For those that are following a training plan, the words and numbers outlined week by week rule your life and most likely lead to more questions than answers. If those words and numbers could talk, here are the three things they would tell you about marathon training.
What you do between runs can have a bigger impact on your training than you think
This may sound a little dramatic, but often times when people think about trying to improve their running, they only think about the running itself. Most will equate running more and harder with improved performance and while there is truth in this, there’s another side to the equation. For improved performance, it matters what you do during the other 22 hours a day. It’s important to understand that you don’t immediately get faster from the hard tempo runs or interval sessions. Directly following a hard workout, your fitness actually decreases. It’s only after a period of recovery or rebuilding that your fitness level surpasses its original state. This concept is called supercompensation. Things like sleep, nutrition and stress all have an effect on your body’s ability to recover or rebuild itself after a hard session and play a crucial role in performance improvement. Training plans rarely instruct you to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night, eat X carbs, X protein and make sure your life stress is low. If you find yourself struggling, before blaming the training plan take a look at what’s going on those other 22 hours of the day.
It’s not designed to incorporate other fitness routines
One of the more common scenarios I see with new clients who are training for a marathon is that they’ll still maintain their weekly crossfit, spin class, Orange Theory or any other physically demanding routine. While I’m not opposed to incorporating some of these activities in a marathon training cycle, it’s important to understand most training plans don’t take that additional training load into account. For most, just completing the prescribed runs is hard enough and adding more can tip the scale towards doing too much. Moreover, the timing of these additional fitness routines, especially more intense ones, such as CrossFit or Orange Theory, becomes extremely important. In general, I would make sure you have at least one to two low intensity days between each hard running day, which, in a training plan that calls for two to three days of hard running per week, makes it nearly impossible to fit everything in over a 7 day cycle.
You’re going to bomb some runs and it has no reflection on your fitness
Even when you feel everything is going well and you’re at your fittest, you’re going to have some really bad runs, runs that are going to cause you to question your fitness. You may find yourself saying, “Things were going so well, and I don’t know what happened. Am I getting worse?” Training plans never tell you about the emotional roller coaster that is marathon training. You’re going to have good times, followed by bad times, followed by average times. Never judge your fitness level off one or even two workouts, but the accumulation of workouts over months.