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Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Tag Archives: training for a marathon

Opinions Requested:Should I include traditional training plans in my newest book on running?

Conundrum.  Dilemma. Quandary.
These are all big words for the question facing me right now:

Should I include traditional training plans in my newest book on running?

Even though I have developed the plans, I am leaning towards no.

The Argument for Inclusionrevised-plans

Everyone has to start somewhere.  My experience tells me that traditional plans work.  When folks follow a plan that has all of the traditional aspect, it works for the vast majority of people who really do it the way it was designed. Most of the ideas in this book are followed in a traditional plan.

  • A gradual increase in weekly miles
  • Rest days
  • A balance of speed work, tempo work, easy and long runs
  • Rarely doing two hard days back-to-back

Heck, just being more consistent and purposeful with your workouts will help 80% of runners out there to improve their performance greatly.  In that respect, I am simply practicing what I preach in terms of including a coordinated plan of tried and true methods.  So why is there a question?  I should include traditional training programs, right?

The Argument Against Inclusion

The first and most important reason against inclusion is that it is unnecessary.  There are already a million solid plans out there, including free ones, that I know can work well for my readers.

I believe the content of my book is necessary because it pulls together so much information and delivers it to the reader in an understandable way.  I am not so sure about how much value is added by me putting out 4 or 5 training plans that would be similar.

Perhaps more important is the fact that what I am doing now is working for me, and it is not traditional.  I can’t include it yet, because it must be field tested with enough runners to be able to publish the plan with confidence.  I am only  sharing it with my personal coaching clients for now.

Please comment on this blog post to let me know what you think I should do?

Should I include some traditional training plans in my new book?
Why or why not?

Thank you for your input!

P. Mark Taylor
WiseRunning.com

 

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How I Improved from 5:35 to 3:27 in the Marathon in 18 months

[This post is an excerpt from the updated essay included in my upcoming book Unwrapping the Gift of Running.]

“You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.”   – Frank Shorter

Even though Frank was a world-class marathoner, I respectfully disagree.  I do remember my last marathon.  I remember all three of them.  If I didn’t remember, then I would not have learned from them.  If I had not learned from them, then I would not have returned for a second or third.  The name of my blog is Wise Running.  That is not a claim that everything I do is wise.  In fact, it is the opposite.  I am gradually becoming wise through the school of hard knocks.  The more mistakes I make while running, the wiser & faster I become

I am now in training for my fourth marathon.  I have my training plan and I am sticking to it as much as I can.  It is, to say the very least, vastly different from the training for my first marathon.  Looking back, I no longer consider that training.  What I did before my first marathon was haphazard and probably a little dangerous.

  • I was only running a few days a week, because my knees were always sore after a run.
  • I didn’t have a plan, I was just making it up as I went.
  • I only ran one 17 miler and one 20 mile run, everything else was 13 miles or less.
  • I took a total of three drinks of water during training runs in the entire “training” program.
  • There was only 1 run where I tried to consume any calories

Yes, that’s right.  I didn’t feel comfortable drinking while running, so I took a grand total of 3 drinks during the entire “training” program.  If you know anything about running long distances, you can probably guess what kind of experience I had in my first marathon.  Not good.

In April of 2010, I glided through the first half of the Knoxville Marathon in just over 2 hours and felt strong.  By mile mile 16, I knew I didn’t feel right.  By mile 18, I started cramping a little.  By mile marker 19, every muscle in my body was taking turns cramping.  I walked the last 7.2 miles.  It began to rain hard.  By the time I crossed the first bridge over the river, it was raining sideways because of the huge cross-breeze.  I was wet, cold, shivering, and generally miserable.  Thank God for nice people!  A volunteer under the bridge in the 20th mile gave me poncho.  It kept me warm enough to stave off the medics and gradually walk to the finish.  It was a humbling experience watching all of the pacers pass me one by one.  I refused to quit.  I completed my first marathon in 5 hours and 35 minutes.  I was in pain & suffering for the next week.

What did I learn from marathon number 1?  Plenty!

  • You had better have a training plan or you will suffer!
  • You had better have calories, electrolytes, and drinks or you will suffer!
  • I am not a quitter. 🙂

That is the beginning of the story.  What happened in the next 18 months? 

The first thing that I always do after a bad run is to plan my return.  You can’t let a course beat you.  The second thing I did was to start reading.  I had half-heartedly looked at training plans before, but now I was seriously shopping for one.  I read up on hydration, energy gels, shoes, & everything else I could find.

I did not start the marathon training right away.   In fact, I started where I should have started the first time.  I began to train for shorter distances first.  A couple of months later, I ran the Expo 5K in 21:55, a 7:03 mile pace & almost a full minute faster than my previous 5K time.  Next I set my sites on improving my half-marathon time.  I had managed to survive a 1:59:27 at the Oak Ridge half the previous year.  I began to build a mileage base running 4 days a week fairly consistently, which was not easy because my knees were still ailing.  In October of 2010, I ran the Secret City Half Marathon in 1:48:59.

