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How Much is Too Much?

Often times each week I’ll post links to various articles that I have personally found interesting.  Some weeks it will be 5 articles, some weeks it is 10…it varies.  This week I’ve found a couple of articles that have really spoken to me.  So much so I’ve given them there own post.  (See Healthy Foods from yesterday) and now today.  I haven’t been compensated I just found them interesting and they got my wheels turning.

I read an article the other day about a coach turning away an athlete for “doing too much”.  It really struck home with me.  I haven’t read an article that made me think that much in a while.  Although I’m not being coached right now I’ve always wondered about this general thought process.  I will fully admit that one reason I don’t want to be coached is I don’t want to stick to a rigorgous plan.  I don’t want to chage to less mileage and more speed work.  I have enjoyed running long, easy runs and getting faster.  I’m not saying a coach would create a plan to do so, it’s just one factor I have thought about.

Could I run 70 MPW with a lot of speed?  No, I would get injured.  That would be too much.  One reason I think I’m able to run higher mileage is because I do run at a much easier pace. 

Do I want to run 50 MPW with a lot of speed?  No, not really.  

One reason I am not ready to give up high easy mileage for lower faster mileage is I’m still improving.  What I’m working has caused me to improve with running. I worry that if I decrease miles (while even adding speed) I’ll end up with a stress fracture, injured or slower.  Obviously change will be good for me eventually.   When I stop improving, I will look a lot harder for a coach.  (This is just one of the many reasons I’ve stayed away from being coached).

But going back to the article it really made me think.  How much is too much?  When I was in college and had a coach, he never pushed me to the point I felt overworked.  I was getting better as a runner and it felt natural.  I was succeeding in running and never felt a reason to do more.  I enjoyed running and enjoyed improving.

It seems lately a lot (myself included) of people have been injured.  Whether it’s a stress fracture, a muscle injury or something else, injury is in the air.  A lot of injuries are due to overtraining.  One thing that has always bothered me is someone blaming an injury on others.  Well X,Y,Z made me run more.  When I read the artcle I couldn’t help but nod.  Coaches are not there to overwork you.  They give you a plan and if you do more you aren’t following their plan.

For example: In college we would be assigned a run to do.  Run 5 miles easy one day.  My coach wasn’t breathing down my neck running with me.

If I ran 5.2 miles he wouldn’t know until I did.

If I ran 4.6 miles…he wouldn’t know that I did.

The goal was to run 5 miles easy.  My easy pace was 8:30-9 minutes.  He expected me to stay in those parameters.  If I ran 5.9 miles at a 7:30 pace…I was working harder than I needed to be.  I was taking away from a workout or race when I should be pushing the pace.  I wasn’t following the plan and was setting myself up for injury.  It wouldn’t be his fault if I had gotten injured. The plan was 5 miles at 8:30-9 minute pace.  Not 5.9 miles at a 7:30 pace.

It seems harmless enough but to do that for a year it begins to build up.  Doing it for even half of your easy runs you’ve added over 300 extra miles.

300 miles at a faster pace.

300 miles that is breaking your body down, not recovering.

So I guess long story short, coaches are there to help you.  As someone who has been coached by a great college coach and ran solo for a while I can relate to both.  I can relate to thinking your way is the best way.

Questions for you:

Do you follow your coaches plan?

I followed it almost to a T in college.  I often wonder if I had a coach with low mileage if I would find myself adding more mileage.  (Which would be dumb especially if we were doing speed work…I would probably be the PITA athlete…)

If you aren’t coached, do you like your workout routine?  

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33 responses

  1. I definitely made that mistake in college, doing more than what my coach wanted at times. Sometimes he wanted me doing more than I felt was capable. I think it’s a tricky balance managing mileage with speed. You seem to have found a good balance for you and I’ve definitely come to realize the way I was running before wasn’t good for my injury-prone body. Scaling back my miles for one seems to have made a difference. I hope you continue to improve because your training style is very different from a lot of people and it does seem to have worked well for you!

