Category Archives: Training

Discussing the 1-1-2 Marathon Training Template and Who It’s Good For

Many marathon coaches and writers have similar, converging ideas. It’s impossible for every training plan to be unique, and it’s not that anyone’s necessarily stealing from anyone else. With so many minds, coaches, runners… many are eventually going to find similar approaches and follow very similar schedules.

I just ran into one such case, where Hal Higdon recently created a new marathon training schedule (Marathon 3), and its three day weekly structure is very similar to the FIRST Marathon training approach.

Another example is that, even though fundamentally they employ different approaches, IronFit and Hal Higdon in their marathon plans each gravitate to what I call a 3 and 2 schedule, where the week starts with three consecutive workouts, and after a day off the week concludes with back to back workouts ending with the long run, followed by a day off.

Those are examples of plans I’ve covered. However, many many other plans I have read and analyzed but not discussed here follow a four day a week approach I will call a 1-1-2 template. In large part, I haven’t discussed them because each of them follow the template in very similar fashion.

The 1-1-2 Template:

Whether it begins Monday, or Tuesday (with Monday off), the first workout of the week is a shorter/medium distance run, or a speed interval workout (400 meter repeats, 800m repeats, or similar).

After the following day is taken off, the 2nd workout on Wednesday/Thursday is a medium distance run, often a tempo or marathon pace run.

After that workout’s following day is taken off, a Friday/Saturday easy run of short/medium distance is followed the day after by the long run. Some may do the whole long run easy, some may insert a marathon pace segment in the run or at the end of the run. But that ends the week’s training.

Tom Holland, Dr. Jim, Jeff Gaudette’s Runners Connect, are some quick examples of writers/coaches who follow this basic template. They can vary in what strength training or cross training they ask you to do between workouts, as well as exactly what kind of workouts you do on the running days.

As a quick hit to the Who’s It Good For concept, and recognizing these plans are different between one another, I still think some general groups may or may not want to consider a plan with this structure:

Who Does This Not Work For?

Run streakers. Obviously you would not be running every day in these plans, and typically these plans ask for so much volume or intensity in the midweek workouts that running short/easy on the rest days is counterproductive. You may as well pick a plan not following this template.

High volume runners. The reasonable ceiling for weekly mileage on plans like these is about 50 miles per week, and that’s presuming you log double digit mileage on the weekday workouts as well as consistently get near that 20 mile mark on the long run.

You could double workout on the training days, but the main workouts are typically somewhat tough, and that could inhibit recovery.

Like the run streakers, you probably want a plan with more frequent, consecutive midweek runs.

Runners who don’t like speed or tempo work. On all these plans I’ve always seen some volume of at least marathon-pace work or tempo running, if not full speed interval workouts. If you’d rather not do any speedwork, Hal Higdon’s Intermediate plans are typically devoid of any speed or tempo running outside of marathon pace runs. If you just want to run easy, you probably need more frequent run workouts than 4 days a week anyway.

Who Does This Work For?

Runners who need breaks. There is a built in day off after three of the four key workouts. If you’ve burned out or worn down from plans with back to back to back runs, a plan like this could help you immensely, possibly more than FIRST or Higdon’s Marathon 3 (since they tend to ask for a lot of extra cross training outside of the workouts).

Runners who have other interests outside of training. The extra days off also give you more space for the rest of your life than most plans do. Some people need the days off to recover between workouts more than others, and plans like this are more accommodating than the other plans I’ve discussed before, while still providing suffient training volume and intensity to get you ready for the marathon.

Runners who struggle with tempo work. The thing with tempo workouts in this format compared to other day-off-rich training plans is that the day off before AND after the midweek speed/tempo sessions better allows you to load up for and recover from these workouts. Some people have a real hard time with executing tempo workouts, and much of that is having to do a workout the day before and/or after, leaving little time for recovery.

This schedule typically assures you have rest time before and after the tempo workouts, maximizing your energy on the workout itself and facilitating your recovery afterward before you tackle the back to back workouts to end the week.


The large number of 1-1-2 plans would be a redundant exercise to cover. But hopefully the above can help you determine if these styles of plans are worth pursuing, or if you’re better off moving along whenever you see them.

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Hal Higdon’s Marathon 3 training plan: Who’s It Good For?

You’ll notice I’ve never written a What’s It Good For feature on the somewhat famous Hal Higdon marathon training plans.

Part of that is they’re by and large recognized as a reliable starter-plan for runners unfamiliar with serious training for a race, or just seeking a straight-forward training plan. It’s often one of the first plans most aspiring runners find and turn to when they want to train for a race. It’s a more old school, traditional approach to run training, fairly straight forward and reliable.