The things I was doing differently than before:

  • I gradually built up my weekly mileage.
  • I did a speed workout at the track about once a week, running 400m or 800m repeats.
  • On my runs over 10 miles, I was experimenting with sports drinks and energy gels.

One more critical thing happened in late December of 2010.  I purchased a pair of Vibram Fivefingers KSOs.  These are extreme minimalist shoes.  They are not for everyone, so don’t take this as a suggestion.  The KSOs were important for me because they have no cushioning.  The lack of cushioning caused me to alter my running form to a much better and safer form.  The result was happy knees!  When I run in Vibrams or other shoes with no cushioning, my knees do not get any more sore than any other part of my body.  What a blessing!

Training for the 2011 Knoxville Marathon

Despite my best intentions of implementing the full Hal Higdon marathon training schedule, I found myself starting late.  I did, however, accomplish most of his Advanced 1 training schedule.  I started on the Advanced 1 rather than intermediate plans because of the mileage base that I had built.  I found that I could adjust this particular schedule just a bit and it pushed me just a little harder.  Just right.

The things I was doing differently than before:

  • I was following an expert’s marathon training plan that challenged me just enough.
  • I focused my track work on 800 meter repeats exclusively, running every 800 at 3:30.
  • I was taking electrolyte capsules to supplement the sports drinks & energy gels.
  • I ran three 20 mile runs in preparation for the marathon.

1 Year After My First Marathon

I returned to the scene of the crime a year later.  I was not going to allow a course to defeat me and get away with it.  I was here for revenge.  I had specialized training, energy gel, a fuel belt with my own Gatorade, electrolyte tablets, and cool shoes.  Yes, folks, I was back to kick some butt!

Did it all go as planned?  Of course not.  I had rumblings in my tummy before I had reached mile marker 5.  Thankfully, the Knoxville Track Club and the race director know what runners need.  There were plenty of porta-potties along the route.  I made prolonged visits to these facilities no less than four times.  That was glitch number one.  Glitch number two came when I dropped the electrolyte capsules somewhere in the first 6 miles.  Thankfully, I had taken several before the start so I wasn’t completely out of luck.

Despite these issues, I still finished the first half of the marathon at around 1:48.  The first part of the course has more hills than the second half, so I knew that I could cruise to a decent time even if I got tired and crampy.  This time the second half of the marathon did go much better.  I took the time to drink more, but kept a respectable pace.  I felt my body running low on fuel, but I had energy gel.  I felt sort of a pre-cramp feeling, so I chose to slow down my pace and try to relax my muscles.  I did gradually slow down more than I wanted to, but I managed to complete the course in 3:55:59 – about an hour and 40 minutes faster than in 2010.

I still felt as if I had been run over by a truck and my feet had a lot of blisters, but I had taken that course to school!  It had beaten me in 2010 and I beat it in 2011.

The Next 6 Months

It only took a couple of days to recuperate from the extreme soreness.  In that time, I was already beginning to plan my next race.  I knew that I would return to run the Knoxville Marathon in 2012, but I wanted to run a marathon before that.  I eventually found the 7 Bridges Marathon scheduled for mid-October of 2011.  It was just a short drive south to Chattanooga and the course looked to be flatter than Knoxville.  I did not wait for the 18 week marathon training schedule to kick in.  After resting and some gentle, short runs for the first two weeks, I began the process of cranking up my mileage and speed work.

  • IMPORTANT:  At this time, I learned that the most important way to handle running in extreme heat is to be running long runs as the heat increases from spring to summer.

In other words, in addition to precautions of extra water and electrolytes, you also have to gradually get your body used to running in increasingly hot temperatures.  If you begin to increase your mileage a lot when it is already hot, you may suffer a heat stroke!!!

Thankfully, that did fit my plan.  The official training plan that I used to prepare for the 7 Bridges Marathon was Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 plan.  It represented another increase in mileage and intensity.  By this time, I had shifted to running in Vibram Fivefingers Bikila LS shoes.  I ran six days a week and felt pretty good.

I followed Higdon’s advice and used my marathon training to get some faster times in shorter races.  I ran the 2011 Expo 10K in May in 43:09 [6:56 mile pace] and the Fireball 5K in July in 20:41 [6:39 pace].

The things I was doing differently than before:

  • I ran 6 days per week & rested every Friday regardless of how good I felt.
  • I was following a new marathon training plan that challenged me just enough.
  • I was now doing my 800 meter repeats at 3:00, 30 seconds faster than before
  • I continued testing out new sports drinks & energy gels.
  • I ran more 20 mile runs in preparation for the marathon and even went 22.5 once.

