Tag Archives: quick thoughts

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.

Tagged , , , , ,

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.

Tagged

Base Training (For Van 2022) Begins Today

Training for Vancouver 2022 actually has to begin this week, not because I need to do tempo runs and long runs (the serious marathon-specific work will begin at the start of the new year), but because I need to build the fitness to handle THAT program.

And right now, I’m not anywhere close. While training for the aborted Indy trip got me in a good degree of endurance shape, I obviously wasn’t close to marathon fit at the end (which is why I called it off), and because I obviously took it easy for a couple weeks to allow my body to heal up, I’ve now lost some of the run-specific fitness I had and need to rebuild.

During the interim between calling off Indy and now, I have done the following:

One: I aggressively strength trained, quite a bit more often than I usually had.

Typically I’d strength train 2-3 times per week, if that during serious run training. But since mid-October I’ve trained almost every day, only 4 days off from strength training since 10/17.

I’ve experimented with a couple of different 5 day splits of all the exercises I need to do, including some new ones. I’ve actually made substantial strength and appearance progress since stepping up with this strength training.

Obviously, once I start running again this will probably scale way back. But I’ve used the time to build some strength, especially with lower body exercises.

Two: I got back on the spin bike and rode it regularly.

I quit using the spin bike for a while on the premise it was hindering my training.

Once I was no longer training for a race, it was no longer hindering my training. Plus I wanted to use it as it was less demanding than the elliptical, I didn’t need to go aerobically hard at this stage, and honestly I like riding the spin bike.

In fact, after deciding not to continue with Indy, that same day I got on the spin bike and logged over a couple of easy hours. That was despite pain in my right leg after a 10K run (part of the reason I called it off).

Since then I’ve ridden the spin bike several times each week for about 45-60 minutes each. I had used the elliptical a few more times following mid-October, but I’ve mostly phased out the elliptical for now.

Three: I’ve done more plyo drills and training.

I took a few pages from other track sports and adopted some of their training methods to help better round my fitness.

While throwing the discus is a hairy proposition, many of its technique and training principles are useful for not just posture but building full body strength. I’ve been working on the throwing technique (with and without a discus or other weighted object) because of the postural strength and coordinated body control it demands.

Also, Strength coach Dan John (a former thrower) swears by the results from the overhead squat in his Contrarian Guide To The Discus, and says it’s a lift that does not allow you to have weak links. So I decided to start practicing the overhead squat on the Smith rack at the gym.

Though it’s been (as advertised) a struggle, I’m now getting the hang of the overhead squat, am up to four sets of 3 reps each at 25 and 50 pounds, and can finish them all with proper form without immediately feeling sore in my legs. Those first couple of workouts with the overhead squat felt pretty brutal on my quads.

Once I begin Vancouver training I need to be careful about not doing the overheads the day before key run workouts, but I will want to keep doing the overhead squat regularly.

The actual discus technique? We’ll see. I’ve found it interesting enough that I don’t want to discard it. But throwing the discus isn’t easy, and I have to be careful when throwing it about putting anyone in danger. The discus throw technique itself without the disc is a workout on its own. But it’s also a tangential workout that takes some degree of energy to complete. I could just focus on running and regular strength training (… with the overhead squats, of course).

Four: I ran a race for the first time in a long while.

I previously went over this, but running a 5K on Halloween weekend allowed me to focus on running through a sustained strong effort, and it went well. I have another 5K on Thanksgiving and a 10K in mid-December. These will also be glorified tempo runs rather than all-to-the-wall race efforts.

Five: I otherwise took it easy on running to allow my hamstrings to heal.

I did some work break running in preparation for the 5K, but in the two weeks between my last Indy workout and the 5K I maybe ran 7 miles. After the 5K, I was very careful about any running for the following week while letting my hamstrings heal.

The left one feels fine and the right one still very slightly aches, though they do feel markedly better. I probably can begin running regularly again this week. The spin bike workouts and all my usual walking have helped keep them engaged in the interim.


Starting this week, I’m going to practice the Easy Interval Method I haven’t really been able to implement since discovering it this summer.

Basically, you run nothing but 200/400/1000 meter intervals with equidistant rest intervals, though none of the repeats are any harder than maybe 5K/10K pace. The 400’s are run more like half marathon pace and the 1000’s are run around marathon pace.

