To improve your time in the marathon, you need to include at least one weekly workout that helps you build both endurance and speed. The key to improving is to vary your workouts. This means intensity and distance must both change throughout the plan, so you can gain both the physiological and psychological benefits from completing these workouts.
Following are 7 different types of runs that you can plug into your training plan. As best as possible, I’ve tried to recommend pacing and at what point in your schedule you should be running each type of workout.
8 – 16 X 1-2 min with 1-min recovery. Start reps at 10k pace and progress to 5k pace.
FARTLEK workouts are a great way to build your speed. I like to schedule these at the beginning of my training plan, but I also have 1 longer workout with 16 x 2 minute bursts about 3 weeks out from the race. The benefit of running this workout is that not only does it make you faster, it also makes marathon pace seem easier. The result is that this will help to ensure you can run at an easy effort during the early stages of the marathon. After completing a 10-15 minute warm-up, start the fartleks at 10K pace, then about 1/4 way through increase to 8k pace and then at halfway point to finish, run the repeats at 5K effort.
GOAL PACE RUN
Typically 4-12 miles at MARATHON PACE.
These runs are the best practice for your race. Including marathon goal pace runs throughout your marathon training plan is vital. These workouts will help you with your race-day pacing, but more important, they help you become more economical at marathon pace. This means you become more efficient at burning carbs, which will help you later in your race. I like to build up the distance of workouts throughout my plans. The 12 mile run is typically 2 weeks before the race. I also complete a 7 miler 1 week before and a 4 miler about 4-5 days before.
8-10 X 800m WITH EQUAL RECOVERY
First developed by RunnersWorld’s Bart Yasso. Yasso 800s are included in many training plans, because they work. They build stamina and really give a great indication of your fitness. After your warm-up and strides, run the 800s at the minutes and seconds of your goal marathon time. Take an equal time for recovery between each 800. For example, if you want to run 3 hours, 25 minutes for the marathon, then run your 800s in 3 minutes, 25 seconds, taking a 3:25 jog between each rep. I recommend completing this workout twice during your marathon training. About half way through your plan complete at least 6 reps. About 5 weeks out from your race complete 9-10 x 800s.
Ensure you pace yourself evenly. This workout is only a good predictor of your race time if you complete a minimum of 8 x 800s. For example, if you’re running the 800s in 3:30, this then translates to a 3:30 marathon. Sometimes people think the recovery is too long at first, but trust me, you’ll be glad later in the workout that you took the additional seconds to stay on pace and to complete the workout.
FINISH FAST LONG RUNS
One of the keys to success in any race is teaching your body how to run faster on tired legs, late into the race. One of the best ways to do this, is to complete what Greg McMillan calls “finish fast long runs.”
When you get to near the end of your race, whether it be 10 miles or 22 miles, you’ll have the confidence gained from completing your finish fast long runs to push hard and keep increasing the effort. The reason this workout helps, is you train your body to burn fat more efficiently while running at marathon pace or faster. I like to schedule a finish fast long run every other long run starting about halfway through the plan or once my clients have established a good running base. Typically we start on 14 mile runs. The first 10 miles are at easy pace and then the next 3 are at race pace. The last mile can be at easy as a cool down.
When we get up to 18-20 miles, the first 10-12 are at easy and the last 6-8 are at race pace. Again, leave some room at the end of the run to cool down at easy pace.
6-9 miles with Progressive Pacing
Tempos are included in every marathon training plan, because they work so well. Near the beginning of each plan, I start these runs at 4 miles. Later in the plan we extend the workout to 8 miles. There’s many variations to tempos. My favorite is to divide the workout into thirds. Start the tempo run at 20-30 seconds/mile slower than marathon pace and progress in the second third to marathon pace and then finally to 20-30 seconds/mile faster than marathon pace during the last third.
