I’ve talked before about Sasha Pachev, the prolific patriarch of the prolific Pachev running family in Utah. To this day, I still consider his simple advice among the most effective for marathon training. Much like Hal Higdon, Pachev preaches volume first through a consistent diet of easy running, before progressing to a simple but consistent variety of speed and tempo workouts.
One of Pachev’s preached staples is what he calls his Always On The Run Routine. Basically, after training in the morning, every few hours he will take a break and go jog a mile. Pachev, to paraphrase, says this is to get the body moving, that we as humans were not designed to sit all day and that a short run every few hours is more natural, plus adds running volume and practice.
Keep in mind Pachev at his peak trained 80-100 miles a week, and was capable of running a sub-2:30 marathon. He was an elite-caliber runner and even in his older age probably still is. Even with such a high volume it didn’t take him more 10-12 hours a week to train. So, sure, Pachev’s scheduled short jogs between workouts were probably not too taxing after 10-20 mile workouts in the morning.
That said, though I’m nowhere near the prolific runner Pachev is, I have also taken inter-workout jogs during breaks to generally positive effect. I used to occasionally do them towards the end of my time in Chicago.
And now, I’ve been doing these short jogs during the workday, around the neighborhood during 15 minute breaks and after eating lunch. I had previously walked outside during breaks, but along with wanting to do more than walk I also didn’t like being out in the Vegas sun as long as it took to take these “short walks”. I could finish a jog 5 minutes faster on breaks, and well before the end of my lunch break, without being in the sun long enough to cause distress. Though sun exposure is good for your body, the decreased time in the hot sun was better for my skin.
I’m now running about 3-4 miles during the workday, in addition to training during the morning and weekends (as the heat rises and wanting to get better sleep, I’ve ditched postwork evening runs for now). I have effectively, though somewhat inadvertently, adopted Pachev’s Always On The Run Routine.
And, despite my current weekly mileage rocketing upward from all these little runs, I don’t feel any significant signs of burnout, no issues other than a bit of random soreness here or there, or occasional fatigue accumulation (as you would after a few days of multiple runs).
Plus, my running has shown more substantial week over week improvement than it was during earlier conventional training. I simply took one day off this weekend, and my running improved dramatically once I returned on Monday. Bear in mind that I’m not coming off a break in training: I’ve been running and endurance training for a while.
So obviously this had me considering what about this routine contributes to run development. I did land on a few ideas.
- Recovery runs, provided they are easy enough not to further tax and damage the body, can accelerate recovery better than fully resting or other easy exercise. These runs are so short and so easy that the restarting of your body’s hormonal processes are spurring faster, more effective recovery between full workouts.
- I look forward to these little runs, and rather than bottling this energy and letting it dissipate over a sedentary day, I’m putting it to brief use, just enough that again I’m spurring recovery rather than exhaustion, which elicits a better biological response immediately and over time than sitting and resting.
- Going back to Pachev’s “Sedentary activity teaches the body to sit, not to run” point, getting up and running consistently is gene-expressing the body into better running shape through habit forming. The body streamlines what it has to do all the time. Running economy improves when you run more often, more so than when you train hard or long.
- I’m getting consistent fresh air and Vitamin D rich sun exposure throughout the day, which is healthier and better for growth than sitting indoors and breathing nothing but dusty indoor air all day.
- One of these runs is right after I eat a clean healthy lunch, which means those nutrients are immediately being put to positive use. Plus, the likelihood of any fat or cabohydrates being stored as fat goes down. And of course, instead of feeling lehtargic after lunch digesting a meal, I feel more energy as that meal’s already been put to partial use.
- This is a safe, easy way to add running volume. I basically added 15-20 easy running miles per week without a single remotely challenging run workout by doing this, outside of any actual training workouts. Many people don’t even run 20 miles per week, period!
- I am slowly, productively heat acclimating by running in the growing Vegas heat through these very small 10-20 minute doses. A single 30-60 minute workout in the heat right now might wipe me out with lingering effects for several days. Quick hits throughout every day allow me to quickly get used to it and spur additional mitochondrial development. An eventual 30-60 minute workout in morning 90 degree (F) temps will be more feasible and less of an ordeal down the road.
- The repeated practice on relatively fresh legs is better for developing and ingraining better run economy as you eventually get to those longer, tougher workouts.
- The repeated sudden onset of running stress also acclimates the body to handling sudden onsets of stress, which over time can improve your heart rate variability and hormonal responses to stress.
- It basically creates an active lifestyle, since running becomes something you’re doing throughout the day rather than something you do once a day a few days a week.
This isn’t anything new, of course. I previously mentioned my brother in law, who is a 1:40 half marathoner, running 3-6 miles multiple times during the day instead of doing single 10-15 mile runs. And in Chicago I went on random short runs outside of training all the time.
But Pachev’s Always On the Run routine isn’t just an esoteric routine that worked for him and a few others. There are verifiable training and biological benefits to the routine, including the safe and relatively easy addition of easy running volume.