Gastrointestinal Distress is seemingly increasing problem for marathon runners. In fact, up to 90% of runners complain of at least one GI distress symptom during a race. That can be anything from heart burn to diarrhea. It’s not a good situation to be in, but does it have to be that way? There’s a lot of reasons that GI distress will occur. In this podcast though, I want to discuss the easy things we can do (or not do) to help us ourselves out on big workout days and race day. We will talk about the most common causes and the easiest solutions. Races like the half marathon and marathon are demanding mentally and physically. We don’t want our performance to be determined by stomach issues- especially after all the hard work, time, money, and effort into getting to race day healthy and ready to rock.
While I write this specific for the Boston Marathon, what I write here is really applicable to any marathon where you have a starting line that is not anywhere near your finish line. In October of 2016, I wrote the post Marathon Race Strategy: A few thoughts which gave race strategies for all pace ranges. The post also included a few thoughts on what I felt were important for warming up before a marathon. I recommend all of you reading that for what you should consider in a general marathon warm up.
However, Boston is different, because the starting line is 26 miles away from the finish line. Here’s a few unique challenges thrown into an already tough day
- Getting bussed out
- Leaving our gear at the finish line
- Waiting in an athlete village
- Waiting in our corrals
- Running from inland to coast
Getting to Start:
I think we are all mostly familiar with the idea of getting bussed out, so I won’t spend too much time on this. The main idea I’d like to express here is to leave as late as you can. You want to spend the least amount of time in Hopkinton as possible. If you know you are one of the last corrals in your wave, get on the bus that makes the most sense. Again, limit the time you spend in Hopkinton.
Leaving your gear at finish line:
This one was a surprise to me, as I am used to taking a bag with me and digging for it at the finish line. So, as you leave your nicer stuff at the finish line, make sure what you wear to Hopkinton are things you are willing to part with. The only problem with this, is that what we will discuss below. Waiting, more waiting, and waiting in the weather…
Waiting, more waiting, and waiting in the weather:
Since you’ll have time on your hands, what you wear to the start line can be significant. As I said, you want it too be clothing that you are willing to part with, but you also don’t want to be skimpy on the clothes. So dress in layers and adjust to what the weather is in hopkinton. In 2016, it was a perfect example of how different weather can be 26 miles from where you started. In Hopkinton, the temps were in the high 60’s to low 70’s, while the announcers at the finish line wore light winter jackets. Check what that weather is in Hopkinton and dress for the starting line before heading out.
As I mentioned, you want to be at the village for the least amount of time. Being there longer just gives you more time to be antsy, pace around, and let your nerves get the best of you. Get there only when you need to, try to find a place to stay dry and comfortable, and get off your feet. Stay on whatever nutrition and hydration schedule you’ve set up for yourself.
My Boston Warm Up Protocol
- Use the bathroom right before leaving athlete village
- Take whatever you need to the starting line
- Water bottle
- A gel/calories
- Clothes you are going to leave/toss
- It seems like the faster you are in your wave, the longer you have to be in the corral. Make use of this time accordingly
- Sub 3:30 runners use the 0.7 miles from the Athlete Village as your warm up jog.
- Over 3:30 runners, walk the distance. This will be fine to loosen your legs up.
- Once in your corral
- Focus on yourself, visualize your first four miles and how that will set the tone for the race
- You will be limited on space, but want to stay loose. Consider doing simple movements that don’t take up a lot of room. Maybe 5-10 minutes before the gun goes off, do something like 10-15 squats, march in place, and shake your arms up. This won’t be perfect, but it will start priming the pump and tell the body that it’s about time to go to work.
- Have your first gel in that 5-15 minutes before the start.
- Once you cross that line, just stay calm. You’ll have a lot of people thinking that they are going to catch the race leaders. Keep to your plan and enjoy the moment, but don’t get caught up in the nonsense. Even with the first few miles downhill, you might not feel super great. We weren’t able to do a perfect warm up and you might feel sluggish. Stay calm and let the race come to you.
Boston has many unique challenges, but that’s part of what makes it Boston! Keep things simple and you can conquer the pre race warm up. It might not be perfect, but it will get the job done! Good luck to everyone running Boston!
A lot of times, runners like our training schedules, but don’t want to full-on coaching. What we’ve come up with is a bundle package to give you all the tools you need, without the need to get coaching. Currently, we offer 20+ marathon training plans with the bundle option. I’ll add more marathon plans as I create them.
What makes the bundle your perfect solution to marathon training?
- Your choice of marathon schedule that best fits your needs ($30 value)
- 20+ marathon programs
- broken into Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Elite
- Placement in Luke’s coaching roster by level of training
- “Team” message board
- Access to training resource library ($14.95/month value)
- important blog posts
- meal plans
- Access to the HCS Coaching closed Facebook group ($10/month value)
Get all of the above for $75/bundle (valued at $105 + access to coaches (priceless!))
