Tag Archives: quick thoughts

Walking Backwards

I wanted to go to the gym before work in the mornings again. This is also because I wanted to cut down on going out for coffee in the mornings. I didn’t want to sit at home and commute during the rush hour either. A key reason I leave early for work (as well as work out right after work) is to avoid the heavier traffic.

But as I ramp up my mileage in base training, I notice that even simple low-impact spin bike workouts left me unduly worn out each day. Runalyze training stats also showed my TRIMP/monotony/workload-ratio ran unsustainably high when I combined both.

So I cut out cross training aside from strength workouts twice a week. I also cut down on the length of my walks during work breaks.

With this, and without the morning gym workouts, my training stats all fell back in normal range. While demanding for now, my added mileage felt reasonably comfortable.

But I still wanted to make use of the gym in the morning. There had to be something low-impact I could do without it being mind numbing (I can’t lay down and stretch for 60 minutes). Yoga’s a bit too much. Strength workouts are 20-30 minutes and not 60 for a reason. The elliptical and spin bike again were too much. Even a normal treadmill walk was a bit too demanding.

I decided last week to start with reading my Kindle on a treadmill while going as slow as reasonable. The default at the gym is 1.0mph, way slower than usual for me, and I just kept it there while reading. This went okay, but towards the end I got an idea.

I’ve dabbled occasionally in my lifetime with walking backwards, both out in the world and on the treadmill. It certainly isn’t super challenging. I’ve occasionally seen people at the gym do it on the treadmill as training.

I decided on impulse to try it during my last few minutes on the treadmill, and turned out it worked fine. Minimal impact, super easy, no real danger. My Garmin showed it was much lower in effort than normal walking.

Next time out, I tried walking 1.0mph backwards on the treadmill for a whole half hour. Went fine, and Runalyze showed the TRIMP impact is about 40% lower than a normal walk of the same length.


It turns out that walking backwards not only has known training benefits, but also benefits those with lower back and hamstring issues.

The often-constricted hamstrings move more eccentrically in a backward walk, improving their range of motion and better engaging them. Recall that I had serious hamstring problems both last year and in 2019. I’ve had none since, but I certainly don’t mind preventative work to avoid them with better hamstring fitness.

Backwards walking also reduces dynamic stress on the knees and improves motor function of the surrounding muscles, not to mention the frequently neglected tibialis muscles along the shin.

So, I started doing treadmill backwards walking on weekday mornings. It does sometimes leave me a bit weary, though that could also be the cumulative effect of the other running. I still strength train in addition a couple days a week, but other than that (and short walks on breaks) no cross training.

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Forty Four.

Today is birthday number 44. Trip #45 around the sun begins today.

Let’s do this a little differently this year. Usually on my birthday I write about what I’d done and where I think I’m going.

This time around, I incidentally just went through a month or so where in training I learned and changed a LOT. Basically, I’m doing things a lot differently right now than I was a month ago, decidedly for the better I think. The light bulb went on for a lot of things all at once.

DIET

I started doing keto… though to say ‘started’ is a bit of a misnomer, as my diet generally has been somewhat high fat, high protein, low-moderate carb. I’ve had days in the past where I went real low carb, and it wasn’t a big deal.

But after reading Sky Waterpeace’s Lazy Man’s Guide to Marathoning, where he detailed that keto was a key factor in his being able to run well for distance, I decided in late September to go all in for a bit, see how well it worked, and if working well stick with it for as long as it worked well.

Each day on pure keto I rapidly lost weight without feeling worse for wear, outside of being a bit generally sluggish (which happens time to time anyway), and my running slowing down a lot, though I now could comfortably maintain much lower heart rates than ever before and felt like I could go on forever.

The weight loss did stall out over a week ago, and as I began adding more training (offseason’s over, folks! In fact, I have a 10K next weekend!)… I started feeling more peckish, more often.

So without fanfare I just re-added carbs again. I had a big bad starch-rich meal here or there. But mostly I just added peas/carrots/etc back into a couple meals, and stayed keto otherwise.

What was 10-20g net carbs per day is now more like 30-60g, and a day or two back at the old 125-150g. I had been eating eggs or a steak for breakfast a lot of mornings since I’m going to the gym most mornings now, but now some mornings I’m just fasting like before. A couple of pounds came back on since getting away from pure keto, but weight’s mostly steady.

