Monday, July 29, 2013

Creating Marathon Fitness Building Blocks - A Training Update

My weekly mileage progression
With this past week in the books, I've wrapped up the first week in the next phase of my marathon training cycle - the general build phase.  In this phase, the focus is still on adding volume as it was in the base phase, but more importantly, starting to progress into more marathon specific workouts.  Training for a marathon is a process of patience, persistence, and letting go of your ego.  The best laid training plans can go awry with the snap of the fingers if you don't incorporate all three of those elements.

- Patience: The marathon training cycle is a long time (typically 4-5 months), so you need to make steady progress, one workout at a time.  Jumping in too deep before it is safe can lead to overuse injuries and setbacks.  There is such a thing as training too much too soon or too hard/fast.  This often results in fitness peaking well before your goal race, leaving you exhausted and flat by the time you get to the start line.  Patience always rewards those who let their fitness come to them.

- Persistence: Training for marathon is tough - there's no doubt about that.  Fatigue sets in pretty quickly after you've been at it for 4-6 weeks, as the cumulative toll starts to eek into your body.  This is good though, because your body adapts and gets stronger.  So you do eventually get used to the "always tired" feeling, but it takes some persistence to keep yourself going.  Its easy to take extra days off when you feel fatigued, but that takes away from your training.  Fatigue is normal, pain is not.  Know the difference.  You want to be persistent, but not injured.

- Lose the ego: One of my favorite sayings is "Your ego is not your amigo".  Don't fool yourself into thinking you are fitter, faster, injuryproof, etc.  When things are going well and you feel the fitness starting to pick up, it is way too easy to keep pushing.  But know that your ego is the one tell you to keep going farther, further, faster, not your body.  Eventually it all catches up.  If not now, then later, but know that it does.  Stick to your plan or consult your coach if you think you should be increasing your workload.  In most cases, you probably should just stay the course (ie have patience).

Now as I mentioned in my last training post, I had laid out some short term goals to get me through the initial base phase of training. Let's review those goals and see how I did:

Short term goals:
1) Slowly increase weekly volume to a sustainable (for me) level in the low to mid 50s
In the past month, I've shown a steady progression, where I moved from 47 mi/wk up to 52.  I would have liked to get that number a bit higher, but life got in the way, so I had to take a few unexpected days off.  I still had 3 weeks of 50+ miles, so I'm right where I need to be.  This past week, as my first week of building, I was up to 58 miles with no extra fatigue, so I can tell I was ready to start this phase.
2) Run consistently 6-7 days/week to get into the routine to support higher volume
I've run at least 6, but typically 7 runs in every week over the last 7 weeks.  This has worked out to 6 days of running, with 1 double.  In this next phase, I'll likely be running 7 days a week as my body allows, but one of those days will simply be a 30 minute easy run as my rest day.
3) Add one double run per week on the same day as speedwork
As noted above, I've been doing a double on my speedwork days.  This means I do an easy 4-5 miles in the early morning, followed by my speedwork in the evening.  There are a bit more than 12 hours between workouts, so it is actually a pretty large gap.  No different than doing an evening workout followed by a morning run.  This has worked well and hasn't impacted my ability to nail my paces or leave me overly fatigued the next day.
4) Gradually begin incorporating more dedicated strength routines following hard workouts (2x/week)
I always do my strength routines after speedwork, so that is good for 1x/week.  I occasionally do a 2nd dedicated strength routine later in the week, but more often, I do a little bit of this and a little bit of that at different times throughout every day.  For example, while brushing my teeth, I often do single leg stands/squats.  What I am doing right now is ok, but I need to make time for a 2nd dedicated strength workout.  I know it will help me be a better runner.
5) On easy days following each run, incorporate 5-10 minutes of mobility to aid bloodflow/recovery
This has actually been one of the harder items to achieve, simply because I haven't had the time to always do this.  Because most of my easy runs are done in the morning, once I step through the door, it is usually a rush to shower and get everyone ready to head back out the door and onto work/daycare.  Doesn't leave much wiggle room.  When I do have the time, I have done the mobility work or done it later in the day.  So for this one, I am still getting it done, just not right after my runs.

