Setting Training and Race Goals

Setting race goals is important as they likely will impact your training plan and your race day plan.

Here I’ll talk about two types of goals: Training goals and race day goals.

Here are some examples of  Race Day goals:

Performance Goals:
A goal that measures success based upon your performance in relation to others.

Outcome Goals:
A stretch outcome goal: if the stars align, the weather is perfect, your training and taper went well and you’re feeling terrific on race day, you can do this.

A realistic outcome goal: a goal which is a good improvement for you and one which you would be well satisfied with.

A good outcome goal: a goal which shows improvement and one which you can feel OK about. This type of goal could represent a very good effort if the weather works against you on race day, or you have a minor ache/pain on race day or you’ve been dealing with a life issue (unusual stress, lack of rest and/or sleep during race week (don’t include lack of sleep the night before the race), etc.)

Process Goals:
These are goals which have to do with how you plan to run your race. If you exactly hit each of your process goals you will finish with a realistic outcome goal. These type of goals can include things such as: your pacing during the first third of the race, your pacing during the second third of the race , etc., how you will handle water stops (run through, stop and walk through, etc.), negative splits or even pace, etc. This is not an exhaustive list of possible process goals.

Here are some thoughts on setting Training Goals:

When you begin your training you can:

1) focus on your ultimate finish time goal and train from day one to be ready to run that goal on race day, no matter what happens. Commit to your goal completely.

2) focus on the process of training smart every day based upon your current fitness level. That means putting your race goals on the back-burner and focus on taking the next logical step in your training each week. Increase your volume only as much as your body is ready to handle and train to your current fitness level, not where you were or where you want to be on race day.

Focus on the process, train consistently, stay healthy, and keep moving forward one day, week and month at a time.

There is a difference between training for a specific goal and training to improve while still having goals, and that difference seems to be a difficult concept for runners to comprehend.  I’m guessing that’s because so many athletes are internally driven to achieve their goals at all costs that they just naturally set a goal and then do whatever it takes to hit that goal.

Isn’t that a good thing you may ask, and to some degree, it surely is as excuses have no place in training as it will be long and often difficult to reach race day.  However, given the very high injury rate in our sport, and after years of personal a professional experience, it seems obvious to me that too many athletes set unrealistic race outcome goals and then suffer through injuries (some minor and some major) on their way to race day.

I enjoy coaching people to train to do things which they have never done before, but the part of coaching which isn’t as pleasant, but is very important, is to sometimes point out to people when they have set unrealistic goals.  More then once someone who has just heard my evaluation thinks that I just don’t believe in them, and they are very disappointed and even angry at me.  In fact, many times the opposite is true.  I do believe in them and only think that the timing to be able to achieve their goal is off a bit and that their goal is definitely achievable, with the proper training process and interval.

Here’s a link to setting a race pace goal, from Runner’s World: http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/how-set-your-goal-marathon-pace
Here’s another link about setting a race pace goal, from Competitor.com: http://running.competitor.com/2013/07/training/setting-a-realistic-marathon-goal-time_79229

I hope the information above will get you thinking about the various types of goals for both training and racing, and most importantly will help you to set the most aggressive goals which your body can handle based up the time available until race day and your current physical and mental conditioning (BTW – mental conditioning is very important and often overlooked in training plans).

I’ll be glad to respond to general goal setting questions here.  Ask your question by clicking the “Add comment” button below, and I’ll reply as soon as possible.  Please note: my time gets very limited as we get within four months of race day.

Running Regards,

Joe Gigas
Executive Race Director
Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon

RRCA Certified Endurance Running Coach

Dealing With Running Aches and Pains

I got some questions recently about running with aches and pains and what to do about it/them, if anything. That got me wondering how many of you are running with aches and pains of any kind. I don’t mean the type of pain which shows up for a minute or two during a run and then disappears (most of us have those pains from time to time), but instead the type which doesn’t get better during your run.

Running, or any exercise really, may cause you to feel some aches and pains. That’s part of improving your cardiovasuclar fitness and the training process. But, how do you know the difference between normal aches and true pain which can be the sign of something more serious?

Normal aches and pains include things like muscle soreness, blisters, chafing, minor twinges here and there in your muscles and joints and, after a particularly long or hard run, some difficulty getting moving or stiffness. These types of aches and pains will generally go away on their own either during a short break (after not running for a day and up to a few days) and Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (R.I.C.E.).  If these aches and pains persist for more than three to four days, they may be a sign of something requiring medical attention.

Some examples of aches and pains which are not typically “normal” running aches and pains and should be taken seriously are: 

  • sharp, stabbing pain, especially if it doesn’t let up if you stop or walk,
  • throbbing pain in your legs, particularly if it persists while resting,
  • shortness of breath after you’ve rested for a few minutes,
  • any sort of tightness or constricting feeling in your chest.
  • this list may not be complete as I’m not a medical authority.

I believe the key here is to decide which “normal” running aches and pains you can run through, which ones need R.I.C.E.  and which ones need medical attention, perhaps immediately.

I can’t provide much help with conditions which have progressed to the point where medical help is required as I’m not a licensed medical practitioner, but I may be able to help you with figuring out how to deal with “normal” running aches and mild or moderate pain which doesn’t cause you to alter your stride/gait. The key with these types of aches and pains is to diagnose what’s causing it and make the appropriate changes before a real injury occurs.

BTW – If you’re being treated for normal running pain by a medical practitioner, it’s also very important to figure out exactly what caused your injury and not just how to recover from the current injury.   I have seen this happen more than once as some medical practitioners seem more interested in fixing the current problem than preventing it from recurring.  For example, I’ve meet a number of people who have had stress fractures and while they recover well the fracture returns later on as they never figured out what caused it in the first place.

Most common running injuries are due to overuse, over training, improper shoes, or a bio-mechanical flaw (could be in your body structure or in your running motion. or both).  I believe that most running injuries can be prevented if the underlying issue(s) is/are address correctly and in time.

So, what’s the best way to prevent normal running aches and pains from becoming injuries?  Since most athletes are, or eventually become, driven and goal oriented people, they often subscribe to the “No Pain, No Gain” philosophy, which means they attempt to ignore pain.  While there are some aches and pains that may be OK to ignore (people vary in what they call pain and in how they rate pain intensity), moderate to significant pain is likely your body’s way of telling you to pay attention to some issue before it becomes a full blown injury.

