I have noticed a very compelling trend during my 18 years of coaching marathoners. Most runners, regardless of ability, train at the same level most of the time. This isn’t the most effective approach to maximizing the training effort.
On a scale of 1-10 (1 being walking and 10 being racing), most runners train at level 5 most of the time. Runners seldom train above level 5 unless they are racing and almost never train below level 5 because they don’t see the value of a lower intensity workout.
Variety in the form of speed play, tempo runs, intervals, hill repeats, active and complete rest should be part of every runners training plan.
While I follow the basic structure of a phase-based training program, it’s not etched in stone. I determine the length and intensity of each workout based on my resting heart rate each morning. RHR (resting heart rate) is the best indicator of how I am adapting to the rigors of training. An elevated RHR indicates my body is taxed and needs less intensity and distance. I definitely train at a Level 2-3 or take the day off completely when I have an elevated RHR.
That is a great time to go to a track and practice running with perfect form to improve running economy. Focus on eating well, staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest. Almost always, your RHR should return to the normal average the following morning and you have the green light to proceed at a higher intensity.
This is a very simple way to adjust your training to accommodate how you are feeling.
Monitoring your morning RHR should be the cornerstone for your entire training. Based on how you are feeling, you have the option of base training with LSD (long slow distance), speed play, tempo runs, intervals, hill repeats and active or complete rest.
This approach to training maximizes your investment of time and effort.