easy sprints or pick ups. Call them whatever you want. Basically they just some short sprints. About 10 seconds to a max 15 seconds where you are sprinting below maximum effort.

Don’t over complicate things. Don’t worry too much about rest. It could be anything from like 30 seconds, a walk back recovery, you can space it out by five six minutes or anything in between. If you start feeling the burn in your legs you’re running too long and too much. This isn’t about fighting through fatigue.

Strength Training

One more element that fits in this is strength training.

I’m aiming to put them on the same day as the interval session. For first week,

I was lucky enough to go away on holiday for the first week. Down at beach I didn’t have the usual access to the weights I do at home. So I used more body weight work. These sessions were a bit lighter, so I was able to fit 3 in for the first week.

Back at home hitting the weights the load was actually a fair bit bigger. Strength training comes back on the interval days and that’s the plan for the remainder. In the fourth week we don’t have any interval sessions so I’m going to put a strength session after that long run. If I’m going to push the distance out to 90 minutes on that Friday a moderate strength session on the day afterwards on the Saturday will be the plan.

4 Week Running and Strength Plan

Extra Tips

Keep your easy, easy. You’ll get more from accumulating some volume at this stage than you will from pushing the paces too much. Staying easy on your easy and long runs you should be able to run faster and harder in the interval sessions.

If you’re not going to run every day, put more time in between the interval sessions. At this point you want the interval sessions about once after every three or four easier more aerobic base type running so if you’re running five times a week that’s probably going to be one interval session every week.

Remember these long runs aren’t really pushing the distance out-crazy. Overall the workload is going to be fairly even throughout. Just gradually pushing out the envelope a little.

Before The First Step Of Running: Returning After Time Off

They say a journey begins with the first step. But it begins before that. Getting back to running after injury, melanoma, skin graft and rehab I had to rebuild back up to that first step.

This 2020 journey begins with a less-than-ideal 2019. The main event was finding out I had Melanoma skin cancer: click for details

No Running

After injury, melanoma, a skin graft, time off work and rehab I was happy with moving a little closer to normality. The skin graft was my main limitation.

Weeks of bed rest. Weeks of no running.

Surprisingly I didn’t miss running all that much but I was getting frustrated at not being able to move like I used to be able to. More details here: 5 Weeks After Melanoma Surgery

First Run

Eventually I was able to go my first run.

It was for ten minutes and it felt awkward.

The idea of running felt great. I was happy to be out there again. But I wasn’t smooth. My body had forgotten what it was meant to do.

Bit by bit I built my running back up. The skin graft still provided limitations. I had to get creative to improve my running. Finding ways to prepare my legs without risking the healing.

Not Just Running

Those creative ways included:

  • step ups with a high knee lift
  • calf raise with a deep drop
  • directional hopping

These exercises appear in the video above. They are simple, but sometimes a visual makes it easier to understand.

The hopping was actually harder than it should have been. It’s amazing how much of the skills and coordination you lose after being bed down for four weeks.

The aim was to get back to where running felt good. Over the weeks I eventually got there. Running feels good again. That’s step one. There are many more steps to take.

When You Have A System That Works: Mess With It

When you have a system that’s working why not mess with it?

 

One day hard followed by two days easy has been working well for me lately. In fact it seems to be the gold standard for progressing my running. This training block I’ve decided to mess with that. I’m not sure if it’s impatience, the drive to get more out of myself, or simply a bad tendency to fit in more. Is it a mistake, or will it raise my fitness to the next level?

 

The Format That Works

 

  1. Easy
  2. Easy
  3. VO2max Intervals
  4. Easy
  5. Easy
  6. Long Run
  7. Easy
  8. Easy
  9. Hill Repeats

New Format

 

  1. Easy
  2. Easy
  3. Anaerobic Threshold (Continuous) 10km
  4. Anaerobic Tolerance: 12 x 300-100m, 1min recovery
  5. Easy
  6. Long Run
  7. Easy
  8. Easy
  9. Anaerobic Threshold Intervals 4-6 x 2000m / 1000m float

 

In the new format, day 3 is not crazy hard. It would be better to think of this run as a medium effort. The continuous threshold run is still a solid effort. I’m hoping it doesn’t suck anything out of my legs for the following day. I often feel a bit quicker the day after some faster running, as long as it doesn’t leave my legs wasted. It may give me a little extra kick for the tolerance intervals.

 

The 300m tolerance intervals are meant to be at about 1500m race pace. That’s a speed I haven’t run at for a long time. That will leave me sore the next day.

 

Now I’ve I’ve added a little extra faster running and taken away an easy day. All before my long run. This is the day of truth. When training for ultra marathons you need to nail the long run. If this wrecks my long run it isn’t worth doing. On the other hand, if I can also hit my targets in the long run then I expect some big benefits.

 

First Time Through

 

The easy days were exactly as they should be…. easy.

 

The first key was the 10km at just under my anaerobic threshold. All on feel over an undulating course. The intensity felt right. I felt quite fast during the run. However, once I downloaded the data, turns out I was a lot slower than I felt or expected.

 

That dampened how good I was feeling about the run. Still I shouldn’t complain. It was only one aspect that wasn’t up to what I expected. I’ll be curious to see how the repeat of this run goes next week.

 

Anaerobic Tolerance

 

Next day I hit the athletics track. The goal was to run 12 x 300m at 1500m race pace with 1 rest in between. I got through 7 of them right on target. How good does it feel to run fast?

 

Repeat number 8 was where the concept of anaerobic tolerance explained itself. It hurt and it was slow. More important to keep the speed up here. The remaining 4 repeats were dropped down to 200m. I was just able to hold onto 1500m race pace in these.

 

Next day I was sore.

 

But the day after that… still sore.

 

Long Run

 

Hmm, not so sure how the long run will go. I’ll give a go anyway. So out I went. At first I wondered how the 40km would unfold. Luckily I see found myself caught up in the act of running. I allowed myself to relax and resist holding back. My running felt good. Even easier than my last few long runs. I definitely had sore spots, but they weren’t a problem.

 

This feeling good got me to 36km faster than I have been in so long. The drop off over the final 4km was quite brutal. I still finished 5 minutes quicker than last week’s 40km. This became the first run I’ve done that gives me confidence I can hit my race goals this year. Better than the doubts I’ve taken out of most key runs.

 

Maybe it was a good to take my training and mess with it.

 

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Sometimes there’s a mismatch between how you feel, what you expect and the outcome. 🤯 This morning’s #run was 10km at just under anaerobic threshold. All on feel over an undulating course. The intensity felt right. I felt quite fast during the run. However, once I downloaded the data, turns out I was a lot slower than I felt or expected. 🐌 That dampened how good I was feeling about the run. Still I shouldn’t complain. It was only one aspect that wasn’t up to what I expected. 🏃🏼 ______________________________ #anaerobic #threshold #temporun #at #10km #runningalive #expectations #runbeforework #melbournerunners #keeptraining #buildthehouse #anaerobicthreshold #morningrun #runnerclick #running_highlight #runnerscommunity #runnerschat #pursuitwithpurpose

A post shared by Jason Montfort Running Alive (@jason_monty) on

 

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