18 Months After the First Marathon

I was beginning to fantasize about qualifying for Boston.  At my age, it would have taken a time of 3:25.  That would have been 30 minutes and 59 seconds faster than my marathon just 6 months prior.  At this level, it is not considered realistic or even smart to try to improve that much in such a short time.  On the other hand, I knew that I was getting faster and smarter.  I thought I had an outside chance if everything came together just right and the wind was at my back the whole way.

Rather than expect a miracle, however, I decided to say that 3:25 was my fantasy goal but that I would be happy to finish anywhere in the 3:30s. After all, 3:35 would be a big improvement over 3:55.  For the pace of my training, this seemed reasonable.

sprintingAt the start line, I was nervous!  I couldn’t decide between my two strategy choices.  Should I run at an 8 minute pace and then speed up on the back half to see what I could do?  Should I start out a little faster than “Boston pace” and hope to get close to that mark?  When the starting gun went off, I was thinking plan B.  I had to take a shot at Boston.  If I failed, I would still finish with a good time.

That is exactly what happened.  I finished the first half at a 7:24 pace that felt comfortable.  It did not feel like pushing it.  I drank and ate more than I had ever attempted in previous marathons in the effort to avoid the dehydration and nutrition issues that had slowed me down.  I was gradually slowing down throughout the second half, but with three miles to go, I could still run the last miles at a 9 minute pace and qualify for Boston.  Unfortunately, that is when I really started to slow down.  Despite my best training and my best drinking strategy, I was still dehydrated.

When I crossed bridge number 7 I had no gas left and that is when the cramps set in.  I gave up Boston and slowed down.  I was disappointed, but I knew that I had made a tremendous improvement and run the right race.  Looking back, the only change I would have made would be to drink 5-8 more cups of Powerade along the way.  It is just an educated guess, but I believe I would have finished 5 to 10 minutes faster if I had slowed down to drink.

As it was, I dragged myself across the finish line in a time of 3:27:27.  I had improved my time by a little less than half an hour.  Nice!

And From There?

Since I first wrote about this huge improvement, I have managed to whittle my marathon time down to 3:08:22.   I was 42 years old when I started this journey and 48 years old at the time of my current personal record for the marathon.   I continue to run marathons for fun and sometimes to compete.  The faster you are, the more difficult it is to make significant gains.  The good news is that gains do can continue as you:

  • Training consistently and wisely
  • Eat Well
  • And enjoy the run.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

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Maybe you knew all of these lessons already, but they were new to me.  If you have learned just one new idea from reading this, then I will be happy.  We runners have to stick together.  Its more fun and safe that way.

You can find me on the web:

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wise-Running/223617527674175

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/#!/Wise_Running     @Wise_Running

Daily Mile:  http://www.dailymile.com/people/PMarkT

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pmarktaylor/     @pmarktaylor

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

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10 Days Before the Marathon

wise running logo 7_25_12The hay is in the barn.  It is October 28 and I just ran the last key workout for the Savannah Marathon.  That leaves 10 days between today and race day.  It takes a full 10 days to see the full benefit of any particular workout, so this is a logical stopping point.  I will not get any faster.  Through rest and easy running, however, I will keep my speed and increase my health.  The little bumps and bruises, the sore parts, the cramps, strains and all of that, those things need time to heal.  They need to be gone by race day.  Fresh legs with no soreness but all of the speed I have earned through a thoughtful and hard-fought process of training.  Yes, 10 days ought to do the trick.

Getting to This Point

Much of my summer was focused on track meets and developing raw speed.  It was in mid-July that I first started sprinkling in some marathon-specific workouts.  I still had a few track meets left as well as a half-iron distance triathlon, so I was not fully devoted to marathon until later.  My long runs began to get longer and I sprinkled in some tempo runs here and there.

In August, my monthly mileage gradually went from somewhere in the twenties to somewhere in the thirties.  Throughout September, I averaged 41 miles per week.  Through experience, I have learned this is the sweet spot for my marathon training.  I make the most progress at about 40-44 miles per week.  Some people can handle a lot more.  This is me.  I have stayed right around there through the first 3 weeks of October, too.

My longest runs are every other week.  At first I was measuring by miles, but after 16 miles I start measuring by time.  My long runs went from two hours and twenty minutes, to two hours and forty minutes.  I completed two 3-hour long runs.  The Sundays between these very long runs were in the 10 to 12 mile range.

My training paces have changed over the months as well.  In July and part of August, I was doing a lot of short (200 meters to 800 meters) intervals at 5:40 pace or faster.  I gradually decreased time at those ridiculously fast paces while increasing time and distances at paces ranging from 6:30 15257355495_c5aa8f7266_oto 6:50.  These are the paces that I want to run during the marathon, so I have run a lot of mile repeats and tempo runs in this pace range.  No, I do not plan to average 6:30 miles in the marathon.  I would like to average in the 6:50 range.  I have to plan for time to walk through water stations and take a potty break.  Hence, I practiced 6:30’s and 6:40’s to aim for an average in the 6:50’s.  🙂

I have done races along the way, but I considered them all to be training runs for the marathon.  I wanted to maintain two to three key workouts per week.  That meant that I could not afford to rest up to really kill any races along the way.  So, they were just training at a good pace.