Check out all the training plan options HERE and let HCS take your training to the next level!
At the time I’m writing this, we are less than three weeks from the Boston Marathon. Where has the first quarter of 2017 gone? Before we know it, our downtime from our spring marathons will be nothing but a fond memory and we’ll have to start getting ready for our fall marathon!
If you are using the Hansons Marathon Method, or are just interested in a fun (but educational) getaway, then I encourage you to consider the Hanson’s Coaching Fall Marathon Kick-Off Camp. The camp will be held in Rochester, Michigan- the home of Hanson’s Coaching Services and the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project.
What you get:
- Go beyond the book and learn directly from HCS Head Coach, Luke Humphrey, as well as meet our other coaching staff.
- Meet and greet Hanson’s-Brooks ODP runners (many whom are our coaches)
- Nearly every meal taken care of (expect your dinner on Thursday night)
- Hanson’s Coaching Schwag bag
- Dozens of training clinics including
- Strength for runners session
- Customizing your training
- Marathon physiology
- Go for runs and do some workouts where the nation’s best marathoners have
- Transportation to and from Detroit Metro Airport
- Discount on lodging at the beautiful Royal Park Hotel. This is where all clinics will be held and you can hit either the Paint Creek or the Clinton River Trail from the front door. (Or hit up downtown Rochester)
TENTATIVE CAMP ITINERARY
Athletes arrive mid afternoon. HCS will pick up groups from airport.
Optional group run/ Hanson’s Thursday night group run at Royal Oak?
Dinner (athlete’s responsibility)
- 7:00 AM- Leave from hotel. Drive to Stony Creek Metropark
- 7:30 Group Dynamic Warm Up/1-2 miles warm up
- 8:00-9:30: Progression Run/cool down
- 10:30- 12:00: Lecture (Food provided in conference room)
- Marathon Philosophy/Understanding cumulative fatigue
- 12:00-1:00- wrap up/free time
- 1:00-3:00: Lecture/lunch in conference room
- Marathon Physiology
- Metabolic Efficiency
- Training Components and physiological impact
- 3:30-4:30: Strength for runners with Nikki
- 5:30-6:30: Lecture: Avoiding early training pitfalls
- 7:00: Group dinner @ Antonios pizza
- Recovery strategies/periodization
- Meet and greet
- 7:45-9:15 AM: Easy run from hotel (Paint Creek Trail)
- 9:45-11:00: Lecture: Goal Setting/Realistic expectations, new runner vs. veteran
- Breakfast provided
- Understanding what kind of runner you are
- Modifying to fit/stay in philosophy
- General Nutrition
- Taper week/race day nutrition
- (Lunch in conference room)
- 12:00- modifying schedules/staying within the philosophy
- 12:15-1:00- understanding the taper
- 1:15-3:00- Supplemental training, what why and how to add.
- Self Running analysis
- 3:00-5:00- Free time (nap?)
- Keeping logs
- Analyzing training
- Long term planning
- 7:00- Dinner- Rochester Mills Brewery
- Developing mental strength
- Approaching your race
- Meet and greet
- 7:30 AM: Leave Hotel for run
- 8:00 AM-10:00: Group Run at Lake Orion (Long Run)
- 10:00-11:00: Brunch @ CJ’s or Lockharts
- Meet and greet
- 12:30- Leave for airport
If you have read HMM and thought about the idea of coaching, but aren’t sure you are ready for that kind of investment, then the Facebook Training Room is for you. We know you have specific training questions about your own training. We also know that you have the book and don’t necessarily need a new training plan. However, do you really need to hire a personal coach for the few questions you might have along the way? No, and that’s why I have created the Hanson’s Coaching Training Room.
The HCS Training Room is a closed Facebook group designed for a couple purposes. First, build community among the athletes who trust us with their training. In an online world this helps us put names to faces and learn more about what needs you have as a runner. The second is that we know the plan works- many of you believe that too. However, taking a general plan and tweaking it to fit your specific needs requires a little more than a FAQ page. With this group you have direct access to me, Luke, and I can help you with your specific questions.
The Training Room is perfect for those who don’t have a coach, want to test the waters of having coaches, or just want be around those who are coached individually by HCS. We take your running serious and we know you do too. The HCS Training Room is here to help you maximize your training based on YOU!
Sign up for the Training Room for a sweet low rate of $9.97/month. With that you’ll get:
- Access to Luke with your specific training questions
- Access to all of our training resources- calculators and videos
- Facebook lives/webinars
- Discounts on any of our other 40+ training plans or custom training plans
- A great group of runners using HCS and the Marathon Method to offer up support and advice.
