A good friend of mine wants desperately to qualify for the Boston marathon which will require a 3:15 marathon. He works and trains hard but has only run one sub four hour marathon. With frustration mounting, he couldn’t understand why he can’t come closer to his goal.
Recently we sat down and reviewed data from his training runs. He typically runs 5-7 miles on any given day six to seven days a week at close to a 7:30 mile. I asked where his long and slow training runs were and he just looked at me and said, “Well I don’t have any.” Much to my surprise I asked why not and he replied, “Well I just can’t run slowly! I get out there and I just have to pick up the pace!” And therein lies the problem. He is training at one speed and has not built up his endurance or conditioned his legs and feet to be in motion at a steady pace for three plus hours.
Chasing goals is fine, but you must have a solid plan that provides your body various stresses and recovery. Most importantly you have to have the discipline to follow your plan. More miles run at your fastest pace may look like a good idea on the surface but in the end diversity will help you achieve your goals.
First you must identify your main goal, such as qualifying for the Boston marathon, and then do some research to identify the best plan to help you achieve this goal. In my friends example he didn’t have a plan to follow and felt the only way he was going to qualify for Boston was to run every training run as fast as he could. In the end all this did was burn him out and leave him grossly under prepared for the rigors of running a marathon.
Varying your speed and distance run is extremely important. By adding different distances and paces, you are training your body to adapt to your goal. Speed work is important but it should only constitute one aspect of your training. You also need slower and shorter recovery runs, long steady runs to get your body used to distance and even rest days, yes I said rest days.
In my friends case, hard workouts like the speed runs he was doing help train your body to sustain speed over distance. This doesn’t mean you have to push the pace at the top end of your speed on every run. According to Michelle Hamilton, you can train your body to use oxygen more efficiently and process the lactic acid better thereby allowing you to run farther faster. Back off your speed some and aim for more distance. The relatively slower pace means you still work your lactate systems but you will feel less fatigued which will also make for a more speedy recovery.
Finally enjoy some down weeks where you lower your mileage, slow your pace and even enjoy cross training. My two best marathon times came when I had reduced training miles, was judicious about my speed work, had active recovery and down time and added in swimming.
Sometimes less can be more, a lot more!
HERE’S TO BEING FIT FOR LIFE!
Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast. He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.