Saturday, April 14, 2012

The weekend warrior myth

Last night, I ate mostly carbs, hydrated and tried (and failed) to get to bed at a reasonable hour. I woke up when it was still dark to have my pre-long run breakfast, and a few hours later, I started my three-hour run. Ah, Friday nights and Saturday mornings in the Yumke household.

Twenty miles later, I continued on my weekend ritual, ending the morning in a state of exhaustion, but with purpose: that long run would pay me back when I run my next marathon down the road.

View of Toronto skyline from Humber Bridge, the middle of a long run
I really can't remember many weekend mornings when I slept in and later, coffee mug in hand, having breakfast while the morning ticked by. I have a vague idea that other people do this. For more than seven years, my weekends have been dominated by training. I'm not alone: Saturdays and Sundays, the trails are packed with other athletes.

So I don't identify with the phrase 'weekend warriors', a term some use to describe people who put real time to training. As one of the definitions of 'weekend warrior' goes, it's a person who spends a week at a 9-5 job (what's that?) and then turns to other passions in the weekend -- be that partying, rock climbing, Ironman training or long distance running.

Of course, those who write about us as weekend warriors must have little idea on what most of us go through day in, day out. You hear about it when people talk about weekend warrior injuries, or people who run road races on little training, or ah shucks, isn't it nice that Bob there runs races, nice he can spend weekends on that.

Truth is, most days of the week during marathon preparation, my thoughts inevitably go to how I'd fit in training with life. That goes for Monday through Friday, even with long work hours. Often, I'm scrambling to fit in training, dinner and unplugging into a four or five hour window on weekday evenings. Not fun at all. (And I don't have any dependents, how others do it is beyond me.)

I could just state that I spend time training during the week, but it's a little easier to just illustrate what that looks like. Since mid-2005, I've been tracking all my runs on SportsTracks and I spit out a handy little analysis of when I run. The beauty of analyzing more than six years or 20,000 kilometres (um, wow) of data is there is no way a few runs can skew the numbers. These numbers don't lie.

Looking at the chart above, it's obvious that Sundays are my preferred day to get my long runs in. I've put in a staggering 3384 miles out of the total 12285 miles in one day. But that doesn't mean that other days have suffered.

So I plotted all my runs into a spreadsheet to do a percentage look. Very interesting findings.

According to the chart above, my top three days of the week are Sunday (28%), Saturday (16%) and Tuesday (16%). Mondays are the lowest mileage of the week, at 7%, obviously from my recovery from the long run, but it's not too far off.

I've run a variety of training programs, but in the years when I did the Pfitzinger-Douglas program, I'd be running major mileage on Tuesday to Thursday, which is why you see Tuesdays rivalling Saturday. I'd remember those days when I'd be putting in 10 mile Wednesdays, or 12 mile Thursdays. Ouch.

The more interesting stat I liked was when I totalled all the weekday runs and compared it to the weekend. From Monday to Friday, I racked up 57% of my weekly mileage, 43% for the weekend. While that is no surprise to a runner who usually sees the long run be about a third of their weekly distance, but for those who like to label us as weekend warriors it may be an eyeopener.

I often get asked how many days a week I run. The answer is invariably "five or six." Weekend warrior? Not really.

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