Thursday, March 12, 2009

'Quality' Over 'Quantity'

As marathon day approaches, now officially less than 40 days away (no, I’m not counting), I’ve been doing my share of research on the race, the course, and of course the hills. To be honest, I’ve also been doing some virtual “spying” on my competitors…well, the ones who have blogs anyway. I’ve been looking at their runs, their schedules and their races, and trying to gauge where I’m at in training in comparison to them. (Oh, don’t turn your noses up at me…you know you all do it too!) Although for the most part it seems as if I’m up to par with everyone else, there does seem to be a glaring difference in my training schedule as compared to theirs. While almost everyone who’s training at the same paces as me are already running 60, 70, and even 80 miles a week consistently, I have yet to push a single mile over 46 for the week. And despite feeling bad sometimes that I train at such low mileage whenever one of my running friend/teammates asks and starts comparing my marathon training plan to theirs, I’m confident that “Quality over Quantity” is really the best training strategy for me and will deliver a good time for me in Boston.

In case there are some cynics who still quite don’t believe, here are a few reasons why ‘quality’ is such a better training approach than ‘quantity’…for me anyway.
  1. Quantity requires more mileage on the road, which increases the risk of injury.
  2. Quantity requires more mileage on the road, which takes heck of a longer time to run. Because I have a full professional and social life outside of running which I have to attend to, the less time I have to spend in training to achieve my goals, the better the life for me.
  3. Because you’re running less miles, you can train faster with quality than you would with quantity. For me, I find the faster I train, the faster I tend to race too!
  4. Rest is a major component of quality, not so with quantity. I’ve found that running 3 and 4 days consecutively no matter how slow, drains me down physically and mentally. Running back-to-back days is a rarity on the quality plan.
  5. Running short and fast quality boosts and builds confidence more than long and slow quantity. The evidence for this comes from the fact that the last meaningful session before a race always include some element of speedwork at around goal pace as preparation for a race.
I’m not sure if anyone in blogland agrees with this approach. After all, it is somewhat contrary to what all the great books (Daniels, Pfizinger, Rodgers, etc) would recommend. But because I’ve had progressive incremental success training under this paradigm (and besides, it’s a little too late to change anyways) while avoiding injury, I’m sticking with this strategy until it or I break down.
How does the rest of you train for marathons? Do you tend to suffer the long miles or run them fast to get them over with? Let the great debate begin.

23 comments:

Xenia said...

This plan makes complete sense to me. However, I've been employing the low mileage, non-quality miles method. Surprisingly, it's not doing a damn thing for me. Me thinks I need to jump on the Laminator bandwagon.

You are so going to kick Boston's ass! :)

lindsay said...

makes sense to me as well. i feel like i need the easy days to keep my legs from getting clogged up. if stuff comes up and i have to skip a run, i try to skip an easy run and still get in my quality/speed days.

Running and living said...

As with everything, I think the best program is the one that fits with your life, personality, and biomechanics. Even 35 miles are at times tough for me to fit in, and also mentaly daunting. Plus, I get injured easily when I run higher mileage.
The FIRST program I am using talks a great deal about quality over quantity. I am new to marathoning and have not checked out other popular running books. However, the logic of quality vs quantity which is advertised by FIRST and you makes a great deal of sense to me. I also think crosstraining is helpful - has helped me a great deal, and my triathlon friends have gotten to be stronger runners by swimming and biking in addition to fairly low mileage.

D10 said...

Very cute that you are spying on your competition! I think we all have different programs/theories that work for us. When you find what works for you stick with it.

Meg said...

I agree! Especially with injury prevention and the run/work/life balance.

Anonymous said...

I think following such a low mileage approach for marathon training is only going to work for someone with A LOT of natural talent. Its certainly possible and many often place too much emphasis on mileage (hell, look at both daniels and lydiard who post give times and % of time/mileage to follow)...but a low mileage approach does rob one of a lot of base mileage on which you can rely. Speed certainly improves economy and sure, you can rely on that over longer distances...but you're doing so without a cushion. I think of it this way: I can fill my tank with enough gas to get me to my destination and home again, though in doing so, I have to assume everything goes right. It may very well do that, and over a short trip (if you follow my analogy...a 10k or half), it probably will. However, if you're on a longer trip its far better to have something in reserve; you want to have your cell phone charged and your pocket full of cash. THAT'S what mileage does. You can be efficient and fast...but once your (mind you, I mean "your" and "you" as a universal) body starts to break down a bit, there is far less of a base to rely on. Thats why when it comes to marathon training...I far prefer to have more in the tank. One can generally run a good marathon off of 45-60 mile weeks which frankly isn't terribly high. (I like to keep in the 60s) The trick for most runners is to find a number you can tolerate without breaking down. Most people can handle more than they think, though its important to be smart about getting there. (One of the problems with today's running culture is many people WANT more from less, which quite frankly flies in the face of what many of the best have done for years.)

Looking at your times, you clearly have a LOT of natural ability. (I don't think people without a lot of natural ability could run these kind of times off such low mileage!) It would be interesting to see how someone like yourself would benefit of a boost to say...the 55-60 range. Not high mileage at all; more moderate and enough to get a bit more cushion. Something to consider should you ever plateau, perhaps.

