Updated thoughts on heart rate

Heart Rate Training - Hansons Coaching

Heart Rate Training – Hansons Coaching

If you’ve read much of anything that I have put out into the internet universe, you’ll know that my position on heart rate training is one of,

“when they start handing out BQs based on heart rate, I will start training people by heart rate.”

I actually stole that line from a conversation I had with Keith at one point. It still rings true to this day! However, the topic is still brought up, along with new fads- eh hem- power meters, lactate threshold detectors, and activity monitors.

What I mean by that is people already use GPS devices as if it’s the holy grail

It comes down to one of those things where I didn’t like using heart rate because to me it was just another variable in making training more complicated. What I mean by that is people already use GPS devices as if it’s the holy grail. Being a slave to another parameter is just another way to limit yourself in a workout. I don’t want them to now be limited in a workout because of their heart rate monitors telling them they are working to hard.

I’ve written a blog post previously on my stance on relying on heart rate that includes the reasons why I’m not a fan for day to day training. You can find that here.

Many of you still use heart rate, and I’m not going to fight anyone on it anymore. What I am going to do is give you my thoughts on what I would observe and how I would practically approach using heart rate in your training.

Heart Rate Training - Hansons Coaching

Heart Rate Training – Hansons Coaching

A great approach to blending gps/hr/learning feel. I came across a great piece referencing legendary Coach Bobby McGee and his use of blending these variables. You can find the piece in The Runners Edge. Essentially, what he does is allows athletes to go by heart rate in the early buildup of their training. There are a couple nice things about this. For instance, think about when you start training for a fall marathon- it’s in the peak of summer, right! You’re just starting training and it’s hot, humid, and difficult to get a bearing on pace. Coach McGee would have runners run a pretty short run (2-3 miles) at goal marathon pace and see what the corresponding heart rate was. He would then set early season workouts to that heart rate, but begin increasing the length of the workouts By monitoring your heart rate you can go by effort and keep yourself in check (see our 5 early pitfalls of training post)

The trick is to not look at it during your run.

The key with what Coach says is that you transition away from focusing on heart rate. As you get into your meat and taters section of training, you go to what matters most-pace. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon tracking your heart rate completely. The trick is to not look at it during your run. Instead, when you log your data, just observe. Track how you ran for workouts, especially under similar conditions, and the corresponding heart rate. The goal would be that the distance would increase while the pace stayed the same and the heart rate decreased. The key though, is that HR wasn’t looked at until AFTER the workout was over. I think one thing to keep in mind too would to try and keep variables similar- like do your workouts that you are comparing on similar loops. Ideally, the weather would be similar to what you will be racing in the closer you approach the race, as well.

Using Heart Rate to determine over training

Besides monitoring effort during a workout, runners use heart rate to determine if they are recovering, or overtraining. The idea is that one, resting heart rate will lower with fitness and increase with over training. The second is that an athlete who is getting fit will have lower heart rates at the same intensity, while an overtrained athlete may have a higher heart rate at the same intensity.

In the first scenario, that appears to be more and more a myth. Most studies appear to show now differences in resting heart rate between fit and overtrained people. What does seem to be of value is a person’s sleeping heart rate. And with all of the new technology out there, this is probably easier to monitor than ever before. If you monitor your sleep, keep an eye on this parameter. An increasing sleeping HR over a period of time may be a good indicator of your training status.

The second observation point is with training heart rates. Most people think that as they gain fitness, their heart rate for a given workout will decrease. While some studies have shown this, others have not. Using this method to dictate if your fitness is on track just isn’t that clear and might not be a reliable observation.

Heart Rate Training - Hansons Coaching

Heart Rate Training – Hansons Coaching

A couple great sources:

Latest Buzzword: Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is the variance in beats of the heart. So, someone with a low HRV might have a heartbeat that goes Beat 1 2 3 Beat 1 2 3 Beat 1 2 3 Beat. Someone with a high HRV might go Beat 1 2 3 Beat 1 2 Beat 1 2 3 4 Beat 1 2 3 Beat 1 2 3 Beat 1 2 and on and on. They don’t have a heartbeat that is like clockwork. I remember in a physiology lab and the student freaked out. They thought I had a messed up heart!

A trend downwards can indicate the approach to becoming overtrained.

The idea though is that a person with a high HRV is very fit and people will use it to monitor their recovery or if they are gaining fitness. This isn’t a measure that is a one and done type of process. In fact, it’s something that you really need a lot of data points to find anything useful with. You’d really monitor several times a week and graph the trends. In general, a trend upwards is good. A trend downwards can indicate the approach to becoming overtrained. The only problem is, that these trends don’t always indicate one or the other.

Here’s (Info-graph / Article ).

Monitoring your HRV has been shown to dictate what kind of training will suit you better…

To me it’s simply an observation point that you use to piece together what your entire training looks like and then use all those pieces to help forge a decision in your training. Some information I did find interesting. Monitoring your HRV has been shown to dictate what kind of training will suit you better (high volume or high intensity) A person with a high HRV may be better suited for high intensity training, while a low HRV person may respond well to a high volume training program.

HOWEVER, nothing was said about how much they improved and in what distance. What I mean is, will that work for a 5k through a marathon training plan or just shorter racing distances. Also, does it work with new runners through elite runners, as this study just looked at recreational runners. (Article). It is all interesting, but I think there’s a long way to go. And again, I think it’s something you look at over a long period of time and use it as one piece of information, not the only information.

In the end though, they still only hand out BQ’s based on running a certain pace and not keeping your heart rate in a certain zone.

Measuring your HRV is getting easier and easier as a quick app store search reveals several different applications. I recommend in bed right when you get up. If you monitor your sleep, you might already have that data. To me, that’s even better. While I am still not a heart rate using coach, I am slowly believing there’s a place for both worlds to exist. In the end though, they still only hand out BQ’s based on running a certain pace and not keeping your heart rate in a certain zone.

What is Cumulative Fatigue? How do I differentiate?

This year I have taken a much bigger effort to connect with the thousands of people that have used the Hansons Marathon Method over the last few years. Not because I was unsure if it would work, but rather to make sure I was doing a good job of communicating the main idea of the philosophy: cumulative fatigue.  What I learned was well, it is a mixed bag. Some of it is I think people buy the book but just follow the program and wonder why it’s so hard. This is a small group, but there isn’t much more I can personally do if they don’t want to explore why we do what we do. Then there’s the group who do everything by the book (literally) and see success. Then there’s the group that I need to do better job of coaching. With that, my aim is to pull out all the stops with the idea of cumulative fatigue.

Hansons Cumulative Fatigue

The result of a successful marathon!

What is cumulative fatigue?

Our goal with marathon training and half marathon training is to build a certain amount of cumulative fatigue that develops the strength and preparedness for the marathon.

What exactly is the definition of cumulative fatigue?

Here’s my version of the idea: When fatigue is coming from the culmination of training and not from one specific aspect. The athlete is fatigued, but still able to run strong, and not dip past the point of no return. The end result is that the runner becomes very strong, fit, and able to withstand the physical and mental demands of the marathon distance.

So, what do we do to achieve this end result? To me it’s really about 4 components for the marathon. Balance, Moderate to High Mileage, Consistency, and Active recovery.

Hansons Cumulative Fatigue

Trust the process!

What are the components of CF?

As you can see in figure 1, there are four “pillars” I use in reaching a person to reaching cumulative fatigue. We’ve talked about these a lot, so I’ll just link to those discussions.

What I will say here though is that these components all work as part of the entire system.

When you pull one piece out it’s like a giant Jenga tower spilling all over the dining room table.

Then what? You’re just left to pick up the prices and start over.