So as you can see, I was able to exit that phase of training while hitting pretty much all of my short term goals.  Because of that, I've been able to pretty easily transition into this next build phase.  The 58 miles I ran this past week, seemed easier than some of the early weeks in the base phase.  This included 2 weekday workouts and an 18 mi long run, so it had a fair bit of quality in there.  I'm hitting that point where the patience and persistence early on in my training has paid off.  I just have to let my ego keep its thoughts to itself while I progress like I planned.  So as I continue down the road to longer and more challenging workouts, I hope to feel the same way as I do right now.  Stay tuned...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Get Up, Get Out - A Minimalist Guide to Early Morning Running

If the thought of waking up in the morning when the hour hand starts with a 3 makes you quiver, it might surprise you that I too felt the same way.  But life has a funny way of putting things in perspective.  With busy work schedules between my wife and I, along with our future runner, my perspective of what is considered "early" has drastically changed.  Early morning running has become my normal, because I made it my normal through repetition and gradual transition.  But it wasn't always that easy, trust me.

There are lots of help articles and recommended guidelines for people to "become a morning runner", but at the end of the day, no number of guidelines will get your butt out the door if you don't have the motivation.  I assume since most of you looking to get your runs accomplished first thing in the morning happen to be pretty motivated in general, we'll skip that step.  If you aren't motivated, then maybe its time to assess why you workout and/or what your goals are.

So going back to the simple act of being a morning runner...there are lots of reasons why one would want to make this a regular part of your weekly routine.  Here are just a few:

- No distractions: You get your run in while the rest of the world is sleeping, so you have the trails to yourself.  No issues with work pulling a fast one just as you are ready to head home and lace up, or having to take care of any house chores.  When you create time by waking up early, it is YOUR time.

- Glycogen depletion: All of my morning runs are done in a fasted state to take advantage of the benefits of glycogen depletion.  Studies show that training in a fasted state on low glycogen can increase fat oxidation and enhance metabolic adaptations in skeletal muscle.  Why not get some additional adaptations, while saving yourself some time?

- No food worries: This goes with the point above, since you don't have to think about what to eat.  And trust me, you don't need to eat anything, unless you are going really long (20+ mi) or racing.  This also means fewer digestive issues.

- Start the day with a kick of endorphins: I've never regretted getting out for a morning run.  As hard as it might be to get out there, the reward once you are done is always worth it.  You feel better about yourself knowing you've already accomplished something and the day has only just begun.

- Clothing choices are easier: Aside from dressing appropriately for the weather, when its dark, nobody cares that you're wearing those neon orange hot pants, or that fugly race shirt you'd never sport in public.  Save the "fashion" running clothes for the daytime.  When its early in the morning, you can rock whatever you want*.

 *Obviously, safety is the top priority, so aside from the awful looking clothes you might be wearing, you'd be smart to wear some type of Reflective Vest, Color
 and/or a Headlamp.  I typically wear both.  Plus my RoadID.

- Time passes faster: It may have to do more from the fact that your focus is on where your foot is next landing since your surroundings are black, but I find time passes way faster when I run in the dark.

So now that we all know several of the reasons why we should run early, how do you do it in a simple, minimal way:

Get Up, Get Out  

That's my mantra and I firmly believe it gives you the best odds of accomplishing your morning run.  Some people like to toil around on the web, eat a snack, make coffee, etc.  All that time spent gives you lots of easy excuses to never leave the house.  If you want coffee, and sometimes I do, I set a timer for it to brew before I wake, or use some extra from the previous day, or make some before bed.  No time should be wasted.  My routine has me out the door within 15 minutes of my alarm going off.  Yes, you read that right.  16 minutes before I take my 1st running step, I was sleeping.  Here's how:

Get up 
When your alarm goes off, get up immediately without snoozing.  I don't have any hard numbers on this, but I'm willing to bet that more than 50% of morning run attempts are fails due to the infamous snooze.  Get up, brush your teeth, put on your clothes that you laid out the night before, and do some quick dynamic stretching to wake up your body.

Get Out
Once you are out the door, odds of you turning back are already much lower.  You've now committed to the run.  If you need to do any more warm up drills, do them outside, leaving you less likely to turn back.  Otherwise, best be on your way toward being awesome while the rest of the world is sleeping.


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