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The proper way to do a step back week...

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The proper way to do a step back week... Empty The proper way to do a step back week...

Post  Seth Harrison on Wed Aug 10, 2011 2:41 pm

I’ll run this question past my coach, but I wanted to get
some input here as well.

I’m in week 4 of the fall marathon cycle, and trying to err on the side of being conservative and using caution, I’m doing my
first step back week. My plan is to maintain intensity while cutting back my
mileage for the week by about 10-15%. Up to this point in the cycle, my longest
run (this past weekend) was 12 miles. I had planned on doing a 10 miler this weekend.
I’m thinking about making this something of a progression run, with maybe the
last 3 miles at MP. While this isn’t a very taxing run, I want to make sure it
doesn’t the defeat the purpose of the step back week.

This leads me to the more general question of how best to
structure a step back week. As I said, my plan was to maintain intensity (today’s
speed interval workout accomplished that), while cutting back on mileage. Is
that the best way to do a step back week?
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Post  Kenny B. on Wed Aug 10, 2011 3:22 pm

Great question was thinking that this morning. For me if all is well I maintain the intensity reduce the mileage on the sunday long run and slightly on the mw lsd and if needed reduce the recovery runs slightly. I hit 66 last week after 4 weeks of climbing slightly avg was 63 ill do 52 so about a 18% drop which is a bit more drastic then normal but I got 2 very hard weeks coming up again. Id say normally 12-15% drop works nicely.

And usually like this week ill do a mp run in this case sunday on the long run.
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Post  Jerry on Wed Aug 10, 2011 3:36 pm

Sorry Seth, my regular weeks don't have intensity, thus mileage is the only thing I can cut in step back weeks. lol!

Alright, in Spring short distance training, when I need a step back and keep the intensity, I start with an extra recovery day.

For example, if my regular week is starting from Monday, rest -- tempo -- recovery run -- interval......, the step back week is like rest -- recovery -- tempo -- recovery......
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Post  Chris M on Thu Aug 11, 2011 4:06 pm

I'll be interested in Dave's reply on this but I'm going to disagree slightly with the "keep up intensity" while cutting volume approach. I think that is the right thing to do in TAPER but not in a STEP BACK week. Those are two distinctly different phases of marathon training, to my mind. TAPER is when you are both resting and sharpening. Keeping the high end speed stuff in there is helpful as a end of cycle honing of turnover as you get very close to race day. In a step back week, however, I really think you want to consolidate the gains from your other tougher weeks and so everything (both volume and intensity) should be turned down. Its a recovery week, not a time to be testing speed. To be specific, I think it would be a mistake to have, say, three weeks in a row at one mileage level and while cutting down 10-30% (10% seems way too low to cut back) in a step back week, suddenly add a workout like 5x1 mile at 10K pace which would be upping the intensity but not a huge mileage workout.
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Post  Dave-O on Thu Aug 11, 2011 4:21 pm

I don't follow any sort of set formulas for step backs, as Chris and Jim can tell you I only plan out their schedules 4 weeks at a time, and often make changes on a weekly and daily basis based on many factors. I do the same for myself, often time taking things one week at a time (but with a general macro-structure in place.) Some general guidelines:

-I don't like huge mileage swings. I wouldn't support reducing by 30%. If you're balancing and pacing your easy runs correctly, you shouldn't need to cut back so drastically. If you feel that need, then I would advise to reduce your higher weeks as they're probably a tad too stressful.

- I like to cut back on both the midweek and weekend long runs. That's probably the main area I trim mileage. Its not hard to keep up with the doubles, but I find reducing the long run to about 14 is a great way to recharge.

- I do cut back on intensity. During a step back - like I'm currently in for myself - I may only have 1 workout. The more I train, the more I realize that its intensity, and not volume, that beats you up. Stringing together 3-4 easy days in a row can do wonders with fatigue.

Again, its hard to ask specific advise with knowing the context of the surrounding weeks, but I am not a proponent of huge cutbacks - i.e. what's sometimes referred to as the supercompensation model of training.
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Post  mul21 on Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:09 pm

As an example of what Dave is talking about, here are my last 5 weeks (including this week):

60, 70, 54, 70, 66, and next week will probably be mid 50s with probably something like 10 or 12 and 14 for the long runs.

As to the recovery thing Dave is talking about, a perfect example is this week for me. I did a pretty brutal 20 on Sunday, 6 recovery Monday and then 6 and 4 recovery Tuesday. I felt better than I have in seemingly weeks last night on my tempo run even though I had run 16 miles in the previous 2 days following the 20. I've become a huge believer in recovery runs and am coming around on the whole doubles thing (assuming I get my butt out of bed in the morning).
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Post  Seth Harrison on Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:24 pm

I had originally planned on maintaining the intensity during this
planned step back week. That was until 1) today's easy five miler where
my legs felt way too tired after yesterday's interval workout; 2)
reading Chris, Dave, and Jim's posts.
Based on how my legs are feeling today, I have a feeling if I maintained the
intensity, and did something like tacking on a few MP miles to this
Saturday's run, I'd negate the positive effects of the reduction in miles
and start the following week with still tired legs.
The plan now will be to do something like a 10 miler on Saturday (down
from 12 the previous Saturday), and than either just a few recovery
miles on Sunday or perhaps even take an extra day off. That would leave
me with a 20% reduction in miles from last week (going from 35 down to
28). If I did do a short recovery run on Sunday, the reduction would be something less than 20%.
This is only week 4 of training for a Nov. 20th marathon, and as you know, I'm coming off a six-week layoff after Boston. Being as injury prone as I am, I probably have very little to gain by not being overly cautious.
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Post  John Kilpatrick on Thu Aug 11, 2011 8:00 pm

I'm learning as I go here, Seth and certainly don't want to disagree with the more experienced, but I did a step-back week last week and came out of it feeling great. I don't know exactly why the feeling, but my volume was reduced by about 45%, but I actually increased my intensity on a couple of those days. You know I'm in the middle of tri stuff right now, so it may not be applicable to just running, but I can tell you that I felt recharged and refreshed coming out of it - don't know if it is mental, physical, or some combination of both.

Again, that is just my personal experience, but it was really cool to feel so good again after feeling run down for some time.

Good luck and either way, enjoy it!

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Post  Mike MacLellan on Thu Aug 11, 2011 9:30 pm

Last marathon cycle, I averaged a 10-15% cut and maintained intensity. This time around, I'm averaging around a 30-40% cut and actually increasing intensity. Then as the miles come back the following week, the intensity drops, raises the next week, and peaks again on the next cutback week. So far, so good.
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