Recently, an athlete in one of our groups asked a great question, “When do I know that I’m ready to reach my race goal?” I got to thinking about it and I realized a couple things. The first is that, we don’t particularly talk about that much. Sure, you can consult your favorite search engine and find pages of blog posts regarding the workouts we should do. We can read countless paragraphs from our favorite coaches about the importance of choosing the right goal pace to train for. However, when it comes down to it, how do we know when we are really ready to hit that goal pace. That is what I want to discuss in this post.
A few things we are assuming:
- That you have been following the majority of whatever your training plan has laid out for you- say 90% + of the schedule
- That you are generally healthy, not nursing an injury that could easily become a source of unplanned time off.
- This is a planned race and not a situation where you were training for a half marathon and then switching over to a full marathon with 6 weeks to go (or something to that effect).
I put these caveats in here because if you are experiencing one of these scenarios then you really should work with a coach who knows you better than just some internet talking head (me). However, if you are generally healthy and have hit the majority of your training then I can give you an idea of when you, “just know.”
First thing first!
I’ve kinda given you part of the answer already. If you have struggled with training, mainly being consistent, then reaching your goal race pace may be a stretch. This I have learned the hard way. I have had nagging little things where I’ve scaled back on easy days just so I can hit workouts. Ultimately, what I did was simply make sure I was fresh for workouts all the time and I never came close to that feeling of cumulative fatigue. When it got hard in a race I just hadn’t put myself in a situation in training where I dealt with that feeling and it overwhelmed me.
That got me to thinking, I have had some complete disasters when I was crushing every workout and running all the mileage on my schedule.
When did I really have my breakthroughs?
So after thinking about all of my real breakthroughs, I put together a list of precursors leading up to breakthrough races.
Don’t force it
One, I didn’t force workouts. That’s not to say that all the workouts were easy. It’s also not saying that I didn’t have a complete “what the hell was that” workouts either. Basically, I stayed pretty even keeled. I didn’t let my high’s get too high and I didn’t dwell on the lows.
Second, I never got to the point where the race pace completely scared me. Was I still a little intimidated? Of course! However, I wasn’t like, I don’t even know how I am going to run 10 miles at this pace. For instance, I got to point where I thought, “Ok, I can run at least 20 miles at this pace. I’m 100% confident in that. Now, the last 6 are going to be tough, but we will deal with that when we get there.” Let’s use a 10 mile tempo run as an example. We all know that these are occurring at the toughest point in the schedule. The mileage is at the highest. The workouts are the biggest volume, and we’ve got a ton of fatigue in our legs.
If you go through that 10 mile tempo and are noticeably concentrating on what you are doing, but not forcing yourself into goal pace, then I would say that you are pretty darn close to where you want to be.
If you are really grinding and even trying to go faster than goal pace, then I am more concerned. That’s why I put less stock in long slow runs. We know you can run a long ways slowly. Can you do it fast and not miss training before and after that day?
Hard stuff = yes it is!
Third, much like the workouts, I approached the same way- this is going to be hard. It’s going to take my complete focus to accomplish this. Whenever I was over confident, I blew it. Whenever workouts were easy I got over confident and maybe didn’t put as much into the details as I should have. However, whenever I knew I was fit, but completely convinced myself that this was going to be the hardest thing I had ever done, I was much more successful. Maybe that was just mindset, but it made me focus on all the details because I felt if I made mistakes, I was going to have to make it up somewhere. Those were slim margins for error. That’s really not to scare you, but rather, recognize the task you are about to undertake. It deserves respect and most definitely, our full attention.
All about the routine
Lastly, I was not obsessed with the outcome. I never obsessed with running a certain time. I thought about it, for sure. However, I focused more on the process of training and learning to train at a new level much more than training for the certain pace. When I was all about the outcome, I put way too much pressure on myself. If I didn’t hit that pace I was a failure and all that work was for naught. In reality, the hard work we are doing will carry over if things don’t workout immediately. When I was truly proud of running a great race based on race plan execution, the times typically came with that. When I freaked out because I few splits were off in a workout, that carried over to the race and typically ended in extreme disappointment.
To wrap this up
So that’s really about it. I was able to keep a steady approach to training. I didn’t crush everything, but I didn’t have to force myself to hit a workout every single time out. I was able to have consistent training. I wasn’t skipping easy days just so I would be able to do a workout. My big workouts were tough (10 mile tempos, 2×3’s for example) but I found myself settling into the right paces- which is not the same thing as saying it was easy. They were tough, but not forced. I recognized that what I wanted to do would be very hard, but not impossible. All of those things combined really brought me a sense of quiet confidence. This actually helped me relax. It let me focus on the process of training at a level I hadn’t before. I was able to race with racing on my mind, not a set time. More times than not, when I was in this “zone,” the time I was looking for was usually there waiting for me at the finish line.