Plus, after each repeat, you come to a full walking stop before jogging out your rest interval. Easy intervals are much lower key and sustainable than your typical interval workouts, and according to Klaas Lok the approach works. Runners are much more easily able to stick with it.

At most I’d do about 5-6 days a week of these, and for now I’ll touch and go the workouts. I’ll pencil one in for each non-rest-day (I’m still scheduling regular rest days), and if I’m just too tired on a given day I’ll probably skip or reduce that workout.

The goal through mid-December, aside from building fitness for the next 5K and 10K, is to determine how many days of training I can comfortably handle, before settling into a training pattern for December and subsequent Vancouver training.

This pre-marathon training plan also includes a 10K test every two weeks. This can be a race, but given where I’m at right now I’d rather just run these on my own as time trials.

Along with all this, I’ll still be strength training, still walking during work breaks, and still riding the spin bike while reading for circulation on scheduled rest days. I’ll still be doing plyo (and perhaps discus) training around training days, and how aggressive these are will depend on how many easy interval workouts I have per week. Strength training will typically happen before rest days.

I built in a sizable tyraining gap around the December 10K, where I can not only re-double strength training efforts for a bit but also assess how much I can do once I begin training for Vancouver around New Year’s.


So today and beyond I’ll begin running easy intervals, and look forward to seeing what develops from there.

Tagged , ,

Am I Still A Marathoner?

Since withdrawing from Indy I have to consider the reality that I have not run a marathon in about 2.5 years, and that my most recent effort to prepare for one has (for whatever reasons incidental or as a direct result) failed.

I can’t help but ask, when it comes to the marathon, do I even still know what I’m talking about? Have I ever?

I try to be circumspect, to realize that Corona had a substantial role in the time away (there were no marathons for about a year, and many of the ones happening since have been limited), and that this recent effort was not only an unduly difficult task in the Vegas heat, but also one I mitigated and eventually ended out of a persistent abundance of caution. Every time I ran into pain problems beyond mere soreness, it was not that I couldn’t run. I just decided it was best not to.

However, people come to this site in part for advice on preparing for races like the marathon. What does it say when I myself have not and, for whatever reasons appear that I cannot?

Even if I retain confidence in myself, context aside, I have to be realistic about how all this looks. I know for sure my principles are by and large sound. I know I can train for and run marathons to a higher ability. I know this even though I went to train this summer and it all fell flat after never really getting going.

All that said, and I’ve alluded to this in past posts, I’m not sure if and when I’ll run the next marathon. I cannot imagine I won’t ever run one again. As I’ve also mentioned, there’s at least three I want to run once (or once more) before all is said and done.

I also understand the amount of work it takes to train for one, and how any other training ambitions or goals have to take a back seat when you do. It’s very hard to compromise marathon training to allow for other things, and still be at all ready to run one. If anything would keep me away, it’s knowing what I’d need to do to be ready for one, and not being sure if I’m willing to go that deep.

I’ve thought about generally training to run long, for example maintaining year-round the fitness to run 16 miles and also race a 10K or so as desired. And then if I do decide to run a marathon, I’m not terribly far off from being ready for it. That going forward is probably better for me than planning to run a marathon and then having to build up to it over months, as people tend to do.

I’ll admit I have penciled in Vancouver for May 2022. But that said, I mentioned I have other sports and races I want to work on, and will mainly focus on those for now. If they don’t pan out, then great I can pivot and focus on Vancouver. If they do, I can make a judgment call from there. I may be able to do both, even if I’m focusing on other sports, if at least generally conditioned to run long. Or I could just say forget it for now, to one or the other.

I don’t think any of the prior writing I’ve done on marathons is wrong. Those training methods aren’t wrong or bad or not effective. I also retain full faith I can train effectively for marathons. I just want to do some other stuff for a while, and it’ll for now take a back seat.

Tagged , ,

So, about those overhead squats

As advertised, the overhead squat is pretty tough.

At the gym, I started swolework with the overhead on the Smith rack, and started with a set of 3 reps at just the 25 lb bar. I progressed up to 45 lbs and after 3 tough reps realized that was about as high as I could expect to go yesterday. I unracked and moved on.

Dan John, like many strength coaches, sets a benchmark that you should be able to do the exercise with your bodyweight in pounds. I am clearly a far cry from my bodyweight, though granted I don’t bench or deadlift by bodyweight either (I did leg press it earlier this week though!). I’m strength training more seriously now, and we’ll see how much time it takes for me to progress and get within range of all that.

