I’m constantly evolving my exercise routine based on my shifting goals as well as responding to what I feel my body needs. Right now I’m in the midst of a new shift and I feel more confident than ever about the program I’ve put together.
Motivating Factors: Injury, Aging, and Racing
I can identify three different motivating factors that have informed the program I’m engaged in at this point: injury, aging, and racing.
On the injury front, right now I’m coming back from a series of lower leg and foot injuries that started way back in the fall with a bad flare up of plantar fasciitis followed by foot and lower leg injuries in April-July. Today is the first day I’ve run without any sort of nagging injury in a very long time, and comes after taking a full month off of any real running.
Next up: aging. As we age we lose muscle and have to work hard to avoid serious muscle loss. I turned 40 this past summer and think that I need to pay greater attention to building muscle.
Finally, racing: I want to be able to run ultras and complete them with a chance of being healthy. This requires that I run sustainably and work hard.
These three factors combined to suggest a few key changes I needed to make:
- I need to run less frequently, but make each run count.
- I need to increase the intensity of my strength workouts to try and actually build muscle, not just maintain my current level of strength.
- I need to supplement my running with low-impact cross-training to support aerobic development while giving my legs plenty of recovery time.
Work Out, Cross Train, Run, and Repeat
After a lot of thought, with those motivations in mind, I’ve devised the following exercise program:
- Monday: Full-body strength training and mobility. The goal on Mondays is to hit three major areas – push, pull, legs – and hit them hard, while avoiding injury. This means I’m selecting a level of intensity I can maintain for five to fifteen reps, but doing a lot of reps. A typical workout on Monday might consist of 100 pull-ups (20 sets of 5), 100 weighted split-squats (10 sets of 10 holding 20 lb dumbbells), and 100 pushups (10 sets of 10). I engage in mobility work in between sets allowing plenty of time to recover between sets.
- Tuesday: Cross-training or rest. This is a cycling day, whether indoors or out, though I can sub in a rest day if I feel like I need it.
- Wednesday: Running workout. This is a quality run day consisting of a few easy miles, a workout section (e.g., hill repeats, threshold intervals, etc), and a few more easy miles. The total run should take between 60-90 minutes and cover 6 to 10 miles.
- Thursday: Full-body strength training and mobility. Thursday is a do-over of Monday.
- Friday: Cross-training or rest. Same as Tuesday. Bike, indoors or out, or take a rest day if I feel like I need it.
- Saturday: Long run with tempo. Saturdays are for long runs. The long run is mostly easy with a tempo component either baked into the middle of the run or sprinkled throughout. A typical long run on the road might be something like 45 minutes easy, 30 minutes moderate, 45 minutes easy, or a 3-hour trail run at easy pace but where I try keep running up the hills.
- Sunday: Easy run with strides. 60 to 90 minutes or 6 to 10 miles easy with 4 to 6 strides at the end.
The goals of this program are to provide a strong base of strength, get maximum benefit out of minimum running, and supplement with cross-training while building in room for rest days if needed.
I plan to stick to this approach through the end of the year and see how my body responds.