So the audience for these plans is pretty clear. Why write a whole What’s It Good For piece on Higdon’s plans when many reading have already (most likely) gone to and possibly followed his plans before reading? There’s little confusion about whether or not these plans work for someone, and someone reading is typically looking for a different approach.


Now, that said, I’ve come back to Higdon’s work time and again. His writing helped me get back into running years ago and helped me build my ability to run for distance. In fact, for all the What’s It Good Fors I’ve written, if someone on the street asked me for advice on running regularly or doing races for the first time, I’d most likely send them to Hal’s website as a starting point. His basic advice and plans consistently work.

So while figuring out my intended training for the 2022 Vancouver Marathon, I also looked up Hal’s old marathon plans. Incidentally, I wanted more intel on how he’d schedule strength training (because obviously I want to continue strength training through Van training), and his incumbent marathon plans didn’t specifically discuss strength training.

I ran a search to see if I could find reference thereto on his website, and it led me to a plan of his I hadn’t found before: Marathon 3. This is a newer hybrid plan for recreational “gap” runners: Not quite a traditional intermediate marathoner, not really a novice.

The Marathon 3 program fits conveniently between Novice 2 and Intermediate 1, but its main feature (and appeal) is that it offers only three days of running and an extra dose of cross training for those of us who need a bit more rest between our running workouts.

Hal Higdon.

That said, I think more advanced runners may find value in the plan as well, especially if they’ve been burned out or injured on higher volume plans.

Marathon 3 (which I’ll also call M-3) looks decidedly different in schedule-pattern from Higdon’s other plans, which traditionally follow a 3 and 2 weekly cycle: Three early week workouts, rest, then a two workout block of a moderate effort run followed immediately by the long run and a rest/cross day. This one has no scheduled back to back runs.

So you know what? I think Higdon’s Marathon 3 is not only different enough from his other training plans to warrant a write-up, but the fact that it was a bit out of digital sight and I had to find it by accident tells me it’s worth linking and showing to readers.

Plus, you’ll get some insight into my thoughts on Higdon’s principles, and when/how they work well.

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The Bill Phillips Body For Life Inspired 10 Minute Warmup

A bit over 20 years ago, I bought the famous Bill Phillips book Body For Life. I won’t go too much into the premise of the book, its historical context at the time or its many flaws (including in-book product promotion). At the time, I found the template for fitness and diet interesting, so I bought it and followed the plan.

The book’s training method had you aggressively strength-train several days a week and follow some simple diet principles. For “cardio”, it had you do 20 minutes of effort-based high intensity intervals, which you can do in any aerobic-based way you desired, three days per week. I always used the treadmill. Back then I wasn’t the focused runner I am now, nor was I active beyond walking or cycling to commute, but I had enough fitness to run hard for some distance.

In short, the Cardio:

  • You start at a 5 out of 10 effort, whatever you feel that means
  • After two minutes you increase to 6 out of 10.
  • Each minute thereafter you again increase effort by 1, until you do a minute at 9 out of 10.
  • Then you scale back to 6 out of 10 for a minute, once again ramping each minute until at 9 out of 10, then falling back to 6 and repeating the process.
  • Once you get to 9 out of 10 for the 4th time, instead of dropping back to 6 you increase to 10 out of 10 and hold that for a full minute.
  • Then drop back to 5 and cool off for the final couple of minutes at 5 out of 10 to end the workout.

This workout always kicked me around, but I was always able to get it done. It was the only running I did, and you did it every 2-3 days so I had plenty of time to recover before the next one. I followed the Body For Life plan for a little while and then left it behind, probably in part because I lost gym access around that time.

In any case, this interval sequence resided in the back of my mind pretty much all this time. I still have the book but haven’t cracked it in a long while. The strength workouts I’ve forgotten as they’ve long since been replaced by far superior approaches.

But during recovery from my injury problems, as I started using the treadmill again, this approach came to mind as a warmup. It’s very similar to the 10 minute progressive treadmill warmup Lifetime Fitness taught me during my VO2max testing a while back. In that warmup, you jog for 2 minutes, and speed up by 0.4mph each 2 minutes before ending at a speed that is somewhat fast for you.

I realized that’s quite similar to how I did the Body For Life intervals. For 5/10 I would start at a 3.0mph walk. Then my 6 would be a fast 4.0mph walk. My 7 would be a 5.0mph slow jog. My 8 would be a 6.0mph steady run. My 9 would be a 7.0mph hard run. And the 10 out of 10 would be a nearly all-out (… well, at the time) 8.0mph run.

While the top intervals were harder than anything in the Lifetime warmup, the bottom intervals were of course much easier on me and allowed me to recover. The Lifetime warmup was harder to do because it required 10 straight minutes of progressively harder running (though, at least it was done after the fastest interval).