The 10 Days of Taper

So here we are, 3.5 months after the first marathon-specific workout.  The hay is in the barn.  I will take it easy.  All runs will be at 8:00 pace or slower except for a few strides now and then.  This is enough effort to maintain my speed but easy enough to heal completely in 10 days. My scheduled miles for this week add up to 26.  Next week, I will run 9 to 12 miles before race day on Saturday.

Not only am I going for a personal record (PR) at the Savannah Marathon, but it also the one year anniversary of our wedding.  Muna and I got married on the way to the race last year.  It will be a great day no matter how the race turns out.  Gotta keep things in perspective.

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“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

    — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

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Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life (2nd book)

Wise Running Book 2 is now available via in paperback and e-book. 

Wise Running Book COVER mockup

Wise Running is the follow-up to P. Mark Taylor’s first book on running: The Gift of Running.  While the first book focused more on getting started as a runner, this second book is more about how to move to the next level. P. Mark Taylor tells us how to think about running in ways that will help you be more consistent and improve.

Running is a great metaphor for life. It takes effort. It takes motivation. You have to stay healthy. If you stick with it long
enough and smart enough, you live a more rewarding life. So it is with running.

In Wise Running, P. Mark Taylor shows runners how to train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

The ebook includes:

  • goals, fitness, & health
  • how to think about training
  • designing a race and training schedule
  • aligning your efforts with reality
  • eating for health and fitness
  • a runner’s view on special diets
  • running-specific nutrition, including marathon nutrition
  • the effects of heat and humidity
  • the social aspect of running
  • motivation and encouragement

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The Gift of Running, the first book in the Wise Running series by P. Mark Taylor, is available in both paperback & e-book

 

Running Naked: The Effects of Watchless Running

A fellow runner posted this question to me:

Hi, P. Mark!!

What has been your experience with watchless running and racing? I race without a watch but I want to start training without a watch, just enjoying runs and doing true fartlek runs, don’t care wearing a watch during intervals, I have been obsesses with splits for so long that I want to try something different, I have tried fartlek runs without a watch in the past and I raced decent and I loved the freedom of it!! Do you think that the training and racing suffers training watchless always ( even for hard workouts)?

Cesar

Most runners feel naked without a timing device.  That is why I refer to an untimed run as a Naked Run.

It is not the watch or GPS device that we miss.  What we are missing is data, the opportunity to analyze our running and make informed decisions about our progress and the effectiveness of our workouts.

Well, Cesar, I know exactly what you mean.  We get so caught up in the numbers sometimes that is easy to forget some important things.

  • First, in the attempt to focus on our pace and or form, we sometimes forget the simple joy of getting lost in a run. The act of lacing up your shoes and enjoying the freedom that running brings.  There is joy in movement.  There is joy in enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells on the run.
  • Second, we forget to give ourselves a little latitude.  On hot and humid days, we sometimes forget to adjust our goal times and end up frustrated throughout the run.  Cold and rain can throw us off pace as well.  Too  much focus on a regimented training with exact paces can drive you crazy.

Does a GPS device or a watch do this to us?  No, we do it to ourselves.  The watch is just a tool.  It is not the Garmin’s fault.  The Garmin is innocent.

Say it with me: 

“The loss of the simple joy of running and the negative feelings created by a “bad workout” are the fault of no one or no thing except myself.”

Now that we have that out of the way, let us move on to the other extreme.  What would happen if we all started running naked?

The Effects of Naked Running

The truth is that there is not one answer that fits all.  What is true for all runners is that pace is important.

  • Running too fast can lead to injury; a watch can tell you when to slow down.
  • Running too slow can lead to frustration because you are not making progress as fast as you could.

If you have been watching your pace like a hawk for years, you can probably “run by feel.”  Running by feel simply means that you can tell when you are running at or near the most important benchmarks.  If you are that runner, you do not need a watch to know when you are pressing against the limit of your lactate threshold.  You know when your body has switched from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism.  For these experienced runners, the danger of never wearing a timing device is gradually losing your sense of pace.  Without timing periodically, you could venture to far away from your goal paces.

For those runners who are less aware of how these things feel, we need to go by pace and/or heart rate.  For our key workouts of the week, we have to wear our watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS devices.  This includes slow runs!

Striking a Balance

I do not believe that any runner should do all of their runs with a watch or GPS device.  I believe that one or two runs a week should be simple, relaxed runs where you can let go of the pressures of the world AND the pressures of training.  Just go out for a run.

