Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Joe Vigil's Marathon Training Program Explained

For several years one graph has confounded me. It made utterly no sense to me. I read Joe Vigil's book, and it still made no sense to me… until this summer.

From this article on Deena Kastor winning the bronze marathon medal at the Athens 2004 Olympics, is the following graph. It's in Joe Vigil's book too, which I lent to a friend, and he never returned...

Deena Kastor's Approximate Mileage Before Athens 2004
It makes no sense. Nowhere else in running have I seen such variation in mileage. Most authors and coaches prescribe two or three weeks of higher mileage and then a down week, and only maybe 80% or 85% of the high mileage weeks. These, 40 mile jumps, going up 40% or down 30% in one week? It makes no sense. I can hear every running "expert" saying this is a sure recipe to get injured. Although, I don't have a coach because of the half dozen coaches in the world I respect enough to work with, none have returned my emails, or I haven't emailed them. It's arrogant, I know, but there is no "Joe Vigil Marathon Training Program Explained" article on the Internet I can find. I mean who advocates for such huge and regular mileage variation? I guarantee thousands have seen that same graph of mileage, and like me, not understood it, and probably not tried it.
Weekly Mileage Post-Chicago Marathon 2013 to Now
This is my weekly mileage over the last year. Check out my July and August 2014. I get it! (Ignore the 148 mile week, that includes the first 101.5 miles of my 24 hour run. Plus, I don't want to discuss my poor recovery from Chicago last year and build up to Everest this year.)

Here's the thing, 140 miles per week is 20 miles per day. Running 100 miles, in six days means running 16.7 miles per day. 20 miles per day, versus 16.7 miles per day on average is almost insignificant, and can be the difference between doing one 30 mile day versus one just 10 mile day. Plus, that doesn't take into account any workouts, which may make that 10 mile day harder than the 30 mile day. Workouts and actual daily running is beyond the scope of this article.

The point being, it's because the athlete, Deena, myself, whoever, takes a day off, and alternates pushing yourself just a little (15%) harder on a daily basis (even if it's just a longer 8 minute mile pace cool down a few times or six days of doubles instead of four days of double runs) on the hard week, and taking it just a little easier on the day off week. It's brilliant. I used to take one day off per month. That worked for many personal records, but it wasn't the best. It has been awhile since I took one day off per week. Frankly, that's a lot of days off. I'm not sure you can develop the same amount of carbohydrate storage, or fat metabolism, or tease the body into learning to recover faster. Oh I'm sure you can get close, but the leap to running seven days a week is a big one, with the benefits mentioned above.

Super-compensation is the principle that one "embarrasses" a body system, and the body rebuilds itself stronger than before. I've known about super-compensation for years, but I've always thought about it in terms of 30 mile days, or two weeks in a training cycle, like the 140 mile weeks above. However, the above graph has super mileage weeks at 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10, and compensation weeks at 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11. It's genius. Work a little hard, recover well, even take a day off, work a little harder, recover well again, repeat.

I can't believe it really took me until this summer to understand it and finally try it. It is simple. Unintentionally, I even did this high week then low week then repeat back in the fall of 2011 when I ran my PR half marathon and marathon. I just failed to put it all together until this summer. Now, instead of that weekly mileage graph confounding me, it's a comfort. That graph says to me, "work hard, take a day off, relax a little, work hard, and I mean quite hard, then relax again." Joe Vigil, I know you are retired, and you will probably never read this, and I'll probably never email you, but well done sir.

1 comment:

  1. And I hope you read this, because I appreciate your commentary here. Exactly. Well done.


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