For what I hope are understandable reasons, it’s been more quiet here than usual. Let me go into the various details:
For what I hope are understandable reasons, it’s been more quiet here than usual. Let me go into the various details:
I’ve had some people inquire lately for info on trying to run the Hansons Marathon Method without speed or tempo work (which I’ll refer to hereafter as just speedwork).
First of all, the Hansons did write a plan into the 2nd edition of their book which they called Just Finish. It’s a beginner’s version of their plan, without speedwork.
However, there’s a substantial issue with that plan: It’s clearly just a lightweight version of the other plans. There doesn’t appear to be any real adjustment for the loss of speedwork. The total volume of the plan is far too short on mileage volume to adequately prepare a runner for the marathon. The average mileage is about 30-40 miles, which wouldn’t be so bad except there’s no speedwork to make up for that shortfall.
The less speedwork you do in a training plan, the more important regular and long aerobic runs, plus a large training volume, becomes. The effectiveness of the medium aerobic Hanson weekday runs and 16 mile max long run is logistically contingent on you completing a speedwork session and extended tempo run during the week.
Still, people like the scheduling, run frequency, and the spread of the Hanson plan, though understandably prefer to avoid the lengthy, demanding speedwork and pace sessions.
Is there a way to follow some variation of the plan without speedwork, in more robust fashion than following the lightweight Just Finish plan, without totally undermining the plan?
Every runner at some point has done the run-walk… you run for a bit, and then walk for a bit to recover before running again.
Jeff Galloway is the one running mind who builds an entire marathon training approach around it. It’s a little surprising that his main book on the subject, Marathon: You Can Do It!, isn’t more well known and recognizable.
Sure, there are a lot of people who don’t think run-walking a marathon is *really* running a marathon. That can be part of it.
But there’s also a huge part of the population who want to run a marathon, but simply won’t consider it because they can’t fathom running 26.2 miles. And if they knew an approach like Galloway’s existed, they absolutely would try knowing it’s possible.
As you’d expect, Galloway’s approach is mostly geared towards first time and novice marathon runners, though he vouches that even mid pack runners have shown substantial improvements in their times using his method. Galloway even indicates that experienced runners capable of sub-2:40 marathons have used the method and seen improved results.
Galloway is hardly the only one to vouch for walk breaks in races. Others like Hal Higdon vouch for experienced runners taking walk breaks: Higdon often cites Bill Rodgers in the 1970’s running a sub 2:20 marathon while slowing to a walk at aid stations for fluids, or to tie his shoe.
And sure: You’re never going to see Eliud Kipchoge or Shalane Flanagan take walk breaks in a World Marathon Major. But virtually none of us will approach running at their level. And many aspiring marathoners struggle with successfully racing the distance despite their best efforts using other training methods. For many, Galloway’s method might be worth a shot.
Of course, Galloway’s approach isn’t as simple as “run until you want/need to walk, then walk, then run when you’re ready again”. His run/walk method is much more measured and specific, and is based on your pace ability. The idea is to keep you fresh for as long as possible, so the final few miles isn’t a miserable PR-killing fight against the wall to finish.
After taking a week off from running due to a bum hamstring, I reeled off three days of short runs in a row, none over 3 miles. Felt fine.
Two days after that last run, I ran over 5 miles home from work, despite not having run farther than 3.5 miles in over a month. Felt fine.
How, despite not running double digit miles in a week since mid-June, despite losing an entire week after a month of minimal running… was I able to reel off 12 miles in 5 days?
Okay, I left out all the cross training I did in the gym. Sure, I also ate well and got good rest. But, along with the 5 hours of cross training I did during the week “off” from running, I’ve been cross training quite a bit outside of any running. This is in large part because I’m about to move cross country, and with no goal race on the horizon I want to take it a bit easier while focusing my energy on cleaning up and packing.
At the same time, I’ve been ramping up my weekly cross training akin to a runner ramping up their mileage ahead of a goal race. Of course, the cross training is not as physically intense as regular running. And that’s a key reason I’ve been able to do so much of it in the interim.