I also believe that the experienced runners still needs to wear the devices at least once or twice a week.  It will allow you to document your runs and show your progress.  You will want this data months or years from now.  Wearing the device periodically can also tell you if your “sense of pace” is a little off.  If you are surprised by how fast or slow you are going, it is time to wear the watch more often for a while.

If you find yourself over-focused on pace and unable to enjoy the run, add some Naked Runs to your week.

Here are some related posts about the importance of pace:

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

wise running logo 7_25_12

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners and Future Runners

My first book, The Gift of Running, is available in both paperback & ebook

Paperback Version – Amazon.com   $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

I wrote this book for several reasons.  Many of the books on running are tough to read, a lot like technical manuals.  I wanted to offer something more personal, runner to runner.  Moreover, I wanted it to be easy to read for the inexperienced runner.  I think I have accomplished this with The Gift of Running .

Below is the official description.  A small excerpt is included at the bottom of this page.

Book Reviews by Runners:

Book Reviews on Amazon.com:

If you would like an autographed copy of the book, please email me at pmark67@gmail.com

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The Gift of Running: a book for runners and future runners

by P Mark Taylor

Running is a gift, but not only for the gifted.  Whether you run just for fun or want to become a more competitive runner, The Gift of Running is for you. In The Gift of Running, P. Mark Taylor shows runners how to get started and stay motivated.

The book includes:  advice on how to get started as a runner, tried & true methods of running faster and longer, how to prepare for a marathon, tips on staying healthy & happy, motivation to keep you running, an insider view of the running community, & training programs for a 5K, 10K, half marathon, & marathon.

P. Mark Taylor is a runner & author of the blog at http://www.WiseRunning.com.

Publication Date:    Jul 20 2012
ISBN/EAN13:    0615668607 / 9780615668604
Page Count:    196
Binding Type:    US Trade Paper
Trim Size:    5.5″ x 8.5″
Language:    English
Color:    Black and White
Related Categories:    Sports & Recreation / Running & Jogging
 
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How to read this book:   (an excerpt from the book)

“This book is not a technical manual.  I have intentionally tried to keep my explanations brief and simple.  I have avoided technical terms and explained what I mean whenever needed.  It does offer important research-based information, but it offers more than that.

The book is about:

  • the human side of running,
  • becoming a runner,
  • working to become a better runner,
  • & staying safe, sane, and happy as a runner. 

It moves back and forth between personal stories, quotes from runners, and advice on running.

Most of the subsections of the book could be read independently, but I encourage you to read it from front to back.  This is especially true for the inexperienced runners.  Read the whole thing first, then go enjoy the run!

This book is the culmination of years of running, studying, and life experiences.  Most of all it is about the love of running and my respect for runners.

This book is dedicated to all of those who share my passion for running & to all those who are trying running for the first time.”

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 Click here to see my second book on running:
Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life
Wise Running Book COVER mockup

The Pieces of the Running Puzzle

The following is an excerpt from my new book, Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life, which is scheduled to be released in August 2013.

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Going out for a run is good enough if your goal is to run. If your goal is to run over one mile quickly, however, there is a lot more to it. In the old days, they just worried about two things: speed and endurance. This, too, is oversimplified. The goal of this chapter is to give you an overview of what you really need to know in order to make informed decisions about training for any distance from a mile to a marathon.

The following framework is offered as a way to think about your training. There are much more technical ways of looking at running. Later in this book I have included a list of suggested readings if you want to know more of the details. In my own thinking, however, this is as complex it needs to be for effective training. I think about it in these three categories:

  1. Raw Speed & Power
  2. Short-Term Endurance
  3. Long term Endurance

Here is a brief description of each:

Raw Speed & Power

Raw speed and power is just as it sounds. Go out to a track and run 50 or 100 meters as fast as you can. For this kind of running, you are in the anaerobic zone. Literally, you are not breathing enough oxygen to provide enough energy using the aerobic metabolism. Your body shifts into anaerobic metabolism. The pace at which this occurs is called the anaerobic threshold. While this requires less oxygen, it also requires a lot more fuel. You burn out quickly, so you can only do this for very short distances. Even so, raw speed and power workouts are an important part of the foundation for training for races at any distance from 400 meters to the marathon!

woman running on trackTraining for raw speed and power takes repeats. Doing these sprints at distances from 100 meters up to 400 meters can build muscle and change your anaerobic threshold for the better. In order to add even more muscle, I also add natural power-building exercises after my repeats workout. I include things like power-skipping, hopping, jumping, walking lunges, and crossover running drills.

I do not recommend doing this raw speed and power workout more than once a week. It takes a long time to heal from these extreme workouts. In most marathon training schedules, raw speed and power workouts are limited to the first 1/2 or less of the training schedule.

