Category Archives: Training

Time To Taper: When It’s Too Late To Train For Your Marathon.

A good portion of you are running one of the many major marathons taking place over this next couple months: Berlin is this weekend, London next weekend, Chicago and Boston the week after that, and NYC on November 7.

As people do for these races, many of you are probably in an overthinking sense of semi-panic about getting trained and ready for these races. I’ve seen multiple accounts of people now injured ahead of these races, so I know the following advice is relevant.

Most of you are now about 2-3 weeks out from your race. This is now the time you should be tapering, not training hard or long.

Don’t forget: Your body can only gain fitness adaptions from any individual workout after about 8-14 days. Anything you do within 8-10 days of the marathon will not manifest in any training benefits until after your marathon. Any hard workouts within 8-10 days won’t do anything other than tire you out and possibly get you injured.

Many argue for tapering within 3 weeks of a marathon, but I’m with Jonathan Savage on the ideal taper being 2 weeks, with a gradually reduced volume of running at mostly your goal marathon-pace, e.g. instead of a workout of track repeats you’re generally better off doing a few miles at marathon pace and calling it a day. So anyone 3 weeks out at least has through this weekend to train long or hard before they need to wind it down.

At the same time, a lot of injuries happen within the month before a race because runners, generally knowing this truth, do the equivalent of cramming for a final exam, trying to jam in as much training as possible feeling they didn’t do enough the previous couple months. They overtrain within the last 4-6 weeks ahead of their taper, and then get hurt.

It’s a risk I clearly recognize with my own training for Indy in November, and one I have to balance against restoring training volume and best getting ready for that race. Granted, like NYC runners, my race is farther down the road, and I should be reaching peak volume anyway with my taper ideally happening in late October.

But those of you running Boston, London, and Chicago should be in your taper phase, and at this point any hard workouts are unlikely to significantly benefit you. The time to get the work done has passed. You’re either going to be ready or you’re not, no hard training you do from now to then will do much of anything at all to change that, and any long runs or hard work you do in the interim is more likely to burn you out, injure you, or otherwise leave you at less than your best condition for the race.

Side note: In fact, the only real benefit or purpose of any long run the week before a marathon is to tap into your glycogen stores so that any subsequent carb loading will best re-load them before the race. The goal isn’t to get in a hard workout to get you ready. Most would almost be better off cross training this workout for 2-3 hours than running at all.

So unless you want to join those people who now have a sudden injury to their calf, knee, hip, ankle, etc. with 2-3 weeks until their goal race… recognize that you won’t benefit from hard/long marathon training within about 2 weeks before your race, and start wrapping things up now. You had 2-5 months to get ready, and at this point you can’t undo the past.

Any hard work from 2 weeks out until race day is much more likely to get you injured than it is to get you ready for your marathon.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Antioxidants: Helpful or Not?

Antioxidants are a fundamental mixed bag. On the one hand, their ability to heal the body and combat inflammation helps the body recover quickly from exercise, not to mention help protect your everyday function and immune system.

On the other hand, researchers have in recent years discovered that this antioxidant influx also blunts the body’s adaption and supercompensation to training, that while you heal more quickly and completely you also interfere with the body’s ‘learning process’ in fighting the inflammation markers and growing to adapt to the stressor of your intense training.

Basically, because antioxidants are an external healer, your body is less likely to learn to adapt to the stress for future workouts.

Continue reading
Tagged , , , , , , ,

Building A Better Self: July 2021 Edition

I not only finished Friday with 34 miles this week, with this weekend and a long run workout still to come (after 36 miles last week), but I did so despite insomnia on Thursday night and my air conditioner problem messing with my sleep earlier this week.

While obviously tired, I didn’t feel burned out, and I had the energy in me to pump out 30-45 minute training workouts on the treadmill after work, AND run 1K-2K on all my work breaks (except only for Thursday afternoon, which I walked). I played everything by ear and was willing to bail on any of the above if I simply didn’t feel well enough to do it.

But I did all of the above. No stimulants (outside of the same 12 oz of coffee I have had every morning for years and years), no crutches, no supplements I hadn’t already been taking for a while. Even now, other than understandable general fatigue (and yes I got decent sleep last night), I feel okay.

How am I doing this? I haven’t taken a complete day off from training since June 23 (10 days ago)

There’s a few new things I’m consistently doing. Some regular readers already know about, but some things not as much:

Continue reading
Tagged , , , , , ,

It’s Just Too Hot, Guys

Today, after a few easy and off days, I went out for some speed repeats. It’s excessively hot in Las Vegas right now, with high temperatures exceeding 115°F, and low temperatures barely reaching 90°F before going up again with the sunrise.