The week after my last double digit mile week, I logged 2 hours of non-running cross training. The week after that, 2.5 hours. The week after that, 3.8 hours. And sure, I was not feeling great the week I got hurt, so I only logged 2 hours. But, with no ability to run, I logged extra time cross training and got 5 hours that week.
In this past week, I logged 5.8 hours of cross training in addition to 16.2 total miles, close to 8 hours total. Factoring in the heart rate training and calorie burn of the cross training, I finished last week trained to a level equivalent to about 24 miles of running a week.
My aerobic fitness development didn’t stall as my mileage dropped to lows unseen since before I began seriously running. I still logged easy/moderate efforts on the ARC Trainer, and easy sessions on the spin bike. Plus, this ignores all the day to day walking I have to do while living in Chicago (for now).
And because of this it’s certainly possible that, despite not running for a full week, my running fitness may have improved. Sure, a week of relative rest from running helps too. But I not only didn’t lose aerobic endurance… I might have gained some.
You cannot possibly eat gluten without eating something that is processed, period. Every food that contains gluten had to be manufactured from gluten-grains and other ingredients into its final form.
I always tell people that it’s actually very simple to eat a gluten-free diet… if you only eat meat, fruit, vegetables and legumes.
You could even eat some grains, such as rice. While processed, rice in its purest possible form can’t possibly contain any gluten.
The only chance you have of accidentally eating gluten is if you eat anything processed.
This unfortunately includes most restauarant food. Most of it is made from processed ingredients, and you don’t have control over its preparation. Obviously, following the above advice isn’t so easy if you go to a restaurant. You have to make adjustments and do some planning.
But if preparing food at home, and you know how to cook, you don’t have much of an excuse.
Even price is not a concern: Processed food is more expensive per pound, per calorie, than whole food from the produce/meat aisles in their purest available form.
If you need to follow a gluten-free diet, and you’re struggling to maintain it, you may find adherence a lot easier if you go clean and stick to meat, fruit, vegetables, and legumes.
(And of course if you’re vegan, you won’t eat meat. But the other three categories should cover your nutrition needs well. If vegan, I would make sure to include rice.)
Last month I announced that I’m moving from Chicago back to Las Vegas at the end of August. I talked at length about the changes, benefits and challenges of moving from a runner-friendly city back to a suburban-style desert.
Well, looks like Life’s relief pitcher threw me yet another curveball, though this is a hanging one that I can smack into the outfield.
Here is the speed interval workout I was developing before my left hamstring quickly developed an unrelated strain:
This can be done on a treadmill or outside on a clear pathway. As always, you want to avoid running routes where you’ve got to cross streets and navigate pedestrian traffic in tight quarters.
As always, warm up with some easy running, dynamic stretching, drills and such.
Start running at a moderate but easily sustainable effort. This can be a particular pace, or just by feel.
After 2 minutes, increase the pace to 5K or 10K pace, depending on your race goals. Maybe one of those races is your goal, or maybe you’re running something longer and this is for running economy. Use 10K pace for longer race goals and the 5K pace for shorter ones.
Hold the faster pace for one minute. After 1:00, slow to a comfortable walk.
Walk for one minute. After one minute, resume your moderate but easily sustainable effort, and repeat the cycle.
You may repeat this cycle up to 20 times. The less mileage you’re putting in every week, the fewer reps you’ll want to do. I would keep the total distance of this limited to the distance of your typical regular run.
The 2-1-1 Speed Workout
- 2min at moderately easy run pace
- 1min at 5K-10K pace
- 1min walk
- Repeat the above 2-1-1 steps until finished.
- 80 minutes max.
Thursday night, less than 7 minutes into a treadmill workout, my left hamstring popped and stiffened up, bringing the workout to an abrupt end.
I could walk on it as long as I didn’t walk too fast, aka stride too far. I definitely could not run on it. It didn’t hurt in general unless I used it.
But there it is: My first injury of substance in 2.5 years, let alone substantial enough to stop me from exercising (I don’t count cramping, and I’ve had some pretty bad leg cramps). I ran over 3500 miles in that span, not including any other exercise, and of course the many more miles of walking I did. I had never been injured in any meaningful way in that span.