For example, during a 17 miler, I stopped on a bridge for less than 60 seconds to check out the water level in the creek below.  When I started running again I had a pain in my left knee which I hadn’t felt before (never had knee pain of any kind).  As soon as I noticed that it wasn’t getting better I walked for about 30 seconds and it felt fine so I started running again.  The pain was still there for the first few steps and then it went away completely and hasn’t returned again.  What caused it?  I don’t know, but I’ve made a mental note of it for the future, and logged it in my running journal.

Some newer runners get side stitches and those are another form of pain which it is likely OK to continue the run with or after it’s gone.

Another type of ache/pain which may occur is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).  With DOMS the soreness is felt most strongly 24 to 72 hours after the run/race and is usually brought on by increasing mileage and or effort/intensity too quickly.  While it is often experienced by new runners in a hurry to progress, even experienced marathoners may experience it.   Any measure that increases blood flow to the muscle, such as low-intensity workouts, massage, hot baths, or a sauna may help somewhat. The pain will normally go away on it’s own within 72 hours of starting.

Another type of pain is a blister on your foot, toe, heal, etc. or chafing on any part of your body.  While it’s painful to run with, it is not a pain which must cause you to stop running, and it can be treated either on the spot or later.  Of course, you need to be careful of infection with blisters especially, but that usually only occurs if it isn’t properly treated.  However, in some cases it might be wise to stop your run and get a blister or chafing taken care of so that you can continue your training in the following days with as little pain/discomfort as possible as they may cause you to change your running mechanics, which could result in causing an injury to another part of your body.  I do not stop running with blisters during most races.  During a “for fun” race or training run I may stop if I think that it may negatively impact future training sessions.

Since many runners get brief pain once in a while, like the short lived knee pain which I mentioned above, it is not a good plan to stop for the day at the first sign of pain.  If that were to happen, I believe that more phantom pains would begin occurring (a mental thing). No, we need to develop mental toughness right along with physical endurance and if we stop at the first sign of pain we’d likely never learn the mental toughness required for endurance running.

On the other hand, if we continuously ignore the warning signs, which pain really is, we will likely be continuously injured and in a frequent state of recovery.  What I suggest is to take one or more walk breaks after a pain has begun and then try running again after each break (it may take a couple of walk breaks to determine if it will go away). It the pain goes away continue the run.  If the pain continues at a low level, doesn’t get worse and doesn’t cause you to change your running mechanics it may be OK to finish your run if you’re almost done.  Here’s the key, whenever pain causes you to alter your running mechanics and doesn’t go way soon, end the run.

I once had the good fortune to meet a young woman who had begun training in the military and every time her long runs got to about 9 miles she would become injured.  She had experienced actual injuries, not phantom injuries and now it had become a fear that she never would be able to run anything more than a 5K and perhaps someday a 10K.  In her case the “No Pain, No Gain” philosophy had led to her downfall each time.   I’m glad to say that by modifying her training plan and paying attention to what her body was telling her, she has successfully completed a number of longer races, and stayed injury free.  In her case the pain which she was ignoring was a warning which lead to a physical injury and also to a emotional injury!

Another point I’d like to make is that the location where you’re feeling the pain may not be the actual cause of the problem, but only a symptom which has been caused by the real problem.  For example, Runner’s knee (also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome) is usually caused by weakness in the middle quadriceps muscles and tight hamstrings or IT bands. You may also be at risk if you over pronate (your feet roll inward excessively – pronation is normal and a good thing, it only become a problem when it is excessive). In this case the problem may be resolved by either changing to the proper type of running shoe for your body or getting good custom-fitted orthotics.

So what’s the take away?

  1. “Non Normal Running Pain” should be addressed immediately (see examples above)!
  2. Not all “normal” running related aches and pains are serious and some should not stop your training/racing. (write down the specifics of when it occurred, how it felt, and how long it lasted, etc. in case it returns).
  3. “Normal” running related aches and pains which are mild, don’t get worse during your run and don’t change your running mechanics (it’s best to ask someone to watch you run, if possible) may not necessarily cause you to stop your run, if you are nearly done. Rest and R.I.C.E are likely in order after your done though.
  4. “Normal” running related aches and pains which are moderate in intensity which doesn’t go away during your run should be followed by rest and R.I.C.E for a few days.  If the pain doesn’t go away then it should be looked at by a certified medical practitioner as soon as possible.
  5. “Normal” running related aches and pains which are severe and don’t go away quickly should be looked at by a certified medical practitioner right away.

While this is not a complete discussion of all possible aches and pains associated with running, I hope that it will provide some general information about a subject which we all experience at one time or another.

Please let me know if something isn’t clear or if you find something incorrect in my information. I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Running!

Joe
Certified Endurance Running Coach
Executive Race Director, The New Jersey Marathon

Training For Your First Half Marathon (13.1 miles – 21.1K)

Great, you’ve run a few 5Ks, 8Ks and perhaps some 10Ks and now you’re ready to move up to the half marathon distance!  I applaud your willingness to take on this distance.  There are a few things that you’ll need to know to be successful at this distance, so let’s get started.

What did you learn from your 5K, 8K (5 miles) and 10K training and racing? (you don’t need to have run an 8K or 10K, but the more distance that you’ve trained for, and raced, the easier it will be for you).  You’ve already learned about a training plan, the time commitment required to do your best, how to wear your bib, how to line up for for the start and the joy and sense of accomplishment in crossing the finish line.  Those are all very valuable things to have become familiar with.

What’s different about training for a half marathon?  One of the first difference you’ll face is the length of the training period for a half marathon.  I think that a 10-12 week training program is about right for first timers planning for a “just finish” first half marathon.  For many people that’s a valid goal, while for other’s they have a desire to finish as fast as possible.  As long as you are trying to do YOUR BEST, that’s the important thing.  Next, the longest training runs will be at least 10 miles long, some plans call for more miles than that, although it’s not likely necessary from a purely physical conditioning point of view.  These runs should all be done at a comfortable pace, which means at a pace during which you can hold a normal conversation.  That’s right, at a slow pace.  Longer is not always better in endurance training, and that likely seems odd to many of you.  The challenge during your training is to get the proper amount of conditioning without either burnout or injury, and to be as ready as possible on race day.

What’s your finish goal? Whichever goal you are thinking about, even for a “just finish” first race, (our half marathon has a three hour and 15 minute maximum time limit in 2014), you need to choose the goal wisely.  As a coach I see many people who have chosen their goal because their friend did it in that time or they think that they should be able to finish in that time, etc., and I can tell you that’s likely a mistake.  You should choose a goal based upon your current physical condition and the likely amount of improvement which you can reasonable expect to make during your training interval. BTW – even if you have a training partner, there is no guarantee that you both with end up running at the exact same pace on race day.

