When other runners find out I run marathons almost every weekend, they sometimes ask me if I train between races. The answer is yes. The races are a big part of my training, but I also need to train during the week.
I don’t follow a conventional training schedule. For the most part, I make up my training schedule as I go. The races take the place of long training runs. How I arrange the rest of my schedule depends on how many days I have between races.
When your races are spaced just a week apart, you can’t take too many days for post-race recovery. You also can’t spend much time tapering for races. I usually follow a compressed schedule, with only one recovery day after a race and one rest day before the next one. The training I do during the week isn’t going to help me much with my next race. I’m usually preparing myself for other races that are weeks or months away. I’ll run eight marathons between now and mid-December, but most of my training is oriented toward a 48-hour race at the end of December.
I’d describe a typical training week, but I really don’t have one. I’m constantly adapting my training around my race schedule. Instead, I’ll describe the training I did last week.
Sunday was a rest day. I ran a marathon the day before. Usually, I recover with some form of light cross-training, such as a core workout or an easy spin on the stationary bike. I was unusually tired that day. I flew home from Indianapolis, arriving in the late afternoon. There’s a one hour time difference between Indianapolis and Minneapolis. It was also the day we transitioned from daylight time to standard time. As a result, it felt like it was two hours later than what the clock was saying. I was behind on sleep, and even 10 minutes of core exercises seemed like more than I could do. When you’re that tired, it’s time to listen to your body.
On Monday, I had more energy. As soon as I got up, I did my core workout. This is a fairly easy workout that only takes 10 minutes. I’ve been doing these workouts as long as I can remember. Ideally, I do them every other day. I have a circuit of three exercises, and I do the circuit three times. I start with a set of 30 side-to-side twists, holding a small weight disk in front of me. Next I do a set of 30 incline sit-ups, using an abdominal board. Finally, I lie down on a weight bench and do 30 leg raises.
Later in the morning, I did weight training. I did two sets each of curls, bench press, side lateral raises, leg extensions and leg curls. Ideally, I like to do weight training twice a week. Sometimes my race schedule limits me to only one weight training workout. I did this one early in the week, so I could fit in more weight training on Thursday.
In the afternoon, I did a 12.1 mile run/walk workout. This workout is designed to prepare me for my 48-hour race, where I’ll be continually switching between running and walking. Walking and running emphasize different muscles in your legs, so it’s important to include both in training. I vary the length of my walking breaks so my average pace stays around 11 minutes per mile. That makes this an easy workout, despite the distance. I’ve found it to be a nice recovery workout for my first run after a race.
On Tuesday, I only did one workout. I didn’t do anything in the morning, because I wanted to have fresh legs for my afternoon run. It was a 10 mile tempo run on the treadmill. A few years ago, I was regularly doing 10 mile tempo runs as my preferred form of speed work. I had to stop doing these workouts when I was recovering from a hamstring injury. I’m just starting to get back into them, so I’m not doing them very fast yet. I increased my speed gradually, topping out at 8.5 MPH (a 7:03 pace). I held that pace for the last six miles.
On Wednesday, I started my day with another core workout. In the afternoon, I went running. I wanted to do an 11 mile course that included some hills, but I was planning to go at an easy pace. There was rain in the forecast, so I change my route so I would never be too far from home. As a result, it wasn’t very hilly. Even though I kept the pace slow, I felt unusually tired. I pulled the plug at 8.7 miles. I could have dragged myself through a few more miles, but I played it safe. I’ve been racing like crazy, and the last thing I want to do is over-train.
Thursday was similar to Monday. In the morning, I did weight training. This workout was a little different than the one I did on Monday. I started with lat station pulldowns, incline bench press and reverse curls. I finished with leg extension and leg curls. I include leg extensions in every workout, because keeping my quads strong is important for preventing knee injuries. I include leg curls in every workout, because I’m still rebuilding strength in my hamstrings.
In the afternoon, I did another 12.1 mile run/walk workout. I felt especially energetic. All of my running was at marathon race pace or faster. All of my walking was 14 minute miles or faster. Neither the running pace nor the walking pace was easy, yet the overall workout was. Constantly switching muscle groups keeps me fresh, and my average pace was only 11 minutes per mile. Just as this is a good recovery workout after a race, it’s also a good workout for my last run before a race.
Friday was essentially a rest day. I did my 10-minute core workout, but that’s it. I spent most of the day traveling to a race.
I finished the week by running the Soldier Marathon on Saturday.
Including the marathon, I ran a total of 68 miles. I also did two weight training workouts and three short core workouts. Conspicuous by its absence was aerobic cross-training. A few years ago, I was only running three or four times a week. On the days I wasn’t running, I spent up to 90 minutes on a stationary bike. As I’ve added more running days, they’ve replaced the bike workouts. Now when I ride the bike, it’s usually a 20-30 minute workout. These make good recovery workouts. I also sometimes do a short spin as a secondary workout when my main workout is a run.