It’ll be fine. Again, I can mostly walk on it fine, and only feel it while walking if I overstride. I certainly cannot run, and won’t even try for at least a full week. I imagine it’ll be a few weeks before it’s healed fully. Had it not popped I’d have thought maybe I just pulled it, so it’s at least a strain or possibly a sprain. I imagine if it was grade 2 or worse I’d feel some constant pain, but again I feel no pain most of the time, even walking.
So, no running for a week or two. It’ll be like post-marathon recovery! In fact, the best way to handle a minor but shut-it-down leg injury like a sprain is to treat the next couple weeks like you’ve just finished a marathon. Stay away from running for a bit, eat and sleep a lot to help drive recovery, ease back into some cross training, then do a reverse taper of easy running until you’re back to your normal volume.
Various training approaches will give you comparisons of the times you can run at different race distances based on a recent finishing time in another race. For example, each method may take your 5K time and, from that, estimate how fast you would run a marathon.
They also provide estimates of your pace in easy runs as well as during recovery intervals between speedwork reps.
Of course, these approaches don’t estimate times the same way. Out of curiosity I decide to compare these different time estimates on a spreadsheet. I didn’t have any sort of scientific hypothesis or goal behind this, other than mere curiosity.
I’ve cross trained with a variety of methods and machines over my time as a runner. There might be more runner-specific cross training methods than the ARC Trainer, but you won’t find one simpler and more readily available in most gyms.
The ARC Trainer is a machine developed in 2003 by a company called Cybex International. Your legs move forward and back on tracking similar to an elliptical, except the motion is more straightforward, and the angle is closer to that of running uphill. On some ARC Trainers the arms may move as they do on ellipticals, but on most (including the ones at my gym) the handles are stationary and only your legs are intended to move.
The ARC Trainers are usually empty at gyms where they’re available (including my current gym), and it’s a bit of a surprise they have stuck around this long given their limited popularity. But they’re still present in many big gyms, and after discovering them recently I quickly discovered that they’re my most effective cross training tool. When the gym’s packed and everyone’s crowding the weights, treadmills and ellipticals, the ARC Trainers are a widely available and welcome training option.
It turns out I will not be running the 2019 Chicago Marathon, because I will not be living in Chicago any more! After 4.5 years in Chicago, I am moving away in August to live with family in Las Vegas. A combination of brewing circumstances have now forced my hand.
I’ve been financially treading water, and my family in Las Vegas has always left the door open to come live with them at a low overhead. My sisters and parents each have a spare room I could live in. Plus, most importantly, a number of key family events in Vegas would have required me to fly in several times at cost over the next year, which made staying in Chicago financially unworkable.
With my apartment lease expiring at the end of August, with the new 2020 Illinois budget having raised various personal costs, with growing unrest in the city itself, and with no remaining serious personal ties to the city outside of my current day job… the time was right to cut the cord anyway.
Now is a good time to go and recharge a bit, while spending quality time with a family I haven’t seen more than twice a year over the last several years.
I don’t want to leave my job (I asked about continuing to work remotely, and that’s a possibility with some breaks), and I am despite all the city’s difficulties sad to finally leave Chicago.
But along with the time being right to go, there’s a lot of opportunity to the move.
– I mentioned the financial side, and the chance to spend a lot more time with family.
– Because the overhead is a lot lower, it’s not as big a deal to take a lesser salary at a new role if needed (plus Nevada has no income tax!), opening up my work options quite a bit.
– I would have had to fly in three times over the next year for holidays and upcoming family events. Now that I’d be right there, there’s no need to pay for airfare or take time off from work.
– While Vegas summers are brutal, the winters are of course super mild and great for running. Temps average around 50°F (10°C) and the weather is rarely anything other than sunny and clear. And of course, because it’s a desert, the air is super dry so humidity doesn’t ever complicate the conditions.
– Because of the mild winter conditions, training for Vancouver becomes a lot easier because I can run outdoors with no trouble pretty much every day (though now I just need to remember to use the sunscreen a lot more often).
