Posted by: Ingrid | May 7, 2010

FIRST Training Program: The miles that count

A few years ago I read about a three-day per week training plan in Runner’s World.  The thought of running only three days a week both intrigued and repulsed me.  Only three days!  Can you even call yourself a runner if you run only three days a week?  But there was also the draw of running fewer days, having a little more free time, minimizing injury, and still improving my running times.  During pregnancy I tried to log about 30 miles per week with the hope of increasing my mileage to 40-50 miles somewhere down the line.

I don’t think I want to do that anymore.

While training for the Kalamazoo half I was averaging 30-35 miles per week and running usually five days.  The training program that I followed had a day for speed intervals, a tempo run, and a long run, with several days of running just to log more miles.  These miles, which I lovingly refer to as CRAP miles (Can’t Really Actualize Potential) are what I’m beginning to wonder about.  As a runner I begin every week with an idea of how many miles I want to get in.  I am much more used to thinking about mileage totals than I am about the quality of my runs.  But the crap (filler, junk – whatever term you prefer) miles sometimes get in the way of my being rested for the runs that count.  I can’t really do anything with these filler runs.  Aside from logging more miles, there really isn’t a point to them.  They always come before or after a harder or longer workout so all I’m doing is getting in an extra 4-7 miles at whatever pace my body feels like running.

While training for the half I also read through the book Run Less Run Faster and I am interested in trying their training recommendations.  They advocate three specific runs per week: speed, tempo, and a long run that is done at a faster pace than a normal long run as well as 2-3 cross training sessions of biking, rowing, or swimming.  They seem to have gotten very good results and I can see how injury would be minimized on this type of program versus the average high mileage marathon and half marathon training programs that are out there.

I am jumping into their 10K training program in week seven of their twelve week plan and am going to try to hold out and run only three days a week (I kept wanting to justify a fourth day this week) just to see how I feel and if I am able to meet the criteria that they set for each training run if I aim for a 43:56-44:59 10K finish time.  If that goes well I might use their marathon plan to see if I can run a time that will qualify me for Boston.  I guess I want to see how much low quantity high quality running impacts my pace or maybe I just want to see how little I can do to get results!

Has anyone else tried this program?  How did it work for you?



  1. May you stick to your guns and not try to sneak in an extra run or two!

    I always get anxious when I don’t run, even if I need a rest day. Do you ever feel that way, and if so, is this mentally easier for you because it is part of a training program? Also, is it easier to fit in the cross training time rather than the extra runs?

    Just curious, as we are about to add a second child to the family and I can’t see it being any easier to find time to work out:)

    • I get anxious as well. I think that after following my last training plan and seeing how helpful the quality runs were and how much better they went if my body was well rested ahead of time I am able to take the time off. It also helps that it’s only 5 weeks long so I feel like it won’t do too much damage. I like the biking cross training option because it will allow me to read chemistry at the same time – something that running does not allow! I’ll keep you posted as the weeks go by. I’m curious as to how well all this will work!

  2. I haven’t used that plan per se, but it looks a lot like what triathletes do (I say as a triathlete on “maternity leave” — I’m back to just running working full-time with a 7 month old). But when I train (I say, not in the past tense) I’d do 9 workouts a week — 3 run, 2-3 bike, 3-4 swim (I’m a strong cyclist, weak swimmer, decent runner), and even on what tended to average between 18-25 miles a week, I set major running PRs — (from a 22min&change 5k to a 20 minute & change 5k). I think the trick, at least for me, is that your “crosstraining” is also an aerobic workout (or harder). So you’re still working the cardiovascular system, just differently.

  3. I have been reading about this and think I may look into this for a fall marathon. After all, with a small baby sometimes it is hard to find time to run 4-5+ days a week! There is a blog I like to read and the author is training for a marathon to qualify for Boston using a 3 day plan so I am curious to see her thoughts on the plan after she completes her marathon. Here website is:

    • Thank you!

  4. […] am trying a revised FIRST Training program which I talked a little bit about here.  My revisions mostly involve adding an extra slow day of running so that I get ouside more.  […]

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