I bought “Run Less, Run Faster” earlier this year, but I only read it recently. It seemed like such a weird premise to me, because I've always believed that more running = more endurance = faster times. I've started to realize that this approach doesn't work well for me. I'm fast-twitch all the way, which means I love going hard and fast, but I also think that this is why I get really bad DOMS. I've finally realized that for me, even easy running makes my legs sore – and it's not because I run them too fast. I've always done my easy runs nice and slow! I've also plateaued a bit this year, and I don't think I'm running to my potential with the way I've been training. On the other hand, I know other runners who eat up the high mileage stuff, and who keep getting faster and faster by heaping on the mileage.
Run Less, Run Faster is not about exercising less, it's about exercising with purpose. There are no easy runs in the program – they're all replaced with low impact cross training. They recommend to run 3 days per week: intervals, a tempo run and a long run. The long run is not a long slow run, they prescribe very specific paces each week. I found this quite daunting initially, but I've come to enjoy the extra focus that is required to maintain a specific pace. The other runs also have specific paces assigned to them (with easy to read tables based on a current 5km time).
Cross training is a very important component of the program. They don't mean the type of cross training where you sit in an exercise bike reading a magazine for half an hour! It's high intensity, low impact workouts, like spin. There are also chapters detailing basic strength training and stretching.
The book is well written, in that it is very easy to understand, but I didn't like the formatting. It looks quite amateur at times. I also really didn't like that the book tried to sell itself to me constantly. It seems like there is a testimonial style letter once every few pages – if I didn't think they had some valid ideas, I wouldn't have bought the book!
So, at the end of the day has this book changed my training? I'd say yes and no. My focus has shifted to middle distance races for the moment, so I'm doing less easy running but more sessions of speed work each week. My running is definitely now about quality, not quantity. I don't cross train as much as I should, because I don't have a gym membership, so I only really have access to cross training when I go to my mum's house or if I pay for a casual visit at a gym. I'm much more likely to take a day off between hard sessions now, rather than slogging through a slow, uncomfortable 45 minute run. This means that I'm recovering better, and running harder – because I don't need to 'save myself' for my next run. I also no longer add up my mileage for the week, because the number is meaningless to me.
I do still think that the occasional easy run has it's place – some days it feels really good to get out and just run for the sake of it. I guess that's running for a different purpose…
I have no answers yet as to whether the program works. After track season is finished I may follow the 5km program for 12 weeks and see if it makes me faster, but for now I'm following a modified middle distance plan instead.
Question: do you follow a program? Is it a generic program, or one designed specifically for you?