As a general rule, I instruct those that I coach to go slower at the beginning of the workout so they can finish at the prescribed faster pace and finish the entire workout. Depending on the ability of the runner, when these workouts are included later in a plan, we call for the longer distance (9 miles) and faster pacing (1/2 marathon pace and slightly faster).
Time based ladder. Run at 5K race pace.
After completing warm ups and strides, run 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 minute reps. Recovery is half the time for the preceding rep between intervals. For example, jog 30 seconds after the one minute interval and jog one minute after the two minute interval, all the way until the end. Then complete your cool down.
Descending distance ladder
1600m (1/2 time recovery), 1200m (2 min recovery), 800m (90 second recovery) 400m (1 minute recovery) 200m (30 sec recovery).
This workout is typically completed near the end of your marathon training when we’re trying to put a little speed and leg turnover into our workouts. It will test your fitness as the recovery gets shorter after each interval. The goal is to concentrate on form and running smooth and quick, but under control, even as you tire with the decreasing rest. After your warm-up and strides, start the intervals at 15k pace, light jogging for recovery between each repeat. Increase pace slightly with each interval, finishing the last 400m and 200m strong, but controlled (not an all out sprint).
LONG INTERVALS also known as strength runs
As with Tempo Runs, Strength Runs develop your anaerobic threshold. We are improving our endurance with these workouts and teaching our muscles to work through the discomfort of lactic acid build-up. These runs are in the last 4-5 weeks of my plan. At this point we’re really in marathon or 1/2 marathon race preparation mode and getting our bodies ready to handle the fatigue associated with completing the long race by training our bodies to use less oxygen at the same effort. In other words, hold the optimal marathon pace longer.
3 x 2 miles and 2 x 3 miles run at progressively faster pace. Start at marathon pace for the first set, then complete the 2nd (& 3rd) set at 10 seconds faster than marathon pace.
To get the best benefit, it’s really important to run each set at the correct pace and not too fast. Especially not too fast on the first set, because it may cause you to go too slow on the last set. Also, the recovery is 1/2 mile between sets at easy pace. I typically run strength runs on marked bike paths. It’s much less monotonous than running countless circles on a track.
In summary, I have identified 7 different types of runs that you should incorporate into your marathon or 1/2 marathon training. As discussed above, training with variety is essential to your success as a runner, so you need to incorporate all of these workouts into your plan. Each workout not only has a specific purpose and position within a 16-20 week plan, but each should be run at a specified pace. How to determine which pace is dependent on your goal time and specific athletic ability.
I can help with identifying proper pacing and putting together a personalized training plan. If you’re interested or have questions, please contact me.
One of the keys to successful marathon training is to vary your workouts. Unfortunately, many runners are challenged with having sufficient time to complete the types of exercises necessary to prepare them for the marathon. You can’t perform the same workouts at similar intensities and expect different results. The good news is, that for no cost, you likely have access to a “universal gym” that will allow you to complete exercises that not only advance aerobic conditioning, but also improve lower body strength and help prevent injuries. If you add some track work to your workout, you can actually build speed. In this article, I will show how you can benefit from incorporating a few different 20-30 minute stair climbing workouts into your marathon training.
Regardless of where you live, there’s likely a high school or college stadium, parking garage, apartment or office building nearby with enough stairs to complete some very challenging workouts. For marathoners, the benefits of training on stairs include:
- Improved VO2 Max which means you can run harder and for longer durations because you have improved the max amount of oxygen used during intense training because you now convert it to energy quicker.
- Stronger legs, glutes, quads and calves gained without the same impact on your limbs from running.
- Builds stamina
- Variety for free. Stair workouts are like having a universal gym without the cost. Runners can complete numerous exercises like sprints, lunges, plyometric moves and various combinations of bodyweight exercises. See below for some workout suggestions.
- Increase speed by warming up with strides and incorporating 200m-400m intervals between sets
One potential drawback of stairs is the possibility that your stride may be shortened when you’re trying to adjust to shorter step distances. This can be problematic if you include stairs into your marathon training too often and effectively shorten your stride. Longer and quicker strides help runners get faster, so when completing stair exercises, ensure you run up with quick leg turnover. Also, incorporate lunges or “bounding” strides into your regime and try to skip every other or every third stair if you can (do so safely).
