How To Structure a Training Cycle (When You Work Full Time)

I had a brief opportunity to live the pro life this fall but as anyone who’s been reading this blog for more than a few months knows, that didn’t result in a huge breakthrough but instead left me disappointed and a little heartbroken after Philly. All’s well that ends well, but upon reflection, I thrive when my schedule is busy and struggle when all I have to focus on is training.

One of the biggest questions that I get from people in real life and people on the internet alike is how I fit training in around the horrendous schedule that is medical school. Third year has been the absolute hardest of the years in terms of scheduling (and thankfully I’m officially a 4th year Friday at 2 pm), but I’ve still managed to hang on to a fitness base and ramp up for spring races. Part of this is a systematic approach to a training cycle, which goes something like this:

  1. Begin with the end in mind. My goal race for the early Spring is the Plattsburgh Half Marathon in early May. It’s sponsored by Skechers and many of the new Northeast athletes are getting together to aim for a sweep. I don’t need it (or expect it) to be a PR, but I do want to put in a good performance. To run a solid half, I need to have some reasonable long runs under my belt, spend time at tempo pace and get in some general speed work. Whenever you approach a goal race, it’s also critical to know what that race will demand course-wise. For Plattsburgh, the course features a LOT of sharp corners (not unlike the middle miles of Vermont City Marathon), so I need to be prepared to have my momentum disrupted and get refocused quickly.
  2. How will I get from here to there? Between now and May, I’m also scheduled to run the New England Trail Championships in April. While this isn’t a goal race, it’s a great opportunity to challenge myself for approximately the same amount of time I’ll likely be on my feet for the half marathon. Because it’s on trails (a river trail with reasonable footing but dirt nonetheless), I’m making sure to get in plenty of trail work on my recovery days and will be hitting Balboa Park next week for both recovery runs and a trail tempo workout.
  3. Where will I go from there? After the Plattsburgh Half, my next scheduled event is the US Mountain Running Championships which are WAY out of my comfort zone. It’s safe to say that from May on, I’ll be running a lot more vertical feet than I usually do but even between now and then, I’m working on increasing the vertical feet I run every week. I’m limited on the treadmill, but when I do a recovery run, I do it at a serious grade. When I’m able to be outside, I choose the hilliest routes I can find. Once the half is done, I’ll be heading to the mountains for a workout at least once a week with long runs on the Long Trail. Why not start this before Plattsburgh? Because the muscles and skills that let you go uphill fast are not the muscles and skills that help you race on the roads.

On a week to week basis, my Sunday night is spent looking at my goals for the cycle and deciding how my week will work towards those goals. On a macroscopic level, I always know where I am (base building versus strength building versus specific training) but microscopically, it’s all dictated by my schedule and where my legs are at. It takes some flexibility and a lot of faith, but it always works out in the end.

Week of 3/8/16: Goal of 45 miles with 2 workouts (continuous tempo and hill intervals)

Day Workout Focus Strength
Day 1  Regular Run Chest and Back
Day 2  Tempo Effort (continuous) Legs
Day 3  Recovery Run (on trails) Core
Day 4  Regular Run Biceps and Triceps
Day 5 Interval Work (30 second hill repeats) Legs
Day 6 Regular Run Yoga
Day 7 Long Run (90 to 120 minutes relaxed pace with strides after) Core

How do you approach your training cycles? Do you have a bigger picture and tweak it week to week or take things a week at a time and see how you feel as races approach?

2 thoughts on “How To Structure a Training Cycle (When You Work Full Time)

  1. Ryan

    So I just checked out the Plattsburgh half course map. Wow, that’s a lot of turns. I’ve never seen such a convoluted course before. I can’t even imagine how many volunteer course marshalls they will need to keep runners going in the right direction. Hopefully they will have a lead female bike as well as a lead male bike for you to follow.

    Reply
    1. Runner Under Pressure Post author

      It’s ridiculous, especially in those middle miles when you literally turn every few steps. I’m not actually that familiar with Plattsburgh despite it being across the lake so I’m wondering if it’s a traffic flow issue. I may try to get over there to run the middle miles sometime, just so I have some muscle memory. I hope they have course marshals and a lead biker because although I’m all for athlete responsibility to know the course, that is beyond the pale!!

      Reply

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