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To Cut Back or Not?



Two weekends ago I had 7 miles on the training plan.  I ran it, but the last two miles were rough. I had to take extra walk breaks on top of my 5:1 intervals and I was very glad to finish the run.  After that run I was a little nervous about the 8 miles on the schedule last weekend. My shins were bothering me a little and my knee was starting to get a little achey -- I figured I would just run what I could and walk when I needed to.  But the 8 miles went really well.  The 5:1 intervals worked perfectly, and I finished strong and felt like I could actually go further if I needed to. However, the 4 miles on Sunday were pretty rough with sore, tired legs.

I was thinking about adding a cut-back week to my training plan though.  I honestly didn't spend a lot of time looking for a training plan -- I googled "beginner half-marathon training plan" and picked one of the first ones I found.  I figured I have actually run enough halfs (18 I think) that it didn't matter much, I just wanted a plan to follow to help keep me accountable to my training.  The plan is pretty basic.  Run 5 days a week -- taking Mondays and Fridays as rest days.  The long runs started at 4 miles, and then basically just added a mile each weekend, and the weekday runs went from basic 3 milers to slightly longer 4, 5, and 6 milers.  Last week the schedule called for 4,5,4,4,8.  This week it calls for 4,6,4,4,9. Next week: 4,6,4,4,10.  and so on until it basically finishes at 12 miles two weekends before the race with a slight cut-back week the week before (long run on the week before the race is 6 miles.)

All things considered it's a good plan for me.  I have never been one to get caught up in tempo runs or speed work or anything fancy like that.  I just like to run miles and try to go a little faster or a little stronger when I can.  However, I was thinking about making this week a cut back week.  Run 3,4,3,4,6 or something like that.  Give my legs a bit of a rest and then next weekend make my long run 10 miles as-scheduled.  Part of the advantage of that is I have a great 10 mile loop around the airport, but I despise trying to run an out-and-back on the loop for 9 miles.  If I'm going that far around I might as well just finish it. This is silly I know. 

 I actually went to the gym to run on the treadmill for my run this afternoon. It was warmer out than I like to run in (I hate running in the heat) and I figured the bouncy treadmill would give my shins and knees a little bit of a break.  Plus I pulled my hamstring stacking firewood over the weekend.  On the treadmill I listened to my audio book and decided to run without stopping for a bit. I managed the first mile at a 5.2 pace with no break.  a 1 minute break and I ran another 10 minutes with no break.  Then I switched back to my 5:1 intervals until I ended up finishing 4 miles.  

Now I have to decide what to run tomorrow.  I could just stick with the plan and run 6 miles.  Of course I don't have a 6 mile route I like much which always makes me cranky.  Or I could cut back and only run 3 or 4 miles... decisions decisions.  Although honestly, I think my biggest problem is that I don't like longer mid-week runs.  My neighborhood basically tops out at 5 miles and that's running lots of awful cul-de-sacs on some pretty badly canted roads which my legs hate.  Driving to other places to run annoys me since traffic is always awful in the afternoons and it just adds even more time to something that already takes a lot of time for a slow poke like me.  I could run home from work.  It's actually a perfect 6-mile route from door-to-door.  But that means I have to actually plan it all out and prepare tonight and I just don't feel like committing to it.   Yup.. laying it all out right here and I"m just whining and indecisive.  Most likely I will end up running 6 around my neighborhood, but I guess we shall see. 


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It don't think it ever hurts to throw in a cutback week - especially after you've been upping your mileage so consistently. So if you feel like a shorter run tomorrow, I say go for it. 

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I try to stick with my plan regardless but most good plans will have some cutbacks in them. I guess you've got to listen to your body & whether it's your body saying "I need a cutback" or just that voice of doubt saying "nah you can't do this - cutback, it's too hard". Only you can tell.

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There's still plenty of time, and if your plan doesn't have a cutback week in it, it should.

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 I'd like to be able to throw an occasional treadmill session into my training routine, but something in my hips starts to protest after a half hour or so.  This winter I hope to gradually acclimate myself to indoor training.

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When I'm getting bored with shorter runs around the neighborhood, I'll reverse my direction or run on the opposite side of the road--helps mix things up a bit. Or add new music to the playlist.

Could your cutback week be the same mileage but lower run:walk ratio?

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