This year I have taken a much bigger effort to connect with the thousands of people that have used the Hansons Marathon Method over the last few years. Not because I was unsure if it would work, but rather to make sure I was doing a good job of communicating the main idea of the philosophy: cumulative fatigue. What I learned was well, it is a mixed bag. Some of it is I think people buy the book but just follow the program and wonder why it’s so hard. This is a small group, but there isn’t much more I can personally do if they don’t want to explore why we do what we do. Then there’s the group who do everything by the book (literally) and see success. Then there’s the group that I need to do better job of coaching. With that, my aim is to pull out all the stops with the idea of cumulative fatigue.
What is cumulative fatigue?
Our goal with marathon training and half marathon training is to build a certain amount of cumulative fatigue that develops the strength and preparedness for the marathon.
What exactly is the definition of cumulative fatigue?
Here’s my version of the idea: When fatigue is coming from the culmination of training and not from one specific aspect. The athlete is fatigued, but still able to run strong, and not dip past the point of no return. The end result is that the runner becomes very strong, fit, and able to withstand the physical and mental demands of the marathon distance.
So, what do we do to achieve this end result? To me it’s really about 4 components for the marathon. Balance, Moderate to High Mileage, Consistency, and Active recovery.
What are the components of CF?
As you can see in figure 1, there are four “pillars” I use in reaching a person to reaching cumulative fatigue. We’ve talked about these a lot, so I’ll just link to those discussions.
What I will say here though is that these components all work as part of the entire system.
When you pull one piece out it’s like a giant Jenga tower spilling all over the dining room table.
Then what? You’re just left to pick up the prices and start over.
For instance, let me share with you a common scenario I will see in our Facebook groups. A person starts the program but doesn’t completely by into part of the program. Seemingly, it always has something to do with the idea of a 16 mile long run (insert shocked voice). I feel like one of two things happen. The most popular is that the person doesn’t really think that 16 miles is long enough and make their long runs the typical 20+ miles in a 40 to 50 mile week. However, in order to have enough energy, the rest of the week suffers somehow. A skipped workout here and a shortened tempo run there. Before long, the original training plan is a shadow of its former self, but the runner still feels like they are “following the method.” The second is that the runner believes too much in the 16 mile long run and develop a belief that the program is centered around the long run. They feel like even if they skimp on the rest of the training the 16 miler is all they need.
The bottom line is that the 16 miler alone won’t get the job done. Like any training, or cumulative fatigue component, it’s the sum of parts that makes it successful.
What is the difference between CF and just overtraining?
This is an area where many of you need help fully understanding and I need a better job teaching. I will admit that it’s a very thin line between the two technical stages of training we are discussing. That’s functional overreaching and non functional overreaching.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO:
When you are in a functional overreaching, you will be tired but your performances in workouts will not suffer.
When you start feeling like crap and your performances are getting worse, you have likely crossed that line into functional overreaching.
Now, there’s always a caveat to these things. Let’s say you were running too fast to begin with and through training hard you’ve slowed down to what you were supposed to be running? If so, I don’t think it’s non functional, rather a correction. Where you will get into trouble is if you continue to try to hit the paces that were too fast. Rather, settle into the proper paces and let your fitness and body come back around. You’ll still feel tired, but as long as performance is stable, you’re ok.
How do I reach CF without going too far?
And here we go. The meat and taters, if you will. There’s a number of things we should do 1) before we even begin training and 2) during the early stages of a training plan that will help immensely with our goal of cumulative fatigue and not over training. From there, we can discuss the things we need to do during training that will help safeguard us while in the hardest sections of the training.
Before we even start:
- At least have a discussion about what your goal is or should be. Many of the folks using the plan for the first time are people who have at least raced before, so choosing a goal makes it a bit easier for them. For those who have no clue as to what they should run should consult a coach or respected runners who will give them a no BS answer. If you recall a discussion we had about Strava data, we should that something like 60-70% of people are running a 4-5 hour marathon and training about 30 miles per week. An hour difference is a big gap, but it at least gives you a starting point to evaluate yourself. A brand new runner who is building from scratch will probably be looking more at the 4.5-5 hour range. A newer runner with a little bit of running underneath them might be looking at the 4-4.5 hour range.
- Look at your schedule outside of running. Do you know of vacations and other gatherings that you know will make training difficult? Big business trips on the horizon? A baby on the way (I don’t think my daughter slept more than an hour or two a night for the first 6 months of her life). I know there’s a lot of unexpected events that pop up, but at least plan for what you know is going to occur. Preparing for these things in advance will not only help you set a more reasonable training goal, but also allow you to absorb the unexpected a little better.
