The Working Class 21 Day Training Cycle

After a few weeks of training daily, lots of strength training, lots of 45-60 minute cross training sessions, several short treadmill runs and work break runs… I’m feeling pretty worn out, clearly needing a break from what I’ve been doing, but obviously not wanting to take a full training break after having just come back from a long training break following Vancouver 2022.

Motivated by Kevin Beck’s 21 day cyclic training approach, though obviously not wanting to mirror high volume that I’m obviously not running nor in the condition to run… I decided to borrow from both him and Budd Coates to create my own 21 day cycle.

The Working Class Runner 21 Day Training Cycle

In Running On Air, Coates built training schedules using a 3 day alternating easy-medium-hard workout pattern. Similar to this, I patterned this 21 day schedule around big workouts every 3 days, the surrounding days easy, and a relatively easy strength workout coupled with easy training on days after the toughest, longest workouts.

Long Run: However long your longest workout needs to be, that’s the long run. I’d like to get this to a minimum of 2 hours. But it can be 60 or 90 minutes if that’s longer than my midweeks.

Notice that there’s only long runs every three weeks, and on that week they happen on back to back weekends within six days of each other. Then there’s not another long run for 15 days.

This patterning combines a bunching of long workouts with an extended break from long runs for a couple weeks while focusing on more medium-long workouts and strength training.

60-90min workout: These can be regular 60+ minute runs, or quality workouts like intervals or tempo work, or any mix of the above. But they need to be runs and they need to be 60-90 minutes, the sweet spot for aerobic endurance fitness growth.

Initially, they should just be regular easy runs, and if you can’t go 60 minutes then go however reasonably long you can at first, until 60 becomes do-able.

easy: These are either very short runs, no more than 30 minutes, or can be easy aerobic cross training for 45 minutes or more.

If an easy day falls on the weekend, you can go long on cross training, 2+ hours. On weekdays, keep it to 60 minutes.

But even on weekends, easy runs cannot go longer than 30 minutes. This is meant to be an active break, and the runs are best done as recovery runs, perhaps light work on technique or hills.

strength + easy: Here in addition to easy runs or cross training, you do strength training, no more than 20-30 minutes. I have two designated 20 minute workouts I can rotate between.

On the 2nd week, with three strength workouts, I actually would split into three separate 15 minute workouts, to make sure I do every exercise once per week. But it’s no problem to just rotate through two separate workouts and have them flip flop in order every 3 weeks.

I would keep weekday cross training to 45 minutes rather than 60 minutes, to keep the workout at about an hour. On weekends (or any day with more free time) it’s okay to cross train a full 60 minutes if desired.

Again, keep any running to 30 minutes or less, and that remains true with the strength workout. This will make these training days a bit longer than the other easy days.

When races and life intervene: If on a given day or weekend you have a race and it doesn’t line up perfectly with planned workouts, go ahead and turn the 2 days before and after the race into easy days. Don’t strength train within 3 days before the race, but feel free to strength train the day after the race or beyond if you’re up to it.

If an event in your life comes up and it interferes with a workout, it’s no problem to skip it. If you want to try and do a workout off-schedule the day after (leaving only one easy day before the next workout or long run), keep it to 60 minutes max.

The next easy day, you are allowed to skip the run or cross training if desired. If the next big workout is a long run, you can also skip strength training and just make the next one. If it’s not, it’s optional whether or not to make up the strength training displaced by your postponed workout. However, if possible, you are also allowed to switch your strength training to the day of the event postponing your workout.

If you need to take multiple days off in a row: Just do it, and don’t worry about it for now. If it creates a problem, it would have created a problem on any training schedule. Usually, though, a couple or few missed days shouldn’t derail you badly. Just get back to the schedule when you can.


So this 21 day cycle is the training template I’ve settled on going forward. Barring any random lumps in my schedule, I can follow this cycle without an issue through summer into fall racing season.

During summer, I’ll cross train on the easy days to avoid running in the heat, and then as the weather cools I’ll switch to shorter 2 mile runs up and down a nearby hilly trail during lunch. On weekend easy days I have a 2.2 mile circuit near home I can run for that, or I could just do a 2 miler on the treadmill, or cross train. However, the plan is to cease cross training once it cools off, until after Vancouver Round 4.

I have races planned for the fall, and that puts some lumps in the schedule. But the cycle should get me race ready, and it won’t be a big deal to put it aside for a few weeks to focus on frequent races. In fact, that will be right around time to transition from indoor treadmill/cross training to running outdoors regularly once again. So once the races are done, I’ll just begin doing runs outside.

Right now, the workout runs will all start at around 45-60 moderate minutes on the treadmill as that’s where I’m at right now with run fitness (the long runs will basically be like the other workouts). Once I get the workout runs to 60 minutes I’ll begin stretching out the weekend long runs beyond that, another mile or two every time out, until it gets to about 12 miles.

I’ll stick with that through racing season, then stretch it out once I’m training outdoors again and get it to 20 miles during training for Vancouver Round 4.

Also after race season, the 60 minute treadmill runs will become 90 minute outdoor workouts: The easy 8 milers I used to run in Summerlin, some interval sessions, some 8 milers with fast finishes or tempo segments. These will all be done outdoors (barring extreme weather or similar circumstances, in which case I’ll do 60 minutes on the treadmill if I must).


The goal with this was to refine everything I’ve been working on into a sustainable routine of training, demanding enough to build my fitness but not so demanding it burns me out.

Along with this cycle, I’ve also been focusing on adjustments for training monotony, but that’s another post for down the road….

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One thought on “The Working Class 21 Day Training Cycle

  1. […] The 21 day cycle has worked okay for me so far, though the runs have been short due to a rash on my right arm that required I go to Urgent Care for a prescription (the rash is doing better, though the RX as it does has messed with my body a bit), as well as a dinner for my dad’s birthday, and a car issue I had to sort out before smog check ahead of registration renewal. […]

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