Marathon Strength Workouts

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Marathon Strength   Hanson’s Coaching Services   When we talk about strength, usually we are referring to weight rooms, or one arm pushups. In the case of the Hanson’s Marathon Method, we aren’t talking about that. Have you ever heard the term “Strength equals speed” That’s more in line with what we are talking about. Strength in our system is referring to a type of SOS workout. It is usually used when talking about training for a half or full marathon and is really about doing an extended amount of work at a fairly high intensity (but slower than speed work) to develop the runner’s ability to deal with lactic acid.   If you aren’t familiar with our system, you may have heard the term “cruise intervals” which are essentially the same thing. These are coined by Dr. Jack Daniels’ and are a common part of his training. Our strength intervals aren’t necessarily true Lactate threshold runs per say, as we tend to keep you just under that lactate threshold. Remember, we are really looking at building your fitness from the bottom up. In the popular sense of the word “threshold run” you are probably thinking about a 20 minute run at lactate threshold pace. In our strength workouts, you’ll spend much longer than 20 minutes of hard running, just at a slightly slower pace. Daniels cruise intervals are often something like 2×1.5 miles @ LT or 3×1600 @ LT, so still pretty close to that 20 minute range, but with a short rest in there. For overall fitness, these are great, but as Lydiard describes in his writings, “You have to be careful about going over the edge.” That edge is LT. Do too much work above LT and you really limit your growth of the aerobic system. It escalates the chance of injury and burnout, too.

Figure 1: Please note that MP is somewhere in Zone 2, not necessarily AeT

Figure 1: Please note that MP is somewhere in Zone 2, not necessarily AeT

    Keep in mind that we are talking about long races here. So what we do for a 5k and 10k is going to be different than what we are doing for these races. It also makes it important to do this type of training between marathons so that you can maintain balance and not get stale! My point is thought, that you have to look at what we are trying to accomplish with the marathon (or any race over 2 hours). That is to be able to burn fat at the highest intensity possible. In a nutshell, the byproduct of carbohydrate metabolism (running hard) is the production of lactate. Once we get past the LT lactate can’t be recycled by the body at the same rate it is being produced. The body reacts by forcing you to slow down before things get out of control! So the solution is to maximize the mitochondrial component- the place where aerobic metabolism occurs. This happens by growing more mitochondria, making them bigger, and increasing the enzyme activity within the mitochondria. The result is that more fat can be processed because the network in place can process more fat (not faster, it’s just because the network is bigger) This means that less lactate is given off at higher intensities and you , my friend, can run faster in the marathon- or at least go farther before hitting the wall.   With all of this said, the purpose of the speed work is to

  1. Reduce the risk of injury by slightly lowering the intensity (which is also more marathon specific) and
  2. Increasing the volume to prepare your body physiologically AND mentally to deal with general discomfort for extended periods of time.
  3. The lactate threshold is improved by “pushing from the bottom up” By increasing all of this mitochondrial activity, the LT naturally increases because it is more efficient at processing fat as a fuel source!
  4. Lastly , hopefully this provides you a buffer between training hard and going over the edge! HOWEVER, this means that the runner has to stick to the right paces. If you cheat this workout to a faster pace and make it closer to LT, then you increase the chance of jumping right off that ledge. In this case, faster really is not better.

When do I use half marathon pace vs MP-10 secs?

If you have read most of the literature about the Hansons Marathon Method, you’ll see that the strength work is, by definition, MP-10 seconds per mile. If you have been coached by us, sometimes you’ll see half marathon pace. What we choose really depends on the person. Early season work will always be MP-10, where if an advanced runner I may crank it down to half marathon pace. Also, the faster you are, the closer half marathon pace comes to being quite similar to MP-10 seconds. For instance, my marathon pace is 5:08 and my ½ marathon pace is 4:54, a 14 second difference.

Where do you do these?