For instance, let me share with you a common scenario I will see in our Facebook groups. A person starts the program but doesn’t completely by into part of the program. Seemingly, it always has something to do with the idea of a 16 mile long run (insert shocked voice). I feel like one of two things happen. The most popular is that the person doesn’t really think that 16 miles is long enough and make their long runs the typical 20+ miles in a 40 to 50 mile week. However, in order to have enough energy, the rest of the week suffers somehow. A skipped workout here and a shortened tempo run there. Before long, the original training plan is a shadow of its former self, but the runner still feels like they are “following the method.” The second is that the runner believes too much in the 16 mile long run and develop a belief that the program is centered around the long run. They feel like even if they skimp on the rest of the training the 16 miler is all they need.

The bottom line is that the 16 miler alone won’t get the job done. Like any training, or cumulative fatigue component, it’s the sum of parts that makes it successful.

Past discussion on CF

Hansons Cumulative Fatigue

Know the difference between Over training and CF

What is the difference between CF and just overtraining?

This is an area where many of you need help fully understanding and I need a better job teaching. I will admit that it’s a very thin line between the two technical stages of training we are discussing. That’s functional overreaching and non functional overreaching.

Common symptoms:

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO:

When you are in a functional overreaching, you will be tired but your performances in workouts will not suffer.

When you start feeling like crap and your performances are getting worse, you have likely crossed that line into functional overreaching.

Now, there’s always a caveat to these things. Let’s say you were running too fast to begin with and through training hard you’ve slowed down to what you were supposed to be running? If so, I don’t think it’s non functional, rather a correction. Where you will get into trouble is if you continue to try to hit the paces that were too fast. Rather, settle into the proper paces and let your fitness and body come back around. You’ll still feel tired, but as long as performance is stable, you’re ok.

How do I reach CF without going too far?

And here we go. The meat and taters, if you will. There’s a number of things we should do 1) before we even begin training and 2) during the early stages of a training plan that will help immensely with our goal of cumulative fatigue and not over training. From there, we can discuss the things we need to do during training that will help safeguard us while in the hardest sections of the training.

Before we even start:

  1. At least have a discussion about what your goal is or should be. Many of the folks using the plan for the first time are people who have at least raced before, so choosing a goal makes it a bit easier for them. For those who have no clue as to what they should run should consult a coach or respected runners who will give them a no BS answer. If you recall a discussion we had about Strava data, we should that something like 60-70% of people are running a 4-5 hour marathon and training about 30 miles per week. An hour difference is a big gap, but it at least gives you a starting point to evaluate yourself. A brand new runner who is building from scratch will probably be looking more at the 4.5-5 hour range. A newer runner with a little bit of running underneath them might be looking at the 4-4.5 hour range.
  2. Look at your schedule outside of running. Do you know of vacations and other gatherings that you know will make training difficult? Big business trips on the horizon? A baby on the way (I don’t think my daughter slept more than an hour or two a night for the first 6 months of her life). I know there’s a lot of unexpected events that pop up, but at least plan for what you know is going to occur. Preparing for these things in advance will not only help you set a more reasonable training goal, but also allow you to absorb the unexpected a little better.

Early in the training:

I made a post about this a bit ago and I think is a must read for everyone new to the idea of cumulative fatigue: Avoiding the early pitfalls of marathon training.

A few keys to take away:

  1. Let your fitness build, don’t try to force the issue. I see this all the time where people think if fast is good, faster is better. No, running the right pace for what we are trying to accomplish is better. For instance, if your goal is 3:45 and it’s already an attempt at a big PR, then why make it harder on yourself and try to run faster than what is prescribed? I want you at peak fitness for your goal race, not the local school fundraiser 5k.
  2. Don’t rely on running alone. This one has always been a problem for me. As much as we feel strapped for time, we need to carve more out if we truly want to prepare. I am talking about things like flexibility, dynamic warm ups, core training, and general strength. I know I know. I hear ya and I have fought it forever, too.
  3. Sleep and proper nutrition are your best friends during a heavy training cycle. This is for your life, aw well. Should be non negotiable.
  4. Adjust for environment. The summer is a perfect example of this. For an October marathon, you’ll start training in June. This means that a lot of your training will be during the dog days of summer. So many times my athletes will overdo it trying to hit paces that aren’t reasonable given the temperature and humidity. Is it ideal? No, but that’s why we don’t be a ourselves up that we were 15 seconds slow per mile when it was 80 degrees with a dew point of 65 degrees and we’ve only been training for 6 weeks.

If you can do these things, you’ll set yourself up to be able to not only tolerate training, but also maximize your training adaptations during the last 6-8 weeks of the marathon segment (when it really counts). You’ll put yourself in the zone of cumulative fatigue without crossing the threshold into overt training.

Love the Sport!

Love the Sport!

What do I do if I take it too far?

The end result of what I saw many folks doing was taking cumulative fatigue into nonfunctional overreaching by the time they got to the strength segment of the marathon plans. If you find yourself in that zone or rapidly approaching it, here’s what I would do.

  1. Immediately start doing the things we just talked about. Consider vitamins/supplements.
  2. Spread workouts further apart (Modifying Schedule)
    1. Tuesday-Friday-Sunday
    2. Wednesday-Sunday w alternating weekend
  3. Within a month of race? Start taper now. If you are fried and performance has gone by the wayside, we have to bring you back and quickly. Reducing both volume and intensity is the easiest way to do it.
    1. Scale back to 2b.
    2. Focus on lower intensity SOS
    3. Don’t scale back so much you lose fitness

End Goal

The end goal is two fold. The first is to teach you how to train, regardless of system you use. We want to take you from guessing to knowing the how, what, and why if becoming a runner (regardless of pace, as pace is irrelevant). This is an ongoing process and hopefully incorporated into everything we provide. The second is what you are immediately concerned with- getting to the starting line healthy. I realize that things rarely go perfectly as planned. If you find yourself in such a situation let’s cut our losses, minimize the damage, and get to the starting line in one piece. This will at least allow you to run your race and you still might even just surprise yourself with what you can still accomplish. It certainly doesn’t have to mean throwing in the towel on a training segment!

 

Listen to our PODCAST on Cumulative Fatigue

Marathon Race Strategy: A few thoughts

We have talked before about tapering and general race strategy ideas. We talk about several of these topics over the course of HMM. However recently an interesting article was posted on online that looked at 80 million runs logged on Strava. It shows some interesting numbers based on a wide spectrum of runners. It also prompted me to look at and update some of our specific race strategy ideas.

I’d like to preface the actual data that the mentioned article provides as this will help clarify some of my ideas about pacing and race strategy.

First…

..most 3-4 hour marathoners (regardless of gender) were logging an average of about 35 miles a week. 4-5 hour marathoners logged an average of 25-30 miles per week. This is valuable data when we look at pacing but I wish they would have broken up the groups a little more. Instead of 60 minute groups, it’d be great as a coach to see 15 minute separations. There’s a big difference between a 3 flat marathoner and a 4 flat marathoner. Those differences get even more visible the faster one gets.

Secondly, in both the 3-4 and 4-5 hour groups, the breakdown of weekly mileage looked like this:

 

45% of volume was runs less than 5 miles
39% 5-10 miles
9% 10-15 miles
8% 15+ miles

What does this mean?

Well, there’s probably a number of ways to look at this. However to me, it represents what we talk about all the time. That is that a lot of folks in this range are sold the idea that you put in a few very short runs during the week and then make up a bunch of miles with a long run that’s completely inappropriate for the overall mileage. The reasoning: I’m running 4-5 hours, so I just need to be able to cover the ground. Will it get the job done? Clearly, but it’s such a painful experience.