So now, I’m mostly keto or slow carb. I don’t really worry going back or forth between either. If my weight starts creeping up again, I can just go pure keto for a bit and there’s a good chance the weight comes back down.

MORNING WORKOUTS

I joined the gym near my work on a good one-year-paid deal, which makes working out before work a lot easier and more practical (I’m still keeping my Planet Fitness membership, but going on days off from work). I wanted to cut down on my coffee intake anyway (I was going to coffee every morning before work, and while work has coffee it’s in decidedly smaller quantities).

And it still allows me to avoid the rush hour commute by working out before and after work (I cross train easy after work most days).

So now most mornings I commute to the gym, work out, change clothes and go to work afterward. It’s worked out great, it’s felt great, I get to work feeling really good (if not a bit physically worn from the training). It clearly fits me a lot better. And it’s considerably cheaper than going for coffee every morning.

NOSE BREATHING

The book’s been around forever but after multiple recommendations I finally caved in and read John Douillard’s Body Mind and Sport.

Douillard’s a bit out there, classifying people into three season-based body types (Winter, Summer, Spring) based on their lifestyle, body type and tendencies (you take a lengthy quiz, and it indicates I’m a Winter-Summer type).

Based on this seasonal mindset and typing, Douillard believes you should pick certain modes of training, eat certain foods, even train and eat at certain times of the day over others. I’m understandably skeptical, especially because I’ve had positive results and experience doing quite a few of his no-no’s out of season. It seems akin to basing your training on numerology or astrology, or condemning yourself to one of the somaotypes (e.g. mesomorph, endopmorph).

Douillard appears to be an avid vegetarian, and like many doesn’t believe anyone should eat much meat or protein, or eat big dinners, or egg yolks. So, grain of salt with that.

But Douillard’s recommendations on nose breathing, dialing back your training to a much lower intensity than most recommend (50-60% max heart rate), and warming up or cooling down with a balancing practice like yoga, do seem sound none the less.

So on his recommendation I test-drove doing some brief runs with my mouth closed, breathing only through my nose. It worked very well! It even worked beyond the effects of keto on my heart rate and ease of running. This is the first time I’ve ever been able to maintain anything like a 60-65% max heart rate on a training run. Even in my best Chicago days I couldn’t get it lower than 70% on an easy run.

And unlike prior runs, where my heart rate would climb and just keep gradually increasing, my heart rate would rise a bit but then come back down several beats per minute and stay. I was able to recover from spikes, instead of the increases just staying.

I used to finish my brief work break runs hot, breathing a bit hard, struggling. Even though these new work break runs had to go a lot slower because of the limited nose breathing, I came back feeling calmer, refreshed, and none of the run was a huge struggle. In fact, the biggest concern I had on these runs was my heart rate actually creeping towards the 70% range in the warmer conditions towards the end of the runs.

So I’ve once again made peace with running really slow for now, as I train myself to get comfortable with the nose breathing for steadily longer runs. I think this plus my lower/slow-carb diet approach will do wonders for building my aerobic capacity. And as he mentions, eventually I should naturally speed up as I get used to training like this.

That said, I’ll probably open my mouth and run somewhat harder in my upcoming races. I have some ideas to how to incorporate the nose breathing and harder efforts. We’ll see how they go. Worst case scenario, I’m just slow in these races, and I learn a few things, albeit with less strain than before.

WARM MORNING TREADMILL RUNNING

Thanks to this, I was able to get on the treadmill at the gym (which thanks to my new portable thermometers I now know is typically 73-75°F with 37-40% humidity), and comfortably run slow at 60-70% of max heart rate for over 20-30 minutes, without too much of a heart rate climb. My spin bike workouts are also more comfortable, though those weren’t super harsh to begin with.

Runalyze tells me the TRIMP (stress) on these workouts is now about 20% lower. What this means is I can probably handle a large volume of these workouts without wearing myself out as much. I certainly don’t feel sore or worse than generally tired the day after these workout days.

This week I’m still taking days easy and off from training, especially ahead of upcoming races. But now I feel very confident that I can handle high volumes of easy running that previously would tire and burn me out.

I have three race weekends in a row. Once the last of this series of race weeks ends I’ll train mornings and sample a full marathon training week ahead of Thanksgiving (nothing crazy, more like the lighter first week of a training plan) and see how that feels, how much more volume I can capably take on, how many easy days I need, how many double days during the week I can do, etc.

