There are eight weeks until the Boston Marathon and we are in the heart of training. Weekly mileage is increasing, long runs are growing, and cumulative fatigue is making speed work even more challenging. All the hard work is stress on your body. The better your recovery, the harder you can train. If you haven’t started a recovery routine, it isn’t too late! Here is an introduction to recovery during marathon training (I plan to write about each technique with greater detail in the near future).
There are two kinds of recovery: active and passive. Active recovery means being active in a way that promotes recovery; it takes effort and/or planning on your part. Passive recovery means stillness and inactivity. Both types of recovery have a place in training.
Active recovery can take on many forms. An active recovery run can provide an opportunity to actively engage the soft tissue — muscles, tendons and ligaments — by promoting blood flow without the catabolic effect of over-stressing muscle fibers. Cross training, such as swimming or cycling, can also provide some of the same benefits. Yoga, stretching, foam rolling, and self massage are other examples of active recovery. There are many running specific tools – such as the bar I am using in picture on the right.
The most obvious example of passive recovery is a rest day– this means no running, cross training, or lifting. Sleep is another example of passive recovery and is often under estimated. During my highest weeks of mileage, I even sneak in naps on days I run twice or the afternoon following a long run. Getting a professional massage can reap huge benefits. One of my favorite passive recovery tools is an epsom salt bath. After a hard work out or long run I often do not feel like doing anything EXCEPT soaking in the tub!
Nutrition is also an important factor in recovery. Hydrating immediately after a run is important, even in cold temperatures. Water is often adequate, but depending upon temperature and effort, you may want to include some electrolytes as well. After long runs and hard efforts I make smoothies with protein powder. Incorporating certain foods such as fish oil, vitamin C, ginger and turmeric into your diet can help decrease inflammation.
I have to admit, I am lazy. I do NOT do everything I should do, especially when it comes to recovery but I have improved especially as I have increased my weekly mileage. You do NOT have to be perfect. Try to incorporate some sort of recovery into your training – something is better than nothing!
Do you have running goals? You should, they are important and act as a road map to your success. In his book, “Meb For Mortals”, he believes there are three things that determine your success as a runner: good goals, hard work, and commitment.
Here are some qualities of good goals:
It Should Have Personal Meaning – The goal should be something you want to achieve for yourself, not to meet someone else’s expectations. Just because you are a runner it does not mean you have to set a goal that is popular, such as running a marathon. The goal should represent you, it should not be about anyone else. When training gets tough, it will be difficult to persevere if you are not intrinsically motivated.
It Should Be Specific – Make sure your goal is clearly defined. For example, stating that you want to run more is not as specific as stating that you want to run five times a week.
It Should Be Challenging Yet Realistic – Goals should require you to reach outside of your comfort zone yet be attainable. Not everyone can qualify for Boston or run a sub 6 minute mile. Goals should require work to achieve them, but they should not be out of reach. Although it is important to dream big, we need to be realistic.
It Should Be Measurable – When setting a goal, it should answer the question, how much or how many, and also have a deadline. A great example of a measurable time goal is running a sub 30 minute 5k. Deadlines help prevent boredom and will help keep you motivated.
As you progress as a runner, so will your goals. My first marathon goal was to run a sub 4 hour marathon and in 2012, I ran 3:47 in the Marine Corps Marathon. In 2013 I targeted the Boston Qualifying time and ran a 3:15 in a local marathon. This spring I have a challenging goal of running sub 3 at Boston and then running in the Age Group World Championships at the London Marathon 6 days later.
Setting goals and running requires a bit of risk. Sometimes you are asking your body to do something it has never done before and that can be scary. Sometimes you just need to take a leap of faith and jump in with both feet!
“A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal written down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.”
I am running Boston, and I love this part of the training cycle. Despite the challenging weather, I love seeing my weekly mileage increase.
Your weekly mileage is the number of miles you run in each week and it is one of the most important parts of marathon training. Simply put, more mileage builds your aerobic system (your engine). The more you run, the better you get at it. You become more efficient, and use less energy per step. Just like anything else, the more you practice, the better you get!
The marathon is mainly an aerobic event, so the more your aerobic capacity you have, the better you will perform. The best way to do this is to run at an aerobic pace- which is your easy, relaxed pace. That is why I stress to my athletes, run your easy days easy!
So, for a marathon, how many weekly miles should you run? Anywhere between 25 and 125! Helpful, right? Personally, I peak at just over 100, but it took me years to get to that. I will also add, that is my PEAK mileage, not my average.
Everyone’s journey to the start line is different. When I help runners train, I look at their running history, training background, age, injury history, overall health, goals, and their personal responsibilities in order to determine what would be best for them. We are all individuals and our bodies work differently. I know I respond well to high mileage but some people cannot handle the pounding, nor do they have the time.
When determining your weekly mileage, take an honest look at your current level and time. Try to increase for 1 or 2 weeks, but then remember to have a recovery week. Just like we need easy days, we need easy weeks too!
Do you have questions about weekly mileage? Contact me.
“Build step by step. Push yourself, but not too hard. Learn. Keep it fun.” – Matt Fitzgerald
Coach Hodge here and the above quote is one of my favorites. It breaks down training into four simple principles.
So what does this mean? Build step by step – The ability to run improves with running, but it is not instantaneous. You stimulate improvement by running a little more or a little harder than you are used to. If you do too much too soon, you will break down.
Push Yourself, but not too hard – Hard work is rewarded in running, and it is the main path to improvement. You cannot improve without pushing yourself. Every runner has their limits though. It is important to respect your limits. If you push too much you risk over training or injury. Rest and recovery are just as important as specific workouts.
Learn – I have always been a student of the sport. I read online articles, books, and most importantly, I learn from other runners. Don’t stop learning. If you stop learning, you stop growing.
The last part, Keep it fun – This is the most important point Fitzgerald makes. Run with others, run solo; run roads, run trails. Try new routes. Splash in a puddle and find your inner child.