To further my head scratching, most runners in these two time brackets hit their peak mileage at 4 weeks out from their goal race. After that, began a significant reduction in mileage over the next month. BTW when I talk about head scratching, it’s not at the runner, it’s at the idea that people are selling these ideas. What I mean is, for these two groups of runners, a month is an incredibly long time. On the one hand, it’s a couple more weeks to gain more fitness. On the other hand, when training is cut out, it’s a few weeks to actually LOSE fitness.

When we are looking at low mileage, slower runners, having a big drastic taper doesn’t make much sense because they haven’t been training maximally to begin with.

There’s less overall training over a specific block of time.

What’s my point with all of this? Well, there’s a few points I want you to take away. The first is that even if followed 80% of our training plans, you are vastly more prepared than the majority of competitors in your time groups. Why, because you’re running more mileage, more pace oriented work, and training to get better (not just survive). Secondly, because of that, I believe you are above these averages and ready to run above the averages.

Now, reading through all this data made me ask questions too. The main one, was “how does training affect pacing?” As someone pointed out on our coaching group, the experience of a 4-5 hour marathoner is incredibly different than a 3 hour marathoner. What I believe they are referring to is how they approach their pacing in a race. Unfortunately, I was unable to find much more than “if you train more, you’ll run faster.” I did find an article online from a coach laying out a blueprint to break 4 hours.

It basically outlined, start out fast and hold on. To me, that sounds like absolute torture.

I will say this, though. If that’s how you have trained, then that’s your best bet for success… if you trained with our program, you are strong enough to avoid that race strategy! You won’t have to try and put massive amounts of time in the bank early on, knowing that you’ll be making large withdrawals over the last 10k. This is true regardless of whether you are a 2:30 or a 5:00 marathoner. With that, let’s discuss pacing strategies for the spectrum of marathon runners. How I’ll do it is from pre-race through the finish line.

Pacing is key!

Warming Up

The first question is should I warm up? The second question is, what should I do for a warm up In this section, the answer isn’t the same for everyone. In general, the faster you are, the more you should be doing. For all of us, though, we have to balance being ready to run vs. conserving precious energy stores.

Sub 3:15 Marathoners

For you, performance is key, so the pump has to be primed and ready to allow you to get into a pretty fast race pace and settle in. I recommend a ten minute light jog, followed by some dynamic stretching and possibly a few strides. Time this out so you can hit the restrooms and get to the starting line on time.

3:16-4:00 Marathoners

This is probably an individual choice here. I would say if you tend to go out too hard in races, you may want to actually decrease the amount of a warm up. I have found that this will naturally inhibit your decision to go out too fast and lead to a more desirable conservative start. You should also consider the race itself. If it is a smaller race, you can probably do a light jog and dynamic warm up (this group can skip the strides) and get to the starting line just a few minutes before the start. If it’s a bigger race, you might literally be corralled in for 20-30 minutes, or longer! If that’s the case, you might want to limit drastically what you do for a warm up. If you jog 10 minutes and then stand in a corral for that long, you will lose any benefit a warm up provided and simply wasted some energy stores.

4:01-5:00+ Marathoners

For many of you, your average pace for the marathon will actually be slower or what you run during the race. The way the corral systems work, you’ll also be the last in line to cross the start line. You can choose to view this as a negative, which is understandable. However, the positive is that your walk to the start line (especially in a major marathon) will actually serve as a decent warm up. Someone asked a question about a dynamic warm up to help decrease the time they would lose, but I don’t know. I feel the same applies to this group. If you are in a corral for a long time (15 minutes, or more) then it might not make sense. If it’s a smaller marathon and you can do a dynamic warm up, jump in your place, and start within 15 minutes, then it might be a good idea. I just think your environment will dictate what you can and should do.

Everyone

The one piece of advice I give to all marathoners is in regards to fueling.

When you get to within 15 minutes of your start, take your first gel or whatever you are going to use for calories.

This ensures that your first calories aren’t coming from glycogen, and if they are, these immediate calories balance things out. Some people will say, but what about the insulin response? This is when you take sugar (carbs) in and then insulin response and you have a blood sugar crash. This is nonsense since you are going right into exercise. It’s going to be used before the body even tries to store it. However, for that to work, it has to be done within that 15 minute window. I don’t even care if you are crossing the start line and take your gel.

Finish line is in sight!

Early Miles (0-6)

Regardless of your pace, the start is imperative to how the rest of your race will go. The goal is to settle into goal pace as soon as you can. I realize that you may be dodging people in the first few miles but, stay calm about it. Don’t make any silly moves just to get around a slower group. Bide your time, try to take any tangents and then make your move when the opportunity arises. You might be a little faster here without even trying. It is ok for the first couple miles, but after that, you really should be settled into pace.

Speaking of pace, what’s the standard deviation in pace?

The faster you are, the smaller that range is.

For the 3:15 and faster crew, you are looking at a range of 5 seconds, maybe 10 seconds per mile either fast or slow. For 3:15-4:00 hours, I’d give yourself a range of +/- 10 seconds. Beyond that I’d say 15 seconds fast or slow is your max deviation.

Now, two things come to mind when giving these ranges. The first is, don’t read that as, “oh I can be x seconds fast and be ok.” That’s not how it works. What I am saying is that you’ll have some fast miles and some slow miles. If you can keep that range you’ll average out to be pretty dang close to your goal pace. If you are consistently fast early on, which is easy to do, there’s a good chance you’ll pay dearly for it later on. Conversely, if you settle into a pace and it’s slower, now is not the time to panic. It’s early and there are ebs and flows to the race. Don’t try to force a faster pace. Stay relaxed and see if you naturally speed up. Sometimes it just takes a while to get the diesel fired up.

As far as nutrition, everyone should be starting early.

As far as gels/chews, everyone should be looking to take their first “dose” about 30 minutes into the race. Remember, you took one about 15 minutes before, so at 30 minutes in you’re 45 minutes since your first caloric intake. Beyond that, look to start hydrating early on too. The biggest mistake I see across the board is that we feel good early so we pass on fluids and gels. The problem with that is that you won’t be able to make up for this deficit later on. You also have to remember that late in the race that same pace will feel a lot harder at 20 miles and you aren’t going to feel much like loading up on sports drink and gels. Bottom line is: start early and feel better late.

Middle miles (7-20):

If you were able to settle into rhythm early, this stretch will be much easier on you mentally. My advice across the board is try to be in a position to zone out and put your legs on autopilot. I know, I know, easier said than done. However, this is why we stress pace, pace, and more pace!

The time you spent doing the tempo runs during training will pay its dividends here.

In an ideal situation, you’re with a pack of runners with each sharing some of the work. This will allow you to conserve some energy and “zone out” for a big stretch. I know it may seem counterintuitive to detach yourself from the moment, but there’s a reasoning behind the madness. I’m a firm believer that it’s nearly impossible to concentrate that hard in a task that will last a minimum of two hours. You can do it, but if you have to focus that hard during the “easiest” portion of the race, I feel like you’ll be mentally fatigued as much as you are physically fatigued. This is a bad combination for the later stages when you need your mental fortitude to overcome the physical degradation. So, put yourself in a position where you can use minimal mental energy to stay on task, knowing that the hard part is on its way!

Lastly, what will help with what I just discussed is staying on point with your nutrition. Your muscles aren’t the only body parts that use carbs. The brain solely relies on carbs to fuel its fire. By keeping your blood sugar up you allow the muscle glycogen to be used where it needs to be and you keep your thoughts more focused and ready to dig deep.

Finishing strong (last 10k)

We have all heard it. The marathon begins at 20 miles. 20 miles is the halfway point in the marathon.