I also notice that my sleep is better if I don’t run in the evening. Apparently the stress of running is now inhibiting my body’s ability to fully relax overnight. It’s a bummer to not be able to run outdoors during winter after work, and because parks I run at open at 7am, it’s not practical to run there in the mornings. It makes the most sense to train in the mornings on the treadmill.

Before, there was almost no way I could mange training mornings on a gym treadmill. Now? It should be a lot more manageable because my nose breathing should improve my oxygen intake and heart rate management.

Plus, as much of a bummer as morning treadmill runs might be, it’s not only better for pace/effort management, but it’s way better for heat/humidity acclimation for Vancouver 2023. One factor that might have added to my Vancouver difficulty over the years is training all winter in ideal cold conditions, then running a marathon in 60°F+ and 80% humidity. My body’s not heat acclimated.

But if I’m training indoors in 72-75°F with 35-40% humidity, that closes the gap a great deal. In fact, the Perceived Heat Index for 60° and 80% is lower than 73° and 40%! I’d be acclimated for the conditions!

NOT WORRYING ABOUT TRAINING MONOTONY ANYMORE

I’ve been mostly strict about game-planning around avoiding high training monotony. But if I follow all of the above, it’s going to push my monotony over the 1.50 threshold.

That said, much of the research around Monotony is predicated around conventional training methodology, and a lot of what I’m doing is based on work from John Hadd Walsh, Mark Sisson and Brad Kearns, Phil Maffetone, and the aforementioned John Doulliard, which violates a lot of that conventional wisdom and has you training day over day at a far easier intensity than most.

So along with working with the nose breathing to maintain lower intensity, I’m going to ignore training monotony stats going forward. I’ll listen to my body, and intuitively cut workouts as needed if I’m feeling run down.

As for Workload Ratio, however, I’m still going to avoid exceeding that 1.50 threshold. But the plan I have as written does a great job building gradually and won’t come close to exceeding that threshold.

SLEEP

Amidst all of this, I am sleeping substantially better, more consistently. I don’t get more than 6-7 hours but they’re better hours now.

Even if I wake up during the night, I’m way more effective at getting back to sleep most nights. I’m not waking up with short sleep too often anymore.

The diet’s a factor. The training changes are a factor. Better focus on my micro-nutrient intake (making sure I hit requirements with everything) is a factor. Improving my overall health profile and losing a bit of weight is probably a factor. Keto’s effect on brain activity and recovery is a factor. It was all working before I cut down on my coffee intake but I’m sure that’s a factor too.

In fact, I undertook a lot of this recent stuff with the primary intent of improving my sleep. Improving my fitness and losing some weight were other intents, but none above getting better sleep. Sleep in fact is a key factor in improving all of the above, and I’m glad it’s starting to work better.

SO THINGS HAVE IMPROVED A GREAT DEAL

I’m going to roll with all this going forward, and see how the races go. These are basically glorified workouts at this point. The big focus will be expanding my training base and building on the improvements from the nose breathing, the keto/slow carb diet, and the better gym setup.

I made a point this past year to just work on myself, training, diet, finding consistent and repeatable habits. I like to think I’ve gotten better and smarter with running, even after having lost so much of the fitness I had in Chicago. Sure, a bunch of that was Covid in 2020, but that period was a break I probably needed across the board.

I’ve spent the last year or so beating my head against the wall to figure out how to train sustainably, and all of a sudden I figured a lot of things out, for the better.

44-45.

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Checking In 10/1/2022 (after a week of keto)

The keto diet‘s working very well. I’m feeling markedly better. Hunger is much less of a problem than it was before. My energy actually isn’t too bad, even with the expected tired stretches as my body exhausted its glycogen stores and adapted to ketone use. Not to mention, after my weight (despite a clean consistent calorie deficit) stubbornly refused to budge for months after climbing to the low 180’s… it promptly began a steady everyday slide downward and is now in the high 170’s for the first time since May, continuing to slide downward by a fraction of a pound every day.

Admittedly, ongoing sleep problems (terminal insomnia) and hunger pangs (the two were somewhat related) were my main motivation for trying keto in the first place, and it’s helped both a great deal. The earliest I wake up now is 3:00am-ish, and that’s still after a fair better amount of sleep compared to before. Often I wake up closer to 4:00am, definitely good enough. Even if a bit generally tired later in the day, I don’t feel sleep deprived at all, and have no trouble getting to sleep around 9pm.