Short-Term Endurance

When I speak of short-term endurance, I am referring to distances of 800 meters up to a mile or even two. These are distances at which you are not likely to cross the anaerobic threshold, but you are likely to cross another important line: the lactate threshold. While the anaerobic threshold is about the consumption of oxygen, the lactate threshold is about the buildup of lactate in your muscles. Lactate is not only a natural byproduct of the aerobic metabolism happening in your muscles but it is also fuel. Your muscles can recycle this byproduct and consume it as a secondary source of fuel. As such, lactate is good. The bad part is that your body is limited as to how fast this recycling occurs. When the muscles produce more lactate than they can burn, this leads to cramping. This cramping can slow you down or even injure you. Hence, you need workouts specifically designed to challenge your body to become more efficient. More efficiency in these processes means that you can run a faster pace without cramping from lactate buildup.

Training for short-term endurance takes interval training. There are several types of interval training, but they all have the same goal: being able to run faster before hitting your lactate threshold. Interval training methods also have the same characteristics in terms of how they challenge your body to be more efficient with lactate. It is simply alternating between paces: running a little faster than your lactate threshold pace and then switching to a little slower than lactate threshold to allow your body to catch up. Then without stopping, you accelerate to the faster pace again. This fast/slow sequence is done throughout the intervals workout to cue the body that it needs to change to adapt to faster running. As with speed and power workouts, doing interval training once a week is enough for almost any runner.

Long-Term Endurance

When you run significantly slower than your lactate threshold pace, you should be able to maintain that pace for a long way. Many of us might have enough glycogen stored in our bodies to run as far as a half marathon with no additional fuel. That does not mean, however, that your body can manage any distance just by training for those other levels. It does make it easier, but you still have to train for what you want to race.

If you want to race farther than two miles, you must train for the distance. In order to hold your newly enhanced faster paces for longer distances, you must practice two types of runs: tempo runs and long runs. A tempo run is simply running a fairly fast pace (but slower than lactate threshold) for a longer distance. You can do a tempo run that takes anywhere from 20 minutes up to an hour. A long run, however, is just that. You run much slower than lactate threshold pace, but you do it for a much longer distance. A long run can be anywhere from an hour to three hours. Both of these types of long-term endurance runs cue the body to develop more in ways that support more efficient oxygen and fuel delivery, more efficient metabolism, and more efficient lactate clearance. In addition, the longer runs do more to build and develop mitochondria which allow you to burn body fat more efficiently.

** Note for Marathoners: Research shows that no significant gain comes from running a long run beyond three hours. No matter what distance that is for you, I do not recommend running longer than three hours during training.

If you are going to develop a training plan for whatever goal you have in distance running, you will need to consider these three areas.

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

wise running logo 7_25_12

Running 101: What Is a Key Workout?

wise running logo 7_25_12A key workout is one where you are pressing close to the limits of what your body can do without too much strain.  The goal of a key workout is to cue your body to make changes in its processes, to get better at some particular task.  Adaptations that are often a goal of key workouts include:

  • improved running economy [efficient use of oxygen]
  • improved lactate clearance and/or tolerance
  • improved endurance at faster paces
  • improved oxygen delivery [stronger heart]
  • muscle growth & training
  • improved anaerobic threshold [pace at which your body switches from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism]
  • capillary development
  • glycogen storage
  • fat utilization
  • mitochondrial growth
  • bone development
  • tendon development

When developing a training plan for a runner, I try to aim for two or three key workouts each week.  I place my key running workouts into 4 categories as outlined in the Getting Faster post:

  • speedwork [raw speed]
  • interval training [holding a faster pace for longer]
  • tempo runs [holding a specific pace longer]
  • long runs [endurance]

It is important to note that the adaptations that you get from a key workout do not happen during the key workout.  They happen in the days that follow.   A key workout requires at least one easy or rest day before another key workout should be attempted.  This is because you have pressed the limits of your body.  If you are in GREAT shape and you are below the age of 28, you might be able to handle 3 key workouts each week.  If you are in great shape and below the age of 55, you might be able to handle 5 key workouts in 2 weeks by alternating 2 and 3 key workouts each week.  [these ages vary by individual]

Remember This!

A key workout will not net the results you want if you do not plan for rest
and/or easy miles in the day(s) that follow the workout.

Remember that easy runs net benefits as well.  There are no junk miles.  The key workouts simply offer quicker adaptations.  A combination of key workouts, rest, and easy miles will provide the greatest benefit and quickest progress.

Less is More: Focusing My Running Goals

“I want it all. I want it all. I want it all, and I want it now.”
— Queen

Desire.  Goal-setting.  Dream big.  It all sounds good until you want too much.  When you go after too many things at once, most of the time you end up with little or nothing.  If you do this with your running goals you will end up disappointed and/or injured.