How fast should your run your long run? The answer is, much slower than you likely think, and certainly not at your goal race pace.  The purpose of the long runs is to improve your physical endurance, and that means time on your feet in a training run.  If, for example, your goal finish time is three hours, then your longest long run should be about three hours long (even though it will not likely be 13.1 miles long).  Does that seem odd to you?  If so, here’s a couple of reasons for that: 1) you do not want to tire yourself out during training and then have to miss some future training days in order to recover, 2) you do not want to run your race in training and be tired on race day, 3) with speed comes increased likelihood of injury (your body needs time to make all of the required adaptations which a good training plan will accomplish), 4) you want your longest long runs to be about the length of time as you expected finish time (if you’re planning on a 1:30 finish time then of course your longest long run should be about that long (of course you’ll run it at a faster pace than the person who is shooting for a 3 hour finish time).

How far should your longest long run be? That will very on which training plan you choose.  It will likely be between 10 and 12 miles depending on the plan, however some plans call for longer long runs.  Since we are discussing training for your first half marathon the longer training runs are not likely your best option. I understand if that seems backwards to some of you, but without getting into all of the physiological changes which are occurring which you are not even aware of, most coaches are trying very hard to keep you healthy and more is not always better in endurance running, as I’ve said before.  Finding the point where you are fully trained, or as fully trained as possible, without crossing the threshold of high likelihood of injury or burnout is an art with plenty of science and experience behind it.

The one part of training which we haven’t discussed is the mental aspect of training.  All of us, at some point, have doubts that we done the right training or the right amount of training or that we’re capable of the goal we set.  Yes, that includes the very best of the best athletes among us.  It is those doubts which cause people to want to run further, faster, longer when we should be making sure that we are relaxing, resting, eating, drinking and using positive visualization.  Accept that doubts may creep in at times, and especially during the taper period, and see it for what it is.

One way to help with these types of thoughts is to keep a training journal as soon as your training starts.  Looking back through that journal will help you to remember where you started and how far you’ve come.  That view of your journey may help you to quiet your noisy thoughts and trust your training!

And finally, this is what you are doing in your spare time, not for your living and your life does not depend on it 100%.  If you have set a reasonable goal and accomplished the vast majority of your training plan, you are ready!

How much speed work should you do in preparation? First of all, you should build up your endurance, via your long runs, to the length of time on your feet which your shooting for.  Until you can run that long there is no sense in getting faster.  If you can’t complete the distance then speed is useless.  Make sense?  I hope so.  Once you have a good mileage base and you’ve been doing that for at least a month (about 8 weeks total training time may be reasonable to expect, on average) then you should slowly introduce tempo runs into your weekly training plan.

What is a tempo run? A tempo run is a run at a “comfortably hard” pace which last between 15 and 30 minutes and is the first type of run which requires a 10-15 minute warm-up and a cool-down around it.

What is a “comfortably hard” pace? I know, that sounds like an oxymoron, and perhaps it is!  What that means is (choose one which resonates with you): 1) a pace during which you can speak in sentences, but not in paragraphs without stopping to take a breath between each sentence, 2) at a heart rate which is about 85%-90% of your maximum heart rate, or 3) one which you can maintain for about an hour – an 8 out of 10 on your current effort scale.  The actual pace which you’ll run during your tempo runs will automatically increase as your conditioning improves so there’s no need to ever change the way you measure it.  The pace will change automatically (you’ll have to run faster to get to that effort level as your conditioning improves).  The only change will be the length of time of the tempo run (from 15 minutes to 30 or even 45 minutes).  There is a lot going on in your body as you adapt to holding this pace for longer and longer (but I don’t plan to discuss that here).

Other types of speed work. Once you’ve completed a few weeks of tempo runs during your workouts it could be time to introduce some track repeats and intervals, depending on your time goal and lenght of time running.  Please remember that with speed work comes increased risk of injury so this is not something to rush into.

Repeats are short periods of fast running followed by full recovery periods.  For example, you may run 100 yards at about near all out pace and then walk/jog until your heart rate and breath are back to normal, and then repeat the run and recovery period again. This would be written 2 x 100m with full recovery.

Intervals are another type of speed work.  The main differences between repeats and intervals are that the run portion is generally longer (not as fast a pace) and the recovery period is about the same amount of time as the run portion (which means that you will begin running again before you have completely recovered from the previous run segment).

Repeats and intervals are normally done on a standard 400 meter track (high school, etc.) but can be done on roads.  Doing this type of speed work on a track is best because you don’t normally have to worry about auto traffic, etc. and uneven surfaces, but can be done on roads if desired.

Please note: Many first time half marathoners accomplish their goal(s) with no speed-work (tempo runs, repeats, intervals) at all.  I would suggest that if you don’t incorporate speed work that you learn about pick-ups (short bursts of speed) and fartleks (speed play) which you can throw into your workouts to break up the monotony of months of running at the same speed.  Pick-up are short bursts of speed which you do several times during a run.  Nothing extreme here, just a bit of faster running every once in awhile (e.g., 15-20 seconds of running at race pace or slightly faster.  Fartlek is a Swedish term and is an unstructured form of repeats.  You choose when to do them and for how long.  (e.g., run at at race pace or slightly faster to a tree or the next street lamp post, etc.)

Be careful!!

The injury rate for runners is arguably between 40% and 60% each year (I tend to go with the higher end of that range).  That’s  a very high percentage and therefore selecting a reasonable conservative training approach is highly recommended.

The goal of a good training plan is to introduce the proper amount of stress to your body, not too little nor to much.  Signs of a good training plan are: 1) incorporates days off (no running) and it may also incorporate cross training days (core and upper body – not lower body), 2) fall-back weeks when the total mileage will decrease substantially (usually every 3-4 weeks),  3) will not ask you to run your race during training, you will likely run less than 13.1 miles during training, 4) it will peak your training about 1.5 to 2 weeks prior to your race day and then you will begin a taper period.  Why a taper period?  The goal of the taper period is to make sure that you are fully recovered from all of the repetitive stress which your body has undergone over the past 2-3 months and that will help insure that you are ready to run your best on race day.

Please note: Many people have trouble during this period as they want to get that last long run or speed workout in prior to race day and they often let doubts creep into their mind.

There is no workout which you can do within the last 2 weeks before your race which will provide any physiological benefit by the time that race day arrives, AND there is a real risk of injury during this period if you continue to train at the same intensity.  We see it every year as people contact us to defer their race until the following year due to injury during the last few weeks prior to race day. Don’t let that be you!