Early in the training:
I made a post about this a bit ago and I think is a must read for everyone new to the idea of cumulative fatigue: Avoiding the early pitfalls of marathon training.
A few keys to take away:
- Let your fitness build, don’t try to force the issue. I see this all the time where people think if fast is good, faster is better. No, running the right pace for what we are trying to accomplish is better. For instance, if your goal is 3:45 and it’s already an attempt at a big PR, then why make it harder on yourself and try to run faster than what is prescribed? I want you at peak fitness for your goal race, not the local school fundraiser 5k.
- Don’t rely on running alone. This one has always been a problem for me. As much as we feel strapped for time, we need to carve more out if we truly want to prepare. I am talking about things like flexibility, dynamic warm ups, core training, and general strength. I know I know. I hear ya and I have fought it forever, too.
- Sleep and proper nutrition are your best friends during a heavy training cycle. This is for your life, aw well. Should be non negotiable.
- Adjust for environment. The summer is a perfect example of this. For an October marathon, you’ll start training in June. This means that a lot of your training will be during the dog days of summer. So many times my athletes will overdo it trying to hit paces that aren’t reasonable given the temperature and humidity. Is it ideal? No, but that’s why we don’t be a ourselves up that we were 15 seconds slow per mile when it was 80 degrees with a dew point of 65 degrees and we’ve only been training for 6 weeks.
If you can do these things, you’ll set yourself up to be able to not only tolerate training, but also maximize your training adaptations during the last 6-8 weeks of the marathon segment (when it really counts). You’ll put yourself in the zone of cumulative fatigue without crossing the threshold into overt training.
What do I do if I take it too far?
The end result of what I saw many folks doing was taking cumulative fatigue into nonfunctional overreaching by the time they got to the strength segment of the marathon plans. If you find yourself in that zone or rapidly approaching it, here’s what I would do.
- Immediately start doing the things we just talked about. Consider vitamins/supplements.
- Spread workouts further apart (Modifying Schedule)
- Wednesday-Sunday w alternating weekend
- Within a month of race? Start taper now. If you are fried and performance has gone by the wayside, we have to bring you back and quickly. Reducing both volume and intensity is the easiest way to do it.
- Scale back to 2b.
- Focus on lower intensity SOS
- Don’t scale back so much you lose fitness
The end goal is two fold. The first is to teach you how to train, regardless of system you use. We want to take you from guessing to knowing the how, what, and why if becoming a runner (regardless of pace, as pace is irrelevant). This is an ongoing process and hopefully incorporated into everything we provide. The second is what you are immediately concerned with- getting to the starting line healthy. I realize that things rarely go perfectly as planned. If you find yourself in such a situation let’s cut our losses, minimize the damage, and get to the starting line in one piece. This will at least allow you to run your race and you still might even just surprise yourself with what you can still accomplish. It certainly doesn’t have to mean throwing in the towel on a training segment!
Listen to our PODCAST on Cumulative Fatigue
When I started HCS in May of 2006, our goal was to simply be there for the people who were using Kevin and Keith’s marathon training plans..
Check out our Video / Podcast we made from this post!
Below is a question from our Hanson’s Coaching Community Page on Facebook. This week’s question asks about Masters running and ways to adjust the schedule.
Don S: How can non-elite-runners in their late fifties adapt the beginner program in the book to a five day a week marathon program after training with a three day week marathon program for several years. Also can you reduce some of the tempo run mileage if you’re just trying to complete the marathon in 4:30?
Let’s tackle the first part of this, which is going from 3 days to five days per week of running. Personally, I think that’s great! Ordinarily, I’d like to see you try to get to that 6th day of running but I won’t push on that right now.
After reading the questions, my takeaway is that the primary concern is the amount of recovery with the increase in volume.What will propose below can accommodate both of your questions. As I mentioned, I think we can “spread” things out a little bit without sacrificing performance. There’s a couple of ways to spread the schedule out and I discuss in Hansons Marathon Method in the “modifying the schedule” section, but will discuss another approach that I took this spring.
The basic premise of this schedule is to alternate your major weekend run with either a straight up long run or with a longer tempo. I typically do it with a 6 day per week program but I think you could easily adjust to a 5 day program.
|Thursday||Longer easy ( 6- 10 miles )|
|Saturday||Long or Tempo|
|Sunday||Off / Easy|
|Monday – Weds||Same as above|
|Thursday||Medium Long: 10-12 miles|
|Saturday||Long or Long Tempo|
|Sunday||Off / Easy|
Check out our Video of this post below!