That’s really true regardless of ability. However, everything we have talked about is setting you up to handle the toughest part of the marathon. There’s no denying it, the last 6 plus miles will be a true test for you. Here’s my top tips:

Think small. In an ideal situation you get to 20 miles and you are starting to feel the effects, but feel confident that the big grizzly bear isn’t going to hop on your back. The effort is certainly there, but your thoughts are still crisp and you are still moving well. Going back to what I said about zoning out. This is where still being mentally sharp is crucial. You can gauge where you are at, calculate splits, and have the fortitude to really narrow your focus to the immediate task at hand. If you can do that, you can start to think small. By that I mean, not focusing on having six miles to go, rather you can focus on the next 10 minutes, or 1 mile, or the next street light. Whatever you can mentally prepare yourself to run your goal pace for. When you get to that spot, hit reset and don’t allow yourself to think beyond that. It’s a great way to break a big chunk of distance up into manageable pieces. If you are mentally drained and about to reach a bonking point, you can’t narrow that focus and you end up dwelling on the whole distance left. This can be incredibly devastating to confidence and then pace.

Continue to take carbs in. Even if you just rinse your mouth out with sports drink, you can trick your brain into thinking it has had carbs and keep your intensity up. So, even if your mind (or stomach) is fighting you taking anything in, keep that tidbit in mind.

If you were conservative on pacing and are wondering when to pick up the pace, NOW would be that time. I don’t know if I would just slam my foot down on the gas (as much as you can at the 20 mile mark), but a winding up of pace would be fine.

I want you to think way back to the beginning of this article and the statistics I wrote about the average 3-4 hour marathoner and the average 4-5 hour marathoner. They generally ran low mileage and based on their weekly mileage breakdown- grossly undertrained. That’s why you see so many being too aggressive early on and then trying desperately not to lose all that time back during the last 6-10 miles. For one, they probably have no sense of what their marathon pace is, because emphasis was placed on long slow distance runs and no pace work. The second is because the majority of training taught them to survive training rather than adapt to training, they raced accordingly. They spend months learning how to survive the distance and not how to be strong over the entire distance. The point is, you should be in a position to avoid those things, as long as you trained accordingly and execute the race plan. Granted, circumstances are out of your control, but this should be true within reason. Even if you can’t pick it up over the last 10k, you should be strong enough to minimize the losses, rather than just hope you put enough time in the bank. This is true across the board.

Above was the advice I give the majority of my personal athletes. I work with athletes trying to run 2:30 to runners just wanting to get across the finish line. Hopefully, you can pull something from this and apply to your own race strategy in the future!

Moving Beyond the Basics

First off, let me thank the tens of thousands of folks who have utilized the Hansons Marathon Method. One of the greatest compliments I receive is being at a function and someone asks me to sign a copy of a dogeared, note filled, and more than gently used book. While the book is the foundation for everything we do, there is often the question of what to do once you’ve been through the schedules a couple times. This post is for you!

Structuring for the long term?

Many of you have read the book and then simply put the training plan on repeat. While many of you have had success doing that, it certainly doesn’t leave much for variety. While the book is the foundation, I admittedly lack discussing how to grow as a runner after you have completed the advanced training plan. There’s a lot to figuring what’s best for you, so I’ve come up with a list of questions to ask yourself. It’s a little bit of work, but trust me, we take care of the rest!

What are my primary goals for the a) next training segment b) the next year and c) the next 3-5 years?

When a person comes to us for coaching we ask them about what their long term goals are. It gives a glimpse into the big picture but it also helps us organize our priorities. Even if you are new runner, or at least a new marathoner, we should have an idea what our big goals are so that we can create a road map. We can address immediate training problems. Let’s say you want to have a segment where we build your milage and just maintain fitness. Maybe we want to learn how to incorporate some general strength training into a running regimen. No problem, we can give you one of our base programs and then a 6 week strength for runners program. From there we can then go after working getting our overall speed up before going after another marathon or half marathon.

Do I need to follow an 18 week program all the time?

No! That’s the beauty of training at a moderate level. When people first start either the Beginner or Advanced program we are making some general assumptions. We are trying to fit the bulk of the population into a program that will work for everyone. Once we get through that, we can then start helping you get specific. Here’s a great example of moving beyond the classic schedules that we did with folks running Boston:

  1. Runners started in December training with an 18 week Hanson’s schedule.
  2. Completed Boston and took about 2 weeks of down time.

Here’s where it got tricky. With a marathon ending in mid April, we now had a ton of time before we needed to worry about a fall marathon. So what do we do? We definitely didn’t want to just sit idly by and watch! We had a couple otions.

Option 1: For those who were really just rocked from Boston or were at a point where they wanted to try and get mileage to a new level. For these folks we gave them a 8-12 week base building plan that allowed them to get their mileage up without a ton of intensity. Some of them started their strength and core routines here (which is a great time to begin). It also opened the door to another marathon, speed, or half marathon segment at the end. Leave the door open!

Option 2: Most of the rest of the folks wanted to attack some 5k and 10k races, which I was all on board with. So with theses runners, we gave a small buildup of about 4 weeks post time off. Then we went into a true speed segment where we attacked VO2max pace and true lactate threshold pace. Here it made sense because they already had such a huge aerobic base under their belt from the marathon training. We did that for 8-12 weeks, depending on the goal.

For either option we were able to fit a different training segment that would suit their needs and not put them into a training rut. With Option 1, these folks were at a new mileage level with a good general starting fitness point. With that said, they didn’t need to start over from scratch with the classic 18 week schedule. For whatever race they chose we could now put them into a 12-16 week training plan that wasn’t going to repeat what they had just done. For Option 2, these folks had already gone through several weeks of speed specific training so there was certainly no need to rehash a big block of speed again for a marathon. We could get them into a 12 week marathon specific plan and they’d be in great shape come fall.

As you can see, we can break up and take modified versions of the classic schedules (but still on point with the philosophy) and create a long term approach to fitness building and personal bet running.

The long road of running!

The long road of running!

Where do I fit a training segment for shorter races in? Or build my base?

A common question, which we began addressing above. I would further say that it depends a little bit on where you are from. We coach a lot of people in the midwest and down south. It might as well be above the arctic circle and at the equator as far as geography. What’s the point? Well, my midwest folks do well with a different running calendar than my friends in say, Florida. Here, while summer is warm, it’s not typically oppressive like it is down south. We can get away with starting our fall marathon training in June or July. Meanwhile, my southern athletes will typically just let summer be a base building period or maybe a shorter race segment. They typically don’t even want to start thinking about training for a marathon until late September.

What if I want to run more? What about less?

Absolutely. While I really want to get you to handle mileage and workouts, we have to be smart about it! We have versions of the classic plans that are written on the philosophy but scaled down to longer segments (up to 24 weeks) with less mileage (about 40 miles per week). We also have extrapolated to shorter segments that are 12-16 weeks long, but with mileage anywhere from 70 to 100+ miles per week at peak.

I really need more recovery between workouts, but want to keep a high level of training; what can I do?

Along the same lines as above, we’ve also created plans that provide more recovery days in between. Right now we have examples of the classic marathon plans that are built around a 9 day training cycle and include one day off. What that means is you have a schedule that looks something like this:

  • Day 1: Long run
  • Day 2: Easy
  • Day 3: Easy
  • Day 4: Workout
  • Day 5: Off or Easy
  • Day 6: Easy
  • Day 7: Workout
  • Day 8: Easy
  • Day 9: Easy, reset the cycle

We are also currently devising plans that will still be on a traditional 7 day cycle, but with 2 SOS days per week, instead of three.

Do you have plans to help me with these?