I have been wanting too much.  My biggest goals have been in the 1 mile and the marathon.  It may not surprise my friends when I divulge my dirty little secret.  I have set huge goals in both distances and failed miserably.  Yes, I have made big gains in my marathon, just not as big as I had planned.  Yes, my mile is faster, but nowhere near the pace I set out to conquer.  I am tired of being disappointed.

secret city 2012You see, there is an inherent conflict in training for both goals.  There is a certain point in marathon training when the experts warn that you must stop doing true speedwork.  Marathon training requires fast miles, but not for the purpose of running a mile faster.  The primary focus of marathon training is to cause your body to be able to run fairly fast and maintain that pace.  The fast marathon training miles are much slower than the fast mile training pace.

The beginning of my last training schedule had me doing repeats at a 5:30 pace per mile.  I did quarter miles, half miles, and mile repeats.  In the middle, the focus changed to intervals at a 6:30 pace.  Did these help me run a faster mile?  Yes, but only by a little bit.  My goal is to get my mile time down to about 4:45.  How can I ever expect to reach that when my fastest training is done at 5:30?  I can’t.  Expecting that would be just plain crazy.  No, to train for a 4:45 mile, I need to be doing quarter-mile & half-mile repeats at a 4:30 pace or better.

I had been thinking that I can use the time in the marathon off-season (April/May/June) to do my mile training.  This does make some sense, but it simply not enough time to meet my goal.  I have to choose between my two biggest goals.  I proven to myself that I can’t accomplish both at the same time.

I firmly believe that a narrower focus will lead to greater success.

I also believe that while focusing on one goal, I will still make gains in the other.  With this as my new philosophy, I will now focus my efforts for the next year on running the fastest mile that I can run.  I can’t tell you how fast that will be a year from now, but I believe it will be under 5 minutes.  The question will be “How far below 5?”

Does this mean that I will not run a marathon?  No.  It does not.  I will still maintain my schedule of one marathon each spring and one each fall.  It means that my training will not be focused on those marathons.  I will maintain a year-round focus on increasing my speed in the mile, but I will not neglect distance running.  I will still schedule long runs of 13 to 18 miles periodically.  I will still gradually increase mileage as the marathons get close.  What I will not do, however, is give up my mile training.  I will maintain that all the way through the marathon schedule, stopping only for the taper and recovery periods.

This change in focus is a big one.  I have heeded the traditional marathon training advice and my goal in the mile has suffered.  I have made the mile wait for marathon training to end.  I have denied it the attention it deserves.  The mile shall wait no longer.

I love running long, but I love running fast too.  It is time to focus.
It is time to specialize.
It is time to run like the wind, with no more speed limits imposed by marathon training.
It is time to rock the mile.

Train hard, eat well, & enjoy the run!

_____________


The Gift of Running,by P. Mark Taylor, is available in both paperback & e-book.

Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

Ebook Version for Nook $2.99

Marathon Nutrition

...about the same time as the last one...

Carrying my calories on a Fuel Belt.

Amy left this note for me on Facebook:

“I was just curious if you had any tips or blogs or any help on nutrition for running a marathon! I ran my first Marathon about a week and a half ago. It did not go to well, I got really dehydrated and hit the wall fast, after that ! 17-23 turned into the death zone! Anyway I did train but my stomach is just not that good and cramps a lot! So it is hard for me to drink a lot and eat much of anything while I run! Also I lost weight training which is okay but I do not want to lose weight again! I am going to start my training up again in June for the Chicago Marathon. I would just like to feel good while I run and I know the key to this is nutrition! Distance wise I felt I was prepared! I am pretty sure I did not eat enough food before, looking back now! So if you have any pointers, info, book whatever I would love to hear it!! If it matters I do not run to fast but would love to pick it up for next Marathon! However not feeling like death would be great !!”

Amy, you are not alone!  When I first started running marathons, I didn’t even like to drink on the run.  The idea of drinking 4-6 ounces of every 2 miles seemed crazy.  That is one of the reasons that I had trouble starting at about mile 17 on my first marathon as well.

Marathon Nutrition is a tricky thing.  For most of us, our bodies will begin to run out of resources somewhere between mile 15 and mile 17 if we are not careful before and during a marathon.  I will split the nutrition advice into three stages: training, tapering, & race day.

Nutrition During Training

Before I get specific about foods and supplements, let me make one comment about weight loss.  Marathon training means an increase in weekly mileage and a gradual increase in the distance of your weekly long run.  As your mileage increases, your need for nutrition increases.  As a result, marathon training is not very compatible with weight loss.  You need more carbs during marathon training, not fewer.

