Way back in the mid-eighties, I discovered the benefits of the easy week. I like to think of myself as one of the early adopters of this principle. The hard-easy day principle of training was well ingrained in anyone who had read articles from Runner’s World and Running Times but not so, the easy week.
One reason for experimenting with easy weeks was having spent half of the my first five years of running – injured. Out of necessity those first five years of running were all about trial and error and a lot of research into how the body works.
Fortunately, I was never prone to running through pain so I did not set myself up for chronic injuries. Just as the body carries the memory of hard-training and top fitness, making the road to achieving this easier, once traveled, my sense is that the body also remembers when the warning signal of pain has been ignored and the time for healing replaced by pushing through or masking the pain, a recipe for developing a lifetime chronic running injury.
The easy week, is all about distribution of effort. The hard weeks are more challenging and the easy weeks, well easier. Over the past decade or more, I was running similar weekly mileage to my peers, as an average, but thrown into the mix, would be some blockbuster weeks of say, over 100 miles and weeks with mileage lower than most “serious” marathoners would consider worthy. The concept of the easy week can be expanded to think of easy years. For example, I knew I wanted to be in the best shape of my life when I turned 50. Leading up to this key racing season, I mixed in an easy year just before. I was increasing fitness, however, I was banking all-out race efforts for when I changed age-groups.
Maximizing performance through distribution of effort can be applied to how we manage our lives. I enjoyed The Power of Full Engagement written by Jim Loehr. He says, “Managing ënergy not time is the key to full engagement and optimal performance.” and I think this is relevant to marathon training as well as life management.
In spite of the faulty analogy Loehr uses to describe his insights, unflattering comparisons of marathoners with sprinters, the basics of what he says rings true for me. As for the analogy, Loehr is a tennis player and his sprinter versus marathoner metaphor demonstrates that he is unfamiliar with the training methods of high-performance distance runners who in fact, must draw on several energy systems to perform optimally.
In running and in life, knowing when is the best time to do what, and the energy demands or complexity of those tasks is a step towards improving RESULTS.