Tag Archives: marathon training

Break up easy workouts when life gets busy

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Often I have days where I need to get in an extended regular run, something like 60 minutes or 6 miles, but my schedule ends up so busy there isn’t a suitable block of time available without compromising my recovery (e.g. losing sleep by having to wake up early or working out so late that it affects sleep later that night).

For example, I wake up no later than 7:00am (usually more like 6:00am) to get ready for and then commute to work. I work until 5:00pm, and often I’d have the rest of that night until needing to get to bed around 9:00-10:00pm. I often do my training runs in the evening around 5:30-6:00pm after commuting.

But say on this given example day I have a webinar appointment at 6:00pm, which lasts until 7:00pm. Since I need to set up equipment shortly before 6pm, this doesn’t leave more than 30 minutes for a run, which isn’t enough time for a 60 minute run, or since I’m not Mo Farah I cannot run 6 miles in 30 minutes.

I could just not work out that day. But let’s say for whatever necessary reasons I was not able to work out Monday. And if I defer this workout to Wednesday I lose the last day off I have this week, and my training schedule is such that five days of running in a row might be too much. But if I just cancel this workout, I lose so much training volume that it negatively affects my needed development and could be too costly a setback.

What a bummer, huh? I should just cancel my goal race or scale down my race goal, right?

Absolutely NOT.

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Addendum on practicing marathon fueling: When should you practice it?

I recently wrote about the training benefit in strategically fueling and hydrating during long runs to mirror your usage of aid stations.

However, do you want to do this in every long run? I’d say certainly not. You definitely don’t want to do it in every training run. Never mind the hassle of carrying fluid: Race-day fuel isn’t cheap in large quantities. Do you really want to buy pounds of gel every week?

First of all, there is a training benefit to training without any fuel at all. Along with practicing some glycogen depletion and possibly improving your overall glycogen storage, you also will produce crucial aerobic stress that improves your aerobic capabilities.

That said, there comes a point where the losses from a lack of fuel start to hurt you more than the depletion stimulus of training without it is helping you.

Jeff Gaudette once noted that the body can handle about 2 hours of marathon pace running before running out of relevant lower body glycogen. Granted, you’re typically not running at marathon pace for most (if not all) of your long runs. This is a key reason behind most running minds’ stop-loss limit of 2.5 hours for long runs. That’s about the farthest you can go at an easy long run pace without fuel before your body taps out of glycogen and really begins to give out overall.

The suitable middle ground for easy runs is probably near the upper limit of a run’s peak aerobic benefit: 90 minutes. Anything above 90 minutes probably can be completed without fuel, but it may help you more to fuel that run than it may to deplete yourself running without it.

Save for the most hardcore of runners, this indicates you likely will just practice fueling on the weekend long run. Daniels 2Q runners will also need to do so in a long mid-week run (as most of those workouts will exceed 90 minutes), but most everyone else can just fuel and hydrate runs by comfort the rest of the week.

And of course, you will typically fuel and hydrate throughout more aggressive sessions such as speedwork and pace runs, plus should copiously hydrate warmer runs regardless of circumstance. Don’t consider my advice a mandate *against* intuitive fueling and hydration by any means. My recommendation was simply to consciously practice fueling and hydration based on the aid station patterns of your goal pace.

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Applied practice of fueling and hydration on long training runs

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Some will argue that you should do your long runs in marathon training on an empty stomach, to practice depleting your body of glycogen, not just to prepare for the experience of doing the same in the longest run itself but to also prime your glycogen stores to hyper-compensate and hopefully store more glycogen than before.

Some will argue that you should eat a good meal before long runs and stay completely fueled, in order to maximize your performance on these runs, avoid bonking, and maximize the potential physiological hypertrophy (growth) from these long runs.

Some will argue that you should practice doing it both ways, that both approaches have their respective benefits and that doing both will maximize your development prior to the taper and the longest run itself.