Another obvious effect: Keto dramatically simplified my grocery shopping and meal planning. I eat a lot of beef, which isn’t cheap on the surface. But when the meat and eggs are most of what I need, I’m not buying anything other than brussels sprouts for side dishes. My daily food expenses actually got cheaper . I got take out a couple of occasional times during the early transition, but now I’ve locked into a consistent at-home diet.

The only carbohydrate food I have most days are the brussels sprouts I have at dinner or at work, and much of that is insoluble fiber.

There’s another key change I made last month: I got a 2nd gym membership, at a gym right near my work. Super convenient, and on weekdays I just commute there in the morning, work out, then go a block to work and park. Instead of the afternoon rush hour, I go back to that gym after work for a 2nd brief recovery workout, stretch etc, then commute home with the traffic having calmed down a bit.

This has helped a lot with training consistency, and has also cut costs for me on coffee as I’m just drinking the coffee at work instead of going out for it in the morning.

I’ve settled into a food, exercise, work routine that’s felt great and has been very easy to follow.

In the morning, unless I’m totally resting from exercise that morning (in which case I usually fast until lunch), I’ll poach a combo of a jumbo egg and about two eggs worth of egg whites in the morning, eating that before leaving. If I know I’m going to do a lot that day, and I’m up early enough, I may bake a salmon fillet and eat that instead. But usually it’s eggs.

I’ll go straight to the gym and, unless I do strength training that day, do an hour of easy cardio, then stretch and go to work. I’ve done the spin bike a lot, but also dabble with the ARC Trainer. I can also just walk on the treadmill if I want a super easy morning.

If I strength train first (and that’s always first when applicable), I do 45 minutes cardio afterward. Eventually I’ll see how doing a bit of running feels, maybe start with a bit of running until I hit high zone 2 then switch to other cardio for the rest of the hour.

But this is working very well, and I always get to work afterward feeling pretty good.

I eat the same wild tuna and sardines during the workday, one at lunch and one mid-afternoon. On busier days I’ll also have brussels sprouts at lunch. I put more coconut oil in my hot water and mix in more collagen peptides. I used to do plenty of walking and little runs on work breaks, but now I’ve cut down to a simple 20 minute walk at lunch, maybe a little 15 minute walk on break in the morning. I save my energy for the workouts.

I also switched to marine collagen from regular collagen, after learning that the regular stuff contains a good quantity of various metals, while the slightly pricier marine collagen is much closer to clear. It’s a much finer powder, and more than regular collagen it can kick-up like dust if you’re not careful handling it.

After work I go back to the gym and do easier cardio than in the morning. The gym has good rowing machines and I’ve gone to those, though I could also ride the spin bike or treadmill walk if desired. I stretch again afterward, then commute back home. This is more so to avoid the peak of the rush hour than because I need the work, though the extra cardio has felt good, and I imagine it’s beneficial after sitting all day at work.

Once Vegas cools down I’ll resume running outdoors. While I’m going to stick to the 21 Day Cycle pattern for the above-mentioned cardio and strength training, I’m leaning more and more towards a traditional weekly schedule for runs, three dedicated days a week with a weekly long run.

These runs will still be in the evenings after work, for now. My preferred park locations open at 7am, I don’t want to have run-ins with Parks and Rec over parking at 6am, plus managing time and stretching is a lot easier at the gym than outdoors, and the parks aren’t as close to work.


My concern is how I’ll sleep once I go back to moderate late day workouts. They can interfere with your sleep, and though I’ve slept better I haven’t been working out more than 20-30 minutes in the evenings. But my sleep quality and consistency has improved a great deal with keto, and the hope is I’ll continue to sleep fine after those 45-90 minute sunset runs. If I have to build on doing the runs in the morning instead, then fine. But again, the gym environment in the morning is important, so they’d have to be on the treadmill. This has drawbacks and advantages.

Based on the reading I’ve done this summer as well as my own experience, as well as logistics required for the runs, I plan to do my weekday runs Tuesday and Thursday evening, with the long run being Saturday or Sunday depending on not just logistics but how my body responds overall:

Do I feel better going long Sunday, going back to work the next day, then having a run the next day? Do I get up early and ready to run on Saturday morning after the workweek ends? Do I need that weekend off day after a long run? How I respond will mostly dictate where in the weekend that long run goes, though logistics often will push it around anyway. For example, maintaining the 21 day cycle, a strength workout falling on Saturday will probably require I do the long run Sunday.