Heck yes we do! We currently have over 40 training plans that can be downloaded right into a dynamic training plan. These plans notify you nightly of upcoming workouts. Easily move days around to fit your personal schedule with the drag and drop feature. Sync your Garmin to the training log so your training log is always updated. SEARCH THE PLANS

 

Want to pick the brains of the HCS coaching staff and hear what your running buds are doing with the Hanson’s training methods?

5 early going pitfalls to avoid in marathon training

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We always talk about the idea of cumulative fatigue and how it is part of the training process. Then I go and complicate it by talking about not overtraining. Couple that with mistakes we all make early in our training and we are set up for potential disaster. There’s a number of pitfalls I’ve made and seen others make, especially early on in a marathon cycle that can cause major issues for us when the training really gets tough. In this RunClub live session I break down the top 5 pitfalls.

Note: one thing I didn’t mention, but is so crucial is that you want to just be in a stage of cumulative fatigue by the time you get into that 6-8 weeks out point in a segment. You don’t want to be in that stage of training before the hard stuff really gets going!

Introducing the HCS Online Run Club!

When I started HCS in May of 2006, our goal was to simply be there for the people who were using Kevin and Keith’s marathon training plans..

Reader’s Question: Master’s Running, adjusting the program.

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Check out our Video / Podcast we made from this post!

Below is a question from our Hanson’s Coaching Community Page on Facebook. This week’s question asks about Masters running and ways to adjust the schedule.

Don S: How can non-elite-runners in their late fifties adapt the beginner program in the book to a five day a week marathon program after training with a three day week marathon program for several years. Also can you reduce some of the tempo run mileage if you’re just trying to complete the marathon in 4:30?

Let’s tackle the first part of this, which is going from 3 days to five days per week of running. Personally, I think that’s great! Ordinarily, I’d like to see you try to get to that 6th day of running but I won’t push on that right now.

After reading the questions, my takeaway is that the primary concern is the amount of recovery with the increase in volume.What will propose below can accommodate both of your questions. As I mentioned, I think we can “spread” things out a little bit without sacrificing performance. There’s a couple of ways to spread the schedule out and I discuss in Hansons Marathon Method in the “modifying the schedule” section, but will discuss another approach that I took this spring.

The Alternator:

The basic premise of this schedule is to alternate your major weekend run with either a straight up long run or with a longer tempo. I typically do it with a 6 day per week program but I think you could easily adjust to a 5 day program.

Early Segment
MondayEasy
TuesdaySOS
WednesdayOff
ThursdayLonger easy ( 6- 10 miles )
FridayEasy
SaturdayLong or Tempo
SundayOff / Easy
Later Segment
Monday – WedsSame as above
ThursdayMedium Long: 10-12 miles
FridayEasy
SaturdayLong or Long Tempo
SundayOff / Easy

 

Check out our Video of this post below!

Hanson’s Community Questions: Episode 1 VO2max pace work

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Check out our Video / Podcast we made from this post!

HCS Community Page:
4/28/16

From our closed Facebook Community:

Sasha: I would like to know if/how Hansons training addresses different pace work such as VO2Max, etc. The 5k-10k Pace work isn’t fast enough for VO2Max, and I’ve found great adaptions to occur at 3k Pace. Is that something that could be added, and is it added in custom training and/or amongst Hanson’s elite?

This is a question we get a fair amount. It’s also a source of misconception with our naysayers. With that, there’s a number of components that we should look at when answering the main question here.

VO2max pace work

What population are you working with?

With the majority of people we are working with they are going to get the vast majority of aerobic fitness by the peripheral benefits of easy to moderate running. Even marathon pace is a highly aerobic event. Plus, the majority of people who are using the program are taking their training to a new level and the addition of very fast running will only create an additional stress that they may or may not be able to recover from. As a coach with a program meant for large groups, it’s not a good addition to expect everyone to tolerate. To me, this is something that a coach working with an individual would add.

What is the goal of our training cycle?

The goal of our marathon program isn’t to improve your VO2max. It’s been shown time and time again that VO2max is not a good predictor of race performance, especially the marathon. So, in our case, VO2max will improve as a byproduct of the training, not because we emphasized it. You also have to look at where you fit that type of training. You won’t put it early in the segment as that can cause acidosis. It also doesn’t make sense because the body might not to be able to withstand that intensity, even in short bouts. I’m also not going to put it at the end, when I am trying to be as race specific as possible.

The 3-2 rule revisited

Even after what I just wrote in the last two sections, I do think there is a place for everything. If you have read the book and my posts, you know I don’t like people just racing marathon after marathon. We have what we call the 3-2 rule, which is simply three marathons to every two years. Now that is probably really painful for people to hear, and depending on the person, you may be able to sneak it up to 2 marathons per year. However, this is one of the main reasons why. If we are always in a marathon training mode, we either have to force training that might not be good timing (or force us to miss on the stuff we really need), or we take a dedicated segment every now and then and use it to challenge ourselves in a new way. This could be building our mileage, improving our top end speed, adding strength training. Personally, it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s not the same training over and over.

So with that said, would I add? Not in a general setting where I am already making a ton of assumptions about you. However, working on an individual level, we would work all facets of training into your big picture of training when we can put it in the appropriate place!

Check out our Video of this post below!

Watch the video or listen to the podcast below!

Increasing Training Mileage: How to and when to stop!

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Mileage is always a big topic of discussion with runners, almost a badge of honor for some runners. For newer runners, the questions usually revolve around increasing mileage safely but quickly (sometimes just quickly) while with more advanced runners, the questions might be centered more around how much mileage is enough. What I’d like to do is offer up some thoughts on common “rules” and give you some ideas to think about when you start looking at your own training volume.

The most popular method of increasing mileage, by far, is the 10% rule

General Theory

The most popular method of increasing mileage, by far, is the 10% rule. A quick Google search on “increasing running mileage” will show you numerous articles. This has come under some criticism- just read those above mentioned articles. It certainly is a pretty conservative approach, especially with newbies and general low mileage runners. For instance, if you run 10 miles your first week of running, then this rule says that the most you can add is 1 mile. The practicality of that isn’t necessarily high. You might have a variance of 2-3 miles without even trying.

Another theory comes from the ever famous Daniels Running Formula which Dr Daniels writes about adding no more than one mile per run per week. For instance, if you run 4 times per week, then add no more than 4 miles the next week. This proposal is seemingly scalable, as many competitive runners will run 10 plus runs in a week and that would probably be about a 10% increase in mileage. So, for lower mirage runners, the amount you can increase may be more like 15-20%. This makes sense because adding even a small amount of total weekly mileage in low volume runners will tend to be higher than the very conservative 10% rule.

What’s best way to approach? Well, for lower mileage runners the 10% rule is probably to conservative. To be honest, at that rate of increase, you’ll spend all summer just trying to get to a decent weekly volume. For higher mileage runners, there’s probably not going to be much difference between the two philosophies. And, for these folks, your concerns probably lie in other areas- which we will discuss later. The following are things that I would consider when deciding on your approach.  

Things to consider when discussing volume/mileage

  1. Maximize your current level before making a jump. It takes 4-6 weeks for the body to adjust to a new training stress, so don’t jump to another training stress until you’ve gained what you can out of the current training stress. If you can still adapt at a lower training level, then why not? Otherwise, you have the risk of jumping up too much too quickly and getting injured.

One of the most common issues I see with beginning runners or runners trying to make a big jump in training is that they were feeling great and then, BOOM! They got a tendonitis or a stress fracture. What we tend to neglect is that our cardiorespiratory fitness can increase quite rapidly, within a couple weeks. However, things like bone and tendon take much longer to catch up. So, if we jump up too much, despite the increase in fitness, we end up sidelined. That is why I say to not really jump up a little bit every week, rather increase a moderate amount every 4ish weeks and then stay there. It won’t be as slow of a buildup as the 10% rule, but not so fast that the body can’t adjust. Running more mileage is only good if you can do it consistently!

