What would it look like if you went into a road race with endless amounts of usable energy? There are multiple reasons why some pre-planning and due diligence can save you multiple minutes during your next long distance race.
Is your running dragging you down into the dumps? Are you stuck in a serious plateau? If so (and you want to do something about it), you’ll want to change up how you think about training. Regardless of what race you might be training for, variation in what you do, how you do it, and even when you do it can be the difference between an average race and an awesome race! The more your training varies, the more your body has to adapt and the more your body adapts, the stronger and faster you will be. Continue reading
Properly Warm Up for a Race
Standing at the start line of your next race: would you prefer to be cold and stiff or warm and loose? The majority of runners could run faster during a race if they were properly warmed up. In my experience, I can’t tell you how many runners I’ve seen that are totally unprepared for a race – not because they haven’t done the training, but because they aren’t doing any kind of warm up before their race. Continue reading
Optimizing Your Racing Potential
Racing to your optimal performance level is complicated because there are so many factors that go into performing at a high level. A lot goes into running fast. It’s so much more than being physically prepared. I know a lot of runners who are in peak fitness shape and yet cannot perform to the level they’d hoped to have achieved. Why is that? Well, there are. Continue reading
Planning a Racing Season
Winter time is here. I hate running in the winter. I don’t enjoy being cold. Ever. Luckily, planning a racing calendar is something that motivates me to get out the door when it’s really cold, windy and truthfully, I’d rather be doing anything besides running outside.
When I’m building a race calendar, a lot of factors go into my decision. I often ask myself if the race is “worth” my time. Let’s break that down, as that phrase “worth it” is not intended to be elitist in any sense.
- Is the race helping me reach a goal?
- Does it fit into my life calendar?
- Is the price fair for the race distance/experience I’ll have?
After thinking about those questions, I look at whether the pros outweigh the cons. Even if a race passes the above tests, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll race it. Then I ask myself these questions:
- Am I in shape or out of shape?
- Do I feel like racing?
- Do I need to race for motivation or for another reason?
As you can see, I don’t just race to race. There are a lot of factors that go into deciding to race… Sometimes, I’ll go 4-5 months without racing. Why? There isn’t a need to or a race that satisfies all of my above qualifications!
Ok, so let’s say I’ve chosen a racing calendar. It has 4-5 races spread out throughout 3-4+ months. I’ve adjusted my training to focus specifically on the goal race and I work backward. What do I need to do in training to be at my best for the goal race? I focus on just the goal race as the other races are less important. They are crucial for me to do them, but not in the sense that I am looking to run a PR or a perfect race. In these non-peak races, I’m purely looking to work on strategies such as pacing, nutrition, and getting rid of nerves. That’s all they are there for!
When to back off even if I have a scheduled race on the calendar.
Numerous times to “skip” (ie. NOT RACE) even though a race is on my calendar:
- If an injury occurs during training
- If I don’t feel recovered from training or a race
- If my goal race has changed
- If something in my non-running life has come up
So many reasons to NOT race… Be picky. Be choosy. Figure out what’s important to you and why you’re always racing. Just know that you’re not going to get everything out of yourself if you race week in and week out over the course of 5 months. There’s little time to train effectively when each weekend there is a race. Good blocks of uninterrupted training will ultimately be the most rewarding and the best strategy to performing well in a select few race.
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The long run is considered one of the most important aspects of distance running training. A long run has a similar intensity to an easy or moderate day of running with the main difference being time spent on your feet. Long runs fit neatly into our training schedule and have numerous physiological, physical, and mental benefits that make this type of run one of the most important runs we do on a weekly basis.
Reasons for Doing Long Runs
The most important reason for a long run is to condition the muscles to delay the onset of fatigue. By doing this, the body must learn to physiologically tap into and utilize energy reserves from fat storage sites after the glycogen (fuel stores in the muscles, converted over from carbohydrate food sources) have been depleted. Through long run training, the capacity to store more glycogen within the muscles increases. An increase in glycogen stores translates into the ability to maintain one’s pace during the marathon and delay the onset of fatigue.
Besides delaying the onset of fatigue, long runs also work on strengthening the heart (increasing stroke volume) and open the capillaries, both sending energy to working muscles and flushing waste products from fatigued muscles. We can also see benefits physiologically in the increased number and size of mitochondria and increased myoglobin concentration in muscle fibers.
Finally, a distance runner should realize that not all long runs will be easy to complete. Bad patches will arise, and when they do, the better one can persevere through these stretches will develop the necessary mental toughness needed for racing.
Benefits of Long Runs
As a distance runner, there are numerous benefits that we can gain from doing our long runs. Most of these benefits are physiological benefits, such as cardiovascular adaptation, increased size and quantity of mitochondria, and increased use of fat as a fuel source. While others, like mental toughness, experience, and added mileage are both mental and physical benefits. Let’s go through each and see how they benefit us.