Speaking of strength training, the new gym has far more variety in equipment than Planet Fitness. Also, though it gets a good crowd in the mornings, it’s fairly easy to get my Full Fourteen in during mornings.

If keto has had one clear effect on my fitness, it’s that bench presses and other lifts got harder at the same weight. This is almost certainly because of glycogen depletion and those muscles still transitioning to fat/ketone driven fueling.

I paused all my weight/rep progressions anyway when I started at this gym, while getting used to the new equipment and layout. I restarted my progression at new weights once I got the hang of it, and I’ll take it from there. If any of my lifts flat-line at a given weight for weeks or months, it’s no big deal right now.

Since I’m still ramping up long run workouts, diet and workout routines on weekends remain a work in progress. I mapped out workable diet plans for both the long and total rest days, and need to see how keto and my energy handle the longer workouts. I had during the first week cycled some carbs around these long workouts, but I went net-carb-cold turkey mid-last-week (15-20g net per day) and feel real good in that state. So I need to give the long workouts a shot and react to that.

I’m running several 10Ks this next month, all on consecutive weekends. I’ll probably treat these as supported workouts, strong steady efforts, and then run the last 2-3 miles of each depending on how I feel.

That is all for now. So far, so good.

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Checking In 1/10/2022

Two weeks into marathon training, after 5 days of running each week, and after two of the 4 longest runs I’ve taken in the last year, I actually don’t feel particularly sore, or particularly tired.

I certainly do feel somewhat tired and a bit sore after running 11 miles yesterday. But I don’t feel the same sort of wrecked I used to feel after most long runs in the past. If today wasn’t a planned rest day from running, I could certainly go run several miles today and could likely run again tomorrow.

This is despite getting poor sleep last night (the first true bout of insomnia I’ve had in a long while, not getting to bed until shortly before midnight). I actually feel alright mentally, energy wise, and chances are good I can go to the gym for tonight’s planned strength session.

I’m doing several things differently and I imagine they’re helping.

  • Going by feel, I pulled almost completely back on all strength and cross training. Previously I’d been hitting the gym every weeknight and working out for over an hour, plus some weekends. Last week I took multiple nights off, and the extra break from training probably helped my energy for the longer weekend runs.
  • Form wise, I’ve gotten way more consistent with two things that have helped my running efficiency: I’m focusing weight through the forefoot on steps (though the whole foot does contact the ground as normal), and am focused more on landing and pushing back in lieu of any effort or strain to reach forward. According to Garmin/Stryd/Runalyze, my pace and effort were remarkably consistent mile over mile at the end of yesterday’s long run.
  • I’m now actively keeping my effort on midweek runs as calm and easy as possible. I’ve avoided the hillier routes on workweek runs, and found a route for weekend runs that has much less elevation shifting and more flat sections. Most of my prior running was along rolling hills, and I imagine that was taking a toll at a time in training where I need to build endurance first before I challenge myself with these tougher elevation shifts.
  • Though I’ve always generally tried to stay in an aerobic zone, I’m now actively keeping my heart rate below 80% of max as much as I can. At the end of long runs there’s not too much you can do, but I keep it as low as possible as long as possible while making sure to stay efficient.
  • I keep my running power (per Stryd) between 80-85% of critical power, not as demanding as race pace but also not too easy. Runalyze metrics have shown me that runs that are too easy sap my VO2max over time, and experience has shown me that going easier than 80-85%CP doesn’t feel markedly better in the present or the future than just making sure I give that 80-85%CP effort. Since this is a relative metric, my pace does change on uphill or downhill inclines accordingly.
  • The above two items put together means I don’t focus much on pace. The only time during any easy run that I think about pace is when my Garmin watch goes off at the end of each mile, showing me the duration of that mile. But I don’t pay it much mind beyond the general idea of whatever pace it shows me.
  • If I can get an easy midweek run done on my lunch break, I do it. But generally I try to do these runs before or after work. I just walk on work breaks.
  • I’ve cut cross training down to just one spin bike or elliptical session on Mondays after work.
  • After a lot of experimentation, I do two strength sessions each week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and follow each one with my yoga session.