Increasing Training Mileage: How to and when to stop!

Increasing Training Mileage: How to and when to stop!

2.  Focus on endurance before intensity: In general fitness we look at the acronym FITT which represents frequency of exercise, intensity of exercise, amount of time exercising, and type of exercise.  When we begin increasing mileage, we are potentially adjusting all four of these variables. If we add a day to our routine, we automatically are adding more time that we are engaging in a certain type of exercise. As you can see, the odd man out here is intensity. If you try to increase or change all the variables at once, something is going to have to give.

There are times where you will be increasing mileage and doing workouts at the same time. The key here is that you aren’t making major jumps in training when trying to do both. Ultimately this comes back to thoughts on our philosophy where you train at a moderate level of mileage most of the time, which minimizes big swings in training stress for extended periods of time. I believe it also goes back appropriate paces. If we start cheating paces down because we feel good, we ultimately run ourselves down and become, at the least, overtrained, but at the most, sick and injured. Lastly, it makes it crucial to not get caught up in cycle after cycle of training for the same distance. While the traditional base period may be falling out of favor, it’s a perfect time to give yourself a block of 6-8 weeks to focus solely on building to new mileage. By making some type of compromise I believe the road to your eventual goal will ultimately shorten.

  1. Use cross training as a transition, not a replacement. Many people look at the training plans in Hansons Marathon Method and Hansons Half Marathon Method and view us as anti cross training. This is simply not the case, rather I truly feel that in the case of increasing mileage, cross training should be supplementary and not a replacement for running.

For example, let’s say you are following a program that has you running three days per week, what are you doing the other four days? Your first step should be to make sure you are cross training at least a few of the other days. From there, you start replacing a cross training day with a running day (we’ll talk about days over adding to current runs later).

Personally, if you are using our training philosophy, I’d like to see you build to at least five running days per week. If you are more of a 5k to 10k runner, you can probably do alright with 3-5 days, but once you start getting to that half marathon distance and up, you really should try to build up to more than 5 days of running per week. I have gotten plenty of backlash over that, which is fine, but this isn’t the place for an argument. I would just encourage you to look at our posts on philosophy and training components to see where our theory comes from. I will just say, that if you are low mileage, allow yourself even more time to prepare for a race so that you can still get all the work you’ll need to in order to be ready.

  1. Do I add to my current runs or add days to my week? This is a question we will get a lot. My basic thought is that a run should be at least 30 minutes in length. So for most people we work with, that’s a 3-5 mile run. Adding about 5 miles per week is pretty common under the systems we have talked about, but the duration of that 5 miles is what will be the differential. So, if you are running about 10 minute pace, you might be better off adding a 3 mile run and then 1-2 miles onto another run or across two runs. Or, maybe you aren’t currently at 30 minute runs? Spread the mileage across the week to get those runs up to that 30 minute mark. Also, when I am adding mileage, I am talking about adding easy mileage before adding mileage to workouts and long runs. Using this, I’d follow the process until getting to the desired days per week you want to run. After that, you can start adjusting other variables within your harder efforts.
  1. Give yourself enough time at a training level. We touched on this a little bit, but allowing yourself adequate time to fully adjust to a new training level. Now, if you are following the 10% rule, then you can go a few weeks in a row of increasing your mileage, but on that third week, you may want to consider staying put for a couple weeks before making another jump.

With really small jumps it’s probably OK to make continual jumps- to a point. What I personally don’t like is that you now have to guess when a you’ve made a big enough jump. That’s why I like to keep it clean and clear cut- make a moderate jump, then stay put. This allows your body to completely adjust to the mileage. As we mentioned, your cardiovascular system will adapt pretty quick and you’ll have the urge to make another jump, but I urge you to fight that urge if you are venturing into new mileage territory. Give your bones, tendons, and musculature plenty of time to adapt to the increased stress.

Non-beginner situations: so far, we  have really just discussed ideas for runners who are trying to get their mileage up to a point where the need to be, in order to compete at the level they want. There are other scenarios where we discuss building back to a previous level and most of that is when we are coming back from being sick or injured. We have discussed that in pretty decent detail in our Dealing with Injury and Illness video, so I won’t go back into it now. For me there are two scenarios where we can discuss mileage in a setting where the goal isn’t to establsh a higher training baseline.

Coming back from planned downtime. This is pretty common- especially if you use our training. For the marathon, we prescribe pretty lengthy downtimes, usually 10 days to 2 weeks. For shorter races, generally, you can expect less down time depending on the runners situation. Here’s how I would handle building back:

For 5-7 days of planned downtime (still healthy)

  • First week: 50-60% of peak mileage, spread over several days, but giving yourself 1-2 off days during the week. All easy mileage.
  • Second week: 70-80% of peak mileage, but keeping it easy, with 1 (maybe 2) off days and a longer run.
  • 3rd week: 80-90% of peak goal mileage with a long run and one light workout- usually a progression run (or cutdown run, depending on your terminology)
  • 4th week: 90% of peak goal mileage and a light track workout (8-12×400’s for example) and a long run.
  • 5th week: resume normal training.

For 10-14 days of planned downtime (still healthy)

  • First week: Every other day of 30-45 minutes easy running
  • 2nd week: Five days of 45-60 minutes easy running
  • 3rd week: 5-7 days of running, making sure at 60-70% of average mileage, including a longer run
  • 4th week: 5-7 days of easy running, totaling 80% of usual volume including a longer run and either light 400’s on the track or a cutdown, followed by a weekend longer run
  • 5th week: Same as the 4th week, just alternating what workout I did the previous week. Volume may be 80-90% of goal volume
  • 6th week: Begin training for next event.

How much is enough mileage? This isn’t something I see discussed a ton, but it is an important topic. A couple of recent examples on our Facebook group and local runners that got me thinking more about this.

First, let’s preface this with a case studies of a runner who has followed a common path that started with simply following the Advanced Marathon Plan in the book. Our first athlete, Dave, came to me when he was in his early 40’s. He ran in high school but hadn’t run in decades. He followed the basic plan and ran his first marathon. If I recall correctly, he was right around 3 hours, a little north of three. From there, we’ve been gradually increasing his mileage and tweaking his training. Now, a few years later, David averages about 75 miles per week when training for a marathon and run 2:45 in the marathon. In a perfect world, David would run more, but he’s a crazy busy business man, husband, and father of teenagers. Every time we try to do more, David breaks down or gets sick. His schedule just doesn’t allow it. Instead, we try to focus more on details like strides, stretching, some strength, and diet. We’ve maxed out the mileage and turned towards the other facets of training.

Now, there’s another runner who is a local guy. I don’t coach him, but have watched him train for a number of years through our local group runs and workouts. He’s a couple years older and trains a lot more than David. I know this runner will hit 100 mile weeks on a regular basis during the marathon training blocks. I watch this runner and it almost hurts me. He is hunched over with a very weak core and his stride is very short and quick with no hip extension. I’m not trying to pick on this runner, but this is what got me thinking. In his particular case, the 100 mile weeks aren’t improving his ability anymore. Personally, what I would do is back off the mileage, take a block of time and focus on strengthening his core and improve his form through fixing muscle imbalances.

What’s the point of this comparison?

It’s really to show you that early on, we will improve just by running more mileage. However, eventually we will get to a point where more mileage isn’t going to yield results (the idea of diminishing returns). Now, don’t take this as contraindication to running moderate to high mileage, rather your body, your work and your family schedule will reach a breaking point. You probably can’t do much about the last two, but you can work on body weaknesses.