I’ve read a lot of books about training and everyone talks about “periodization.” For those that don’t know the term, it’s essentially a roadmap to your goal race. It is usually blocked off in chunks of training labeled base, precompetitive, and then competitive. The basic premise is that you build mileage and then insert intensity. As you begin to approach the race, or racing season, the volume decreases and the intensity decreases.
The general problem I’ve always thought about was that when I read about periodization, it’s typically centered around high school or college athlete…
The general problem I’ve always thought about was that when I read about periodization, it’s typically centered around high school or college athlete who typically has 2 or 3 set seasons. Summer is cross country prep, with fall being cross country season. Then winter serves as a base building segment and track prep, with spring and early summer being track seasons. These are typically great and for a long time would even work for athletes training for marathons. However, now there are races all the time, so does a traditional periodization method work? And does it work those running races like the marathon and half marathon?
The Linear Periodization model is typically what we see in athletes. This ok for those racing shorter distances because their races are intense, so the work that they are doing is race specific. For those racing longer distances, we don’t necessarily want more intense work when our race may not even be approaching our lactate threshold. What do we do then?
Above is the idea of a funnel periodization and I like the idea of this much better for all race distances because we are removing the idea of simply doing more intense work and replacing it with race specific speed and endurance. In this chart, the dashed line is the volume and that’s what the High and Low is referring to on the right, not high General Speed and low General Endurance. It took me a second, too! Essentially, the top line for speed starts out as general and works towards specific, while endurance starts at general endurance and works towards specific. When you look at our training plans, you’ll see that this is the general model that we follow.
Traditionally, training segments were designed for 2 or 3 major races (or racing blocks for shorter races). For instance it might be regionals and state final in cross country, and then state finals for indoor and/or outdoor track. Where many adults run into problems is they want to race at a high level several times per year. I think for many of us we should address several issues with periodization and racing in a practical sense
- How long do racing segments really need to be?
- What do I need each training block to consist of?
- What happens when I race the same distance continuously?
- Is it realistic to expect high levels of performance all the time?
- Racing during times of non-peak fitness- should I?
Length of race segments
There’s a lot to deciding on a race segment, regardless of race distance. If you have read any of our work on philosophy then you know that we talk a lot about moderate mileage and balance in training. This is for more than just punishing my athletes! Rather, if we are in relatively good shape the majority of the time, the we drastically reduce the time we need to prepare specifically for any race distance. Now, on the other hand, when we are habitually low mileage and/or focus on one aspect of training for too long, then you’ll need a much longer time to shift gears to sufficiently prepare for a race. Now, there’s nothing wrong if that’s your style, but it simply affects how you can prepare for a different race. I will say this, though, that if you train for marathons then your time needed to come down for a 5k will be much shorter than if it’s the other way around.
|5k/10k Training||low mileage/single focused||moderate/balanced|
|beginner||12-14 weeks||12 weeks|
|recreational||10-12 weeks||10-12 weeks|
|competitive||10-12 weeks||8-10 weeks|
|Half Marathon Training||Low mileage/single focused||Moderate/balanced|
|Beginner||18+ Weeks||14-18 weeks|
|Recreational||16-18 Weeks||12-14 weeks|
|Competitive||12-14 Weeks||10-12 Weeks|
|Marathon Training||Low Mileage/Single Focused||Moderate/Balanced|
|Beginner||18-24 weeks||18 Weeks|
|Recreational||16-18 Weeks||14-18 Weeks|
|Competitive||14-16 Weeks||12-14 Weeks|
What should my training block consist of?
With our marathoners, we’ve discussed in depth the pillars of our training: balance, consistency, moderate to high mileage, appropriate paces, and active recovery. Without one of these the whole philosophy begins to crumble. These pillars are not just for the marathoners but are applicable to all racing events.
The point is that no matter the race distance, balance is key- meaning that speed, strength, tempo, long runs and easy days are all important. Now, these may be tweaked in terms of placement and race specific intensities, but no single component should be neglected during training. I feel this is especially true for anyone not in a specialization setting (high school or college track team for example).
What happens when I race the same distance continuously?
For starters, refer above to what we just discussed. What happens when a person races the same distance over and over is that they will often become stagnant and plateau. The reasoning is because many times they simply lose balance in training and certain components become ignored for months on end. For example, if all you do is 5k races, chances are you’ll avoid doing any work at marathon pace or anything really between an easy pace and lactate threshold. The problem is that you really aren’t providing any stress at a “high aerobic” level and limit the growth of your aerobic foundation. Instead, you may be trying to pull your fitness up by only trying to improve your VO2max and top end speed. As you will hear me preach, both of those (the peak of your fitness house) will ultimately be limited by the aerobic foundation of your fitness house. The opposite can be said for folks who only run marathons. If you find yourself doing this it may be time to consider what you are lacking and break your typical training with a segment that works on those weaknesses. Then, in the future, make sure you incorporate that balance and avoid having to fall into that situation again.
