With your high-level training plan sketched out, you’re now ready to schedule your weekly workouts as you begin implementing the plan.
Remember, each training phase is focused on a particular training effect, which means each training phase draws from the particular sets of workouts associated with those training phases, as described earlier.
You can use the Alp Fitness workout library as a resource to schedule your weekly calendar, whether you do that on TrainingPeaks, in a spreadsheet, or on paper. Below are some additional tips to keep in mind as you arrange your workouts each week.
Approaches to Arranging Workouts
When it comes to implementing these workouts on a weekly basis, there are a few ways to approach this as you balance the overall training load.
The typical approach is to alternate hard days with easy days. This means scheduling one or more easy days after a hard day, which allows for more recovery between the key workouts so you can execute them more effectively.
Another approach, however, is to schedule the harder workouts on back-to-back days, which is generally followed by back-to-back recovery days. You obviously won’t be able to perform as well on the second day of key back-to-back workouts. But concentrating the training load over two days before recovering can help boost the training effect. If done consistently over a four-week training block; then you can also get in an extra key workout or two over that timeframe.
Back-to-back workouts can be a good strategy for ultrarunners looking to stack back-to-back long run days. But it can also be used for back-to-back tempo workouts and back-to-back threshold workouts. In some situations, it may even make sense to stack back-to-back VO2max workouts. Keep in mind that stacking back-to-back hard days needs to be followed by adequate recovery, which often means back-to-back easy days.
When it comes to rest days, the typical approach is to take one rest day each week. This can be a lightly active rest day with some yoga or mobility work, but it generally means a day off from your endurance (and strength training) activities.
Another approach, however, is to schedule a full rest day every few weeks or every month — rather than every week. This approach is typically adopted by more experienced and younger athletes. Instead of a complete day off, a recovery workout is scheduled.
As introduced earlier when discussing the general adaptation process, your fitness improves after adequate recovery from the work you’ve done — not simply after doing the work itself. So, scheduling adequate recovery throughout each training phase is crucial to reaping the rewards of the training.
Whether or not you schedule a designated recovery week every two to three weeks, you need to be able to recognize when your body is telling you it’s time for some recovery days.
One key indicator that you’re ready for more recovery or rest days is when your performance declines. A certain amount of performance decline is expected over a training phase. But if you experience a deterioration in performance of around 5% over your last two to three workouts; then that’s a sign you need to work in some rest and recovery.
You can also look specifically at a similar workout type to track your performance throughout a training phase. For example, if you’re moving through a lactate threshold training phase with threshold intervals each week, you should be able to more or less hit those intervals each week if you’re getting adequate recovery. Your training plan might schedule fewer intervals each week to account for the expected accumulation of fatigue. But if your performance declines around 5% over two of the last three threshold workouts, you know you need to work in more rest and recovery.
Another indicator is when you’re feeling progressively worse for three days in a row. Your heart rate may not be elevating during exercise — or you may have a higher than usual resting heart rate when waking up in the morning. You may feel sluggish, flat, or simply lacking the usual energy. This means you’re carrying more fatigue then you’re able to effectively shed and it’s time to rest. Take a day or two off followed by an easy day before jumping back into harder workouts.
Even if you feel you’re getting adequate recovery without taking a full rest day each week, be sure to schedule a rest day once a month — or, at least once every six weeks — during longer training phases. Extra recovery every 4-6 weeks allows your body to adapt to the training load you’ve thrown at it so it will be ready for another stage of improvement over the next 4-6 weeks of training.
As you schedule your training weeks, be sure to balance training loads and recovery along with other life activities and commitments. Stress is stress regardless of where that comes from in your life. If you’re experiencing a particularly challenging time at work with extra hours or stress, that all goes into the same bucket along with your training stress. So you may need to cut back on your workouts until the work commitments subside.
Consistent training is key, but maintaining consistency requires flexibility. It’s good to schedule your workouts at least a week in advance, but this doesn’t mean the week is set in stone. Revise the schedule as needed when events, weather, and other things come up. Use your training plan as a guide with an eye on the key workouts you’re trying to achieve each week. Work to get in those key workouts even if you need to move things around (or nix some of the other workouts) to make it happen.
The next lesson provides sample training weeks based on the previous training plan demo. Use these for ideas, but tailor your weeks based on your own plan and with your own goals and circumstances in mind.