Run Less Run Faster. Can it be true?
According to the experts at the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST), the answer is yes. I know I’ll never be one of those runners who logs a 70-mile training week or runs 6 days a week. Life is about finding balance. I believe if you do too much of any one thing – like work, or run, or blog – and not enough of the things that are truly important in life – like spending time with friends and family, traveling and having some fun – it’s hard to be really great at anything, or truly happy for that matter.
Unfortunately, “balance” isn’t always associated with half-marathon, marathon and/or triathlon training. (Just ask anyone married to one of us in this crazy cult we call running. *wink*) But there’s a theory out there that it can be.
I’ve been dying to read Run Less Run Faster by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss forever. It’s a book that first came out in 2007, written by experts who have been studying runners who are implementing their theory that running less can help you run faster if you do it correctly. I picked it up during the holidays and literally read it in 2 days. The book is so compelling and seems so smart to me. And I’ve been dying to share my thoughts on it with you.
Below are some tidbits directly from the book, as well as why I’m going to train for my next race using this plan.
The Training Philosophy: Run Less Run Faster
- The training program calls for 3 quality runs each week – a speed/track workout, a tempo run, and a long run, plus 2 cross-training workouts to enhance aerobic fitness. (If you’re not sure what speed and tempo runs are, check out this post I wrote last year about them.) The idea in the book is that if you want to run faster, you have to train faster. This program is different by emphasizing a faster pace for longer runs while allowing more time to recover between runs.
- The 2 cross-training workouts must be non-weight bearing activities, such as swimming for at least 30 minutes, cycling at a high cadence, or rowing. Workouts like cross-fit, P90X, yoga, elliptical, Pilates, boot camp, etc., while not discouraged, do not count as one of the 2 workouts for the training plan.
- While the plan doesn’t restrict runners to only 3 runs per week, it does highly caution that any additional runs must not interfere with achieving the target paces of the 3 key runs. When I first started reading the book, I thought I would add a fourth day of easy running. As I kept reading, the authors revealed that there were no differences in the improvement of those who ran only 3 days per week compared to those who did additional easy runs.
- The plan emphasizes setting realistic goals, and your training pace is determined by your current level of fitness (based on current 5K time), not your desired race time. The idea is that if you select a goal finish time that’s too ambitious, it will cause you to run too fast at the start, likely resulting in a slower pace and a disappointing finish time. In the past, I’ve always picked my goal time and then trained with paces based on that, not necessarily taking my current fitness level into account. This plan starts with your current fitness level in determining your pace for each of the 3 weekly runs, and allows you to move up when you’ve increased your 5K time or if the 3 weekly workouts are no longer challenging.
- The program has been proven to work and is based on evidence. In 3 different studies with 25 participants of varying genders, ages and geographic locations, runners showed significant improvement over a 16-week training period on this plan. Personal best times were recorded by more than 70 percent of the veteran marathoners.
- The authors believe quality performance is determined more by intensity than by volume, and their plans are designed to improve endurance, running pace and leg speed.
What really resonated with me about Run Less Run Faster
- I love that the authors have designed their training philosophy and plans for regular runners aspiring to improve their running, and that the workouts are geared to help you stay healthy and avoid injury.
- One thing that really struck me was the authors’ assertion that most runners can’t explain why they do what they do – what their purpose is for each run they embark on. The plans in this book focus on training with purpose – designing workouts that are based on what enhances running performance.
- Strength training and stretching are emphasized, and there are sample exercises and stretches recommended.
- I often do my speed work and tempo runs on the treadmill to maintain a consistent fast pace (and so I can’t slow down like I might do out on a track when I’m really hurting). The authors advise that it’s ok to do speed work and tempo runs on the treadmill. Their research shows that oxygen and energy costs for running at the same speed are the same running on the treadmill as compared to running on the road.
- The book contains great resources, including race predictor tables, pace calculations, suggested training pace tables based on your current fitness level and specific training schedules for 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon distances.
- The plan is very realistic for triathletes who are swimming and biking in addition to running, but who also want to get faster. In training for the half Ironman distance, I’ve always found it challenging to strike that balance between fitting in all 3 sports, strength training and life. This plan seems to complement an intense, yet balanced training approach for triathletes (and there’s even a short section in the book about triathlons).
Using the book’s half marathon training plan and suggested paces based on my current fitness level, I’ve designed a 16-week training plan targeting the Divas Half Marathon in Myrtle Beach on April 28. (It’s the third race on my 2013 race schedule.) I’ll be posting more about my training plan in the next week.
Have you ever read Run Less Run Faster? If so, what resonated with you most? Have you tried the training plan? If not, what do you think about the philosophy of the book I’ve described above. Is it something you think would work for you? Why or why not?