Is it realistic to expect high levels of performance all the time?
In short, no. I mean that in the nicest way, too. What I will see is athletes put way too much pressure on themselves to be at peak form at all times. That’s just a tough spot to put yourself in when trying to commit to being the best runner possible. If you are segmenting your training right you just won’t be in a position to run Personal bests all the time.
So then you’ll need to ask yourself the question, “why am I running this race?” Then you’ll need to follow that with “Am I ok if the results aren’t what I’m accustomed to?” If your big picture goal is, let’s say, qualify for Boston, then is running this race going to help or hinder that? If the answer is hinder, then I’d probably pass on it. As for the question about results, I am all for doing a test run, but if I am training for a marathon then I shouldn’t expect to run a great 5k when I’m knee deep in marathon pace training. Just like our training, our races should have purpose- at least when a bigger goal is in mind.
Should I race during my non-peak fitness?
There are sometimes when racing is just not a good idea and others when it can be beneficial. When coming back from a big goal race you want to make sure you are recovered (time off) and have given yourself several weeks to return to not only running, but also workouts.
When looking at the funnel style of periodization, that leaves the middle to the later portions of the training to race. Your weekly volume and the race that you are training for will determine what races should be appropriate.
For instance, let’s say you are brand new to running and want to run a marathon. I wouldn’t recommend just training for the marathon without any race experience. So, while building your general fitness it wouldn’t be a bad idea to run progressively longer races spread out over several months of your goal marathon buildup. In this situation our goal isn’t to necessarily run fast but rather have checkpoints along the way. This way your first race experience won’t be a 26.2 mile crash course in racing.
As for shorter races, there’s a number of things to consider. For those racing the 5k and 10k distances, a race can fit in nicely as a tune up or even a workout. During general fitness building, let’s say 6-8 weeks out from your peak race, a 10k might be good race because it will allow for a tempo (Lactate Threshold) workout and will also give you a chance to see where your fitness is currently at.
From there, if you are planning on going after a 10k peak race, I would consider a 5k race 2-3 weeks before your first big attempt. When you go after that peak 10k effort, you will probably really have about two good chances in the 3-4 weeks of tapering. Some people might be able to sneak that out to six weeks, but after that you really run the risk of getting burnt out, stale, and seeing decreases in performances. As for the 5k, it’s a little tougher but a 1 mile or 2 mile effort would be great about 2-3 weeks before your peak effort. Then you can follow similar guidelines as we just discussed for the 10k, just replace 10k races with 5k races.
For races like the half marathon, a 10k effort 3-4 weeks out will serve as a good test. Running at faster than goal half marathon pace should make your goal half marathon pace feel a little more comfortable. Leading up to the half marathon, you’ll probably be doing plenty of threshold runs, so races that will take you 15-30 minutes of hard running can be inserted into training during the buildup to replace the redundancy of workouts.
There’s a couple points to consider when planning all this out:
The first is that only do the races if you are ok with not being in peak form. Understand what the goal is for each race you are doing. These should aid in building confidence, not deflating it. The second is that you really have to be careful with racing too much during the segment. For me, the main reason is that if you start replacing all your workouts with 5k races on the weekend then you start the practice of surviving the week to get the race. At that point you stop building fitness and end up just holding on until the end of the segment- if you make it that long without getting injured.
Hopefully, this has shed a little light on our training systems throughout the racing distances and what makes the wheels upstairs turn a little bit!
How many times have we put ourselves, or even worse- has our coach, through a tough workout that left our poor muscles just shredded? If you’re like I used to be, then you may have been reaching for a couple of the over-the-counter anti inflammatory capsules. Was that the best thing for us?
Researchers from Norway, New Zealand, and Australia teamed up to look at blood markers of inflammation and muscle damage post exercise. They also looked at the effects of white blood cell infiltration after taking traditional oral ibuprofen. In the following 24 hours after exercise there was no effect on any of these measures, including the subjects own perception of soreness.
The take-away: We’ve talked before about the body needing to be put under stress in order to adapt to that stress. It appears that ibuprofen may not do much in terms of the acute damage, but you also want to avoid just taking even over the counter pills. Save the medications for when you really need them.
What you can do instead: While taking a couple pills is easy, there’s still some pretty simple things you can do to encourage proper recovery without wasting an opportunity to promote precious fitness adaptations.
- Refuel: Have snacks prepared for post workouts. Carbohydrate will replenish depleted stores and protein will halt current muscle breakdown and promote muscle growth and repair over the long term.
