When To Start A Week

Now into proper training. Time to make it work and get past a lot of the problems that have imposed on my running over the last couple of years. I'm implementing a tactic taken from one of my favourite articles on training for ultramarathons, Train Like A Mother - The (so-called) Guide To Effective Training. This tactic comes under the heading of Trick The Mind. It is as simple as altering the day I mark as the start of my training week.

For me I have never followed the traditional seven day week. Fifteen years of rotating shift work has kept me out of sync with the majority. Usually my roster is an 8 day rotation and I have always thought that my week starts on my first shift of that 8 day cycle. My usual roster is 4 shifts of 10-14 hours followed by 4 days off, though that first day off isn't really one as I finish my night shift at 7am and need to sleep for the day. Looking back that creates mental difficulties in that each week of training starts when I have my biggest commitments at work. My long runs are always at the end of my week and if any sessions have been missed (as has often been the case), then I feel an obligation to catch up the kilometres. It creates an almost constant pressure and feeling as though I'm not hitting my training right.

Why continue to force the pressure? It isn't conducive to good training. By the time I hit my long runs I am usually tired (at least mentally). This time I want to change that. I want to get the most out of training and especially those long runs. I need to change the approach.

The change is a simple one. Move the day I mark as the start of my training week. Instead of being my first work shift, I now consider the start of my training week as my first day off. I have picked the day where I am coming off the night shift and require sleep. How does this change things?

Well that day is about recovery. Depending on the previous week of training, and probably more importantly, how hard the night shifts have been on me, I use this day to ensure I am ready for the hard training to follow. Almost always that will mean a day off running, some stretching and soft tissue work. I will try and get in as much sleep as possible during the day and will try and get to sleep relatively early to reset my body clock and prepare for an early start the next day. To assist with the recovery I might throw in some light exercise at the pool, on the bike or just a walk. I'll address any aches or pains that are creeping in. As the first day on my training week, it is easier to take the recovery and preparation a lot more seriously. When I used to schedule such days at the end of a week I always felt a nagging pressure to just get in some more running to make up for any perceived shortfall during the that week. Now it is day one, I don't have that pressure.

Day two is the long run. Since I am gunning for a 56km race, this is definitely the most important run overall. I had the previous day to reset my body, so I can now make the most of this run. A great part of having the long run at the start of the week is that I get to bank a lot of kilometres early on. This alleviates so much of the negatives that can go through my head during the rest of the week. I don't need to think about anything other training. I have my goals for the long run and there is no distraction in heading out and chasing those goals down.

The rest of the week unfolds in a mix of other runs, some fast, some intervals, some hill repeats and some just comfortable. Knowing I have started well makes it easier just to get the other runs done. As the week nears the end I can also push out one last hard effort with the knowledge that I have a dedicated day for recovery at the start of the next training week. If my work goes crazy with overtime, it isn't the end of the world if I have to drop a training session. After all I've already put in a lot of good running.


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