– Flying to the PNW becomes cheaper and a lot less complicated from Las Vegas than from Chicago. I also have a lot more direct options than I did in Chicago. Vancouver in particular becomes a much easier flight to book.
– While Vegas has its crime and share of local unrest… I’d still be harassed much, much less than I am in Chicago every day, especially where my family lives along the more remote edge of town.
– Since I won’t live in a tiny studio apartment anymore, I actually will have kitchen counter space, which opens up my food prep options. Plus my family will have additional cooking supplies I don’t have. I’ll also have an in-unit washer and dryer to use for laundry, which makes doing that cheaper and a lot easier (currently I’m washing $10 in large loads every couple weeks).
– And, of course, since I’ll be near my family all the time, we’ll be able to do more stuff together more often.
Sure, there are tradeoffs.
– I’ll no longer walk to get everywhere, so my day to day natural physical activity will go down. Every run will require a conscious effort and time set aside. Even going for a simple walk to get some air won’t be as easy, as Vegas is not a particularly walkable city even aside from the heat.
– From mid-spring to fall, it’s unworkably hot outside (as I write this it’s 100°F (38°C), and that’s mild compared to typical 110°F (43°C) summer temps). Outdoor runs longer than a few miles and outside the early morning hours will be impossible. I’ll have treadmills available, but any run longer than a few miles will be very tough to do from March to October.
– Having to drive everywhere, I’ll spend far more money on auto fuel. Auto insurance will be a lot more expensive. While I won’t pay much for rent and utilities, I’ll pay a lot more to get around.
– Going to the store to get food will be more of a chore because I have to drive. Plus, since I’m sharing space with family and they of course have their own food, food storage space will be limited. I can’t buy a ton of meat and produce and expect to store it. I have to plan ahead more for food. They will have food available, sure, but our diets are different.
In any case, this is a move I can make now but might not be able to make later. Also, if I were to stay in Chicago and suffer any setbacks during the next year, it would be a lot harder to overcome. Plus, of course, I mentioned all the travel I’d have to do this next year to Vegas, and it makes far more sense to just be in Vegas full time instead. This is along with everything else about breaking a cycle and putting myself in a better position for the years to come.
But, because of that, it changes my racing plans for the rest of the year. It makes no sense to train for a marathon amidst such a big transition. I was looking training-wise to step back for a little while and train for shorter distances… and this now presents a good extended opportunity to do that before training for Vancouver 2020.
As for now, I hit the brakes on training for Chicago, right as I was starting. Not necessarily a bad thing!
Along with running the Vancouver Marathon, one of my favorite takeaways from my Vancouver trip this May was buying a copy of Canadian author Jean Francois Harvey’s book Run Better. Published in Canada and mostly unknown outside of the Maple North, the book focuses on helping runners improve their form and prevent or heal injuries with a ground-up approach to running mechanics.
I’m not going to review the book but will admit bias and say I love it, it’s simply and well written, and I recommend finding a copy if you struggle with your day to day running in any way.
Though it’s mostly a book of fundamentals, the book does have training schedules for races from the 5K to the Marathon. Each plan has two schedules arbitrary split between faster and slower times (with of course the faster plan asking for more speedwork, though the volume is mostly the same).
I want to go ahead and review the plan, if for no other reason than I am actually planning to follow it while training to run a marathon this fall.
One thing clear to me this summer is that getting in a lot of miles is probably not going to happen. It’s one reason I went ahead and joined the gym near my home: I need to do more to fill in the blanks with cross training. I’ll hit my key workouts whether outdoors or indoors, and then have a variety of indoor options with which to fill in the blanks.
Filling in the blanks however requires some analysis. People cross train, but people don’t have a firm basis from which to equate their cross training to the needed aerobic development.
How much work on the bike or elliptical equals one mile of easy running? Most do an indeterminate amount of cross training, but beyond knowing that it helps some with training, they have no idea how many miles or how much progress it has helped make them.
