The holidays are gone, the New Year is here, the temperatures are falling fast, and the Boston Marathon is less than 100 days away. It’s time to get serious about your training. As head coach of 6 teams training for the race (Mass General ER & Pediatrics; Joslin Diabetes Center; BIMDC; Red Cross; & the Heartbreakers), I send my runners a newsletter with week-to-week tools and inside tips. This is week 6 of my training plan and with holiday obligations no longer diluting their focus, I encourage runners to find their rhythm. Like any good power song on a favorite playlist, a good marathon training block has a repeating rhythm; every week has a flow on which you can count. It can and should be different for each runner. Over the next two weeks, I ask them to find their own POWER RHYTHM. The same way a beat carries a song, the rhythm a runner establishes now will carry them forward through the cold and dark winter months to their best marathon on April 20th.
There are a few things to keep in mind in establishing this rhythm, 3 keys to success: consistency, variation, and body awareness.
Be consistent. Each week builds on the previous week of training. In order to complete week 16 well, you must have completed weeks 8-15. Inevitably, work and life will get in the way though. I encourage my athletes to DO SOMETHING.
For example, if the program calls for an easy 6 miles but you only have time for 2, do the 2 mile run. Do not take the day off.
While not exactly on point with the program, running 2 miles will create further distance from your last hard effort, prepare you for your next one, maintain some fitness, and it is much better than an unscheduled day off. The last thing you want to do is cram mileage. A high level of fitness can come by just running 4 days per week. On the flip side of that, you cannot maintain a high level of fitness with four days off in a row. There’s a middle ground. Be consistent there.
Some say that variety is the spice of life. It is most definitely the secret to healthy and fast running. You won’t get faster running the same speed every day and you won’t be able to run your fastest if you run hard every day. Each running day needs a purpose. Each week should include the following: a long run (go far), a maintenance run or two (just go), and a speed workout of some kind (go fast).
3. Body Awareness
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! Don’t let a training plan or an anxious brain supersede the messages your body is sending you at any point. If something hurts, do something about it. Before you run, foam roll and start slow to get things warm. After you run, stretch and ice. Get your rest. If something affects your stride and doesn’t change, feels “sharp,” or doesn’t improve, see a professional.
In short, establish a training rhythm, be consistent week to week with it, vary each day within your week, listen to your body, and we’ll see you smiling across the finish on Boylston St. April 20th.
Dan Fitzgerald is co-owner and founder of Heartbreak Hill Running Company in Newton, MA and South End Athletic Company in Boston. You can run with his marathon training groups every Saturday for free (9AM at HHRC; 10AM at SEAC). Routes are mapped on RunKeeper (usernames: SEAC or HHRC). Find out more about Heartbreak Hill Running Company and the Heartbreakers running club at http://heartbreakhillrunningcompany.com