The biggest surprise as I’ve ramped up mileage is how not-beat-up I feel after each week. The back to back runs on the weekend I figured would kick me around, but I’ve finished the long run feeling tired but mobile, and today I feel a bit sore but okay. Even feeling tired, I’m not sure how much of that is last night’s unusually short sleep. I feel like I could run today if I needed to (but today is a rest day).

So far, so good. I’m sticking with the plan, and it’s working.

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Switching up the Vancouver 2022 Plan, Just In Time

While test driving the FIRST training plan as well as my other training in these preliminary weeks, it’s become clear to me I need to focus differently with Vancouver 2022 training and I need to change plans now while it’s early enough to do so.

First off, I realize I’m low on running volume, averaging less than 20 miles of weekly running plus significant cross training each week. Doing FIRST isn’t fully going to address that. Jonathan Savage has mentioned FIRST works better as a plan for someone fully trained to the marathon distance. If I maintained my fitness after Vancouver, FIRST would be a great plan.

But right now, I need to add consistent running volume and get comfortable running a lot again. Even though I handle long runs just fine, my heart rate’s been jumping high into zone 3 on the back end of these runs, and if I’m fit I should be able to stay at zone 2 through most of such a run. This indicates I need to add easy volume.

I also weigh more than I did in prior training cycles, and I realize one reason the extra weight has stayed on lately is because I’m not endurance training at the volume of past cycles. All that easy volume in the past (plus all that everyday walking in Chicago) kept much of the fat off. Losing about 5-10 pounds of fat would improve my current pace and projected time a great deal, even if somehow I gained no other fitness.

Running easy and frequently would not only improve neuromuscular fitness and aerobic comfort with longer runs, but would also ensure some of this extra fat gets burned off.

While my hamstring feels mostly better with some random light soreness here and there, that’s not as much a concern in a plan with frequent, mostly easy running.


So for the next two weeks (as, incidentally, this past Sunday marked 18 weeks from Vancouver), I’m test driving a modified version of Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2 plan. As long as my body picks up the 5 days a week of running with little trouble, I likely will go with that plan this time around. It turns out what Higdon’s plans offer is what I need at the present time.

The base plan has you run Tuesday-Thursday, then a moderate or pace run Saturday followed by the Sunday long run. You cross train easy on Monday and rest on Friday.

I’m not concerned with Higdon’s plan asking for 26 miles right out the gate in week 1 then stepping up from there. Again, I’ve been running long up to 8 miles and doing a lot of cross training, plus have run hard in multiple recent races. I roughly have the fitness to run 20-25 miles a week right now. Easy running at 3-8 miles hasn’t been a problem, and in fact my longer runs have been run harder than desired. Since most of the scheduled runs are easy, it’ll actually be a relief.

Presuming the early week runs feel fine, I also plan to replace the Thursday easy run with a speed or tempo workout, somewhat matching Higdon’s Advanced plans (whose total volume was simply too high for where I’m at now). Higdon’s speed workouts aren’t super arduous, built around sets of 800 repeats, or 400 meter hill repeats, or his form of tempo runs which are just easy runs with a brief 10K-pace segment. The total mileage of these workouts match the original easy mileage on the intermediate plan, and they always come before a rest day.

I also have a couple of races on my schedule, a 10K next month and a 12K in March. Higdon’s plan as written only accounts for a single mid-plan race. So I strategically swapped some training weeks so the race weeks are easy (with no speedwork), no key long runs end up omitted, and the following midweek is also lighter. This does clump some heavier weeks together, but the race weeks means those weeks are in turn lighter and create a stepback week in each case. Each Saturday race is followed by a medium-long easy run on Sunday, which matches the lighter weeks I swapped into those race weeks.

As for strength and cross training, since I already strength train in brief workouts 2-5 times per week, I’ll continue strength training 3 times a week, probably with the midweek runs in the morning and strength training after work in the evening. Obviously I’m not going to chase any barbell PR’s and will lift conservatively in these strength workouts. The only lower body training will be overhead squats on Tuesdays, and I’ll keep the weight light on these.

I also got comfortable with my recent yoga routine, and will keep doing that at the gym on weekday evenings. I’ve noticed subtle improvements in running and general movement since starting this, so I want to keep it up. My routine though it has a copuple of challenges (Scorpion Pose, anyone? Cow Face?) isn’t terribly arduous so I do it in part as a post-workout stretch.

If I still decide to chase Garmin badges I might do some brief easy spin bike sessions at the gym on weeknights with the swolework and yoga, but we’ll see.

