Some people seem to be born runners. They glide elegantly and effortlessly for miles, as they’ve done for years and years. Others, like myself, joined the running game a little later in life. We tend to trod along like injured ducks scurrying away from a chasing toddler.
The lack of grace and efficiency in ones running, while it seems like a huge disadvantage, should be embraced as a way to get more metabolic bang from every run. The key is to utilize the inefficiencies, and this easy-to-remember training schedule makes that even more possible while also helping you to become a faster and maybe even slightly more elegant runner.
Tasks gets easier the more that you do them. That is the beauty of how we are designed…our body and mind work together to find an easier and more efficient way to function. Running, obviously, is no exception. That is both the beauty and the challenge of being a late-blooming runner.
To get the most from a reasonable running plan, we need to find the balance between embracing the efficiency that makes running easier while also fostering a natural inefficiency in your running program. Running efficiency (to help one transition from waddling to gliding) happens in the program through a regular, albeit reasonable, running schedule consisting of three runs per week. Inefficiency (to prevent ones glide from being too flawless and, well, efficient) happens in the program through the inclusion of three very distinct runs each week. Not discussed here but essential to creating natural inefficiencies in your training regime are strength training workouts that should be done intermittently between the training runs.
The Weekly Drug Run program consists of three runs per week, with at least one day of rest between running days. The examples shown for each run type are based roughly on a runner primarily interested in 5K distances, though simple adaptations can be made for accessibility for almost all runners.
Run 1 – LSD (Long Slow Distance)
The LSD run, a staple of most cross country programs, consists of a longer run at an easier-than-normal pace. This pace will naturally differ between runners, and for those seeking strict guidelines, many articles can be found that provide heart rate ranges for the training. The key is to run well below ones ‘lactic threshold’ by staying in the ‘aerobic zone’ for the duration of the run.
For me, the easiest way to gauge the intensity is by listening and responding to what my body is saying. If I notice that I am breathing especially hard and that holding a conversation would not be easy, then it’s time to slow down a bit. If there is room to speed up while still staying in the ‘conversation zone’, then do it.
I like LSD runs to be around twice as long as my go-to training run. If you typically run 3 miles, then a 5-7 mile LSD run seems appropriate. If a 5-miler is your go-to, then a 9-11 mile LSD might be more suited to your needs.
Run 2 – PCP (Pushing, Constant Pace)
The PCP run should be similar in length to (or slightly longer than) your go-to run, at a ‘pushing’ pace that would be difficult to maintain if the run were another mile longer. The running world, the ranks of whom you will soon be joining, refers to this run more commonly as a Tempo Run. The run should not be race-pace, but only 30-seconds/mile or so short of race-pace. For example, if you run a 28-minute 5K (around 9-minute miles), your PCP run pace should be around 9:30 miles.
The PCP run is a strenuous run, and requires a mental fortitude that serves runners well if preparing for an upcoming race. Personally, this is the one run of the Weekly Drug Run Program that I find hardest to get motivated for, but is also the run of the week that provides the greatest sense of accomplishment after completion.
Run 3 – Speed (Intervals)
A weekly Speed Workout is a necessary evil that increases your anaerobic threshold and can be the literal burst needed to make you a faster and more efficient runner. Speed doesn’t have to mean sprinting, but it should mean pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and at a pace faster than your PCP run.
The beauty of the Speed Workout is that it can be the component of your running schedule that adds variety. Below are three examples of possible Speed Workouts that look very different from one another, but all of them would provide the benefits that accompany the Speed run.
Speed Workout #1 – The Fartlek
A Fartlek run consists of a typical distance run (I would recommend normal race distance for those newer to Speed Workouts) at an easy pace but with faster running intervals mixed into run. For example, a runner could start at an LSD pace for the first 6-8 minutes, and then add in 4-6 intervals of 1 minute of race-pace or faster running followed be 2-3 minutes of LSD-pace running, and ending the run with a cool-down at LSD-pace. A simple variation would be to do the same 6-8 minute starting pace followed by 6-8 intervals of 20 seconds at 90% effort followed by a minute of rest, and ending the run with a cool-down at LSD-pace.
Honestly, most days when I start a Fartlek run I have a set number of intervals in mind, but adapt to how I’m feeling. Also, I am not a fan of wearing a watch while running, so often just find a tree in the distance and run faster to that point. Running doesn’t have to be fancy or technological, it just has to be done. Make this part of the training plan, along with all of the others, your own by adapting to your interests, day-to-day motivation, and goals.
Speed Workout #2 – Repeats
Run fast, and then repeat. Sounds simple enough, right?
Warm-up, choose a distance (maybe 400 m on a track, or maybe once around a block, or maybe to the end of the sidewalk), run that distance at a truly challenging pace, rest, repeat.
As with any new workout, it is best to start easier than it is to over-do things on the first try. An example would be to run 5x400s. This workout would include a normal warmup (maybe several minutes running at LSD pace along with some dynamic stretching) and then a 400 m run at your goal 1-mile pace, followed with a rest time that is about twice as long as the running duration.
Easy enough to do one time…but then do it 4 more times for good measure.
As the repeated interval distance gets shorter, the pace should get faster, and the number of intervals should increase. Think a 4x600 for a longer distance Repeat workout, or maybe 8x200 for a shorter distance Repeat workout.
Speed Workout #3 – Hills
I shudder to even recommend this, but if you want maximal gains without months and months of training, Hill Repeats are a great way to speed up the process.
Again, it’s a simple concept, but also a mentally and physically challenging concept to add into a running routine. Find a hill, mark off a starting and ending spot on the hill, run up the hill, walk down the hill, repeat.
With all of the Speed workouts, I encourage you to have a plan prior to starting the workout. While it is important to listen to your body, in general your body (and more so your brain) is not going to want to do the next speed repeat or hill climb. Having a plan that includes the number of sets and an estimate of pace gives you a goal to strive for and may be enough to help you push yourself further than you think you are capable of.
Running isn’t easy, and it will never get easier unless you can commit to a regular routine. The Weekly Drug Runs are an easy-to-remember set of runs that can help you become a regular runner. Be warned, however, that once you make it through the first few weeks of Weekly Drug Runs, you can easily become addicted to the high that running provides.