Saturday, April 9, 2011

Training for a marathon

I am training for my second marathon.  I have changed what I am doing this year from what I did last year.  Looking back, my training last year was very unstructured.  I think that was fine for last year because my goal was simply to finish the marathon.  However this year I have created a detailed week by week training plan.  Much of the running that I did last year could be called junk miles in the new program.  Junk miles is a common term for miles that are run just for the sake of getting in more miles.  This year, every mile has a purpose and fits into “the big picture”.  Every minute spent training is time spent towards achieving my goal.

An indispensable part of my training is my Garmin 310XT.  The heart rate monitor allows me to precisely pace myself on all my runs.  It has a GPS which accurately measures distance.  But more than that it easily allows me to keep detailed records of all the runs that I do.  This is very helpful to look over a week or month at a glance and get an idea of how the training is going.

There are essentially 5 types of runs that I am doing.

1. Warm up
Probably speaks for itself.  But last year I did little if any warming up.  As a general rule of thumb, the shorter and more intense the workout is the longer the warm up should be.
2. Distance
I do a long distance workout once a week only.  It is probably my most damaging workout, and leaves me fairly sore.  It essentially trains my aerobic systems to use energy more efficiently.
3. Tempo
A tempo run is a fast paced run which is run near your anaerobic threshold.  They are designed to increase anaerobic threshold (otherwise known as lactic acid threshold). 
4. Interval
High intensity interval training can create large gains in cardiorespiratory fitness in a short amount of time.  Simplified, it’s the ability of my lungs to take in oxygen, and the ability of my body to deliver the oxygen to my cells.
5. Recovery
A common misconception is that a recovery run lets you recover faster.  In fact, recovery runs are training runs during your recovery period.  They force you to exercise in a pre-fatigued state.  Your muscles must adapt in new ways (recruitment of more fibers).
Another thing that I am doing is to schedule a series of smaller races leading up to the marathon.  The most significant of these is the Hidden Treasures Half Marathon in September.  However there are a few more local races that I am doing as well.

Note on stretching:
Most of the recent evidence suggests that stretching is of no use to runners, and could actually decrease running efficiency. http://www.scienceofrunning.com/2009/08/stretching-is-it-useless.html

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