The mental issues (worry, self doubt, etc.) are real and almost everyone experiences them.  Trust your training and understand that doubt and nerves are part of the process.  In fact, if you weren’t a bit nervous as race day approaches you wouldn’t have the extra umph that you’ll take good advantage of on race day!

Here’s another important point about your race planning.  You need a race week plan, a race plan and a post race recovery plan.

A race week plan should include extra sleep (especially starting mid-week as you may not sleep as well closer to race day) along with a good nutrition and hydration plan.  Speaking of nutrition, assuming that you’ve been following a good nutrition plan throughout your training, other than for a social occasion the carbo loading pasta dinner is not necessary for a half marathon and it can be troublesome if you haven’t eaten that particular chef’s pasta sauce, etc. prior to one of your long runs.  Many a race has turned ugly because of the pre-race pasta dinner.

A race day plan should contain a couple of important elements: 1) nothing new on race day, which means: no new food, drink, shoes, socks, clothing, sun screen, sun glasses, deodorant, etc., 2) run the first few miles at what feels like a ridiculously slow pace (yes, people will be going by you in droves). The excitement of race day, the music, the crowds, etc. will definitely work against your best laid plans if you’re not very careful.  Many/most first time half marathoners start their race at what seems like an easy pace but because of the excitement at the start of the race and the adrenalin pumping through you, you will actually be running at a pace much faster than you are ready to handle.  It’s much better to let other pass you at the beginning and for you to pass them at the end when they are spent and have slowed down considerably.

A post race plan should include: 1) where you are going to meet your supporters and other racers, 2) how you are going to cool down after your race, 3) how much time you should take off from running after your race, 4) how long your recovery interval should be before you get back into training/racing.  (I have written about that in another post on this blog.)

I hope that the above info will be helpful to you.  If you have other questions about training please comment on this post.  I am not able to give you personalized training advise as I don’t know anything about you, but I can and will answer general questions and point you in directions which can be helpful to you.

I am a certified endurance running coach, but I am not taking on additional students.  This blog is my way to give back to the sport by helping others.

Best wishes,

Joe


Joe Gigas
Certified Endurance Running Coach
Executive Race Director, The New Jersey Marathon

Training For Your First Marathon (26.2 miles – 42.2 kilometers)

So, you’ve decided to train for your first full marathon. Good for you!  26.2 miles is a long way and now you’re here to figure out how to get the training started in the best way.

This will be a journey of many small achievements and success, and perhaps even some setbacks. Please don’t forget to celebrate each step forward. It’s the entire process, not just the end result, which you should take pride in!  Your training will require hundreds of miles and many hours of cross training.  Race day will be the culmination of all of your efforts up to that time.

Let’s get started!

Keep a journal of your progress.  That’s one of the absolute best pieces of advice that I’ll write here.  You don’t need to get a fancy, marathon specific, journal to be effective.  Log the date, distance, time of day, overall time, pace if you have that info available to you, weather conditions, as well as how you felt at the beginning, during and after your training session, and perhaps general thoughts and impressions.

Why are you taking on this challenge? It’s important for you to think about the answer to my question carefully and write down your thoughts/answer(s).  Why, because it will take a long time and lots of effort to accomplish it, and you’ll likely question why you’re training for it a few times during the process.  You’ll likely need that/those answers, perhaps several times during the process.  There is no right or wrong answer; it depends on what is motivating you to do this.

My next question for you is: have you worked your way up to this distance by training for and completing shorter distance races?  If not, then this will be quite a bit more difficult for you.  A bucket list item, a one and done plan, can be very hard on your body and your mind.  That’s not to say that people haven’t done that before, but the failure/injury rate is very high among those who take that approach.

I suggest that the best sequence of races is: 5Ks, 8Ks, 10Ks, 15Ks, 21Ks (a half marathon). You don’t need to complete each one in that exact progression, but it is helpful to your body and your mind, especially if you are starting from scratch (slow steady progress is the key).  If, on the other hand, you’ve completed a few of these race distances, especially including a half marathon, then you have not only gained valuable experiences in each of your prior races but your body has likely been able to develop properly to withstand the stress of endurance training/racing.

Training Phases – Base Building, Sharpening and Tapering

I believe that you should plan on about 18-20 weeks of base building training for your first full marathon (assuming that you have about 6 months of running experience and are currently running about 20 miles per week).  That means that you should build your weekly mileage slowly over about 17 weeks.  Once you’ve got a good base of miles behind you it may be time to start adding some speed work to your training.  During that phase you should begin slowly adding tempo runs for a few weeks and then add some intervals and hills (not at the same time).

Did you know?  Most estimates are that between 50 and 70% of all runners will experience an injury each year that will cause them to take time off from running!!!  Significant causes of injuries include trying too do to much too soon, not listening to their bodies properly, not adjusting training/racing intensity in relation to current weather conditions, etc.

In order to avoid become an injury statistic please consider your training approach.  You will find beginner training plans which start the Sharpening workouts quickly, and if you choose one of them the best advice I can give you is listen to your body.  While you can’t be a wimp and be an endurance athlete, you do need to learn the difference between a desire to have an easier workout and an indication that something needs attention.  The vast majority of running injuries are overuse injuries which do not happen quickly.

Some common questions asked by runners involved in a marathon training program are of the following type. “What happens if:

a) I miss a day because of illness or injury?
b) I need a rest day and my schedule calls for a hard day?
c) I missed a whole week of training?
d) My …….. hurts, should I run on it?

The answer to all of these questions is to learn to listen to your body and respond to its needs!

Skipping a day or a week will not cause you to fall into immediate decline. Do not feel guilty; your training plan is an outline for you to follow.  Adjust it as needed. Do not add the missed workouts or mileage into your future schedule.
If your body tells you that it needs a rest, listen to it.  If it seems to be telling you that often, then your training plan may too demanding for your current physical or emotional condition (other life stress can cause problem during your training).
If something is painful while running on it, that’s your body’s way of tell you that it’s being abused. Find out what’s causing it and make a change.

A major goal is to remain healthy, injury free and enjoy your running, not to rack up as many miles and consecutive days as you can.  If you have missed workouts, it may be necessary to drop back to an easier schedule for several days or weeks and then gradually return to the previous one.

Base Building Period:

Long Runs during your base building phase should be progressively longer long runs, likely on a weekend (preferably on the same day of the week as your goal race).  These are done at a very comfortable pace.  That pace is one during which you can hold a conversation without having to catch your breath between sentences and paragraphs.  Most people use to fast a pace during their long runs.  Think endurance here, not speed.

Weekly Runs during your base building phase should be done 3-5 times a week at a comfortable pace for you.  These distances should be fairly consistent each week and should be short runs of 3-6 miles, and getting longer throughout the base building period.