It was 91°F at about 5:45am when I started the first of what I planned to be five (5) 90 second hard repeats on a long stretch of trail. After two of these, I grabbed my water bottle from the stop point and decided to end the workout right there, heading back.

I wasn’t in serious distress, nor did I go too hard on the repeats. In fact, I probably accelerated into them better than I had been doing on repeats in a while. I ran them smart and my pace was solid. I didn’t feel sick or anything. But the combination of quick fatigue and the heat told me that what little I had done was for now enough. I walked back to the ranch.

I’ve stated before that one of my goals with this summer’s Indy Marathon training was to address training seriously in the heat. So far, as temps have risen this past month, I’ve handled what speed workouts I’ve done in the hotter weather fairly well.

The only workouts I don’t feel good about so far are my longer runs. I’m coming up on three weeks since my last true long run (though I have a 10 miler planned Saturday), and I have yet to exceed 10 miles. It is early and still base training, and the plan all along was to backload the longest/hardest running for after Labor Day when the temps drop back to human levels. But I’m still not able to get what I’m looking for out of current long runs.

All of this said, I have to be mindful not as much of my continuing adaption to the typically extreme vegas heat, but of these stretches where it’s very hot even for a Vegas summer. This is a true heat wave, with temps exceeding 115°F, the top end of what heat Vegas typically gets. Much of the Western United States is in this massive heat wave right now.

This is not the time to power through a workout if I find my body struggling or tiring more quickly in these conditions than expected. While sleep and nutrition can also be factors, I’ve actually done mostly well on both those fronts this week to where I can discount those being key contributors. If anything, I should have been more ready to go for this workout than typical given that and the extra recent recovery.

But extreme heat takes a lot out of you, prior heat adaptions or not. I had water with me but hydration had negligble effect on how it felt.

Sometimes it just makes more sense to cut a workout in those conditions short, and either run it out otherwise later (I can and may cross train after work) or just take a mulligan and move on to tomorrow.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Developing the Trickling Marathon Training Plan

Without getting too deep into my methodology… every few days I schedule one or more days off from training, whether I’m just base training or actively training for a goal race (as I’m doing right now). On these days the only exercise I do is walk and use the spin bike. Otherwise, I avoid exercise and definitely avoid training.

In the past I trained with few to no days off, and in fact leading up to Chicago in 2018 I ran 70 straight days… with no ill effects in either case. My only knockout injuries have occurred randomly during down periods in training.

But, never minding the first digit in my age is now a 4, I recognize the balance between training enough (and hard enough) to generate fitness adaptions… and taking enough time away from training to allow those adaptions to manifest through recovery and supercompensation.

What I’m doing with the Indy training plan is something that for now I’ll call a Trickling 18 Week Plan. At some point I’ll diagram this all out in detail but in general I’ll describe it:

Continue reading
Tagged , , , , , ,

A Long Workout With Less Stress Than A Long Run

I didn’t schedule a long run for this weekend, planning rest days on Saturday and Monday.

I did originally plan an easy workout for Sunday, but after having to cut short Thursday’s speed workout (five 2 minute repeats) due to fatigue from poor sleep, I decided to re-attempt the workout Sunday in place of the easy workout.

I also had a 3 mile walk booked for a Garmin weekend badge on Saturday, but had other plans come along and couldn’t do it before the weather got hot. Still wanting to badge-chase, I decided Saturday that I’d do the long walk on Sunday morning right after finishing the speed workout.

The repeats went just fine (that whole speed workout only took about half an hour), and once done with the timed cooldown I began the walk by heading back to base (I was only 1/4 mile away), getting a protein drink, and continuing the walk with the drink as I did some exploring: With some neighborhood construction done, I wanted to check out the mileage on a couple of new potential running routes.

After exploring the first loop while re-fueling, I returned to the ranch, recycled the bottle plus had more water, the continued the walk farther out to examine the 2nd new loop. (While not the main topic of this post, both routes are promising)

I returned after about 6 kilometers (3.72 miles), 80 minutes, of total walking (… and a brief running segment, as part of the 2nd route was in direct sun and I felt like getting out of it as soon as possible), to end the walk and the full workout session around 7am.

