Little and often – or fewer, bigger chunks?

On Sunday my wife went up to London for a couple of days, and after my run I went down to Bournemouth. I sorted out a few bits on Monday and thought about a run along the promenade.

If I’m down in Bournemouth, I love to run along the sea front but this time it looked like a run would be foolish for at least three reasons:

  • first, because it would be the 9th day in a row with exercise
  • second, my knee was complaining a bit after Sunday’s run
  • third, the weather was a little ‘frisky’, with rain lashing down and 60 mph gale force winds.

The English Channel is aptly named in the way it funnels the wind along the coastline. Once I followed someone riding a bike into a strong headwind along the promenade, until he gave up pedalling, got off the bike and pushed it.

This time I decided that discretion was the better part of valour (doublespeak for ‘I wimped out’) and the running kit stayed in the bag. Getting back to Oxfordshire I resisted the temptation to do a session on the turbo – a real rest day! I won’t deny the feeling that I should have done something, but I’ll get used to it …

… and I did. I took Tuesday off too.

That brings me to the question posed in the title: would I be better off doing, for example

  • 6 days of exercise with medium length runs (c 6-8 miles) and 45-60 minutes on the turbo, or
  • 4 days with longer runs (9-12 miles) and turbo sessions of over an hour, with more rest days
  • days with multiple short sessions?

As a simplistic example, if I wanted to run for 6 hours a week, would it be best to run for three 20 minutes sessions on 6 days, or six one hour runs across 6 days, or four 90 minute runs across 4 days?

As always, I expect the answer starts ‘It depends …’.

Several short sessions in a day, compared to the same time spent in one session

I can see that several shorter sessions in a day might keep the heart rate up for longer, and I understand why some people would be able to fit them into a working day more easily – and even find it easier to get motivated for a short session. Personally, being retired, the time is less of an issue and I think I might struggle with several short sessions (to say nothing of the washing of smelly kit).

One shorter session on more days a week, versus fewer longer sessions with more rest days

With the importance of rest days, I guess fewer, longer sessions might be better? Also, that feels like a better use of time (change, warm up and stretch afterwards just once for a 2 hour session instead of twice for two one hour sessions?) …. but are longer sessions likely to be riskier from an injury perspective?

I have no idea as to the correct answer but I keep reading that training for the ultra needs time on your feet, running when already jaded and ever longer runs to help replicate the race day itself. Feels like fewer, longer sessions are what I’ll try in the next few weeks.

I expect that all approaches are reasonable if not taken to the extremes – I once ran a marathon with a chap who decided that running one half marathon each week would be good training. It didn’t end well …

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