Once you’ve built a base of at least 40 miles a week during the base building you may be ready to slowly add Intervals, Tempo Runs and Hill Repeats to your training.

Sharpening Period:

Long Runs should continue to progress in length during this period to about 18-22 miles in length (will likely depend on the specific training plan you’re following).

Weekly Runs listed below are optional for a first marathon as adding them too soon will greatly increase the chance of being injured.  If you have been running consistently for a year or more you are likely ready to introduce them slowly into your training plan. Whenever you decide to introduce them you should be very careful to progress slowly as they will stress your body significantly more than your base building training runs.

Intervals are repetitions of a short distance which you run at a fast pace for you, with recovery jogs in-between. For example, you might run 4 X 800 intervals at a hard pace (800 meters = twice around a standard track and is about a half mile), with a quarter mile (once around a standard track) of slow jogging and/or walking between repeats, then you do it over again for a total of 4 times.  You can also do the intervals on a road if a track isn’t available. You should not be able to speak in sentences without taking a breath between words during this type of workout.  These workouts usually start with a 10-15 minute warm up jog and are followed by a 10-15 minute cool down jog.

Tempo Runs are longer training runs than intervals and vary in length depending on where you are in your training. Tempo runs are run at a pace which is often called comfortably hard (a comfortable and hard pace may not make sense to you right now perhaps, but it should be at a pace which will allow you to speak a sentence before having to take a breadth, but not a paragraph.  It is a pace which you can sustain for the entire tempo workout.  These workouts usually start with a warm up mile or two and end with a cool down mile or two.

Hill Repeats are intervals done on available hills. They should be done occasionally on alternate weeks from the Intervals.  Start slowly and work up to longer hills and faster speeds.  The first few Hill Repeats should be run on moderate hills and may only last for 10-15 seconds. They are run at a moderate pace and are followed by a jog back down to recover.  Hill Repeats are excellent conditioning runs but you need to increase distance and speed very gradually.

The biggest challenges to marathon training are: 1) staying healthy, 2) continuing to make progress in conditioning, endurance and speed, and 3) staying motivated.

Tapering Period:

The final phase of training is tapering or resting prior to the race. Research has shown that most marathoners state their race over-trained. The Taper Period is important to maximize performance.  The amount of rest you will need is related to the amount of weekly mileage you’ve reached. Beginners and runners with low mileage will take longer to recover. The key to tapering is reducing the distance of the long run with the last long run occurring about three weeks prior to the race.  The mid-week mileage is reduced about two weeks prior to the race.  Mileage is initially reduced to about 75% of the recent high week’s mileage and then reduced again the following week to about 50%.  No long run should be done the weekend prior to the race. If you’d been doing some speed-work in the preceding weeks, then a small amount is beneficial during the week before the race.  Please note that this drastic reduction in training mileage, and perhaps intensity, may have side effects.  Many get edgy during this phase.  Please resist the urge to go for another long run or hard sharpening workout. Running a few easy runs of 10-30 minutes can take the edge off.

Fall Marathons

When training for a fall marathon you’ll start training during the summer with the heat and humidity (the humidity is highest in the mornings when the heat is the lowest).  Please pay special attention to hydration (not just water), prolonged sun exposure (use sunscreen) and protect your eyes with sunglasses.  These are all serious issues to deal with and extreme caution is important.  In extreme heat and humidity adjust your training paces and perhaps your distances.  DO NOT try to run the same distances and at the same paces during these periods.  And don’t do it in your races either.  You should be slowing down with each 5 degree increase of temperature above 65 degrees.

Spring Marathons

When training for a spring marathon you’ll start in the winter and may have to deal with extremely cold weather and ice.  Many people training for a spring marathon are taking some of the training inside to a treadmill occasionally.  I personally avoid this as much as possible, but I admit that it’s a much better alternative than skipping a number of runs due to ice and extreme cold.  BTW – our race offers free training runs, starting no later than in December for our marathon which is on the last Sunday in April (new date starting in 2014).  We will post information about those free training runs on our Facebook page.

Training Frequency

How often should you train each week?  That’s a difficult one for me to answer for you as it requires knowledge of your: age, health, past athletic activities, current physical conditioning, motivation, available time, etc.  In general, 3-5 times per week is the number of days which most people train on the roads/trails.  On most of the other days you should be cross training, paying special attention to your core (front, sides and lower back) and upper body (especially your mid and upper back, neck and shoulders).  The other equally important parts of your training plan are: rest (including sufficient amounts of sleep), nutrition and hydration.  Please DO NOT think of your training plan as only the time actually spent running, as so many people do!

A Total System Approach

Many people think that training is all about getting their legs, heart and lungs stronger by building endurance and perhaps speed.  Well, that’s part of it, but there are many other adaptations which must take place inside your body and which you can not see happening.  Since this isn’t an anatomy lesson, I’m not going to discuss them here, but strong legs and heart muscles and healthy lungs are not enough to get you to the finish line (or likely anywhere near it for many people).  The important advice here is that you should increase training effort (speed), duration and distance in small steps (about 10% per week) so that all of the necessary adaptations can occur before you stress your body even more.  A little stress each week is exactly what you are aiming for, as it is the stress which is helping you improve your conditioning and speed.  Too little stress and there’s little to no improvement.  Too much stress and you’re likely heading to burnout and/or injury!

The information below is from an article on the REI website at: http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/training-for-your-first-marathon.html

Some great online resources with marathon training plans are http://halhigdon.com and http://runnersworld.com. There are many others.

Rest and Recovery

The final part of any smart marathon training plan is rest. Don’t underestimate the importance of this element. Most runners are happier and less injury-prone with a few rest days built in to each week.

Rest days mean no running. They let your muscles recover from taxing workouts and help prevent mental burnout. The greatest enemy of any aspiring marathoners is injury, and the best protection against injury is rest.

If you are itching to do something active on your rest days, doing some cross-training is a great option. Cross-training can include walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, yoga, lifting weights, or any other active pursuit that isn’t as high-impact as running.

In the last couple of weeks leading up to your marathon, scale back significantly on overall mileage and difficulty of your runs to let your body rest up for race day. This is called tapering, and it’s absolutely crucial to preparing your body to be in tip-top shape to cover the distance.

Hydration

Nearly all marathons include water and aid stations along the way. The best advice for race day—especially if you don’t plan to carry any of your own water—is to stop at every one of the tables for a few seconds and gulp down some water and, when available, sport drinks that replace sodium and electrolytes.