Since I follow a 5 day sequence of strength workouts (with days off interspersed every few days), one idea is to do the whole sequence, then for a 6th workout do the benchmark lifts as a test: Bench Press, Deadlift, Squat, and each time through the sequence see where I’m at. I would end up doing the test roughly every 8-10 days.

More to come. I’ll take it slow for now, and weave the overhead squats in with the workouts.

Tagged , ,

Adding the Overhead Squat

Training right now feels great. Yesterday was a rest day, and all I did was walk on work breaks and go 45 minutes on the spin bike.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Dan John, a long tenured strength and track and field throwing coach who has authored a few very insightful books on training. The best known of the bunch is Easy Strength with Pavel Tsatsouline, thouugh I’ve recently read Attempts, A Contrarian Approach to the Discus, and am currently reading through Can You Go?

There’s a lot of information and I obviously won’t go into all of it. In Contrarian, however, he references a lift that he found instrumental in developing athletes: The overhead squat.

It’s a typical Crossfit exercise, and simple in scope. You hold the barbell overhead. You squat, making sure your weight drops between your squatting legs, and then come back up with the bar still straight overhead.

John sums up the benefits as such:

  • You can’t fake or cheat the strength and mechanics required to do it.
  • It demands balanced strength, not just to balance the bar itself overhead, but all of yourself has to be strong and developed. This develops it
  • You develop strong, flexible legs, not yoga flexible/strong, but the ability to quickly, powerfully transfer more than bodyweight, e.g. a jumper, a thrower, a football or basketball player, a sprinter.

I like my five day strength circuit and I plan to stick with it for the next while. But I also have some redundant exercises in there, and swapping in a sub-max version of the overhead squat would be a decent addition. I’d start with light weight and gradually build up to see my current capacity.

Last week I briefly tested the overhead squat mechanics with the Smith rack at the gym and found that it would work just fine (I was lucky; if I were a couple inches taller or my arms were a bit longer, it might not have!).

John also mentioned the Power Curl, which is just a leveraged bicep curl using a full bar. I might mix that in, though it turned out the redundant exercises I mentioned were bicep exercises, and I may have enough for now. Adding in the overhead squat is probably enough for now.

More to come as I see how it works.

Tagged , , , , ,

Back On (The) Track

I’m sore this morning, but not from stuff I spent the previous week recovering from.

Saturday I went track hunting, as Vegas doesn’t have particularly many open tracks to run on. High schools here keep their facilities locked and key. The most popular Vegas track from before, UNLV’s track, is closed until spring not just for maintenance and repairs but because, with the football team having new facilities, they don’t need to use it before next spring.

However, one other public track in the area is in Northtown at the Pearson Center, and when I went to visit Saturday morning the track was open and free to use, with a couple people running interval workouts. The track isn’t particularly old and the surface quality is decent. I walked on and after a brief track warmup worked for about 45 minutes on various jumping and running drills before leaving.

Obviously, my right hamstring feels better, as neither ham gave any sign of distress during any of the running, bounding and jumps I did.

I didn’t go super hard, as I had no water with me and the sun was out. Despite several rest periods I still burned more calories than I do on a typical 45 minute elliptical session, despite not running more than about half a mile and only being out there less than an hour.

After a week of no running, I’ll resume running and probably tinker with work break runs as desired. I want to focus more on the plyo and jump drills, but I probably need to do these every few days to allow recovery. Plus, I’m booked to run a 5K next weekend, so I’ll want to be somewhat fresh for that.

In the meantime, I should now have the space and energy to work on the easy intervals I haven’t really been able to consistently do. I have still been working the elliptical and spin bike at the gym (yes, I’ve gradually gotten back to the spin bike with good results), and as previously mentioned have been able to strength train almost every day with good results.

Even though I didn’t run much on the track yesterday I’d definitely like running intervals there. It’s a bit out of the way between home and work, so I don’t think I could go there every day there unless I wanted to shake up my routine so I could drive out there at 6-7am every morning… which I’m not in a hurry to do, and if just doing running and drills there’s a number of other places I can do that.

Still going to lay low with training through next week with that 5K next Saturday, but I’m looking to get back to normal running again.

Tagged , ,