For the record, I'm no Jack Daniels but I've been around the sport for 20 years and happen to enjoy your blog.

-Coach H.

Spike said...

I never go more than 55 in a week training for a marathon (never run farther than one either). I build into my schedule some 'off' days where the training schedule usually has an easy run that week (a 4 to 6 mile run) because I agree that quality and rest is important in runs, but so is some quantity. what can I say, I'm pragmatic.

regardless, great running and training. it is about what works best for you.

Irish Cream said...

I'll let you know my thoughts on quality over quantity after I complete the training cycle I'm currently in. All I know is my efforts at "quantity" left me seriously exhausted by race day the last time around . . . I'm thinking the "quality" method will work much better for me (as it sounds like it has worked for you!)

Nitmos said...

I'm with you on this one. I think Coach H's comments are right on also but, when you factor in work and family activities, I'm simply not willing to devote myself to 60 mpw. So, I need to get the most of what I can off of 30-40. Those miles will need to be high quality then. In fact, I think I go even less than you. I believe my PEAK week for marathon training only has me doing around 37 miles!!

Jamie said...

I'm with you on quality over quantity. Plus your program works for you and your life!

bill carter said...

Hi LL

Checking out the competition are you?? I honestly haven't really gotten to that point yet as it is all I can do to try and get through a race and worry about myself...

Anyway, I read what Coach H had to say and I felt he was very insightful. On the other hand, time constraints and the wear and tear on your body are certainly factors. I would love to run more miles myself, but at 40 years old and having a 50+ hour a week job and the body getting a little creaky, mid 60s are about my max. I think what you are doing is absolutely perfect for you and I agree with Coach H... you are one talented runner!

Truly, best of luck.

The Laminator said...

Hey, thanks everyone for your insightful comments. I think we all have prejudices on high vs low mileage training, and I certainly do waver between the two quite a bit myself, so it's really intriguing and educational to hear everyone's viewpoints on this.

Thanks also for being so supportive. I really am just trying to get by balancing life, work, and training. I really don't think I'm talented as much as I'm ultra-competitive and train really hard when I'm over there to get workouts done as quickly as possible (so I can get back to sitting on my butt and 'working'. So to spin it another way, total laziness is a big motivating factor for me! Haha! But I do appreciate all the sentiments...

Chic Runner said...

So true, and you are going to rock boston. I can't wait to see the results. Only 40 days. :)

J said...

I agree with you. If I do 4 consecutive days of runs I am more drained than if i took a day off in the middle. Plus its not always about the mileage. Of course I get carried away with it but in track we run less mileage and i am in really good shape so no complaints! Your track record of races shows that this approach works too!

aron said...

Great post Lam and I really think it just comes down to each person individually. It's all about finding what works best for you and what you can fit into your lifestyle. I feel good on high 40/low 50 mile weeks and I think that I definitely benefited from them in my last marathon. My lifestyle right now allows me to be able to get those in and still have time to rest, recover and have a life outside of running. I also think going into my training program this time with a 40 mpw base over 6 weeks has made my training start off WAY better than it did last time.

There are some great comments on here, thanks for doing this post :) You are definitely going to rock Boston and its really inspiring to see a talented runner like you who isn't doing 70+ mpw.

Michelle said...

I have nothing to add except you are doing it right for you!!!!

It really makes sense the way you train anyway!!! Someday.....someday!!!!!

:O)

The Happy Runner said...

I've been leaning toward quality over quantity, too. Except I've been like Xenia with a mostly sad mix of a low quantity of medium quality runs. Just a bump in the road. You're rocking, though!

Aaron Cunningham said...

I'd agree with Coach H that you have some natural gifts.

I was going to post a reply on one of your previous post show awesome it is that you can hammer the kinds of times you have on such low mileage. It gives me hope that it can be done. :)

That being said. I like to run long. A lot. Or as much as I can in 5 days a week. More days than than and it gets ugly.

X-Country2 said...

I tend to do quantity over quality, but that's only because quality requires too much mental effort. I perfer to mindlessly run a long ways.

Perhaps that's why I've never qualified for Boston. :o)

runner26 said...

i am all in favor of quality when it comes to training! people with lengthy injury histories (like me) have to make every run count when preparing for that big race. but if you want to just enjoy running, then quantity might win out. as previous comments stated, i think it depends on the person.

Run For Life said...

I don't have enough training by any means to be definitive on what works but I do think it's better to have balance in your life and that you are enjoying running. For me personally, I have definitely noticed a positive change in doing quality over quantity. Not to say that higher mpw's works well for others though!

Cowboy Hazel said...

I agree with you -- quality definitely is better than quantity. I hover right around the 40 miles/week mark too and find that my body really pushes back when I try to go past that. And I think there's definitely something to be said for keeping speed up -- If you don't train fast, how can you race fast?

sRod said...

I'm on the quality side of the argument, mostly because my life doesn't allow time for quantity.

 
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