If you do plan to carry some of your own water on race day, buy a hydration pack or belt long in advance and get accustomed to running with it. Never try something new on race day.

While training, of course, you will be doing plenty of long runs without the benefit of aid stations. Several tried-and-true techniques to consider:

  • Carry your own water, using a hydration pack or belt, or with handheld bottles
  • Do long runs on a short loop course, so you can stash water in one spot along the way.
  • Plot your long run route to pass water fountains (but during colder months, make sure that they’re turned on).
  • Stash water bottles along your route the night or morning before your run.

Fueling

You’ve probably heard about the phenomenon many marathoners experience right around the 20-mile mark, commonly called “hitting the wall” or “bonking.” Your body can only store so much glycogen – its primary source of energy during the marathon. As this level gets depleted over the course of your marathon, your muscles will begin to tire and feel heavy. While no amount of fuel consumption during the race can entirely replace your depleted glycogen, consuming small amounts of carbohydrates can help prevent you from hitting the dreaded wall.

Energy gels or chews are the easiest to carry and often easiest to digest – but a few pieces of fruit or an energy bar can also do the trick. For any run over 2 hours, aim to take in about 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour.

As with everything, make sure to test out various types of fuel on your training runs to see what your stomach tolerates best, so you can fuel confidently on race day.

I hope that you find the info above helpful in planning for your first full marathon.

I would be happy to be a sounding board for general questions regarding training.  Please remember, there are also PTs available on this blog which you should utilize whenever you have a question about physical issue, which you may experience from time to time during your training.

I look forward to your questions and comments on training.  I will do my best to give you helpful advice; however I likely will not be able to give you specific training advice since I don’t have enough information about you.  I am not taking on additional students so this isn’t meant to be a recruiting pitch in any way. In fact, you don’t need to be training for The New Jersey Marathon in order to ask questions on this blog.

Best wishes,

Joe


Joe Gigas
Certified Endurance Running Coach
Race Director, The New Jersey Marathon

Nutrition During Endurance Training and Racing

There is a lot of info to go through and I’d like to get to the basics for you right away, and from there you can research more information, if you care to.   Not only is the topic important, but it’s not easy to present it in a simple “do this” format which you can then take to the table.

It’s likely easier to list what not to do, and as helpful as that may be, it still will not tell you what to do instead.

What to eat? How much to eat?  When to eat?  Important questions!

BTW – what, when and how much to drink is also important.  I put that into the Hydration bucket and do not plan to spend much time on that important topic here, but do not forget about it to concentrate only on nutrition during your training and racing.  This is a good topic for it’s own post.  Stay tuned.

Endurance athletes need to eat the right foods in the proper quantities and at the proper times in order to perform their best.

That statement holds true for the beginner, the intermediate, the advanced and the elite athlete.  There is no way around it, we need good fuel to perform at our best (and hydration also).

What should we eat? Real food (more about that below)!!!!

How much should we eat? Enough to power us through our workout and no more, and when that’s not possible we need to supplement our nutrition with  helpful additions – more about that below).  More calories are not always better as excess calories may cause stomach problems and weight gain (BTW – excessive dieting can cause fat to be stored also and should be avoided.) For those trying to loose weight a slight calorie deficit each day is fine, but don’t overdue it in an attempt to loose weight too fast or your energy to finish your workouts may suffer.  If that happens you”ll need to adjust you daily intake of calories to take into account your reduced exercise time/intensity.

Yes, it’s a continuous balancing act. Figure out how many daily calories you need for your weight, current exercise duration and intensity and then adjust that number whenever your weight, fitness level or your exercise intensity and/or duration changes.  This is not a static number over time and you will have to make adjustments as you get more fit or you reduce your training, e.g., just prior to or after a big race.  Forget to make the adjustment to daily total calories and you’ll see it on the scale.

When should we eat?

  • Short run/race = less than 60 minutes – you may be able to get by without eating prior to the workout/race, but you may hinder performance a bit if you do (the same goes for hydration also – plain water will be fine unless in heat and humidity).
  • Middle distance run/race = 60 t0 90 minutes – you need to eat something prior to your training run/race and hydrate with an electrolyte replacement drink during it.
  • Long run/race = more than 90 minutes – eat  1.5 to 2 hours before long runs/races, during the long run/race and soon after the finish (carbs and protein within the first 30 minutes (may be in the form or a shake, post event recovery drink, chocolate milk, etc. (depends on what your body will tolerate best) and a full meal within 2 hours is optimal).

Those are the high level plans and here are some specifics:

What type of real food? Whole foods (not processed) for the vast majority of what you eat. Indulge your craving once in awhile if you must, but not before a hard workout or a race.  Wait until after the workout or race if/when you must have that treat.

Carbohydrates: Not all carbs are  equal.  They are broken down into two general groups (slow acting and fast acting). Opt for slow acting during your regular meals, and use the fast acting types for a quick burst of energy prior to the start, during and right after you finish your training/racing.

Unsaturated Fats: Make sure that your fats are mostly of the unsaturated type.  The Mono and Poly-unsaturated fats should have a leading place in your diet.  Don’t cut out Saturated fats all together, just keep them as the smallest amount.

Lean Proteins: This doesn’t only mean meat. Eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, etc. are good sources of lean proteins. Protein can be consumed without eating meat or eggs,  as long as you eat a varied diet which provides all of the protein you will need.

The next question is how much to eat? The answer to that will depend upon your size and activity level.  Obviously if you’re a 190 pound male or a 110 pound female the answer will be quite different for you both. If you’re very active or desk bound most days, the answer will be quite different also.

How many total calories should you eat per day?   If you get the total number incorrect you’ll likely either be eating too much or too little.  Either way, your performance will suffer and likely your motivation as well.

Page 4 of the RunnersWorld.com article below will help you determine your daily total calorie needs.  Here’s the link: http://www.runnersworld.com/sites/default/files/NutritionGuide_0.pdf

Once you know your specific total daily nutritional requirement here’s some general guidelines on how to break that down into the three food groups:

Slow Acting Carbs: 55-65% of your daily calories
Unsaturated Fats: 20-35% of your daily calories
Lean Proteins: 10-35% of your daily calories

The Nutrition Guide in Runner’s World has a lot of good information on all of this, including hydration, which will be helpful in getting this important information laid out for you.  The link is above.

Further research into the topic:

Here’s a link to general nutrition inf0 on RunnersWorld.com: http://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-weight-loss/nutrition-runners

Here’s another link to a helpful article on Active.com : http://beta.active.com/cycling/articles/the-3-keys-of-an-effective-training-nutrition-plan

All of this can be a bit much, and if so, then please ask questions and I’ll do my best to answer whenever possible, Please note that I’m not a nutritionist. However, I’m an experienced athlete and a certified endurance running coach. Rest assured, if your question is beyond my general knowledge I’ll  refer you to a nutritionist.

