Today, I thought I would talk a bit about the marathon training schedule that I followed, as I’m about to start it up again in the new year. As you may know, I was injured for 3 months before I started my marathon endeavor, so as I was deciding on a training routine—I was pretty careful to make sure that running wouldn’t take over all my time.
After recovering from being hurt (bad hip flexor strain) I knew that my body needed lots of different forms of exercise to keep it healthy. Running is a beneficial, fulfilling, and all around glorious sport, however it comes with a hefty “handle with care” caution tag. In order to stay a sane and injury-free runner, there are—in my opinion—three essential things to incorporate into your running routine: Yoga, Cross Training, and Rest.
Sure, you can consider this cross training, however I believe that practicing basic yoga at least once a week is essential for distance runners. Yoga offers your muscles a lot of relief from all the heavy impact of running, it helps prevent excessively tight leg/back/core muscles, and it centers your mind in the most deliciously peaceful way. It took me a long time to start liking yoga, but once I finally figured it out I can’t imagine my running routine without it. Plus, if you’re a runner, I can guarantee yoga will feel really damn good.
When I was injured, I learned to love cross training, and I found that once I was out on the roads again, the muscles that I had strengthened from participating in other activities actually helped my running. Developing the smaller muscles around your big running muscles helps prevent injury and it can improve your flexibility and speed. I can honestly say that doing sprints in spin class helped with my marathon finish time more so than my long runs.
Again, this realization took a while for me to come by, however resting from exercise is not only essential to preventing injury and burnout, but it makes you a smarter athlete. Even the most elite athletes and runners in the world still take a rest day to allow their muscles and minds to relax.
The fact of the matter is simple: if you never rest, you will burn out—and you don’t want burn out to come in the form of a sidelining injury.
Anyways, integrating these three essentials were very important in my marathon training. I got my 12 week training schedule off the internet, and tweaked it a bit to match my own timeline and mileage. With that said, a typical week in my schedule looked like this:
t: 8-9 miles, lifting/core work
w: cross train and yoga
t: 10-12 miles, lifting/core work
f: cross train and yoga
s: 6 mile “shake out” run
s: long run (ranged 14-22 miles)
Now, keep in mind that when I designed my training program, I was already running a decently high weekly mileage (appx. 35-40 miles/week). Therefore, I was able to use a shorter training time frame (12 weeks as opposed to the standard 16-20), and I trained up to 22 miles instead of the more common 20 miles.
This schedule worked really well for me. I felt like I had a great balance of running and cross training, and because I wasn’t running 5-6 days a week (like some programs) I mostly enjoyed all my running days. I was fearful of starting to loathe my long runs, however by sandwiching them between a shake out run day and a rest day, I found that they were a fantastic challenge to look forward to each week. Sure, I had very little social life and they took a good 2-3 hours out of my Sunday, but in the end it was totally worth it.
So worth it, in fact, that I am currently in the stages of planning my next few marathons for 2012!
As of right now, I am planning on doing the Vernonia Marathon in April (a small race along a gorgeous course), potentially the Seattle Rock’ N’ Roll in late June, and the Bellingham Bay Marathon in September.
Wow, writing that down seems daunting.
However, I am really committed to establishing a competitive running routine. I’ve been an athlete and competitor my whole life, and running offers a great way for adults to still compete with others but mainly with themselves. I never plan on winning a race, however continuing to push myself, lower my times, and continue improving is incredibly rewarding and gratifying. Does it come without hardship, bad runs, self critique, or all around shitty experiences? Absolutely not. But the bad only makes the good that much better, and I’m a big believer that any experience is good experience.
Yes, even if it’s being forced to not run for 3 months after overdoing it.
We learn this way, and ultimately we become better runners.
Anyways, enough psychological jargon.
As I take on my next marathon, I am planning on actually increasing the distance of my long runs, and will perhaps train (gulp) past 26 miles. This is a training method used by some, and as long as I go slow and build even slower, I am thinking that this technique could work for me. I want to do the Seattle Rock’n’Roll just over 2 months after Vernonia, and I’m thinking the only way to do this successfully is to up my overall mileage.
We will see though, nothing is set in stone—and with the other distance races I have planned, who knows what will happen.
What marathon or half marathon training plans have you used? What were some successful side activities you did to help your training?