For the easy and long runs, unless I am just so beat-up tired that I just need to shuffle through them, I’m going to follow a Pfitzinger rule and run them as progressive easy runs, starting at 20% longer than marathon pace (e.g. my goal pace per mile times 1.2) and eventually finishing at 10% longer (goal pace times 1.1). Incidentally my current average pace is around 12-15% longer than goal pace, and I’ve run some long runs at a somewhat fast (and ultimately painful) 5%. In my experience 20% is usually rather easy, and 10% while sometimes challenging is easily reachable.

I feel pretty good about my capacity to handle this modified training plan. I’ll be heavily dialing back on the cross training, which should make available more energy to focus on the running. I will as a hedge swap out any midweek easy run for cross training if absolutely necessary, though I’m aiming to do all these runs.

I believe that if I accomplish this then I won’t fall into the trap of ‘run slow, race slow’ that can happen from marathon training. That plus the quality training of the Thursday workouts, the scattered Saturday pace runs, and of course my races should all help prepare me to run a decent, achievable marathon.

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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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Gaining fitness (and weight)

This week, for the first time in months, I’ve run frequently with no ill effects and feeling completely normal. My body finally got enough rest to heal all the way up.

I decided this week to train for Vancouver 2022 with Hal Higdon’s Marathon 3 plan, though this week I’ve mixed in extra work break jogs on the off days to try and hit a couple of Garmin badges for November. Thus I’ve actually run every day since Tuesday, and other than feeling a bit weary this morning I feel good.

I have also, despite a relatively modest diet and despite a lot of this and cross training, gained some weight. I’m back over 180 pounds again. However, I’m also feeling quite a bit stronger in general, especially on runs, so the strength training appears to be paying off. After my near-daily lifting prior to this week, I’ve scaled back to 2-3 days of lifting each week with days off from lifting after each of those workouts. I also chased each of those lifting workouts with 20-45 minutes of cross training on either the elliptical or the spin bike. And that doesn’t include any of the walking I do on breaks at work if I’m not running.

My main objective right now is to restore comfort with run training volume, so once I’m seriously training three days a week that feels easier to handle. I think the last few months, injury or not, it felt like a struggle to stay above water with some of my workouts. They didn’t used to feel that way, and now it’s no longer feeling that way. Sure, some of that was probably the extreme Vegas heat and that’s definitely gone now.

I think the difference maker this time is my strength training. It was fine earlier this year, but not as specific and challenging as it needed to be for what I’m trying to do. Refining it from the standard 4 set blocks I had done on machines and dumbbells to the progressions and 12-8 four setters I do now has pushed my limits forward. If the hamstring and groin problems had a silver lining, it was compelling me to focus on these and get strength training more specifically in line with my goals.

The overhead squat I adopted from Dan John’s writing has been a clear difference maker. In the weeks I’ve been doing it I’ve gone from struggling with just a couple small plates on a 25 lb Smith bar, to now being able to capably handle reps at 40-50 lbs with a 2 rep max at 80 lbs. The overhead’s had a positive impact on the maxes for all my other key exercises. Having previously maxed at about 120 lbs on the leg press machine, I suddenly was able to progress to bodyweight, and now I’m maxing 3 reps at 220 lbs. My lat pulldown had maxed at about 80 lbs and now I’m pulling reps at 110 lbs.

Most of all, I feel a clear improvement in overall strength when running. While aerobically I’m still struggling with the higher altitude and hills I’m usually running with, I’m not feeling like I need to regularly slow down or stop anymore (though granted some of that had to do with my ongoing injury issues).

Even today, after back to back to back running days, I don’t feel sore at all and am totally ready to run more miles. I’m only taking a couple of brief work break runs today, and tomorrow the plan is to run about 10K.

So, though I got away from this point, maybe the extra weight is not a problem right now. I’m not going out of my way to overeat or undereat, that weird thing we all should know how to do called auto-regulating. It may be contributing to the strength I’ve found I gained, as muscles rebuild and glycogen stores top off. This is where my body needs to be at right now, and as I progress if the weight needs to come down, it’ll come down. While I’ll continue tracking it daily, I’m not going to worry about my weight right now… especially with the food-rich holiday season approaching. I’m training through it anyway! So I’ll have a use for all the extra food.

More to come as training progresses through the coming weeks.

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