What should I be doing for the short runs during the week?
This is a very common question. Much of the time it stems from our desire to see results every time we lace up our shoes. This happens early during the training season when each weekend run is increasing in distance: Longer run = progress.
Later in the season when there are a couple or even three weeks before the mileage goes up, we are still pretty patient on the weekend runs because we know that longer distance (or the race) is getting closer. Still, those pesky weekday runs confuse us. The distance doesn't increase (much) and the time sort of levels out, so what are we to do. Is just logging the workout enough?
In simple terms, yes, just logging the weekday runs IS enough if your goal is to finish a half marathon or marathon. But because we seek variety and improvement, there are ways we can turn the weekday runs to our advantage without hurting our recovery between long runs.
Below are 4 ideas for what to do on these shorter runs. I don't recommend trying all of these every week, since that would be more runs than our schedule call for, but picking one or two a week will improve your running and keep you from falling into a rut.
1 - Hills Combining long runs and hills is not typically a good idea unless you live in an area where hills are unavoidable. If a flatter place is available for the long runs, choose that most of the time since increasing distance is enough of a challenge for your body without adding the extra stress of hills. The short weekday runs, however, are a great time to work on leg strength by hitting the hills. Do this once a week early in the training season to build leg strength.
2 - Cadence Jeff has a great description of Cadence Drills and Acceleration/Gliders in Galloway Training Programs, the book you received with your GTP membership. Pick one run a week to count your footfalls for 30 seconds at a time and work on increasing your turnover to find a more efficient stride.
3 - Race Rehearsal Long runs on the weekend should be run at least 2 minutes per mile shower than race pace (as determined by the Magic Mile). Shorter runs during the week, however, can be run faster without significantly increasing the risk of injury. Pick one run a week to rehearse the exact pace and run/walk ratio you intend to use in your upcoming race. Even just a mile of this will help build your confidence for race day. Be sure to warm up and cool down with at least a mile at your long run pace, and make that middle mile or two a mental and physical rehearsal of what's to come.
4 - Tweaking the Run-Walk-Run Ratio Galloway Training Program group runs will always be at the pace and ratio Jeff recommends for your group based on the Magic Mile, but Jeff recognizes that the ratio that works for you may be slightly different from what works for someone else with the same pace and time goal. Pick one run a week to try out a new ratio and see how it feels. If you are in a 1:30/1:00 group on the weekend, for example, try cutting the numbers in half - run 45 seconds and walk 30 seconds. You may find that works better for you. Jeff himself has had dramatic success with a 30 seconds running / 15 seconds walking plan. See his most recent blog post for more on that.
If none of these ideas appeals to you or if you have a running partner who just wants to run and talk, don't get pushy about complicating the workout. The bottom line, as Jeff says, is that running should always be fun. Keep smiling, wave to the other runners you see, and encourage your friends, family members, and coworkers to lead a healthy lifestyle. The positive example you are setting could save their lives.