Tips for a Successful Training Season
You’ve made the big commitment to run a marathon. Congratulations! You’ve decided to join a very small percentage of Americans who are endurance athletes. Yes, athlete.
Webster’s defines an athlete as “a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina.”
Get used to it - you’re an athlete. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
Here are a few tips we’ve heard and/or experienced along the way that should maximize your opportunity for a successful training season:
Follow the program as best as possible during the week.
The program has been developed over many years to provide maximum benefit while minimizing the amount of time required and reducing the risk of injury. Year after year, the primary reason people are unsuccessful or unsatisfied with their result is they do not consistently follow the program during the week. We understand that life will prevent you from following the program perfectly, but stick to it as much as possible.
In other words: Do your weekday runs.
Learn to listen to your body.
Unfortunately, we’re not smart enough to have developed a magic formula. It’s a subjective decision that you will learn over time.
One basic rule is to learn how to distinguish between injury vs. soreness. We are not medical professionals, but our experience has taught us that injuries are commonly accompanied with sharp, intense pain and do not significantly improve with a couple of days’ rest.
Soreness could start out intense (especially after long run), but will generally subside over 2-3 days. If you feel pain, consider giving yourself a day off. The training is a long process, and missing a day here or there will not hurt you. If the problem does not improve significantly after a few days, it may be wise to consider seeing a medical professional.
If you experience an issue during a run, take an extra walk break or two to see if you can shake it out. If this doesn’t work, reduce your effort and take more frequent walk breaks. If all else fails, WALK. It’s not worth turning a minor injury into a serious one!
There will be days that you will feel sore, unmotivated or fatigued. THIS IS NORMAL. Don’t get discouraged. Take an extra day and try to hydrate, eat well and get some extra rest. Or, take an easier approach to your workout. Start off a little slower than normal, use a shorter run/walk ratio or consider adding a little extra time to a walk break (5-10 seconds).
Oftentimes, once you get moving, you’ll find that you are feeling better. If you don’t, at a minimum, you’ve gotten your workout in, which could help shake up your body for the next day. Conversely, if you feel great, consider going an extra few minutes or step up the pace a little bit!
Adjust to the weather.
Marathon training may make us feel invincible, but we are not! The weather has a tremendous effect on our training. On hot days, be sure to carry enough water and SLOW DOWN. On colder days, add a layer and be sure to warm up well before increasing your tempo. Like to run in the rain? Great! Dress accordingly. Windy? Consider starting your run INTO the wind so that you can finish with the wind at your back.
But, keep in mind you should avoid dangerous conditions (thunder, lightening, ice, etc). Hit the gym on these days if you need to get a workout in.
A big benefit of running is that it does not require too much “gear”. But, the few items that you do need are important. Click here to learn more about proper attire.
We are certainly not role models for nutrition, but here’s a few basics that we’ve found that helps us:
1. Even though you are training diligently for the Big Race, this doesn’t give you free reign to eat anything you want all of the time. Do this and you’ll gain weight!! A pound is equal to 3,500 calories. There will be relatively few runs where we will exceed this calorie burn, so…..
2. Stick to a sensible, well-balanced meal plan that includes carbs, protein and some fat. Your body needs all three to keep in proper balance so that it is ready to take on the challenge of training. Avoid “fad diets” that promise rapid, dramatic weight loss. Most of these “plans” don’t workand will leave you without the energy you need to continue training!
3. Eat breakfast! This is one of the easiest ways to lose weight. Eating a good breakfast (NOT doughnuts or pastries) will kick start your metabolism, which will help burn calories sooner in the day. Also, keeping your metabolism up will help prevent your body from storing fat!
4. Coffee drinkers – Endurance training and caffeine may not mix for your body. It may cause an unfortunate “cleansing” effect at the worst possible time, usually at the furthest point from a restroom or other facility! Experiment with caffeine carefully during a shorter run to see what kind of tolerance your body has.
5. Eat smaller meals, more frequently. Snacking with good foods (veggies, fruits, nuts) will reduce your hunger levels during primary meal times so that you eat less. It also keeps your metabolism humming throughout the day.
6. Eat well the night before a long run, but not too much. Pasta dishes with chicken, fish and/or veggies works well for us. Experiment during the season to see what works for you.
7. Eat during your training runs! This will help your body keep its energy level up to finish the race. There are a wide variety of options from gels (GU, PowerGels), to energy bars (Clif Bars, ShotBlocks), to regular food. Experiment during your training runs to see what works best for you!
Our program generally discourages speed work for beginners. Your body will go through a strengthening process during the first year. Thus, Jeff recommends avoiding speed work until after your first marathon is behind you. BUT, if you choose to forego Jeff’s advice, here’s a few ways to work speed into your training:
1. Take a normal weekday run once every 1-2 weeks and run it a little faster than normal. Increase the tempo as you get more comfortable.
2. During a run, pick a fixed point (tree, light post) and run towards it at a moderate/hard pace. Repeat a few times during your run.
3. Incorporate a few hills into your weekday run.
4. Hill repeats – Find a hill with a steady slope that’s about ¼ mile long and run at a higher than normal pace to the top. Jog down and repeat!
5. Participate in the mile repeats during our weekly run.
Your PGLs and program directors are there to help you out. So, use them. Ask questions! If we don’t know the answer, we can find out.