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Thoughts on the Run: The 10-day week

Andy Shearer
Middletown Transcript

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Longday, Sprintday, Restday. There… I have finally completed the new and improved runners’ 10-day week. A 10-day week you say? Why yes, indeed.

It has always been apparent to me that the inventor of the 7-day week was not a runner. According to History World, Time Center and a few other online sites, it was those whacky Romans who finally figured out the solar year, then divvied it up. The Mayans also figured out the 365-day trip around the sun, but they had 18-months in their annual calendar which would screw with the traditional runner’s marathon calendar that allows for only one marathon every six months. Three in a year? Unthinkable!

The 7-day week has both a Biblical origin and a Roman one (the seven known planets, each getting its own day). The former was not an arbitrary invention but the latter (again, those Romans) was. And since time increments are man-made, it’s Julius Caesar’s curse to bear, along with the gladiator games. There is no relation to Caesar Rodney or his half-marathon, by the way.

So fast-forward to modern times and the trappings of the 24-hour day, 7-day week, 365-day year. And being this is a leap year, 366-days. Almost everything we do, from work to play to vacation to sleep to eat to train is predicated on that 7-day cycle. But I propose that the 7-day week is not the optimal way to train. Rather, a 10-day cycle would be “more better.” Sorry, my brain clocked out after that Mayan thing.

Let’s face it, how many of us look at 7-days in our training cycles and say, “Yes, I can fit in those three hard workouts, three easy workouts, three strength days, three cross training days, and even get a full rest day in there, too.” Probably a lot of us. And we often discuss our “weekly mileage” as a badge of honor. “Hey, I broke 40 miles last week” or “I can’t run with you today, I’m already over 25 this week.”

There are multiple reasons that we should instead start looking at increasing the number of days in our training cycle. First, more opportunity for rest. It is the single biggest missing piece in any runner’s training. We simply don’t rest sufficiently between harder efforts because we are so worried about fitting it all into the 7-day cycle.

Secondly, we can spread out those harder efforts and make them significantly more meaningful and focused. I’ve had multiple conversations with athletes who squeeze in a hard speed or tempo session because by pushing it back a day, it would interfere with the next hard effort. Thus, those up-tempo sessions are no longer done at optimal pace/effort and are done in a compromised fashion.

Third, by adding three days to the training cycle, we can be more productive with the “small stuff” like strength work, plyometrics, and those pesky OFF days. Often runners skimp on those because again, it would either push workouts into back-to-back days or omit them all-together (again, short-changing our ability to get better/faster/stronger).

So, what does this new cycle look like? Well, there are 30-days in a calendar month (unless you are Mayan, then it’s only 20-days and I’m not training with you). That’s three 10-day cycles. In February, you’d need to be flexible and in the overachieving 31-days months, simply add an extra rest day or easy day.

Within those 10-days, we have our long run, our tempo/strength run, our up-tempo/speed run and plenty of days for easy/recovery/cross-training/weight room. Tapering for a race? Either a 10-day taper for a key/focal race or 20-day taper for a marathon. Voila!

So what are the negatives? Well, it’s really our own mindset, and the mindset of our training partners that we need to overcome, and maybe some of those antiquated paper running logs. But the benefits of a more complete 10-day training cycle, which includes more opportunity for rest, recovery, strength, etc., would be tremendous.

So I applaud the Romans and Mayans for figuring out the year thing, but honestly, they really didn’t do us any favors when it comes to training. I mean, the best the Mayans could come up with was Pok-ta-Pok and you KNOW what the Romans were famous for.

I hope to see you on the roads, tracks and trails, but not in the Colosseum.

Former standout Lock Haven University runner Andy Shearer is a member of the Middletown Athletic Club, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club and USA Track and Field.