I realized doing an adjusted 10 minute version of the old Phillips workout as a warmup would be an easier and possibly more effective warmup, since I’d hit a faster top speed with a shorter duration, then have a walking period to cool off before re-trying.

I tried it recently and it not only felt better as expected, but I found it did a much better job getting my body ready to run at a higher intensity. So now that’s what I do as a warmup before any key indoor workouts (and you’ll notice I adjusted from the above paces a bit).

  1. I start at a 3.0mph walk for 1 minute.
  2. Increase to a 4.0mph power walk for 1 minute.
  3. Increase to a 5.0mph very easy jog for 1 minute. If too easy (e.g. I’m running into the front of the treadmill), I increase to 5.3mph, a more typical jog/recovery pace for me.
  4. Increase to 6.0mph steady run for 1 minute. If feeling comfortable after a few seconds I’ll often increase to 6.2mph.
  5. Increase to a brisk, somewhat demanding 7.0mph for 1 minute. If feeling comfortable after a few seconds I’ll often increase to 7.3mph.
  6. Drop back down to 3.0mph for 1 minute, and repeat the sequence.
  7. After the 10th minute, shut it down and go dynamic-stretch before the workout.

Since many of my treadmill sessions cruised around 5.5-6.5 mph, this whole sequence made that range feel very sustainable over a long period of time, suitably warming me up for a workout like that.

I not only do this warmup before treadmill runs but also do it before other cross training sessions, to ensure I’m at and can reach a suitable heart rate training range for a maximum training stimulus and benefit.

If I run near my gym, I could also do this warmup in the gym, then go outside and run. Sure, it can be awkward walking out of the gym 15 minutes after arriving, then back in the gym 45-75 minutes later.

I could also, with some discipline and adjustment, do the warmup outdoors by feel. That makes some sense after all, since the workout was originally intended to be done by effort rather than set parameters. I had an outdoor run yesterday that didn’t go great and had to be cut short. While not certain, perhaps it could have gone better had I thought to do an outdoor warmup like this.

You could follow the above sequence, with your own pace and parameters. Whatever a 5 out of 10 feels like or a 9 out of 10 feels like is up to you to determine (notice I don’t ever go to 10 out of 10, by the way; I stop at 9).

You could walk for 4 minutes and run just for 1. You could start at an easy run and just have it be all running. You could do it all on a spin bike or a rowing machine or elliptical. It’s up to you.

But I found this to be a great 10 minute aerobic warmup sequence, and it might work for you as well.

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Checking In 10/2/2021

There won’t be an outdoor run today. The weather was fine, but I clearly needed to sleep in quite a bit, which for me is until about 6:30am, and at that point it’s far too late in the morning to get to starting a long run and not end up in too hot conditions for the run to go fine.

So the plan today and tomorrow is to work on the treadmill at easy pace to marathon pace, by swinging two workouts. Plan A was to do a long run of about 16-18 miles today and an hour of running tomorrow, and in each I’d stop and walk after 2 miles for fluid and fuel, as I will when I run Indy.

Workout 1 is an easy interval style long run, running most of it at an easy, slow pace where every 10 minutes I’d briefly surge to marathon pace, then dial back to easy pace. I’d pause every 20 minutes for fluid and fuel, then resume. Obviously the gym treadmills stop at one hour, so that break would be a bit longer, but I’d restart and get right back at it until I’ve done three hours.

However, if not feeling like death, the 3rd hour would increase 15 minutes in from easy pace running to marathon pace running, with 30 second surges to Easy Interval pace every 10 minutes. Again, I’d stop every 20 minutes for fluid and fuel as before.

Workout 2 is a marathon pace workout that should take about 80-90 minutes, and basically practices the mechanics of race day. I start with marathon pace, then slow to a walk at 2 miles to take fluid and fuel. Once situated I get back to marathon pace until I get to 4 miles, then stop the treadmill outright for fluid and fuel in a more extended break. Once ready, I restart the treadmill and repeat the process, ultimately doing four long marathon intervals of about 2 miles each. The reason I don’t do a full hour ending with a runout is I want to simulate the true mechanics of running between the Indy aid stations, and ending each hour with a shorter run-out screws that up.

I could start on the treadmill today and find it won’t work for my body to go 3 hours today, so then I could pivot to Workout 2 and only do an hour, maybe only do three 2-mile intervals since I’ll have been running a bit by that point, then take it easy the rest of the day and go for the long Workout 1 tomorrow.

However, Workout 1 today and Workout 2 tomorrow is the plan for now, and I believe that can work just fine. If I get through this weekend with both completed as planned, I’m in very good shape for Indy given where I was a month ago.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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