I like quick reps because the increased leg turnover helps to build speed and improve running efficiency.
Start all workouts with a warm-up of walking up the stairs for 10 minutes or jogging a mile. Many high school or college stadiums are built around a 400m track. Follow this with light stretching. Workouts include:
- “Bounding” up steps by striding powerfully enough to skip to every other step. Ensure you use your arms to keep good form. Walk down.
- “Hopping” up the length of steps on two legs. Use your arms to swing into each hop. Walk down.
- “One leg hops” are same as two legged, but keep them quick. Switch legs when you’re half way up. Walk down to rest.
The hopping exercises will greatly improve your running strength.
CAUTION: If you haven’t done any hopping exercises, ease into this one. Trust me, you may make it through the workout, but you’ll be “whipped” the next few days.
Following are my favorite stair workouts. As your conditioning advances, you should challenge yourself by:
- Climbing more flights.
- Reducing your rest intervals.
- Increasing the number of intervals or rounds.
- Use weights (15-20 lb dumbbells or kettlebells in each hand).
- Adding track intervals between sets/rounds (if you’re doing stadium stairs)
- Completing body weight exercises between sets/rounds.
Traditional Stair Workout
b) Run to top of stadium or 10 flights (skip other step/go half speed). Walk down. Complete 3 times (sets).
c) Run to top of stadium or 10 flights (go full speed/every other step). Walk down. Complete 3 times (sets)
d) Repeat (b)
e) Repeat (c) except complete 4 times.
Walking Lunges – concentrate on proper form to maximize the effect and build lower body strength.
b) You don’t have to complete these as fast as traditional stairs. This will allow you to skip the additional step while maintaining proper form. Step up with your right foot and skip to second or third step. Ensure you bend both knees to a 90-degree angle and lower into a lunge. Next, push off with your right foot, then push up the stairs, step your left leg up to meet your right and then forward while lowering it to the next lunge.
c) Continue lunging forward until you reach the top of the stairs. Keep your front knee over your toes, and chest upright.
d) Walk down for recovery.
e) Complete 3 sets (each to top of stadium or 10 flights of stairs).
Skater Hop Steps
b) Start by stepping your left foot on the far-left end of the second step. Next, push off with your left foot and hop onto your right foot, placing it to the right side of next step.
c) Continue climbing the stairs, while alternating sides, until you reach the top or go up 10 flights.
d) Walk down for recovery
e) Complete 3 sets
Combination workout (1)-(3) – this workout really works your legs. Be careful – the first time I completed this workout, I was really sore the next day.
a) Complete 2 x 400m at 10k pace after last round of Skater Hops
b) Complete as many push-ups as you can in 1 minute
c) 10 minute cool-down
Gym Exercises – when stairs aren’t available or weather is poor.
a) Stairmaster interval workout
1) 30 seconds hard, then 30 – 60 seconds of recovery
2) Repeat for 20 to 30 minutes or complete a tempo workout for 30 minutes at a comfortably hard effort (you want to break out into a sweat and get your heart rate up).
b) Treadmill incline interval workout (similar to stairmaster)
1) After 5 minute warm-up, increase incline to 5% and speed to 5.5
2) Round 1 – adjust your speed and incline each 2 minutes by .5% & .5 up to 7% & 7.0 after 6 minutes. Adjust back down to 4% and 5.0 for 2 minutes.
3) Rounds 2, 3, 4 – repeat round 1. On last round, go up by .5% and .5 the last 1 minute (so you’ll be at 7.5% and 7.5).
4) Complete 5 minute cool down at 0% incline and 5.0 – 6.0 or pace that allows you to slowly reduce your heart rate.