  2. interesting article! Those extra miles really add up if you’re not careful. Personally, I’m with you though – I’d rather run more easy miles than do more speed work. I really enjoy the time I spend running so the more time I can get running, the happier I am.

    Currently, I’m not coached. But I keep getting some offers from people at the running store. Right now, I’m not ready to be that serious and rigid in my training. I like having a loose plan, but I also like not getting bent out of shape if I take an extra rest day.

  3. I guess the irony of this post is that in the beginning you say you don’t want to be coached because you wouldn’t listen to them, but at the end you say coaches are there to help you. If they are there to help, why would you shy away? Any coach that drastically changes the way you do things and forces you into a “system” isn’t listening to the athlete. If high mileage works for you, why do you think a coach is all of the sudden going to make you run 30 mpw and all speed? That wouldn’t make much sense. A good coach understands the runner and tailors the training around the athlete, not the other way around.

    • You’re right Adam.

      I guess the other main point(for me) is I haven’t found someone that I truly connect with coaching wise. I have a hard time committing to personal friends for coaching and I haven’t found someone on the outside yet. Eventually I do want a coach. Maybe next training cycle when I can have enough time to train (and see a new method’s effects) and be healthy.

      • Absolutely! The connection is important and it may take a couple tries before you find someone that works for you. It’s kind of like a pair of running shoes. Just because they work well for someone doesn’t meant they will work well for you. At the end of the day, you need to find someone that meshes with your philosophy and lifestyle. But given the time they put into working with you, it requires and equal amount of trust on your end to listen. Communication is key, so a good coach will explain how and why what they recommend will help you. It shouldn’t be just a training plan of daily workouts. Anyone can do that.

  4. I’ve been coaches by Mark Hadley for a long time. Even during xc season the xc coach in Langdon let him coach me. I always followed his plans exactly.

    For cross training I just do my own thing. So even when I’m able to run I do a lot of cross training everyday.

    • Hadley is such a great coach and had really awesome results with a lot of my friends. Do you cross train on top of his running plan too?

      • I set all of my prs with his coaching! He is great.

        The cross training is on top of his plans. Everyday I also do a mix of elliptical, biking, walking, and swimming. I like different forms of cardio and to be moving.

  5. I had the same experiences with extra miles adding up to nothing but overtraining. I used to create training plans for myself that were completely reasonable only to “cheat” and do more out of a false belief that I’d get better and a compulsion to do so. I think with the right coach you could find yourself better than ever before and less injured. But it has to be a good match with a lot of trust!

  6. I don’t have a coach for many of the same reasons as you- I kinda like my own routine and I don’t know if I’d want to give up control of my workouts and running. As adults, there are only so many things in our lives that we can control, and I run and workout for myself, so I like being able to set what I do from week to week and day to day. Plus, I’m just not that serious about my running to shell out $$$ for it.

    I think there’s a big difference in being coached at a high school or college level and being coached as an adult. The stakes are different. A college XC/track coach is coaching a team (various abilities, strengths, weaknesses, athletic backgrounds), and a running coach you hire would be coaching YOU for success and work more around your schedule and wishes. More personalized :).

    Obviously you’re a really successful runner, and if you’re happy with what you’re doing and it’s working for you, don’t change it! Hiring a coach is a big decision, if you decide to go that route. There are so many options out there.

  7. While I don’t follow a coach, I do follow a plan. The best plan I’ve found is John Stanton’s. The following is basically his plan to run a 3:00:00 marathon. It consists of 18 weeks of training, 6 weeks base building, 6 weeks strength training (Hills), then 4 weeks speed training.

    Mon – 5 Miles @ 8:00
    Tue – 8 Miles @ 7:00 (Tempo)
    Wed – Hills or Speed Work
    Thu – 5 Miles @ 8:00
    Fri – 8 Miles @ 7:00 (Fartleks)
    Sat – 5 Miles @ 8:00
    Sun – Long Run @ 8:00

    Week 7 would start with 4 hill repeats (500 meters @ 7:00), adding one repeat on each week for the next 5 weeks. Week 13 starts with 3 X 1600 meter repeats (1600 @ 6:05), adding one repeat each week for the next 3 weeks. Sunday Long Runs start short (6 miles) and build every week with occasional fall-backs (i.e., 15, 17, 19, 15, 20, 20, 20, 15, 20, 20….).

