Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New Running Philosophy

I read everything I could find on Kenyan running philosophy and training. I found a lot of good information and started to map out a plan. Based on my research, these were some key take-aways:

*Take rest days when your body says it's time - no matter what the schedule says, if you need a day off, take it.
*Run only six days a week. Most of the Kenyans take one day off; usually Sunday.
*Make tempo and hill running the twin pillars of your approach. Start slow, finish fast.
*Stroll your slow days if you feel like it. Or go out walking after a race or hard run. Use walking as a way to "soften" the muscles.
*Do "drills" after each run.
*Run barefoot as much as possible.
*Vary pace, very much on your various runs. Some vary pace by as much as 3 minutes. This great disparity in intensity level from run to run is common. To Kenyans, every run has a specific purpose, usually expressed in terms of "easy," "medium/average" or "high" speed. When it's time to go easy, such as the run before or after a "high" session, Kenyans have no qualms about doing nothing more than a glorified trot. This low-intensity, active recovery allows them to still get in volume while leaving them ready to really nail the next hard workout. Most recreational runners, in contrast, run too hard on their easy days and carry around too much residual fatigue to hit the times they're capable of in quality sessions (THIS WAS ME). To reach your racing potential, follow the Kenyans-easy runs easier, harder runs faster.

So applying that to me, 6:30 is my race pace for 5k to half marathon. I decided to continue running 6 out of 7 days but only 1 hard day, 1 medium/average day, and 4 easy days. All easy runs are between 8:30 - 9:30, the medium run is no faster 7:30 - 8:30 and the hard run is no faster 6:45. Using the start slow, finish fast approach, my hard and medium run is a progressive tempo in 10-15 min. stages.

For example, today I did a medium run consisting of 15 minute warm-up on the treadmill barefoot, no faster than 9:30, then put on the racing shoes and did 10 min. at 9:30, 10 min. at 8:30, and 10 min. at 8:00. For my hard run, it will be the same approach but ramp down to 10-15 min. at 6:45 - 7:00 (I see no reason to run my race pace because if I'm training within :30 per mile, the adrenalin of the race will make up the delta and many Kenyans do not train at race pace put get close and continue to extend the distance but not the pace per se). For my easy runs, I haven't run faster than 9:00 and many easy runs in the 9:30-9:45 range (by the way, I'm loving the slow runs because it's a great opportunity to really concentrate on form and technique).

Right now, I feel very strong which is saying a lot since I was on crutches with PF 3 weeks ago and now I feel like I'm close to 100%. This approach is keeping me pretty fresh and the key is the easy run being very easy (I don't do short intervals anymore). Obviously, starting back with barefoot running as part of the training was been a huge benefit as barefoot running is the key to my form and technique which I must transfer to shoes. I make sure that I get at least 15 min. of barefoot running every day and I try to get 1 day of 4-5 miles of either barefoot or VFFs (a "no shoe" day). On a percentage basis, each week barefoot (or VFF or water socks) running accounts for about 40% of my running. I still use my Mizuno Wave Universe 3's as my racing shoe of choice (unless the Kuusa or Evo replaces it).

I've read that, on a scale of 1-10, the hard run should be a 8, the medium run a 6 and the easy runs 4-5. In other words, even after a hard run, you should not be totally drained.

Here's a few good sources you should check out:

Give it a try.



  1. Well, basically this is ok, and progressive runs are great. However... when you say Kenyans run 6 days a week, remember that they are running twice a day, or maybe three times a day. So the easy run and hard run come in the same day. Doing your easy run very easily is ok when you are doing another hard run that day. But if it is your only run of the day, it may be too easy. Especially if you are doing that 4 days a week.
    Another factor is: what are you training for? If you are training for a marathon, this is not nearly enough mileage. Or even for a half marathon. If you are training for a 5k, sorry but you are going to need those intervals.
    So your medium run and your hard run are 45 minutes each. Of that 90 minutes, I guess 30 minutes is "hard." Even if it's a bit more, I don't think that's enough "hard" running per week. (The Kenyans are running hard 6 times a week, for 6 to 12 hours.)

  2. I hear what you are saying except I'm not an Elite nor trying to adhere to an elite runners' schedule. I know the Kenyans run doubles and triples in a single day but I've modified for a regular human being like myself. This is what gets recreational runners injured. I respectfully disagree because I'm holding the same times with this schedule. I can still run a sub 40 min. 10k and that is fine for me as I'm not interested in trying to run faster. My concentration is on 5k, 10k, 10 miler and half marathons and for the half, I would increase my training a bit but hold to the same philosophy. Also, I've run 3:30 marathons which, again, is fine for me and I did it on a 4 day running schedule so everyone is different but over train in the U.S. Also, I don't need intervals for a 5k. I guess it depends on your goals. A sub 20 min. 5k is fine with me and I can do it by training at a 6:45ish pace for 20 min. as a tempo run . . . different approach, same destination. Bottom line, I'm a dedicated runner but running is not more important than my wife and kids and I don't like being injured so when you put everything in its place, a lot of hard running will just put me on the injury bed and make running not fun anymore. At the end of the day, running is about having fun and the spiritual connection with the earth. Most of us don't make money at this.

  3. Point taken - I should remember that everyone is not as competitive as I am. And you're right about not getting injured, that is the most important thing for ALL runners.

  4. TokyoRacer, you are fast and have very impressive times. The is the uniqueness of running as each individual is different. I'm played Div. I basketball back in the day and my dad played in the NBA so I know about competition at the highest level. I taller than most runners and I'm built to be a sprinter so I have to be careful in the mid to longer distances which I love running. I'm a forefoot runner but almost a toe runner, hence, the sprinter mentality. I have to spend 50% of my running barefoot just to stay injury free because all shoes hurt me to some extent. After deciding to stop playing competitive basketball at age 38, I started running so I've only been in it for 3 yrs. But, I have to be very careful because if I take my basketball competitiveness to running, I will seriously injure myself. I don't have the time, with the work and family, to decide the "time" required for me to perform at my highest level. But, if I did, sure, I would run much faster but that type of training regiment would take the "fun" out of running. I was an All-American basketbal player (I have a free agent try out with a NBA team) and All-State tennis player and played competitively since I was 4 yrs. old so, I've been there and done that. There is so much more important things in my life now. Sure, I'm still competitive and I still place in many races, hence, my approach is to run 2-3 races a year where I will take my pace below the 6 min. mile mark but I only do that in a few select races and I do the "minimal" training that will allow me to do that a few times a year, otherwise, I run for the sheer joy and spiritual experience. For me, either perform at the elite level or enjoy what you are doing and if you can do both, then that's heaven as that was what basketball meant to me. Since I will not be an elite professional runner, a few medals in races is nice, but I'm not going to make any $ at it so I keep it in perspective.

    By the way, I enjoy reading your posts and your times are inspirational.


  5. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reade. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

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