How Long Should a “Week” Last?
Most people will answer “seven” because that’s the Mon-Fri calendar week everything else depends on and which sets many routines.
But is that the best way to organize a training schedule?
I’ve heard over the years that professionals, especially endurance athletes set their schedules in blocks that disregard the seven day calendar week. This makes sense for a typical racing schedule, where races are infrequent, compared to team sports where is a distinct and shorter “season.” For North America, the race season starts in earnest in March, not letting up until late October. And there are winter events, such as indoor track at the college level, or cyclocross. For higher latitudes and altitudes, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing are available. So for periodized planning and preparation, perhaps longer “blocks” make sense than a typical Mon-Sun.
But the main reason is to get adequate recovery from the harder workouts. Trying to fit different kinds of “hard” or “quality” workouts in seven days may not leave enough days for easier recovery and aerobic training. Leading to injury, illness, and burnout. Trying to fit a long effort, intervals, and strength all in one seven day week, may be too tall an order fora an athlete.
I got Meb Keflezighi’s book for my niece for Xmas, and while flipping through it and ignoring the advice to eat lots of animal protein Meb’s training schedule caught my eye. Instead of a seven day week, Meb schedules his workouts over a nine day “week.” This allows for two days of recovery between hard sessions.
A traditional 7 day week for running might look like this:
Nine Day Week:
1: VO2 max intervals
4: Long Intervals or Tempo
Each hard workout gets two easy days for recovery before another challenge, compared to a more typical schedule. Strength workouts, which challenge the body differently, could be worked into the easy days. The problem with this is that the workouts will fall on different days of the calander week every time which could get confusing, or inconvenient. Particularly for a cyclist, whose long rides are typically 3-4 hrs, such a workout falling on a weekday could be a problem.
Joe Friel described this programming as a good option for master’s athletes in his Fast After 50 book. Since recovery is even more of an issue for older athletes, and Friel believes in not sacrificing intensity, a longer week makes sense, to make sure one is recovered before completing another hard session.
A famous athlete example of this comes from legendary mountain bike racer, Ned Overend. When asked whether he’s changed his training, his response was that he does the same thing he always has, it just takes him longer to do it. Overend has always belived like Friel in high imtnsity training. So he does the same workouts, just fewer of them over the course of a season, because there’s more recovery in between efforts.
An approach I’m considering, along with some “reverse periodization” to account for greater need for strength training and some El Nino supplied ski days.
Anybody experiment with a non-traditional schedule? How did it work?