Hanson’s Philosophy

A few days ago, I put together a Youtube video pertaining to the cornerstone of our marathon training philosophy (and hopefully a podcast shortly). It consists of what I would describe as the pillars of the Hanson philosophy. While we do certainly go into length in our books, it is so important for anyone that is using the system, or even thinking about the system to have a full understanding of why the training is the way it is. Ok, so let’s just jump right in!

What is our goal with marathon training? Well, yes, it is to finish as strongly as possible. Thanks to all the smarties out there 🙂 Let me rephrase, what is our end goal from a training standpoint? From the Hanson view it is to develop a high level of marathon readiness through the concept of cumulative fatigue.

Cumulative Fatigue: The development of fatigue through the long term effects of training which results in in a profound increase in running strength. In other words, it’s not one workout that makes you tired. Not one sticks out as being “the one” but rather you are fatigued/tired from the daily grind. The important aspect here is that you aren’t training too hard so that you are in a hole that you can’t get out of. And there it is, how do we train hard, but avoid overtraining. Well, Charlie, let’s find that golden ticket!

What makes cumulative fatigue work are four components, including balance, weekly mileage, consistency, and appropriate paces. Our first component is balance and balance alone has different meanings to runners. For our discussion, balance is referring to our balance of training paces, or workouts that we do. For Hanson followers, this is the SOS days. When we abandon a certain training pace, or load up on a certain workout, several things happen.

  • Running the same paces all the time, or better yet, running hard (or easy) just makes you stale over time.
  • Excuse to skip out of certain training components. The biggest example here is only running hard days and leaving out easy days. this can be by choise or necessity because we ran too hard on the workout day!
  • Miss out on valuable training adaptations that occur throughout the spectrum of paces.
  • Cut ourselves short of developing “balanced” over the long term. Say you only do certain things during the marathon training. That’s great, you’ll probably be ok for that training block. However, now you want to run a series of 5k’s and 10k’s over the summer, but you can’t race yourbest because now you have to focus on building what you neglected during the marathon training. Keeping that balance can shorten your time needed for training blocks because you never skip out on one thing to make more room for another. 

So, in making these points, I realize that so many things I talked about in this section overlap into the following sections. Without one pillar, the structure starts to collapse. In starting with balance, I think it naturally leads into the next component, which is moderate to high weekly mileage.

Without a doubt, I firmly believe in running moderate to high mileage, especially for the marathon. There are many people who will read this and scoff at it because they have had success with 3 days/week programs. That is great and there is certainly more than one way to accomplish your goal, but our program just believes that with what we are trying to get you accomplish, appropriate mileage is a necessity. Think of it this way, say yourun 20 miles/week for 5k training. This is 4x the distance you are going to race. Running 30 miles per week is barely 1x greater than your race distance. Further the workouts youdo for a 5k can fit in that amount of mileage and be appropriate for what you are racing. When you move from a 5k to a marathon, or a race that is 8x longer, you quickly run out of mileage to fit everything in that you need. With that said:

  • when you keep the balance in your training, you automatically will run more mileage, especially as the race distance increases
  • Moderate mileage, rather, I guess I should say appropriate mileage, is part of cumulative fatigue and this means running nearly every day. Without it, recovery is nearly complete before the next workout. This directly dictates with cumulative fatigue.

Now, it certainly takes time to develop the ability to handle more mileage. When trying to build up your mileage, the first thing to do is look at all the variables. From my experience, it’s the cliche, too much too soon. Problems usually arise when runners try to run too hard on every run, or they try to jump their mileage before their structural system is ready to handle. In short, usually it’s not the mileage that’s the culprit to injury, but how we got to that mileage.

Ok, so this is getting pretty long, so let’s pick it up another day with the last two components of the Hanson marathon philosophy.