(I will also note that, while some writers and coaches think it so, I don’t consider treadmill running cross training. I realize at a zero incline, with a consistent surface, and with no wind resistance… running on a treadmill could be easier than regular running. However, there are enough equalizing factors I’ll discuss another time that can and usually do make it as difficult, sometimes more difficult, than regular running. Plus, you still are bearing all of your weight at a higher speed and intensity, as you do with running. So, I consider miles run on the treadmill equal to regular running miles.)
What’s the best way to figure out how much value, how much volume, a cross training workout provided to your training? It’s a question I’ve dabbled with over time, and wrestled with more in recent memory, especially now that I’m cross training more frequently at the gym.
I think the best way to figure this out is:
As a runner, your body can only handle so much mileage. Some runners can pile over 100 miles a week. Some runners can’t run more than 3-4 days a week.
A better more emcompassing way to put it is that you can only handle so much time on your feet. Sure, some runners are faster than others and that’s why they can rack up 100+ miles at an easy pace, whereas if most of us ran the same amount of time we’d probably max out at around 60-65.
Back to the main point: While it’d be ideal to have you log 50+ miles while training for a marathon, many can’t quite hit that number within their reasonable best efforts, or their plan doesn’t ask that much. Even if your plan does, maybe you struggle for understandable reasons to do it: Hal Higdon might ask for 20 milers and 7-10 mile midweek runs, and maybe you don’t have the time to put them in… or your body simply gives out after 15 miles. Maybe the Hansons want you to run 6-8 miles six times a week, but there’s no way you can run six times a week.
However, as Jonathan Savage says, everyone running a marathon has to run the same 26.22 mile distance. Whether your longest run was 15 miles or 18 miles or 22 miles, everyone’s got to run 26.22 on race day. It doesn’t matter if you can’t handle the distance, the pounding that volume requires, in training. You’ll have to handle it eventually just like everyone else.
This doesn’t mean you need to do 20-26 milers in training to be ready. Some runners certainly can do that, sure, and they’ll usually be ready on race day. But while I do think it’s important to develop the aerobic endurance to go no less than 2.5-3.0 hours without stopping… what you do on the other days of the week can be far more flexible.
With one key caveat.
Your body not only has to be aerobically prepared to run long, but it physically must be prepared to take the pounding of that much continuous running. No matter how much you run or how you run, you must develop the physical strength to handle the 3-6 hour pounding. And that simply will not happen on a lighter running schedule by itself.
I also don’t think speed and tempo work is anywhere close to enough by itself. You’ll develop solid ability to run a 10K or something, but that won’t fully prepare you to handle hours of pounding and aerobic demand.
The successful marathoners I know and see all tend to have one other common denominator aside from just running a lot, running regularly and eating/sleeping/recovering well.
They strength train.
Are you a member of a gym? Does that gym have treadmills and at least three other different kinds of readily available cardio machines, like ellipticals, spin bikes, rowing machines, ARC Trainers, stair climbers… maybe even a pool (assuming of course that you can swim, and own a waterproof watch)?
Are you training for a long distance event like a marathon, an ultra, a bike race, a triathlon, or jury duty?
Then boy do I have a long distance workout for you!
Creative minds can look at all the information I’ve provided and immediately see where I’m going with this (and by the way ignoring a jury duty notice may technically be a crime), but I’m going to spell it out either way.
The Quadathlon is a 2-4 hour workout where you spend 30-60 minutes working at a sustainable pace on each of four different cardio exercises.
This of course requires that each machine or avenue of cross training is readily available: You don’t want to go do the stair climber section and find out they’re all taken or broken. So, of course, make sure the machines you want to use are available.
Also, how long you spend on each machine may be a function of a gym’s policies. Many gyms set a 30 minute limit for using a single machine. So then at a gym like that you do this as a 2 hour workout, period.
This also is a purely cardio/aerobic exercise, because the continuous aerobic activity is integral to the workout. A circuit of weight machines doesn’t work because, along with the stops and starts, trying to speed through these without stopping can be dangerous. It’s also very hard to find 30-60 minutes of continuous weight exercises (and the needed open machines!) that won’t leave you injured. Plus you have to adjust the weight of every machine. It’s a pain; don’t do it.