I look forward to your comments and questions!

Joe
RRCA Certified Endurance Running Coach

Training and racing on hills

The following is an introduction to hill training (both uphill and downhill) and is not intended to be a complete discussion of the topic.

About me: I am the race director of races on relatively flat courses (gently rolling at most).  I am a certified endurance running coach. I am a runner who trains all summer in Sedona, AZ (only hills). I am a long distance hiker (last long trek was two weeks through the Alps with a backpack). I am a former professional alpine skier.

As you can imagine from the last three statements, I spend a lot of time on hills, and not just occasionally training on them. In fact, in the summer I spend almost four months on hills without any flat ground training, even during long runs.  I love it (not so much when I’m actually doing it, but I love the results)!

Even if you live in a flat area like the Jersey Shore there are hills around if you look for them.  For example, in Monmouth County, I have done lots of hill work in Holmdel Park and in Hartshorne Woods in particular.

There are a number of good races (5Ks to half marathons) in NJ that have hills in them.

Why train on hills when most of the races aren’t very hilly?  Because they are great places to train to get stronger and faster and they provide more good training in a shorter amount of time  than on the flat (not necessarily for long runs but for other types of training).  If you want to get stronger and faster, hills are a good choice and in my opinion a good way to keep a training plan fresh.

OK, so how should training on hills be done?

UPHILL TRAINING

Beginning runners and runners/walkers:  Don’t do them yet.  You need to build a base of miles run during which your body will make the necessary and normal adaptations required.  This base building phase should last for at least 3-4 months.  You can and should enter races during this time to get familiar with race day and to use them as a way to measure progress.  These races should be at an easy pace (you should be able to hold a conversation while running – take walk breaks if you need to).

Intermediate runners and runners/walkers: Start slowly and build slowly. For example, as a starting point: after a 10-15 minute warm-up jog do 1 set of five, seven, ten and twelve second easy uphill runs (see the posture and effort level below) and walk back down to recover.  If your still feeling strong after the twelve second run, rest a minute and do them all again. Finish with a 10-15 minute cool-down jog.

Here’s how to progress:

The 2nd week: repeat the start plan (above) a couple of times,

The 3rd week: after a 10-15 minute warm-up jog  do 2 sets of 10, 15, and 20 second easy uphill runs (see the posture and effort level below) and walk back down to recover. Finish with a 10-15 minute cool-down jog.

The 4th week: repeat the 3rd week plan.

The 5th week: repeat the 3rd week plan and add two 30 second easy uphill runs (see the posture and effort level below) and walk back down to recover. Finish with a 10-15 minute cool-down jog.

The 6th week: after a 10-15 minute warm-up jog  do 2 sets of 20, 25, and 30 second easy uphill runs (see the posture and effort level below) and walk back down to recover. Finish with a 10-15 minute cool-down jog.

Here’s my best advise regarding posture: look up (not at your feet – keep your head up either level or slightly up), run tall, bend forward slightly at the ankles, take short quicker steps, keep your arm swing more compact.  Practice pushing off from your toes to move upward (it feels a bit like bounding up the hill).  Please note: This can tire your ankles and calves (don’t do it if you’ve been having calf or heal pain –  in fact don’t do them at all if you’re having pain in your lower legs – unless you get the OK from your PT).

Here’s the part which so many people don’t do:  go up the hill at a speed which feels ABOUT the same effort level as you were feeling prior to the hill (YES, that means that you are going to slow down as you go up the hill).  It will likely feel harder on your legs but it should NOT make your heart race and you should not get out of breath.  Slow down a bit if that starts happening to you.

Some of you may ask how will I ever get faster doing that?  Good question!  Running by perceived effort is a good way for many of you to train because as you get more fit you’ll automatically be running faster to maintain the same effort level!!  BTW- that applies to training during your long runs also.

Advanced runners and runners/walkers: If you haven’t already incorporated hill training into your training schedule, you should start relatively conservatively also (although at a higher level than an Intermediate would).  Maintain your good posture and start with four to six 30 second uphill repeats (walk or jog back down to recover).  Add 5-10 seconds to the uphill portion each week.     You should not let yourself get completely out of breath at the end of your run up the hill. At the top of the run your breathing should be labored and your legs will likely feel heavy.  If that didn’t happen to you then add speed to your next hill repeats until you get to that state and can maintain it for the entire workout.

Let’s start with those uphill training thoughts so that this doesn’t get to be too much info all at once.

DOWNHILL TRAINING

Now, on to the fun part,  the downhill!  Sure, I just told you to slow down on the uphill part (feel like a similar effort to the flat), and now I’m planning to tell you to go fast on the downhill part.  It’s free speed! Why not take advantage of it wherever possible, even on small inclines like the ones on the Long Branch Half Marathon and New Jersey Marathon courses?  They are they, just look for them.

Please note: Downhill running can cause injury if done incorrectly or repeatedly.  Don’t plan on doing repeated fast runs downhill. I suggest that you find the most relaxed way of running downhill without pain.  “Relaxed” is the key word, and have some fun doing it at the same time.  My fun is putting a bit of excitement into that part of the run/race, yours may be something else.

Remember those short quick steps that I mentioned in going up the hill, use them again on the downhill sections.  Now, as a skier I’m used to pushing my hips forward a bit in order to stand perpendicular to the hill as it tilts away from me, and so should you when running down the hill.  If you’re not used to that feeling it can feel a bit strange, but what I’m really asking you to do is to stand in the same posture as you would when running on the flat.  Really!  It just feels like I’m asking you to risk falling on your face as it’s a new feeling perhaps but I’m really not asking you to run on your toes, just on the middle of your foot.

BTW – You will not likely make up the time which you lost in the uphill section, but you will make up a good portion of it if you go as fast as you can down the hill.  Remember, there is lots of good training effect from running downhill properly also.  Different muscles will be used and they will be used more than normal.  Less time, more results!  What’s not to like?

Pay attention to your posture as you practice running down the hill.  Keep you feet under your hips (don’t lean back and push your fee out in front of you (over stride) in order to stay at a slow pace down the hill. If you try to apply the breaks with your quads, heels and knees you will trash your quads and knees on the downhill sections, especially if it is a long downhill or if there are a number of them!  If I feel constant tightness in my quads on the downhill that’s when I know that my form is off and I need to push my hips forward a little more in order to get back into my normal stance (stop resisting the speed).