Track or roads? Personally, I like these workouts done AWAY from the track. That’s a lot of volume to do on that surface and I fear injury. This is done with purely anecdotal evidence from my personal experience and observation of athletes. Ideally, you can get on a rail to trail type path or dirt roads. Since these are more marathon specific workouts, I like keeping these on roads or bike paths. However, if the track is the best option available, then you have to go with what’s available.   A note about the recovery: At the very minimum, the recoveries are jogging. As you become more fit, the faster the recovery jogs should try to become (to a point). So, instead covering the recoveries at the slow end of your recovery pace range, try to keep it in the easy portion of your pace range. This will keep heart rate higher and maximizing the time you are spending in the appropriate range for LT development. However, don’t force this. Ultimately, I am happy as long as you are jogging the recoveries. I would rather that then the actual pace of the workout suffer.  

Marathon Strength Variations

Beginners and/or under 30 miles per week

Workout Description
4×1 mile @ MP-10 ¼ mile recovery in between.
3×1.5 @ MP-10 I’d start with ½ mile recovery if you are new to running. Can do ¼ mile recovery if that’s too easy.
2×2 @ MP-10 ½ mile jog recovery.
1-2-1 @ MP-10 ¼ mile jog recovery after the 1 mile. ½ mile jog recovery after the 2 mile.
1 mile- ½ mile-1 mile- ½ mile- 1 mile @ MP-10 ¼ mile or 2:00 between each. Really for truly new runners. More advanced can do as an early workout, or if they want to cut the rest a little.
8×1/2 mile @ MP-10 1-2:00 jog recovery, depending on feel of workout. Again, this workout is great for a newer runner whose unfamiliar with structured workouts.

If you are familiar with our traditional schedules, then these workouts will look familiar to you, just a little shorter. The volume is more appropriate for around 30 miles per week. These will provide you with a faster stimulus, near your lactate threshold, but still allow you to break up your week with other stimulus, too.   I haven’t seen a lot of information regarding the amount of volume is optimal when training at sub-LT intensities. However, I’ve seen training at above LT should be limited to 10% of weekly volume. The volume here is slightly higher. Honestly, I don’t know if it could or should be higher, but the stimulus is a significant percentage of overall volume and keeps the overall ratio of training stimuli to keep all training in balance.

Intermediate Runners and/or 40-60 miles per week

Workout Description
6×1 ¼ mile jog recovery
4×1.5 ½ mile jog recovery
3×2 ½ mile jog recovery
2×3 1 mile jog recovery
1-2-1-2 ¼ mile jog recovery after 1 mile, ½ mile jog recovery after 2 mile
3-2-1 1 mile jog recovery
1-2-3 1 mile jog recovery

For those who are familiar with the Hansons Marathon Method, these workout are the staple. I have included a couple variations that are still in the 6 miles of volume that the other staple workouts provide.

Advanced Runners and/or 60-80 miles per week

Workout Description
2 miles- 4×800- 2 miles ½ mile after 2 miles. ¼ mile after 800’s.
1-1-2-3 ¼ mile after 1 miles. ½ mile after 2 mile
2×4 miles 1 mile jog recovery

These workouts are in addition to the staple workouts in the 40-60 mile range.

Advanced OR 80-100 miles per week

Workout Description
8×1 ¼ mile jog recovery
4×2 ½ mile jog recovery
2×5 1 mile jog recovery
3×3 1 mile jog recovery
4-3-2 1 mile jog recovery

Many of you want to follow the general structure of the Hansons Marathon Method, but want to run more weekly volume. I tried to balance out what I would do in consideration for the volume of the workout and potential time constraints. I realize that most people in this training range most folks are still working. These should provide you the stimulus you need, but keep the workout to under a couple hours!

Elite Or 100+ miles per week

Workout Description
10×1 ¼ mile jog recovery
5×2 ½ mile jog recovery
4-3-2-1 1 mile jog recovery
2×6 Do this about 3 weeks out from goal marathon. 10:00 jog between (this one can be slow)
6×1.5 ½ mile jog recovery
3 miles-4×800-3 miles 1 mile jog recovery after 3 miles. ¼ mile jog after 800’s.

For the group above, time is a factor, but if you are running over 100 miles per week, you are spending a lot of time training. These workouts will be long in overall duration, but will provide you with the stimulus you need to develop your lactate threshold safely.

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