    Under this program, you never run more than 60 miles per week.

    While I haven’t attempted this program yet, I did follow his similar 3:10:00 program with the expectation to actually run in 3:15:00. I was able to keep pace for 24 miles until turning into a strong headwind and finishing in 3:16:16. So I would have to say, for me at least, low mileage, speed workouts, was a successful strategy. And really, it’s only one fast/hard day each week.

    • Wow this is for a 3 hour marathon….I run something pretty similar to this and it is my own plan….my mile repeats are more like 6:25 though and wow that is a lot of 20 milers….maybe I should consider adding more.

      • The mile repeat times are just slightly slower than under the Yasso 800 plan, which many marathoners use. Under the Yasso plan, take your marathon time and convert it to minutes. To run a 3 hour marathon, run 800 meters in 3 minutes. for a 3:15:00 marathon, run 800’s in 3:15. Start with 4 repetitions in the first week, and add 2 repetitions each week until you hit 12 repetitions.

  8. I am coached. I like it, it works for me. I could see how some coaches would be horrible for some people, styles would just clash. My coach seems to have found a good balance with me, it’s very focused on phases within the training cycle.

    Most of initial mileage in training for a race is just going to be easy miles for general fitness. The limited speed comes in the form of fartleks, strides, short hill reps, effort-based not looking to hit specific paces. Then you move to the building block phase, which there is additional speed development, mostly shorter faster intervals. Still tons of easy miles surrounding this. Then you move into energy system training in which you do threshold work, tempos and progression runs. Finally leading up to the race we do pacing work, long intervals, long runs with sections at race pace. Taper then race!

    I love the variation, so I follow it pretty closely. I’d still say at least 75% of my mileage is considered easy paced though, so I’ve rarely felt burnt out.

    Like I said, it works for me, but may be disastrous for someone else. You’d probably do amazing with the right coach, but you do quite amazing without one too. Either way, win!

  9. funny you made a post referencing this article–i just published mine earlier this morning.
    in my swimming days, having a coach to push me was crucial. you know the drill-day in and day out its staring at the bottom of that damn pool. had he not written the workouts and motivated me to be the swimmer i was i never would have succeeded the way i did.
    fast forward to now. i love having my coach for crossfit particularly to monitor my form. however, i think i could do it on my own just as well, apart from having someone there to look at the form. i can motivate the heck out of myself, and i have learned (unfortunately the hard way) what my limits are, and when i am overtraining.

    • I agree that I know I would not have achieved what I did without a swim coach. I think it’s so crucial when you are young to develop good form, etc. Also it’s extremely hard to push yourself for swimming without a coach. I’m glad I never went through that!

  10. Great article. Sometimes less is better. During marathon training if you are trying to log more miles, guess what, they have to be EASY and slow so you can run more. Getting anxious about my slow as molasses pace isn’t helping anyone. Getting miles in, at whatever slow pace, means little about my pace on race day. My body is in training and getting worked 6x a week most weeks so I can’t bust out 4 fast miles each day. I always hear my group’s coach saying that long runs should be SLOW and that many people run too fast. Trust the training!

  11. I’m being unofficially coached for my Indiana full (meaning friends who I run with who are coaches gave me a plan and have been checking in every week or so to see how it’s going haha), and I like it a lot. We made the one they usually work with work for me and how I only run 4 days a week, which is good, and in like having people to bounce ideas off of and ask questions when I need to, which is often since I’m still a newbie when it comes to a lot of running stuff and this is the first time I’m seriously training for a race (with every run planned out according to pace). I think the biggest thing you have to keep in mind though when working with a coach or running at all is to know your body and don’t force it to do stuff you know it shouldn’t do. There’s a difference between pushing yourself and being dumb, and a good coach will help you with that while respecting your limits, which you know and should tell them when you first start working together

  12. I follow a plan, although not to the letter. I take breaks when I need them, even if a day calls for higher mileage. I typically won’t do more than planning, but if so, its never drastically more.