• Cardiovascular adaptation: By running more miles, we strengthen our heart and improve its ability to get oxygen-rich blood to our working muscles. While this happens during all running, it especially happens during the long run.
• Adaption of fast-twitch fibers: After roughly 90 minutes of continuous running, the slow twitch fibers that become depleted and our bodies switch to using fast twitch fibers. So in essence, long runs over 90 minutes also become a form of speed work.
• Increased size and quantity of mitochondria: Mitochondria are the powerhouse of cellular respiration – the ability to turn food into energy. Therefore, the bigger and more mitochondria we have, the better our engine will run.
• Increased number of capillaries and capillary density: Bigger capillaries mean we can carry more oxygen to our working muscles. More capillaries equal more oxygen, which means you can run faster and longer in an aerobic state.
• Increased glycogen storage: Muscle glycogen is the body’s primary source of fuel during exercise. Long runs teach your muscles to store more glycogen.
• Increased use of fat as a fuel source: Although fat is a less efficient source of fuel, the more your muscles can use it early in a race, the less likely they are to become depleted of muscle glycogen.
• Experience with long runs and glycogen depletion: You can gain a lot of experience from running for an extended period of time. The more you run log and to depletion, the more confident you’ll be that you can handle the discomfort in a race.
Ways to make a long run feel “easier”
• Hydrate before, during and after races.
• Eat a meal high in carbohydrates within an hour of finishing running.
• Do a dynamic warm-up of stretches and drills before your runs and a static stretching routine after your run.
• Massage or “put your legs up” after a race or long run.
• Wear compression gear to alleviate swelling.
• Consider running for time rather than distance. Going for time will enable you to be flexible and open-minded about your route.
When you design your next training plan (or get a coach like Marc at TrainWithMarc to do that for you), remember the importance of the long run and be sure that you’re scheduling one every week to 10 days during your training cycle.
For details on how you can train, run, and race with TrainWithMarc, find us on the web:
I have been getting brand new runners lately and I thought that even us seasoned vets could use some reminding about what it takes to go from a good runner to a great runner.
1. When in doubt, something is better than nothing. Go get a mile in. Chances are, it won’t be as bad as you think it is and you’ll continue on for a few miles.
5. As runners, we have to be flexible with our training. That means that if Tuesday looks better than Wednesday (weather, scheduling, life-wise), we should probably try and do our hard workout that day. It doesn’t mean let’s put off our workouts to Friday and Saturday because we didn’t have time.
Be sure to share this with new runners – it’s great advice that I’ve picked up on over the years!
As a virtual or online running coach, you won’t find me with a stopwatch in hand overseeing my runners during their workouts. It’s not possible, even if I wanted it to be. I have runners in all corners of the country, and so, as you can imagine, a lot has to be said and then implied when we do interact. An online coach is there in spirit and, if I’m doing my job correctly, the athletes I coach become, in effect, my assistant coaches. They ultimately make the call on whether they do that last repetition, or how fast they run their recovery runs…
Within the coach/athlete relationship, a lot of communication happens. Some of it is explicit within the daily training (run this pace, with this much recovery) and some of it is general advice (hydrate, stretch, be flexible and be open minded). Regardless of what type of information I’m passing on, my goal is to make the runners I coach smarter runners who race faster.
That being said, here are some of the key pieces of information I’ve shared with them throughout the summer as we’ve built, tinkered, and fine-tuned our approaches to their peak races. (These are in no particular order).
Taking Care of Yourself
- Don’t neglect foam rolling, massage, icing, and stretching. All of these will make marathon training possible.
- Let’s not be running at the hottest part of the day…
- Be careful of the heat. Hydrate often and run when the sun is not as strong – early in the morning or late at night.
Training (and Racing) Philosophy
- “Comfortably hard” is a range of effort that is roughly 10k to half marathon pace. Roughly a 6 out of 10 in terms of effort.
- Run days – or days that you run the day after a workout should feel hard only because of fatigue. Don’t make them harder by running them too fast.
- Cross training can be done as swimming, biking, or on the elliptical. Anything that gets your heart rate up, but doesn’t bother your injured area are all GREAT forms of XT.
- Most runs should start slower than they finish. When you finish a run, you should feel “fast” and not slogging through the run. And, the pace on an easy run should be comfortable and finishing like you could go out and run for another 2 miles if asked.
- Remember that “easy” pace varies based on weather, course/loop, current fatigue, etc
- Always adjust your pace to reflect the conditions (heat, sun, lack of sleep, hills, etc).
Having an online running coach is great for runners who don’t need their hand holding and can get their training done because they want to get it done. The coach/athlete relationship works well when both communicate, ask questions, and are flexible. If runners, whether coached or not, take the 9 tips above and put them to good use, they will ultimately be a better runner and athlete.
Contact Marc to get coached.
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