McMillan Running Calculator — How to Plan your Workouts

Type: Intervals
Distance: 20.2 miles
Time: 1:00:45
Average Watts: 182 watts
Normative Power: 195 watts
Average Heart Rate: 157 bpm
Total Work: 680 kJ
Average Speed: 20.1 mph

People, I love doing intervals. I need to get to the point that I my normative power is up over 200 w for an hour worth of intervals. I can accomplish this one of two ways: increase the amount of time spent during heavy efforts or increase the amount of power output during the actual intervals. I am thinking for the next two weeks that I will focus on increasing the amount of time I spend during each interval.

Yesterday I finished my 2010 Tour de France DVD’s and man, what a race that was. There was a ton of tension at the top of the podium between Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador. Everyone else was literally racing for third place. I thought it would have been cool to just have the two of them race alone.

On the iPod: “Hard to Handle” by the Black Crowes and “Shimmer” by Fuel. Man do I love me some Black Crowes. They are really a great example of modern day southern rock. If you like blues and a little harder guitar, please take the time to check out the Black Crowes especially.

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Using the McMillan Running Calculator to Plan your Workouts

Heads-Up — we have a full on nerd alert. This post is going to talk about the technical side of run training. And it will be long. It will probably take you as long to read this as your last run took you.

I know I have written about the McMillan Running Calculator in the past. I thought it would be a good idea to give you a real life example of how to use it to improve your running — both your pace and the level of enjoyment you can get out of the hours and hours you spend pounding the pavement.

This post is going to be a little personal people — I am going to use myself as the example. In my last post about this tool I did advocate that you could use it to work backwards to help you achieve a specific race goal. I did get some feedback from people who said that working backwards is not the intended use of the calculator, and I can appreciate that input. Since I have recently achieved many of the times at the distances listed on the calculator, I feel very comfortable using it in this fashion. As with everything I talk about here, please use it at your own risk. Don’t call me if your workouts are too hard and make you cry. :)

My PR for a marathon is a 3:57. I have a marathon in June that I want to run a 3:45 for. My super-secret goal is a 3:30. The marathon I have selected is a downhill course that should lend itself to a PR. I have run on about half of the course before and really like the way it looks for a PR. I am willing to do the work and feel I have the base to run this time. I will be cutting my weight from the current level of 190 lbs. down to 170 lbs.

So here is what the McMillan Calculator says my pace should be at various distances if I want to run a 3:45 marathon in June.

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For you runners who maintain the same pace for all your runs, if you want to get faster and even more efficient, you need to keep a different pace for different types of runs. This will really help you enjoy running more as it becomes more comfortable to get out on the road. The McMillan Calculator tells you how fast these runs should be. Here are the different types of runs, a short description of what they are, and how fast my pace should be during these types of runs.

Easy/Long Runs — I am going to include long runs, recovery runs, and easy runs in the same category. I know they aren’t the same type of runs, but I am lumping them together because the slow of the slow feels way too slow for me. My chart shows these runs should be completed anywhere between a 9:06 and 10:36/mile pace. For me a long run is completed at closer to a 8:45 pace. That may mean that I am not shooting high enough for my marathon goal.

Tempo Runs — This run should be a little tougher than your easy runs, pushing yourself but staying comfortable. According to my chart, these runs should be completed at a pace between 7:49 to 8:09. This is a good pace for me.  As I start doing more speed work, these runs will become the staple of my week.

Intervals — I love intervals. I think I love them because I like the slower running breaks. I have read a lot about intervals and their purpose. All I know is you are supposed to go one gear higher than your tempo run pace for a planned amount of time and then back off. I love to do a two minute interval and three minute rest, but I don’t have anything scientific to back that up. According to McMillan, my intervals should be done at a pace of 7:42 to 7:58/mile. I actually like to do mine at a 7:00/mile pace and then back off to at least a 8:00/mile pace.

VO2 Max Pace — This pace is when you run and your breath is done as hard as it can be. I have read that it is the fastest pace you can sustain for about 8 minutes. To find that pace, I will use the mile time recommended in the top chart and target that range. For me, that would be a 6:39/mile pace. That is a tough pace and I would have to work really hard to maintain it for a mile. I have seen some coaches advocate that you can break this workout up into sets instead. I like to go to the track and run 400 at this pace and 400 at an easy jog. This is kind of like intervals, but the pace is much higher for me. I will do anywhere from eight to 12 of these sets. According to my results from McMillan, I should be running 400’s at a 1:41 to 1:47/400 pace. Instead of focusing on the reading on my Garmin Forerunner during these workouts, I push myself and then analyze the results after.

Workout Planning

There are lots of other types of workouts that I haven’t covered (like running hills, both up and down, strides, etc.). But these four types of runs will be the primary focus of most training plans. My schedule is a little different because along with running, I am always training on the bike. If I am about three months out from a triathlon, I am also swimming. Of course, I am always training my core to keep my core strength and ultimately my form where it needs to be for longer periods of time during my running and biking sessions.

I will be focusing on running for February through May because of my planned June marathon. Because I want to be in good form on the bike starting in March, that means I will have to shift to two-a-day workouts. This is good and bad.

The good is I will get the workouts that I need in. The bad is my pace is going to suffer. It will drop a little at least on the run during the month of February because my legs will be more tired than they are accustomed to. The human body is pretty amazing though and my legs will catch up with my brain and I will make the improvements in pace that I want to see.

So not including my time in the saddle on my bike, beginning in February my weekly run workouts will look something like this:

Sunday: Rest — very important to let your legs catch up and absorb your improvements
Monday: Easy Run
Tuesday: Hard Intervals
Wednesday: Easy Run
Thursday: Tempo Run
Friday: Easy Run
Saturday: Long Run

While not set in stone, it gives you a good idea of how I like to schedule my workouts. I will have build weeks, speed weeks, and recovery weeks, so each week may be a little different as to the pace and intensity of the effort.

If you are just starting to run and feel a little overwhelmed by the technical side of training, for heaven’s sake please find a local running coach. They can help steer you in the right direction and help you train safely and within your current abilities. They can also help you avoid injuries that come with overtraining. Good luck training!

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...