As for the specific foods to eat to maximize the benefits of your training, the answer is simple: eat healthy.  Instead of cutting back on food to get healthy, you should be changing the kind of food that you eat.  As with any time, you need a balanced diet.  You also need to eat less and less processed foods while increasing the amount of simple natural foods.  Dietician Cassie is always talking about striking a balance at each meal with PFC: protein, fat, and carbohydrates.  In marathon training, it is still ideal to balance these three, with an increased emphasis on carbs.  While carbs are the focus in the last days of the taper, you must keep eating healthy fat and a good amount of protein at each meal.  Here is my blog post about protein for runners.

Some folks, including me, need a little extra help from supplements during marathon training.  I need extra the electrolytes offered through capsules, tablets, drinks, & powders.  I mostly stick with Endurolytes Capsules from Hammer Nutrition.  Each electrolyte supplement has different directions to follow.  Personally, I need more than the average person.  I know that I need more electrolytes when my leg muscles are twitching a little bit while I am relaxing after my workout.  Finding your electrolyte balance during  training & especially on your long runs can save a great deal of pain and cramping during the marathon!

Nutrition During the Taper

The taper is usually about two weeks of gradually lowering your mileage and effort as you approach the marathon.  Nutrition for most of the taper period is no different from during the rest of training.  It is normal and healthy to gain a few pounds, especially during the last week before the marathon.  Your body knows what is coming and is storing energy, electrolytes, and water.  This weight gain is good.  You will use it all during the marathon, I promise!

In the last 48 hours before the marathon, you will no longer stick to the protein/carb/fat balance that you normally consume.  You will gradually reduce your intake of protein and fat while increasing your healthy carbohydrates.  You also want to shift towards carbohydrate sources that have less fiber.

Jeff Galloway makes the following suggestions:

  • Rules:
    1. Don’t try anything new.
    2. Go through the same schedule and foods that worked for you in training.
    3. If you hear sloshing in your stomach, you don’t have to drink for the next 30 minutes.
  • 24 hours and before: Plenty of liquids all day long, especially electrolyte fluids. Before marathons you can eat extra carbohydrates.
  • 18 hours before race: Start eating small meals, every 2-3 hours. Keep drinking fluids. After lunch, cut out red meat, fried foods, dairy products, fats, nuts, and roughage.
  • 12 hours before race: Don’t overeat. Only light, digestible foods like energy bars, bread, small sandwiches, which you’ve tried before long runs and races. Keep drinking water and electrolyte fluids. Avoid salty foods.

Nutrition on Race Day

Before a marathon, you need to have a substantial number of calories in the morning.  One expert suggests consuming enough easy-to-digest carbs to provide 200 calories for each hour you are awake before the race.  Keep it simple.  Avoid fat of any kind on race morning.  Whatever you eat that morning, get it in your body about 3 hours before the start.  As the start approaches, shift to your race fuel.  (gels, sports drink, …)

Water mostly, with some electrolyte fluid, in small, regular amounts.  Cold water is absorbed quicker. I recommend 6 oz. every hour, 8 oz. on hot days.  If you want Vitamin C, take it two hours or more before the race.

DURING the marathon is even more complicated.  For a half marathon, most just need one or two gel packets to make it through.  There are mathematical formulas involved in the calculations for marathons and other races longer than the half marathon.  At 160 pounds, I know I personally have to consume around 1,100 calories through gels and sports drinks along the marathon route in order to avoid running out of energy.

Here is what Lucia Mahoney from FitBodyNutrition says about fueling during the marathon:

  • under “normal” conditions, the average runner needs 16-32 fluid ounces per hour of exercise. For best absorption, drink 1/2-1 cup of fluid every 15-20 minutes. You will require more on very hot or humid days.
  • for every pound you lose on a run, 2 cups of water are required to replace.
  • 1 pound of sweat = loss of 500 mg sodium (the equivalent of 1/4 tsp of salt)
  • dehydration will increase body temperature, reduce blood volume and thereby weaken muscular endurance and strength. Result —-> you slow down
  • your gel or sports drink should include electrolytes; studies show that ingesting electrolytes (remember: sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium) during the run will improve performance and help delay fatigue. Electrolytes are important for muscular contraction and for optimal absorption & retention of fluids
  • **how much do you need?** Carb intake during prolonged exercise should be approximately .5-1.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per hour. A 165 lb (or 75 kg) athlete would therefore need 37.5-75 grams per hour. That is equivalent to 2-3 gels or 1-2 gels plus 8-20 ounces of sports drink per hour (most gels contain 20-25 grams of carbs and sports drinks contain 12-14 grams/8 oz)
  • important: each gel must be taken with 8-10 ounces of water (not sports drink) to promote absorption and avoid gastrointestinal distress

Remember This:

Start your eating and drinking within the first mile or two.
If you start your fuel and water intake after 2 miles,
you may have already ruined your marathon.

Be careful to consume enough of everything your body needs to succeed at the task that you are asking it to accomplish.

Train hard, eat well, & enjoy the run!

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

 

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & future runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

 

 

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