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 and John Hadd, Sasha Pachev preaches starting with a consistent diet of easy running. Then you progress 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. We as humans were not designed to sit all day. 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.
Though I’m nowhere near the prolific runner Pachev is, I’ve taken inter-workout jogs during work breaks to generally positive effect. I used to occasionally do them towards the end of my time in Chicago.
I’ve been doing these short jogs during the workday, around the neighborhood during 15 minute breaks and after eating lunch. I previously walked outside during breaks, but I wanted 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 can finish jogs 5 minutes faster on breaks, 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 run up to 3-4 miles during the workday. I can also train during the morning and weekends. I have effectively, though somewhat inadvertently, adopted Pachev’s Always On The Run Routine.
Despite my current weekly mileage rocketing upward from these little runs, I don’t feel any significant signs of burnout. I have 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 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, if easy enough, can accelerate recovery better than fully resting or other easy exercise. These runs are so short and so easy, plus restarting of your body’s hormonal processes spur faster, more effective recovery between full workouts.
- I look forward to these little runs. Rather than bottling this energy and letting it dissipate over a sedentary day, I put it to brief use. I do just enough that again I’m spurring recovery rather than exhaustion. This elicits a better biological response immediately and over time than sitting and resting.
- I’ll repeat 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 get consistent fresh air and Vitamin D rich sun exposure throughout the day. This 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. This immediately puts those nutrients to positive use. Plus, the likelihood of any fat or carbohydrates being stored as fat goes down. Instead of feeling lethargic after lunch digesting a meal, I feel more energy.
- 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. 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 is easier and less of an ordeal.
- The repeated practice on relatively fresh legs better develops 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. This over time can improve your heart rate variability and hormonal responses to stress.
- It basically creates an active lifestyle. Running becomes something you do 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, 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.
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