I checked off week three on my 16-week marathon training plan and I have 13 weeks to go. Training is going so well that I have to make a conscious effort to rein myself in and not overdo it. I have found that it’s when I’m feeling my best that I get injured (see: groin strain before my first half marathon, plantar fasciitis 10 weeks into the 20-week training plan for my first full marathon). This time around I am doing several new things to prevent injury: (1) in addition to a dynamic warm-up (as opposed to static stretches), I walk for at least five minutes before a speed workout or tempo run to ease my body into it and not strain something, (2) I walk for 5-10 minutes after every run to cool down, (3) I do not mix hill work and speed work — if I’m running a hilly route, I dial back the pace a little, (4) I incorporate strength training at least three days a week, and (5) I stretch my calves religiously and use the foam roller after every run. It’s all a bit of guesswork and figuring out what works best for me. For good measure, I throw in making wishes on dandelion blowballs (yes, that is the technical name for them, so says Wikipedia) and making wishes when I drive under an overpass with a moving train on it: Please please let me make it to May 26, 2013 uninjured and ready to have a fantastic race!
The Mountains 2 Beach Marathon will be my second full marathon. The first time around I followed a beginner training plan from Run Less, Run Faster, and this time I am following an advanced plan from that book. Both the beginner and advanced plans call for three runs per week: a speed workout, a tempo run, and a long run at a prescribed pace that is generally 30-45 seconds slower than marathon pace. With warm-up and cool down, a typical speed workout is six miles, a tempo run is 7-12 miles, and a long run is 13-20 miles. For the first few weeks of the plan, that has translated to about 27 miles per week. Some people might panic at the thought of running such low overall mileage when training for a marathon, but I find it works a lot better for me personally to run three days per week rather than five. My running muscles get a break and my mind gets a break. I do not get bored. I cross-train two or three other days with cycling and swimming to build aerobic endurance. I work a broad range of muscles and that keeps my body in balance.
Take week 1 of marathon training for example. Here’s what my actual workouts ended up being:
Sunday: 40 minutes of strength training
Monday: Speed workout: 10-20 minute warmup, 3 x 1600m (mile repeats) at 7:11 (8.4 mph) with a 400m rest interval in between, and a 10 minute cooldown = 6 miles on the treadmill.
Tuesday: Bike 13.5 miles in 45 minutes, plus 10 minutes of strength training
Wednesday: Tempo run: 2 miles easy/increasing, 2 miles at 7:44 (7.8 mph), 2 miles easy = 6.5 with warmup and cooldown
Friday: Swim 0.64 miles (cut short when the pool was closed due to lightning!), plus 30 minutes strength training
Saturday: 13 miles at 9:05 plus a 10-minute walk = 14.4 miles with warmup and cooldown –> This was the Virtual Run for Sherry.
Mixing up the workouts that way makes me look forward to each day on the schedule. I’m happy when it calls for a speed workout (which I find killer but very satisfying), and I’m happy when it calls for a bike ride. Tempo runs are not my favorite because they are tough for me but I know those are just what I need to work on pacing and on toughing it out when race day comes. Long runs I find very meditative and I love the sense of accomplishment when I’m done. Swimming works out all the kinks in my body and just makes me feel good overall, like someone’s oiled up my joints. And I even enjoy the rest day, where I do the “rest” of the things I need to do, like laundry and house cleaning!
What about you? Are you a fan of cross-training? How many days per week do you run?