With that said, there is no perfect answer for mileage. In the books we lay out some guidelines for runners to gauge their ability to what their level of expertise is.

Beginner Competitive Elite
5k 20-30 40-50 90+
Marathon 40-50 60-70 110+

There’s a couple ways to  look at this. The first being that if you want to run to compete in age groups, win local races, etc, then you’ll probably have to run more than 30 miles per week. You can use it as a guide to build to. On the other hand if you are cranking out a ton of mileage and aren’t performing at the level you’d like to, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate your approach. Obviously this is an extremely simplified way to look at things, but at least can be a starting point for you. It also goes back to what we discussed earlier- maximize where you are at first before making a big jump. This can include those supplemental components, as well.

So there you have it, some general thoughts on increasing your mileage safely, but not taking forever to get to a desired weekly volume. Hopefully, this will guide you as you think about where you are and where you want to take your running.

Check out our Video of this post below!

HCS and Periodization: How we structure training

I’ve read a lot of books about training and everyone talks about “periodization.” For those that don’t know the term, it’s essentially a roadmap to your goal race. It is usually blocked off in chunks of training labeled base, precompetitive, and then competitive. The basic premise is that you build mileage and then insert intensity. As you begin to approach the race, or racing season, the volume decreases and the intensity decreases.

The general problem I’ve always thought about was that when I read about periodization, it’s typically centered around high school or college athlete…

The general problem I’ve always thought about was that when I read about periodization, it’s typically centered around high school or college athlete who typically has 2 or 3 set seasons. Summer is cross country prep, with fall being cross country season. Then winter serves as a base building segment and track prep, with spring and early summer being track seasons. These are typically great and for a long time would even work for athletes training for marathons. However, now there are races all the time, so does a traditional periodization method work? And does it work those running races like the marathon and half marathon?

The Linear Periodization model is typically what we see in athletes. This ok for those racing shorter distances because their races are intense, so the work that they are doing is race specific. For those racing longer distances, we don’t necessarily want more intense work when our race may not even be approaching our lactate threshold. What do we do then?

Above is the idea of a funnel periodization and I like the idea of this much better for all race distances because we are removing the idea of simply doing more intense work and replacing it with race specific speed and endurance. In this chart, the dashed line is the volume and that’s what the High and Low is referring to on the right, not high General Speed and low General Endurance. It took me a second, too! Essentially, the top line for speed starts out as general and works towards specific, while endurance starts at general endurance and works towards specific. When you look at our training plans, you’ll see that this is the general model that we follow.

Traditionally, training segments were designed for 2 or 3 major races (or racing blocks for shorter races). For instance it might be regionals and state final in cross country, and then state finals for indoor and/or outdoor track. Where many adults run into problems is they want to race at a high level several times per year. I think for many of us we should address several issues with periodization and racing in a practical sense

  1. How long do racing segments really need to be?
  2. What do I need each training block to consist of?
  3. What happens when I race the same distance continuously?
  4. Is it realistic to expect high levels of performance all the time?
  5. Racing during times of non-peak fitness- should I?

Length of race segments

There’s a lot to deciding on a race segment, regardless of race distance. If you have read any of our work on philosophy then you know that we talk a lot about moderate mileage and balance in training. This is for more than just punishing my athletes! Rather, if we are in relatively good shape the majority of the time, the we drastically reduce the time we need to prepare specifically for any race distance. Now, on the other hand, when we are habitually low mileage and/or focus on one aspect of training for too long, then you’ll need a much longer time to shift gears to sufficiently prepare for a race. Now, there’s nothing wrong if that’s your style, but it simply affects how you can prepare for a different race. I will say this, though, that if you train for marathons then your time needed to come down for a 5k will be much shorter than if it’s the other way around.

5k/10k Training low mileage/single focused moderate/balanced
beginner 12-14 weeks 12 weeks
recreational 10-12 weeks 10-12 weeks
competitive 10-12 weeks 8-10 weeks

 

Half Marathon Training Low mileage/single focused Moderate/balanced
Beginner 18+ Weeks 14-18 weeks
Recreational 16-18 Weeks 12-14 weeks
Competitive 12-14 Weeks 10-12 Weeks

 

Marathon Training Low Mileage/Single Focused Moderate/Balanced
Beginner 18-24 weeks 18 Weeks
Recreational 16-18 Weeks 14-18 Weeks
Competitive 14-16 Weeks 12-14 Weeks

 

What should my training block consist of?

With our marathoners, we’ve discussed in depth the pillars of our training: balance, consistency, moderate to high mileage, appropriate paces, and active recovery. Without one of these the whole philosophy begins to crumble. These pillars are not just for the marathoners but are applicable to all racing events.

The point is that no matter the race distance, balance is key- meaning that speed, strength, tempo, long runs and easy days are all important. Now, these may be tweaked in terms of placement and race specific intensities, but no single component should be neglected during training. I feel this is especially true for anyone not in a specialization setting (high school or college track team for example).

What happens when I race the same distance continuously?

For starters, refer above to what we just discussed. What happens when a person races the same distance over and over is that they will often become stagnant and plateau. The reasoning is because many times they simply lose balance in training and certain components become ignored for months on end. For example, if all you do is 5k races, chances are you’ll avoid doing any work at marathon pace or anything really between an easy pace and lactate threshold. The problem is that you really aren’t providing any stress at a “high aerobic” level and limit the growth of your aerobic foundation. Instead, you may be trying to pull your fitness up by only trying to improve your VO2max and top end speed. As you will hear me preach, both of those (the peak of your fitness house) will ultimately be limited by the aerobic foundation of your fitness house. The opposite can be said for folks who only run marathons. If you find yourself doing this it may be time to consider what you are lacking and break your typical training with a segment that works on those weaknesses. Then, in the future, make sure you incorporate that balance and avoid having to fall into that situation again.

Is it realistic to expect high levels of performance all the time?

In short, no. I mean that in the nicest way, too. What I will see is athletes put way too much pressure on themselves to be at peak form at all times. That’s just a tough spot to put yourself in when trying to commit to being the best runner possible. If you are segmenting your training right you just won’t be in a position to run Personal bests all the time.

So then you’ll need to ask yourself the question, “why am I running this race?” Then you’ll need to follow that with “Am I ok if the results aren’t what I’m accustomed to?” If your big picture goal is, let’s say, qualify for Boston, then is running this race going to help or hinder that? If the answer is hinder, then I’d probably pass on it. As for the question about results, I am all for doing a test run, but if I am training for a marathon then I shouldn’t expect to run a great 5k when I’m knee deep in marathon pace training. Just like our training, our races should have purpose- at least when a bigger goal is in mind.

Should I race during my non-peak fitness?

There are sometimes when racing is just not a good idea and others when it can be beneficial. When coming back from a big goal race you want to make sure you are recovered (time off) and have given yourself several weeks to return to not only running, but also workouts.

When looking at the funnel style of periodization, that leaves the middle to the later portions of the training to race. Your weekly volume and the race that you are training for will determine what races should be appropriate.

For instance, let’s say you are brand new to running and want to run a marathon. I wouldn’t recommend just training for the marathon without any race experience. So, while building your general fitness it wouldn’t be a bad idea to run progressively longer races spread out over several months of your goal marathon buildup. In this situation our goal isn’t to necessarily run fast but rather have checkpoints along the way. This way your first race experience won’t be a 26.2 mile crash course in racing.

As for shorter races, there’s a number of things to consider. For those racing the 5k and 10k distances, a race can fit in nicely as a tune up or even a workout. During general fitness building, let’s say 6-8 weeks out from your peak race, a 10k might be good race because it will allow for a tempo (Lactate Threshold) workout and will also give you a chance to see where your fitness is currently at.

