The key to consistent training is making small, incremental increases. Everyone knows that. But can the occasional, well managed bout of intense work over a couple of days result in even bigger gains?
That’s the philosophy behind ‘crash’ training. If its name sounds reckless, the theory behind it is potentially sound. For those with demanding 9-to-5s, for example, doing a ‘big’ weekend makes some sense. Similarly, a shift worker might have to do four 12-hour days in a row, followed by three days off, meaning that following a traditional seven-day schedule simply doesn’t make sense.
In the ultramarathon community, it’s fairly commonplace for people to do long back-to-back runs on a weekend in a bid to mimic the demands of running a long way on tired legs. And this style of training isn’t unheard of in middle-distance runners, either. Back in the 1970s, the illustrious British Milers’ Club, which included among its number one Steve Ovett, used to conduct a three-day ‘camp’, during which time its runners attempted to fit in most of their weekly volume into a 72-hour period. They’d then follow this by taking it very easy for the next four days.
Team GB ultrarunner and coach Robbie Britton is dubious about the benefits of crash training, encouraging even those with particularly packed or unorthodox midweek schedules to ‘keep the ball rolling with some regular 30-minute runs rather than attempting to squeeze everything into the weekend’.
However, if you are curious to try ‘crash’ training, you’ll improve your chances of emerging from it injury-free if you play it smart.
‘What I would normally advise is a higher quality, harder workout on the Saturday, followed by an easier, but longer run on the Sunday,’ says Britton.
‘You’re stressing yourself in slightly different ways and the first hour or so of your long run can be a warm up, easing in and helping the muscles recover from the day before.’
Push things too hard, however, and you’re likely to take a step backwards rather than forwards.
‘If you’re too knackered to run during the week from your weekend extravagances (be it training and/or partying) then you’re missing out on that consistency, and a bit of an easier weekend could boost motivation and help you find the time during the week,’ says Britton. ‘You need to work hard, but you also need to recover and grow stronger. One without the other won’t lead to the improvements you want.’
Three examples of crash training
For 5K: Sat: 6 x 1km off 90secs rest, then 4 x 300m off 300m recovery. Sun: 90-minute long run, with 30 minutes of steady effort in second half.
For marathon: Sat: 70-minute run, including 2 x 10mins at marathon pace. Sun: 2-hour progression run finishing at marathon pace (remember to fuel)
For ultra: Sat: 80-minute run, including 3 x 10mins continuous hills with 2mins rest. Sun: 3-hour trail run at easy pace.
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
You Might Also Like