Last week I wrote about big data and what it told us about training for the mid-packer. I also chimed in about how I felt the HMM style of marathon training fit in. The reality is the vast majority of people under train for the marathon. When I say under train, I am referring to training volume. If you are a mid packer running 30-40 miles per week, then my guess is that it involves a lot of weekend running and then a few runs scattered across the other 5 days of the week. If you are a mid packer looking to elevate your game, then I would encourage you to read my book Hansons Marathon Method. This will bump your mileage and give you a new threshold in training for marathon breakthroughs. This post may be beneficial too.
Following a more structured plan will do a lot for the regular runner, especially if in the 3:45 plus range in the marathon. However, that’s not what this post is about. Rather, let’s say that you’ve been training hard for a few marathons, maybe even used HMM a couple times. You’ve seen success, but now you are starting to level off. Adding even more weekly volume isn’t really an option, so we have to find a way to get more out of our existing workouts and weekly volume.
Luckily, there are ways to do this and today we’ll talk about one of them. That’s the recovery times of your repeat workouts. Originally, I was going to talk about speed and strength workouts, but realized that this was a lot of information, so we’ll stick with the speed workouts today.
In the classic plans, speed workouts are done over the first weeks of the training plan performed at 5k to 10k pace. Now, I fully recognize that for the true speedsters out there that this may not qualify for true speed work in your world, but it is speedwork relative to the goal race distance. It’s more than plenty. When I prescribe, I tend to prescribe at 10k pace, but I know many of you will go with the faster end of the spectrum if given the option. What happens though, is that this ends up being a wide range of paces and so standard recovery given may not fit all needs.
Let’s look at 5k pace first.
This effort will be at an intensity near your VO2max for the faster runners, while closer to critical velocity (CV), for others. VO2max is the pace you can hold for up to 8 minutes while CV is the pace you can hold for about 30 minutes. Big difference, right? Two important thresholds, but two very different thresholds. To further complicate things, at 10k pace, depending on the runner, you might be working your CV or you may be closer to the lactate threshold (LT), the pace you can hold for an hour. This complicates the ideal recovery times.
You may be asking, what does the book say? For speed, you have 3 miles worth of fast work ranging from 12×400 meters to 3×1 mile and the recovery is 400 to 800 meters, depending on the length of the repeats. When you set the recovery to distance, you take out a major factor- the time that distance is covered. While it might be the right amount of time for some, you also have it being too much/little for others. However, when you are creating a plan that is meant to help a wide spectrum of people, things won’t be perfect for everyone. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be perfect and that is where this post comes in- showing you how to individualize.
There are general rules for recovery, depending on repeat length and pace. For instance, if you are working more of the VO2max end of the spectrum then the ratio is 1:1, 1:1.5, and 1:2. Simply, this is the rest to work ratio. If you are running repeats that take about two minutes, then recovery can be anywhere from an equal two minutes down to one minute. Personally, if you are pretty fit, I’d say that shorter repeats (400-800 in distance) that your recovery can be in the 1.5-2 range. The longer the repeat, the more recover and close to a 1:1 ratio.
The reasoning, you ask?
Well, it takes 90-120 seconds to reach VO2max per repeat. So, if you are doing 800’s with a long rest, then you are spending more time reaching VO2max- maybe close to the full repeat just to get to the stimulus you want. The basics of it all is that you want to run hard, but the recovery has to be balanced between short enough to maximize time spent at desired level, but not so short that you can’t sustain the pace.
Now, if you are on the LT side of things, then we approach the recovery differently. Since the intensity is less, recovery can be less. Think of it this way- we are moving away from an intensity that can only be sustained for 15-30 minutes to a pace that can be sustained for about an hour. Imagine going out at 5k pace for a half marathon! Phew. In any case, the recovery I always see is 90-120 seconds per LT repeat. However, in our case, shorter repeats like 400’s or 600’s don’t need even that and can be 45-60 seconds per repeat. I’d say anything under 3 minutes can be utilized. If referring to ratios, I’d say a 1:3 or a 1:4 ratio for LT repeats. The reasoning- well, again it comes down to accumulating time at the desired intensity.
If you were running, say 1k repeats at 4 minutes a pop, with a 4 minute recovery, then you would be essentially starting from scratch every repeat and severely limit the amount of time you spent at the desired intensity.
If we did 5x1k at that pace that’s 20 minutes of hard running, but how much was really spent at or near LT? 10, 12, 14 minutes? Now, if you shorten the recovery, you spend less time getting back to LT but recover enough to continue the paces then maybe out of that 20 minutes of hard running, we bump that up to 18+minutes at our desired intensity. A lot more bang for your buck! Not only do you increase the efficiency of the workout, you actually decrease the time needed for the workout. If you are an early am runner, how does having an extra 10 minutes sound? Maybe you’d even stretch! Yeah right, who’s kidding who? (JK!)
Ok coach, that all sounds great, but how do you know when you are in the right time frame?
The easiest way to determine is if you can still maintain the pacing. This may be true for both the fast repeat and the jog interval. If your jog repeats fall off a little during VO2max efforts, that’s one thing- I mean I am asking you to run pretty hard! However, for if you are more on the LT side of things, then the repeat intensity is low enough and the distance short enough that your recovery jogs shouldn’t fall off a cliff by the last few.
To reiterate, these suggestions on adjusting recovery times aren’t a must have for everyone. If you are new to the HMM style, then I’ll warn you- it’s not a cake walk plan.
There’s no need to make it tougher and you’ll see so much improvement as written.
However, if you are an old pro at the method and want to shake things up a bit, then this is a simple way to do it without adding more volume or more workouts. This is a great way to break through a plateau.
if you have the plan, or any plan of mine in Final Surge and are using the structured workouts, then you can easily adjust the recovery times on your workout. You can simply log in, go to the Beta platform and select your day. Then click the workout builder and edit the recovery. You can change the distance to match what fits your needs or ger exact and switch the recovery to time based. Eazy Peazy!
Next time we’ll have to talk about strength workouts and recovery times. Make sure you check out our plans at Final Surge! If you like our content and wanna help support, please consider becoming a Patreon. There are some perks for becoming a Patreon. If anything, please share this far and wide to help spread the word.