You can always add difficulty to these workouts by including body weight exercises between each rep. Consider adding push-ups, sit-ups, planks or burpees. To break up each round or set, I perform half the exercises at the top of the stairs and then the other half at the bottom. Remember that even when you’re fatigued, the most efficient conditioning occurs when you maintain focus on good form.
15 Minute Strength Workout for Runners
Marathon Training Tips for Busy Professionals
Getting the Most out of Your Marathon Training
Are you “stuck” at a certain half or full marathon time and wondering what you can do differently with your training so you can make improvements? I’m often approached by runners with this request. They are following a 16 -20 week plan and putting in miles each week, however the results don’t meet their expectations. A common root cause is that their plan doesn’t have sufficient recovery between difficult workouts. Eventually (much sooner if you are older (40+) runner) they don’t get the full benefit of the training that they desire. In this post, I will offer a solution that has proved successful for one of the world’s best marathoners.
Olympic marathoner Meb Keflezighi switched a few years ago from a weekly to nine day training cycle, also called a microcycle. He realized that he needed more recovery between hard and long workouts. I was intrigued by the concept, so I did some research to find out more. What I discovered is that extending the training cycle from 7 days to 9, 10 or 14 days is not new. The main benefit of rethinking how to train is primarily to enhance recovery.
The typical seven day cycle is how we’ve always trained, but it really doesn’t have any meaning to the human body. What we really want to do is apply a stress or hard workout and then allow the body to recuperate. To get the best results, we need to incorporate both the workout and recovery to ensure adaptation.
How The 9 Day Cycle Works
A 9 day cycle works because we can actually incorporate 3 micro-cycles of 3 days each into the cycle. On day 1 we can complete a hard/stress workout like a long run. Days 2-3 would be recovery runs at an easy pace with cross-fit and conditioning or plyometrics on at least one of these days. We would then complete 2 additional micro-cycles in the same manner. The other hard workouts would include tempo and some kind of intervals (doesn’t have to be on the track). I recommend scheduling and completing a tune -up race, like a 10k or 1/2 marathon during one of your cycles.
Not only does a slightly longer training cycle make sense for older and injury prone runners, but it can be particularly beneficial for busy professionals that don’t always have the time to fit in the challenging workout necessary for a half or full marathon.
Long Runs, Tempos and Track Work
The longer training schedule allows us to keep the same workouts such as track, tempo and a long run, that are all part of a typical seven day cycle, but now we can spread these workouts out more. The end result is that the runner will be recovered and ready for higher quality training.
One of the challenges with extending your training cycles is being able to complete your long run on the weekends while still giving yourself recovery time. For those not limited to running long on weekends because they have some flexibility in their schedules, a mid-week long run as called out in the extended cycle may be perfect.
Alternatives to 9 Day Training Cycles
Another option to nine day cycles is two week or month long blocks. The same approach would be to plan for specific key workouts within the period and then take however many easy days necessary. A two week cycle may be easier to fit in the typical weekend long runs that many complete with a group.
Rules of the Program
One rule of training with extended cycles is that you’re not allowed to cram missed workouts at the end of the cycle. You’ll have to incorporate these missed sessions into your next cycle of training. Also, it’s essential that your rest days and easy days remain in place. Unlike most 7 day schedules which typically have Tuesday track and Thursday tempo runs and don’t allow much room for a missed workout which could result in 2 hard workouts back-to-back, the 9 day program allows for sufficient rest between stress workouts.
Another challenge is simply adjusting your schedule. Give yourself time to adjust and allow your body to adapt. Make sure you try a couple of nine or 10 day cycles before you decide to switch back.
A few of the runners that I coach have agreed to try a day schedule over the course of this Summer as they train for a Fall Marathon. I am currently using something similar to the following schedule as I train for the upcoming Vancouver Half Marathon. If all goes well, I will use this type of schedule as I complete my marathon training for Portland.