What is my point of view? I’ll be honest: My point of view has gone back and forth. I have trained with long runs on nothing more than a small meal beforehand, to push myself to the limit otherwise cold turkey. I have eaten a full breakfast, then brought 2 liters of Gatorade in a hydration pack and fueled religiously throughout the run, even stopping to eat or drink during the workout as needed.

But now, when it comes to the best way to do marathon training long runs, I come back to a semi-rhetorical question:

What is the primary goal of a marathon training long run?

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Pace goals and getting the most out of your easy runs

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Let’s say you want to run a sub-4 hour marathon, and know your goal marathon pace is 9:00 per mile.

Many training plans advise your long runs be done at a pace about 60-90 seconds per mile slower, i.e. do your long runs at a 10:00-10:30 pace.

While this is not a bad idea, it’s rather difficult to do if you’re also not paying any mind to the general pace of your regular midweek easy runs. While you want those runs to be low-pressure, it may not be a bad idea to also have the same “pace goal” in mind for your regular midweek runs.

If the pace is practiced everyday in 3-8 mile chunks, then trying to do it for 2-3 hours becomes less daunting.

I understand the idea of these runs being “recovery runs” where you don’t want to put yourself under any pressure other than to run.

If you don’t struggle with focus and don’t struggle to maintain pace in a marathon, then sure, don’t worry about it. Just run.

If you don’t have a pace or time goal, then of course don’t worry about it. Just cover the distance or time required. Relax.

However, there are two camps that could benefit greatly from focusing on an “easy pace” in regular runs. I just brought up the first group: People looking to nail a time goal who also have a pace in mind for easy long runs.

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Adjusting the Hanson Marathon Method for tune-up races

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Like many coaches, I don’t think it’s a good idea to fundamentally alter training plans.

By this I mean:

  • Substantially extending or reducing the length of assigned training runs, especially the long run
  • Adding or subtracting multiple speed or tempo workouts to the schedule
  • Changing the order of assigned workouts and rest days
  • Adding races to a defined schedule, beyond any provided in the schedule… unless the plan specifically allows for adding tune-up races.

The Hanson Marathon Method is a plan that specifically asks you not to run any races during training. The schedule is fairly demanding and the Hansons’ writing on the plan specifically discourages any racing while training through one of their plans.

It’s one thing to realize before starting a training plan that you want to race during the training schedule. You can decide to pivot and follow a different plan that’s more permissive towards tune-up races.

But what if you dive into the Hanson plan and discover a few weeks in that you really want to run a race during training? Obviously it’s rarely ever a good idea to ditch a training plan for another in mid-stream. However, the Hanson plan basically forbids tune up races.

Presuming you really want to run another race during training and you don’t just want to jog it out… or the distance is shorter/longer than the planned long run for that week, and you want to remain committed to the Hanson plan, is there anything you can do to adjust the plan and stay on track?

Yes, there is. Here is what you need to do:

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Five Reasons For Runners To Cross Train

If I’ve learned one thing from this past year of training, it’s that cross training can be more useful than most runners think.

It’s not just an easy form of activity to do on recovery days, nor is it just a cheap substitute for normal running when injured.

Cross training, especially in the forthcoming years, especially for those getting older, is an important form of aerobic training. And there’s several key reasons I discovered for why it may become more valuable for those training to run marathons and other endurance races….

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Are you sure you want to run a marathon? Let’s talk about the Beginner and the Marathon.

female and male runners on a marathon

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A lot of new and novice runners get hooked with the desire to run a marathon. While admirable, a marathon is not a 5K, 10K or half marathon, and unlike those races this is probably biting off a lot more than one really wants to chew.

As an experienced runner, I didn’t dare attempt a marathon until I had been running seriously for a few years, and had already completed many races ranging in distance from the 5K to the Half Marathon.

For me, the marathon was far and away a much bigger physical challenge than even the half marathon. This is no surprise to most experienced runners, and even knowing that going in… the shock to my system was substantial and new.

To detail why the marathon is so much harder, let me go into some of the basic science behind how the body generates energy for running, how it impacts marathon training, and why it may present a beginner too steep a challenge training for a marathon:

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