    I have a trainer for general PT and I trust him wholeheartedly. He’s never led me wrong before.

  13. Such a good post! I can’t wait to read the link!! I hated following a coach’s plan when I did cross country. I got injured. When I followed my coach’s plan in swimming I got burnt out, haha. Sometimes we just need to listen to our bodies!

  14. This blog post really made me think! I run pretty low mileage (20-30 mi/week) usually, so I always thought I was safe when it came to avoiding injury. The problem is I never take easy days. Reading that your easy pace is 8:30-9 minute miles is a reality check – all my runs are between 7:30-8 and that’s ridiculous, considering I’m a slower runner than you. I’m supposed to get a 5 miler in this weekend, and I’m devoting that run to finding and sticking with my easy pace. Thanks for the insight!

  15. I was one of the slower ones on my team in college (think not bringing in a lot of points… I think I only got us any points at one D1 meet… sad, I know). Because I was one of the slower ones, I probably almost always had to run a faster pace than what was right for me. I remember that our “slow warm-up pace” was 8:00/mi, for example. I also didn’t do long distance (more mid) so that might come into play, of course, but I was definitely in that 50-mi/wk at a fast pace zone. Anyway, I too followed coach’s plan to a T, and that got me several stress fractures. I think that if you were to get a coach, having one who trains you personally would make all the difference in the world. Similarly, if you’re being trained as a team and you’re at the same or similar level as everyone else, you can probably also derive a lot more benefit. But, I tend to agree with you: why get a coach when you’re improving on your own. Save your money for the day when you hit that plateau.

  16. Great questions! I don’t have a coach for the very reason that I am not positive I will stick exactly to what he/she says and if I am not going to do that then I am not paying someone to tell me what to run…if that makes sense. I feel like I know a lot about running just from experience but I also know me. I know I have to take one day a week completely off…I maybe could go 9 or 10 days without an injury….but it would come and my running would go downhill.
    I am also a fan of personal responsibility….in other words don’t blame others. Even if your coach tells you to run xx miles…he is not inside you. Only you know your own body and everyone is different. I am not a coach, although I would love to be someday, but if I were I would make sure my athletes know that each individual is different. I can give you a plan but it is up to you to let me know if it is not right for you (too much, too little, too fast, too slow ect). This is interesting though!

  17. Hmmmmm…I’m abit conflicted with this. I always preach (to myself) about following a plan (by a trained professional) but I have personally come into experience where I’ve felt so damn overworked and knowingly pushing myself beyond my capabilities- I think we need to adjust things to what works!

  18. Comparing myself as an athlete from last year to this year, I’ve become much more disciplined in terms of sticking to the plan. Sure, it’s tough to swim, ride, or run easy on days I feel *amazing*, but I know those workouts are just as important as the tough ones.

  19. I’m self-coached I pretty much like my routine but there are times when I long for an outside source to bring out things I might be missing to help me go the next level

  20. Don’t fix what ain’t broke!

    I’m sure a coach would take into account how you like to train but definitely with more speed. If you aren’t ready to add it into your workouts, you’ll end up resenting running and the coach that has you training in a way you don’t love.

  21. Great post. I have a coach because I know I have the temptation to push myself too hard, always feeling like I should be working harder. It’s still tough for me to stick to being easy on easy days, but I work at it because I’m pretty sure my coach would kick me to the curb if I didn’t. And I’d probably be physically & mentally wrecked.

  22. Really good post, Hollie. I think you are wise to stay where you are for now until you plateau like you said. I decided to get a coach because I knew I had more in me than what I was getting out of myself when I was self-coached. It’s all what works for you. I have definitely improved a lot since going lower mileage and higher intensity, but definitely have had to be super diligent to do small things right (sleeping, eating, stretching, and not running more than prescribed.)

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