I recommend starting if possible with the most difficult apparatus first, and then finishing with the easiest, for obvious reasons: Your body will be freshest for the toughest exercise, and will reach the 4th and final one when you’re most tired. If this were intended to be a contest, I’d say do the exercises in reverse. But your goal is not to beat anybody: It’s to get a good workout that won’t injure you.
For example, because cross training is generally done as a soft-impact substitute for running, it makes the most sense to make running on the treadmill the 1st exercise. Running is fundamentally tougher to do than most other cardio exercises because you are bearing your entire weight throughout the exercise.
However, if one particular set of machines tends to fill up often while the others are empty, I would then start with the busiest machines first. Usually in gyms this is the treadmill, and that’s typically a logical starting point anyway. But gyms with rowing machines tend not to stock a lot of those despite being popular. So maybe if you want to row and that’s open you should start with that.
One exception: Some people consider swimming nice and relaxing, and may want to do that last. But if you struggle to stay afloat when tired, maybe don’t do that one last. I don’t want you to drown at the end of a 4 hour workout! Maybe do that one 2nd.
If you use the pool as one exercise, get your triathlete on afterward by quickly changing into gym-appropriate gear for your next exercise (probably the most difficult one). And vice versa: If switching to the pool, change quickly into your pool gear. Of course, don’t run or walk fast on wet terrain. Be brisk but be careful. Do all your rushing while sitting down.
A good exercise to do last, if available, is the exercise bike, especially if you opt for the easier recumbent (sitting) bike. It’s easier to maintain a basic aerobic effort when exhausted on the bike. Plus, more importantly, many tend to feel real stiff when they get off the bike after a long workout. You don’t want to get on another machine for 30-60 more minutes in that condition.
If your gym has it, you’ve used it before for more than a few minutes, and you’re up for it… another good final exercise is the hand crank, a sort of arm bike. The advantage to finishing with this is all the other exercises require your legs, and this one uses your arms instead, which should be somewhat fresher and won’t ask anything of your tired legs.
A good example of a common Quadathlon Workout would be this:
Event 1: Treadmill, at tempo, 30 minutes.
Event 2: Elliptical, easy/moderate effort, 30 minutes.
Event 3: ARC Trainer, first 3/4 easy, last 1/4 moderate, 30 minutes.
Event 4: Spin bike, whatever you can muster, 30 minutes.
Or, if your gym has a really popular rowing machine and it’s available:
Event 1: Rowing machine, moderate effort, 30 minutes.
Event 2: Treadmill, first 3/4 easy, last 1/4 at tempo, 30 minutes.
Event 3: Elliptical, easy/moderate effort, 30 minutes.
Event 4: Spin bike, whatever you can muster, 30 minutes.
Or maybe you cannot or don’t want to run at all this weekend.
Event 1: Swimming in gym pool, 30 minutes. Change into gym gear.
Event 2: ARC Trainer, easy/moderate effort, 30 minutes.
Event 3: Elliptical, easy/moderate effort, 30 minutes.
Event 4: Spin bike, whatever you can muster, 30 minutes.
Event 1: Jury duty, wait 4 hours, get sent home instead.
Event 2: Get to gym, get on treadmill…
… okay, maybe not.
For the most part, the Quadathlon is a challenging 2 hour aerobic workout, requiring differing ranges of motion throughout, and you usually only need to run 3-4 miles total.
This is an excellent idea for weekend “long run” workouts where you might not have it in you to knock out 10-20 miles that day but you do want to get in a long effort.
Previously I wrote about a strategy for running your best mile on a standard track. Of course, not only do many people not have access to a track, but in many situations you may be asked to run a mile on a course that definitely isn’t a track, e.g. a mile long road race, or a time trial at school, the military, as part of a fitness class, etc.
The strategy I wrote about doesn’t quite work here because it’s built around each of the four laps taken around a track. In fact, as I mentioned when discussing Lane 8, running the mile in a different lane not only changes the start and finish for your mile, but requires you adjust the strategy even then.
So what do you do when you’re running a mile on an unmarked course? Can the strategy be adjusted for that?
Totally. If you don’t have a marked course for your mile, but you at least know you’re running a full mile… this method can be modified by time.