Workout Variables: Strength Recovery Jogs

Last week we discussed recovery repeats for speed workouts. If you missed that post, you can see HERE. This week I want to discuss the next group of repeats in the marathon training- the strength repeats. Traditionally, these are done at 10 seconds faster marathon pace per mile. You will see this written as MP-10. If you are familiar with HMM, you’ll recognize that the workouts are 6×1 mile, 4×1.5 miles, 3×2 miles, and 2×3 miles. The 6×1 has a ¼ mile jog recovery, while the 4×1.5 and 3×2 have a half mile jog recovery. The 2×3 has the most recovery, which is a mile jog recovery.

So if we are looking at the recovery from a ratio standpoint, the amount of recovery we are getting from a repeat is minimal compared to the amount of work we are doing. However, the intensity of the repeat is far lower. The other aspect to consider is the ability of the runner.

The faster the runner, the closer they get to the lactate threshold.

For instance, when I was at my peak, I’d train for 5:00-5:05 pace for the marathon, which would make my strength repeat at 4:50-4:55. My half marathon PR was at 4:52 per mile pace. So, with me, it all tied in nicely. However, I fully recognize that if your goal marathon pace is, say 10:00 min/mile, then there is not a huge difference there. Many of you may be averaging close to 9:50 pace for your marathon tempos!

I think that before we get into adjusting the recovery on these, we have to consider what we are trying to get out of these. For faster runners, it is accumulating volume at just under your LT. By faster, I’d say anything faster than 3:30, or so. For these people, it’d really be in the danger zone of your marathon pacing. You go out at this pace and sustain it, then it’s probably not going to end well. You aren’t at LT, but you are at a point that’s not sustainable. You’ll still be producing a lot of lactic byproduct and burning through carbohydrates.

For runners below that 3:30 range, really the closer you get to 4:00 and beyond, you aren’t producing big amounts of byproduct. We are really stressing the aerobic threshold, which is the point where we start seeing an inflection of lactic byproducts. It is often considered the crossover point of utilizing more carbohydrate than fat as fuel. With these folks, we aren’t working on improving the LT as we would be with the faster runners, but rather, trying to boost fuel efficiency and accumulating harder miles closer to goal MP.

As for recovery, you now see the trend- the faster the repeat will result in shorter repeats with a higher ratio of rest to work.

As you creep down to LT range, repeats lengthen out, volume increases, and rest to work ratio decreases. Once you get close to MP, the work to rest ratio will be the lowest. When I would do a workout like the 3×2 miles, they would be done in about 10:00 per repeat. A half mile jog recovery would be 3:45-4:00, usually. This would be a .4/1 ratio (about)- or 40%. I do see faster runners do similar workouts with 3:00 jog recovery, but I will say this, they usually aren’t training for a marathon. They are usually training for half marathons and under. Let’s say you are doing the same workout at about 20:00 per repeat. A half mile jog might be closer to 6:00-7:00, so we are still pretty close to that 40% range.

So… should we adjust?

When just looking at it by a numbers standpoint, I’d lean towards the idea of shortening these up. However, I keep coming back to the intensity of these, the volume, and the timing of these workouts. I also think about who is doing these workouts. First off, I’d say that if you are new to the philosophy, then don’t make this harder than they are. Now, if you are feeling super comfortable, or your paces are getting way too fast without any effort, then maybe consider it. If we were in that 40% range for recovery, maybe try decreasing recovery to 30% of the time doing the work. Or, even easier, back the 6×1 to a 200 meter jog, the 4×1.5 and 3×2 to a ¼ mile, and the 2×3 to a half mile jog and see how that goes.

I would be open to experimentation if you have been through the programs a few times and you know how you feel when you get to the strength block of the training. In essence, I want to be cautious. My other worry is the timing of the workouts. You’ll be in the peak volume of the training. You’ll be tired and you’ll be fatigued from the training. So, from that standpoint, just because you can, does it mean you should? That’s a decision that’s gotta be thought out. If you try it and fade off or you start flirting with injury, then stop it. There is no need to be a workout hero and not even make it to the starting line.

Going through this, I realize I am more vague on this, but I do think it’s something to explore in the right situations.

I think it’s something where keeping really good track of your previous data is a must.

Knowing how you handled previous segments should guide this decision. I don’t want you to take this as a free pass to just push the pace and take less recovery. I want you to focus more on controlling the pace and recognizing the effort. Then see if you can maintain that pace with less recovery. If inclined, give it a go. Best of luck and let us know how it goes.