One other important thing about the downhill training portion is that as you increase the number of steps you take each minute you will be training yourself to change cadence during your run.  A faster cadence will increase your speed.

I have to admit that I am sometimes a bit uncomfortable with the amount of speed during my downhill sections and especially during the first few weeks of my run and my bike cross training in Sedona, but that’s how I know that I’m doing it right.  BTW – even when going fast down the hill, if I breath normally (don’t hold my breath), I can get in quite a bit of recovery during the decent (both running and biking).

Speaking of training, if you cross train on a bike, make sure that you’re increasing your cadence to 90-100 rpm (stay out of the hard gears and get those feet moving quickly).   Little things like this will help you get faster and change up your training a bit also.

When doing hill training, don’t do hill repeats more than once a week. Try mixing up the hills you try –- some short and steep, and other longer ones with a smaller incline.

Now, what questions do you have for me about this?  BTW – If it occurs to you, it very likely is occurring to others as well, so ask.

Joe

Post Race Recovery Planning

Here are some of the questions I often get from runners in general after their races (my students know the answers to these questions prior to their races).

Q1) What should I be doing/not doing during the post race period to enhance my recovery!
Q2) When can I start running again, how often should I run and how far?
Q3) When can I start doing speed/hill workouts again?
Q4) How soon can I run my next race?

Unfortunately I can only give you generic guidelines as everyone is different and I don’t know anything about you.  Generic guidelines are sure not to be exactly right for anyone, but here goes! As with almost all of these questions there are many variables to consider, such as:

1) how long have you been running?
2) how much of a mileage base do you have?
3) which race did you just run?
4) how hard did you run it – are you a completer or are you competitive with others or with yourself?
5) have you run other races recently?
6) how old are you? etc.

BTW – “run” above also may apply to run/walk intervals as well, but the lingering effect of that technique is not usually as long lasting as a long run/race with 100% running.

Half Marathoners (25 miles per week peak mileage, running for less then 1 year).  I’d suggest to take off 1 day for each mile run – that’s about 2 weeks before starting any serious running. Get plenty of sleep, hydrate well at all times, eat a healthy diet with emphasis on quality protein, carbs and fiber and the good fats, AND cut down on the portions! You may feel tired and sore for the first few days (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – DOMS).  Avoid sick people as much as possible during this period.  You may also feel low/slightly depressed (that’s normal as your body has been trained to expect exercise regularly, and you don’t have a big, bad scary goal in front of you any longer!). If you don’t have DOMS, you feel good in a couple of days, please err on the side of caution. Once the soreness is gone, think about a fun run of a few miles, but don’t set a mileage or pace goal (20 minutes is a good place to start), and leave your distance and pace calculator at home or off!  If this run doesn’t feel like fun, take a couple of more days off and try it again.  When the joy of running has returned, add another fun run after a couple of days off.  Repeat until every one of these runs are easy and fun and you’re neither sore nor tired afterward.  This process should only take you a week or two.  However, if the joy of running doesn’t come back then look for a reason and make a change.  If you usually run alone, find a group or a buddy to run with, but only if you can run at your slow recovery pace with them (it’s not the time to show off by trying to run fast as they may not be in recovery mode). Choose a different route or run your favorite route backwards, etc. Pay attention to your mental state also.

Full Marathoners (35-40 miles per week peak mileage, running for less than 2 years). I’d suggest to take off 1 day for each mile run – that’s about 4 weeks before starting any serious running. Get plenty of sleep, hydrate well at all times, eat a healthy diet with emphasis on quality protein, carbs and fiber and the good fats, AND cut down on the size of the portion! You will likely have Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – DOMS for a few days. Some people enjoy light yoga and/or a message can help and both is even better (be careful of deep tissue work yet – the second week could be time to keep the blood flowing into the the damaged areas). You have a high likelihood of becoming ill as your immune system may be significantly weakened.   Avoid group settings as much as possible and wash your hands often.  The most important thing is to be aware of the increased possibility and try to avoid situations which will expose you to the greatest risk. Once you can walk normally and are not tired, likely after the following weekend (for a Saturday or Sunday race), think about a fun run of a few miles, but don’t set a mileage or pace goal and leave your distance and pace calculator at home or off (20 minutes is about right).  If this doesn’t feel like fun, take a couple of more days off and try it again.  When the joy of running has returned, add another fun run after a couple of days off.  Repeat until every one of these runs are easy and fun and you’re neither sore nor tired afterward.  This process should only take you a couple of weeks, but could take longer.  If the joy of running doesn’t come back then look for a reason and make a change.  I.e., if you usually run alone, find a group or a buddy to run with, but only if you can run at your slow recovery pace with them (it’s not the time to show off by trying to run fast as they may not be in recovery mode). Choose a different route or run your favorite route backwards, etc.  Pay attention to your mental state also, as that could need attention also.

Experienced athletes:  Specific questions should be posted here and I’ll do my best to answer them. For more experienced people which I train, their recovery, after about a week for a marathoner, usually looks a lot like a reverse taper (the reverse of the last three weeks of their training plan). I hope that answers most of your questions, but if not please let me know.

Remember, I don’t know anything about you and therefore can only give generic guidelines. My experience, my professional ethics and my professional insurance will not allow me to provide specific coaching advise as it is not possible for me to know the best answer for you without having spent time observing your training over an extended period of time. However I can provide the range of possibilities which I have seen work for many different athletes, if that is helpful to you in formulating your plan.

So, how long before I can do speed/hill work again and when can I start training for my next race?  I’m glad that you may be thinking about this already, as that’s a good sign.  I would wait until the end of the 2 or 4 weeks to start anything like that. Can some people start up sooner, sure.  I’d err on the side of caution as you want the repair process to complete before you start the stresses again. Done improperly, you will eventually break down, as this stress is cumulative, and with it you may get injured in a seemingly instantaneous manner, when in fact the injury is the result of the cumulative effect of over training for a number of weeks/months. If you plan to generally follow my advise then start your intervals, tempo runs, hill repeats gently and add to them slowly while listening to your body.

I hope that’s not too much info at once.  In summary, don’t worry about temporary muscle soreness as it will go away, expect to get back into running slowly, don’t be surprised if you feel a bit down, watch out for the effects of a temporarily impaired immune system, and sleep, hydrate, eat in proportion to your reduced activity level.  You should be ready to get back into it within the guidelines.  BTW – you have attained a relatively high state of physical conditioning, and a few well chosen weeks of rest and easy running will not put your back at the beginning in training for your next race.

Congratulations and best wishes,

Joe