Between the speed workout and the extended walk, I was outside Sunday for close to 2 hours. Only about 35-40 minutes of that time I spent running, and the early repeats were the only truly challenging part. Most of that time I walked at fairly low intensity and that last 80 minutes was basically an extended cooldown.


This was in a strange way a long-run level workout, even though it clearly was not a long run. I spent 2 hours of my feet, though only covered about 7 total miles. My body had to operate aerobically (however mild in effort) for close to 2 hours, and while the intensity was not that of a 2 hour run, it still had to absorb the stress of two hours of total effort.

This is akin to the notion that your time to bonking in a marathon isn’t necessarily a function of your distance traveled, but your time spent at a given level of effort. Most runners can go about 2 hours at the typical 80-85% max effort most run the marathon before their natural glycogen stores tap out. How far they travel before this happens is a function of their fitness, the conditions, and all sorts of other variables, but most without fuel can give about 2 hours on their own.

That’s not why I did this, however. I just wanted to get a planned long walk in after a shorter, easier workout, before the Vegas sun got too hot. That I got this benefit was a welcome, inadvertent side effect that I only discovered in hindsight.

Still, this approach can be a fine hedge if you need a bit of a break on a long run day, or you want to maintain fitness and development on a down week.

It’s similar to Jeff Galloway’s Run Walk method, though Galloway would still expect you to run most of a given distance, while here you would just do a shorter, do-able workout and then chase it with a much longer, slower walk.

You could also take a page from IronFit‘s cross training plans, and swap the walk with low intensity cross training… though the idea of what I discovered is more about spending all your time on your feet and better neuromuscularly working your lower body.

I just wanted to share what I found after Sunday’s extended session. This is not necessarily something I’d make the key component of a training plan. It’s just an option for certain situations where you might want to dial back the intensity on a non-crucial long run day, or on a stepback or lighter weekend.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Idea of a Bad Workout

I don’t have bad workouts.

That’s definitely not because I’m perfect, or because I don’t challenge myself. And it’s not like I don’t have good workouts.

I’ve had plenty of workouts that didn’t go the way I wanted. I fail over and over again. I’ve had to cut workouts short, re-configure workouts, turn quality workouts into simple easy runs, stop the workout early and go home, etc.

But none of these workouts were bad. I didn’t screw them up… even if maybe I screwed something up (e.g. ran repeats too fast, went out too hard, didn’t bring hydration, ate or hydrated too much, etc).

I could give you a treatise on the perils of results based analysis, e.g. you ran a race and won, so you think therefore the way you ran the race was good… or you didn’t hit your goal time or finish despite following your race plan, and you decided therefore you screwed it up.

On a similar note, we as human beings often attach emotional judgment to our workouts and races. And so many have a workout not go the way they want and decide the workout was therefore bad. I see and hear this far too often.

To me, workouts are truly bad only if they set back your growth, fitness, or life… for avoidable reasons that were totally within your control.

  • Going out for a run if you’re injured and know you should rest, and aggravating the injury
  • You’re burned out and exhausted and know a run isn’t going to help you in any way, but you go and run anyway.
  • Running in a severe thunderstorm or tornado.
  • Chasing after someone while holding a knife, to try and end them.

As you can see, my threshold for labeling a bad run is somewhat higher than most people.

If I go out for a run, feel crappy the whole way, and don’t feel great when it’s done, I don’t consider that a bad run. I consider that a learning experience. Maybe I could have skipped that run. And now I know, thanks to that run, that maybe running in those circumstances isn’t the best idea or use of my energy.

Today I went out for speed intervals after yet another consecutive night of poor sleep (been having an unusual stretch of these nights recently). I was up for the run but my energy wasn’t high, and though I gave a solid 10K effort I couldn’t go as hard in the repeats as I would have liked.

I did knock out four solid repeats out of the five needed, but I knew while finishing the 4th that I was tapped and at the point where the 5th might push me too far for my good. So I stopped after that 4th and headed home.

Was it a bad workout because I never felt quite right, or because I couldn’t get myself to eke out one last repeat, or because I did them closer to threshold/10K effort than the desired 5K/mile effort?

Or was it a good workout because I made progress in my training plan, finished the needed workout minus just one repeat, didn’t lose any ground with training since I’m still in the base/foundational phase, and moderated my effort to where I felt more rewarded than worn out by a key workout in tired circumstances?

Recall I mentioned the value in giving every workout a purpose. On a similar note, if a run doesn’t go the way you want or doesn’t feel at all good, you can still take away some positive value from your workout. It’s rarely a total waste as long as you apply yourself.

Tagged , , , ,