The Birch Bay Marathon

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Singles Anyone?

I've been trying something new in training. It's called, "Singles," and the idea is to get all of your running for the day in one run.
This might not seem like such a big deal to most folks. In fact, the wide majority of runners run only once a day, if that. When you look at the training schedules of many of the top runners though, you'll notice a change. For me this change took place when I was a freshman in high school. We had a new coach come to our school in the middle of the year between cross country and tack. Although our team was already pretty successful, he made some changes. The most significant of these was the addition of morning runs to our daily schedules. Every day coach met us at the school at 6 AM for a quick 3 or 4 miles in the morning. The idea was that it was an easy way to pad the running log with some extra miles and that it helped us to be loose and warmed up for the afternoon workout, which was the more important run of the day.
Since that time, as I grew to appreciate the finer points of studying the training schedules of the elites, I've found that the broad majority of top runners (maybe 90% or more) put in 2 runs on most days. The typical schedule in the US is for a runner to put in a shorter, less significant run in the morning, and a longer, more important run in the afternoon. When I started studying Kenyan schedules I was shocked to find that many put in 3 workouts per day. A wake up run at 6 AM, a hard run or intervals and 10 AM, and an easy jog at 4 PM. I guess when you're living at a full time running camp, there's not much else to do.
Anyway, back to singles. I've been finding in the last few years (yes, I'm getting older) that I haven't been recovering as well from day to day as I used to. I was still exhausted from the previous day's run in the morning, and I was still tired from my morning run in the afternoon. Because of the daily grind of running twice a day, I wasn't able to really feel fresh for my big workouts when I needed to. That's when I really started considering doing singles. The most well known running coach in history is probably Authur Lidyard, and he said that doing one run of 70 minutes was more beneficial than putting in two runs of 35 minutes. His athletes would put in one solid run every 24 hours, giving themselves more time to recover. I've since learned that such notables runners and programs such as Meb Keflezigi and the University of Colorado also follow this formula. The idea is to take my 5 mile morning run and my 9 mile afternoon run, and just make one run of say 13 miles. Yes, the one run will be harder, but I'll have 12 extra hours of recover, and I'll be gaining in endurance. The goal for Lidyard's athletes was to get 100 miles in for the week. In other words, an average of 14+ per run! I haven't hit that yet but I'm getting there. Last week was 86 miles in 6 runs. This week should be 92 miles in 7 runs. We'll see what the experiment proves. So far I've noticed that I get to sleep in a little longer, I'm more inclined to have time in the morning for my daily devotional, and I have more energy for my one run a day. Now we just need to give it some time to see if it all translates into some PR's this year.


saschasdad said...

You know, since reading Running With The Buffaloes a few years ago, I've occasionally thought about this very topic.

I completely understand both sides. For me, when I'm really putting in the big miles (120ish per week), I usually run 3 doubles, 1 medium day, 2 long days, and a rest day. On the 3 double days, my morning run is shorter and easier, and the afternoon run is either hill repeats, track stuff, or medium distance tempo. That whole weekly formula seems to work well for me.

Great points to consider (especially Lydiard's opinion on it).

Ryan Altman said...

Just as I think about how to do a double so I can get in a hundred miles in a week you throw out "Singles". Go figure. I think you and I both know with family and work the doubles isn't likely and either is 100 miles per week.

Andy Martin said...

Sometime when you don't have an important marathon coming up, you can experiment with a 100 mile week. There is nothing magical about it, although it is the level of aerobic training that Lydiard suggests (160 km/week).

kcaba said...

Ah ha! Now I know why you haven't been getting my husband out of bed to go on your morning runs.

I like the singles approach. I have it mastered. Never could make doubles work for more than a total of 2 days in an entire season. As you know, I'm all about quality running....still working on the quantity. I'm anxious to see how this approach works for you....