- Rehydrate: Begin rehydrating almost immediately and continue drinking regularly throughout the day. This can be water with electrolytes, or even small amounts of sports drinks for right after your workout. I don’t recommend sports drinks all day, but right after a workout is a perfect time.
- Rest: This one is tough for most people. If you can’t sneak a nap in, wear compression garments for a few hours post workout. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep, though.
One of the criticisms I have seen against the Hansons Marathon Method is that the speed work is in beginning of the training segment because speedwork causes what is known as acidosis. I addressed the question a little bit in the second edition of Hansons Marathon Method. In that discussion, I argued that the speedwork that we are talking about is speed, relative to the marathon. What I mean is that us doing speedwork at 10k pace is fast, when compared to marathon pace. If we were training for a 5k, then no, that same speedwork would actually resemble threshold work. I also argued that doing it early allows us to put the primary focus on marathon pace as the last several weeks approach, a time where the effort needs to be as race specific as possible. In short, I don’t think that the speed work that we are performing creates acidosis at all.
- Benefits of Sprinting!
So why bring this up again? I hadn’t planned on it until I came across some articles as I was researching another topic for an athlete. And, since I think it’s always good to have a complete argument, I figured it’s a good time to add to this discussion- even if it’s just me talking to the wind!
Ok, acidosis has been traditionally thought to hurt aerobic development because of things like lowering the blood pH, which would hinder aerobic adaptations. In this case we are talking about peripheral adaptations- enzyme activity, mitochondrial development, etc. However, what we know is that acidosis is only truly a threat if a) you are running above 100% VO2@max and b) spending a lot of time during a session/week at paces of VO2max. This is the basis of my argument. However, what if we did spend time above VO2max? Would it hurt our aerobic development? This is where the articles I re-discovered come into play.
First, let’s discuss what we are essentially talking about: sprinting, simple as that. Some people will call it High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT, which is… sprinting. More specifically, I am referring to repeated bouts of 30 seconds of sprinting in bouts of 4-6 efforts with near full recovery between each and done 2-3 times per week. This is important, because if you are training for a 5k, you might see workouts like 8×600 meters or 8×800 meters at mile pace (or faster) and these are very fast and for 60-90 seconds for fast runners, longer for slower runners. Those are workouts and the 4-6 reps of 30 seconds is a supplement to a run. Extended strides, per say. I think that is key to the whole argument.
So, where’s the proof? I linked a couple of good reads at the bottom of this and you should check them out. These both include references to several studies of interest. The end result is this- In a pretty short amount of time (6-10 weeks) runners of varying abilities performed 4-6 reps of 30 second strides over 2-3 times per week. They found significant improvements in VO2max via peripheral components (with no significant change in central adaptations like heart rate). These are the very same adaptations that we thought would be the victim of acidosis if we engaged in sprinting activities! If we control the length of time and the number of times per week, we not only will avoid hurting our aerobic development, we can:
- improve neuromuscular connectivity
- improve strength
- improve general endurance
- improve VO2max
- improve overall speed
As I mentioned, the 30 seconds is key. The 2-3 times per week is key here too. You won’t see the Hansons Marathon Method convert to a HIIT model anytime soon, but there are some serious practical applications for this.
The marathon/half marathon:
- If you already do strides, try bumping the duration up to 30 seconds from 10-15 currently.
- Try only once per week to start. This in combination of other SOS workouts is a significant amount of work.
- If you don’t do strides, start with short 10 second strides and build to 30 seconds over several weeks.
- I view this as a long term and continual process, so at first it might take longer to see results, but give them time.
- Here, you might actually do more sprints in the beginning and trail off as you progress in your season
- With these races, you will actually start training at slower paces and build your actual workouts to a slightly less volume, but greater intensity as you close in on the goal race. This would reduce the need for doing longer sprints more often as workouts, so no need to go beyond 1-2x per week.
- Lower mileage athletes may benefit greatly from being able to incorporate sprints into their week.
- Another scenario is having a shortened training segment. Let’s say you had something where you took enough time off to lose a little fitness. You are healthy now, but the calendar isn’t cooperating. If you have been doing sprints, you can begin again, and maybe shorten that window needed to regain most of your fitness. I only think this is a safe option if it’s something you’ve done. I don’t condone starting your sprints fresh off a running injury…
- Start with 1-2x per week and build to 2-3x per week when you aren’t in full training mode.
- As your workload increases, I would recommend backing down to once per week of 4-6 30 second reps with full recovery. Otherwise, I think a good thing can be overdone.
- Personally, I would do on a second easy day. So, if you do SOS on Tuesday and Thursday, then I’d do on Saturday before the Sunday long run. Expect to be sore when you first start as you may be finding muscles that have been MIA for awhile.
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