I am lucky to enjoy a life that is busy. My wife and I always say we wouldn't have it any other way and often refer to our family as "The Robinson's on the Run". With that said how does one strike a balance of work, life and training? I refer to it as the power of four. A four day per week training schedule can be incredibly effective but also manageable. Below you will find a quick outline of some key elements that make a four day per week training schedule work for you.
Beginners - if you are just getting started with a fitness routine a four day schedule can be very effective because you are giving your body a pattern; one of doing something more often than not. There are 7 days in a week and if you opt to workout on four days that means there are only 3 days you are NOT working out. This gets your body gets in the rhythm of doing versus not doing. Example: If you are going to give me 2 hours a week of training. Give me 4 days x 30 minutes not 3 days x 40 minutes, the pattern will keep you going.
Intermediate - if you have a specific goal in mind and think you have to train 5, 6 or 7 days a week -- think again. I have coached a lot of athletes to great performances on a 4 day per week schedule. You have to have a specific purpose for each day that you step out the door (if you are training 5, 6 or 7 days per week you should also have a specific purpose to each day as well). Here is my basic approach to a 4 day schedule, please keep in mind that this assumes you have a good foundation of running before adopting this schedule.
Tuesday: Speedwork (typically shorter faster intervals at roughly 5k race pace)
Thursday: Maintenance Run (easy pace)
Friday: Tempo Run (typically a sustained effort of 20 - 25 minutes at roughly 10-mile race pace)
Sunday: Long Run (easy pace)
As you can see this schedule provides rest in between the tougher workouts in the week. Rest is one of the most ignored elements of improvement and must be treated with as much purpose as the workouts. The rest days do provide a great opportunity for cross training. Next week I will introduce a simple at home strength routine and some of my own challenges with this aspect of fitness.
To wrap things up, I will share with you that my wife and I have followed this schedule (on and off I will admit) for years. She has run her personal best 5k and her personal best half marathon on a 4 day a week schedule. For me, I have completed two 50 milers, three 50k and many solid performance 5k - half marathon distance (my personal best days are long behind me) utilizing a 4 day per week schedule. And don't forget - FUN FIRST!
~ Dusty (and The Robinson's on the Run)