From there, if you are planning on going after a 10k peak race, I would consider a 5k race 2-3 weeks before your first big attempt. When you go after that peak 10k effort, you will probably really have about two good chances in the 3-4 weeks of tapering. Some people might be able to sneak that out to six weeks, but after that you really run the risk of getting burnt out, stale, and seeing decreases in performances. As for the 5k, it’s a little tougher but a 1 mile or 2 mile effort would be great about 2-3 weeks before your peak effort. Then you can follow similar guidelines as we just discussed for the 10k, just replace 10k races with 5k races.

For races like the half marathon, a 10k effort 3-4 weeks out will serve as a good test. Running at faster than goal half marathon pace should make your goal half marathon pace feel a little more comfortable. Leading up to the half marathon, you’ll probably be doing plenty of threshold runs, so races that will take you 15-30 minutes of hard running can be inserted into training during the buildup to replace the redundancy of workouts.

There’s a couple points to consider when planning all this out:

The first is that only do the races if you are ok with not being in peak form. Understand what the goal is for each race you are doing. These should aid in building confidence, not deflating it. The second is that you really have to be careful with racing too much during the segment. For me, the main reason is that if you start replacing all your workouts with 5k races on the weekend then you start the practice of surviving the week to get the race. At that point you stop building fitness and end up just holding on until the end of the segment- if you make it that long without getting injured.

Hopefully, this has shed a little light on our training systems throughout the racing distances and what makes the wheels upstairs turn a little bit!

Ibuprofen and acute recovery

How many times have we put ourselves, or even worse- has our coach, through a tough workout that left our poor muscles just shredded? If you’re like I used to be, then you may have been reaching for a couple of the over-the-counter anti inflammatory capsules. Was that the best thing for us?

Researchers from Norway, New Zealand, and Australia teamed up to look at blood markers of inflammation and muscle damage post exercise. They also looked at the effects of white blood cell infiltration after taking traditional oral ibuprofen. In the following 24 hours after exercise there was no effect on any of these measures, including the subjects own perception of soreness.

The take-away: We’ve talked before about the body needing to be put under stress in order to adapt to that stress. It appears that ibuprofen may not do much in terms of the acute damage, but you also want to avoid just taking even over the counter pills. Save the medications for when you really need them.

What you can do instead: While taking a couple pills is easy, there’s still some pretty simple things you can do to encourage proper recovery without wasting an opportunity to promote precious fitness adaptations.

  • Refuel: Have snacks prepared for post workouts. Carbohydrate will replenish depleted stores and protein will halt current muscle breakdown and promote muscle growth and repair over the long term.
  • Rehydrate: Begin rehydrating almost immediately and continue drinking regularly throughout the day. This can be water with electrolytes, or even small amounts of sports drinks for right after your workout. I don’t recommend sports drinks all day, but right after a workout is a perfect time.
  • Rest: This one is tough for most people. If you can’t sneak a nap in, wear compression garments for a few hours post workout. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep, though.

Article Abstract

Sprint Training: Hurt or help aerobic development

One of the criticisms I have seen against the Hansons Marathon Method is that the speed work is in beginning of the training segment because speedwork causes what is known as acidosis. I addressed the question a little bit in the second edition of Hansons Marathon Method. In that discussion, I argued that the speedwork that we are talking about is speed, relative to the marathon. What I mean is that us doing speedwork at 10k pace is fast, when compared to marathon pace. If we were training for a 5k, then no, that same speedwork would actually resemble threshold work. I also argued that doing it early allows us to put the primary focus on marathon pace as the last several weeks approach, a time where the effort needs to be as race specific as possible. In short, I don’t think that the speed work that we are performing creates acidosis at all.

Benefits of Sprinting!
Benefits of Sprinting!

So why bring this up again? I hadn’t planned on it until I came across some articles as I was researching another topic for an athlete. And, since I think it’s always good to have a complete argument, I figured it’s a good time to add to this discussion- even if it’s just me talking to the wind!

Ok, acidosis has been traditionally thought to hurt aerobic development because of things like lowering the blood pH, which would hinder aerobic adaptations. In this case we are talking about peripheral adaptations- enzyme activity, mitochondrial development, etc. However, what we know is that acidosis is only truly a threat if a) you are running above 100% [email protected] and b) spending a lot of time during a session/week at paces of VO2max. This is the basis of my argument. However, what if we did spend time above VO2max? Would it hurt our aerobic development? This is where the articles I re-discovered come into play.

First, let’s discuss what we are essentially talking about: sprinting, simple as that. Some people will call it High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT, which is… sprinting. More specifically, I am referring to repeated bouts of 30 seconds of sprinting in bouts of 4-6 efforts with near full recovery between each and done 2-3 times per week. This is important, because if you are training for a 5k, you might see workouts like 8×600 meters or 8×800 meters at mile pace (or faster) and these are very fast and for 60-90 seconds for fast runners, longer for slower runners. Those are workouts and the 4-6 reps of 30 seconds is a supplement to a run. Extended strides, per say. I think that is key to the whole argument.

So, where’s the proof? I linked a couple of good reads at the bottom of this and you should check them out. These both include references to several studies of interest. The end result is this- In a pretty short amount of time (6-10 weeks) runners of varying abilities performed 4-6 reps of 30 second strides over 2-3 times per week. They found significant improvements in VO2max via peripheral components (with no significant change in central adaptations like heart rate). These are the very same adaptations that we thought would be the victim of acidosis if we engaged in sprinting activities! If we control the length of time and the number of times per week, we not only will avoid hurting our aerobic development, we can:

  • improve neuromuscular connectivity
  • improve strength
  • improve general endurance
  • improve VO2max
  • improve overall speed

As I mentioned, the 30 seconds is key. The 2-3 times per week is key here too. You won’t see the Hansons Marathon Method convert to a HIIT model anytime soon, but there are some serious practical applications for this.

The marathon/half marathon:

  • If you already do strides, try bumping the duration up to 30 seconds from 10-15 currently.
  • Try only once per week to start. This in combination of other SOS workouts is a significant amount of work.
  • If you don’t do strides, start with short 10 second strides and build to 30 seconds over several weeks.
  • I view this as a long term and continual process, so at first it might take longer to see results, but give them time.

The 5k/10k:

  • Here, you might actually do more sprints in the beginning and trail off as you progress in your season
  • With these races, you will actually start training at slower paces and build your actual workouts to a slightly less volume, but greater intensity as you close in on the goal race. This would reduce the need for doing longer sprints more often as workouts, so no need to go beyond 1-2x per week.

Time Crunch:

  • Lower mileage athletes may benefit greatly from being able to incorporate sprints into their week.
  • Another scenario is having a shortened training segment. Let’s say you had something where you took enough time off to lose a little fitness. You are healthy now, but the calendar isn’t cooperating. If you have been doing sprints, you can begin again, and maybe shorten that window needed to regain most of your fitness. I only think this is a safe option if it’s something you’ve done. I don’t condone starting your sprints fresh off a running injury…

Dosages:

  • Start with 1-2x per week and build to 2-3x per week when you aren’t in full training mode.
  • As your workload increases, I would recommend backing down to once per week of 4-6 30 second reps with full recovery. Otherwise, I think a good thing can be overdone.
  • Personally, I would do on a second easy day. So, if you do SOS on Tuesday and Thursday, then I’d do on Saturday before the Sunday long run. Expect to be sore when you first start as you may be finding muscles that have been MIA for awhile.

Good Reads:

Sprint interval training effects on aerobic capacity_ a systematic review and meta-analysis

The Surprsing Aerobic Benefit of Sprinting _ Training Science