Typical 9 Day Training Cycle
Day 1 – Long Run (90 minutes – 2 hours+ as called out in your plan)
Day 2 – 30 – 40 minutes easy + 20 minutes conditioning (core and strength work)
Day 3 – 40 minutes easy
Day 4 – 60 minutes (15 minute warm up, 30 minutes of fartlek or intervals on the track or hills, 15 minute cool down)
Day 5 – 40 minutes easy
Day 6 – Rest or Cross Fit (elliptical, stationary bike or rowing machine)
Day 7 – 60 – 75 minutes (15 minute warm-up, 30 – 45 minute tempo or some kind of increasing uptempo pace, 15 minute cool down)
Day 8 – 40 minutes easy
Day 9 – Cross Fit + 25 minutes conditioning/strength training
All runners must find a schedule that works best for their needs and abilities. This may mean you need to extend your schedule. The good news is that doing so can help you avoid injury and help you achieve your goals.
Why are so many people quick to put down or explain why they can’t stand running on a treadmill? I have a few friends who claim they will never run on a treadmill. They claim that when they’re running on the road or in nature, they enjoy being able to take in all the sights and sounds. They also like the camaraderie of a group run that they can’t get with treadmill. I understand these arguments, but I believe that running on treadmill 1-2 times per week is a viable means to supplement your training for any race, even a ½ or full marathon. The question is how to best incorporate use of a treadmill into a marathon training plan? The good news is that Derek LaLonde answers this question and others in his book, “How Not To Hate The Treadmill.”
I recently read Derek’s book and was very impressed with his level of detail into such topics as goal setting, treadmill workouts, smart eating and how to get positive results using a treadmill. This book is one of the most comprehensive resources about Treadmills and Treadmill training. The purpose of the book isn’t to convince you to abandon the roads. Instead, implementing Derek’s suggestions will definitely give any runner a fresh perspective on using a treadmill and integrating this often maligned piece of exercise equipment into their training plan.
As a busy middle aged professional, who travels weekly, I use a treadmill a few times per week in hotel gyms or on days when the Pacific Northwest weather turns wet, cold and is generally unsuitable for outdoor running. Typically, my sessions last 35-45 minutes. I run at a progressively faster pace (6 – 8+) with a steady incline to 2-3 degrees. I like to add 15-20 minutes of conditioning exercises to complete a full hour workout. There’s nothing exciting about what I do on a treadmill. My goal is to simply get in an easy day and avoid taking the day off from running. I have never used the treadmill to complete any kind of speed or tempo runs.
“How Not To Hate The Treadmill” is far more than a listing of treadmill workouts. In fact, Derek doesn’t get into details about any workouts until page 100. Instead he devotes the first three sections of the book to the benefits of using a treadmill, getting motivated, setting goals and creating a positive environment. He describes one of the best things about using treadmill is that it can force you to maintain a certain speed. During tempo or harder lactate training workouts, a treadmill can be set so a runner maintains a target heart rate for prolonged periods. The runner can then focus on breathing and good form without having to continually check heart rate. Also, the runner can use the incline feature to increase one’s heart rate without having to speed up.
The workout portion of the book is very detailed. Each workout is customized to be performed on the treadmill. Examples of some of the workouts discussed include:
- Hills – Although not appropriate for those who don’t own their treadmill, Derek discusses how to complete downhill training (very important when training for races like Boston). Details of 6 different hill workouts are provided. My favorite is “Walk the Plank – Incline to Exhaustion.”
- Speed Work – Tempo runs and speed ladders are discussed. You can go all out with the Stairway to Heaven workout where you continue to raise the pace by 5 mph every ½ mile until exhaustion
- Long Runs, Aerobic workouts & Running Games – If you really want a tough full body workout, try running at tempo pace and get off the treadmill every 5 minutes to complete a set of push-ups, dumbbell squats, pull-ups and other conditioning exercises.
Derek finishes the book with a few sections on how to balance proper nutrition, sleep and staying motivated to train. Finally he gets into great detail about how to properly train using a heart rate monitor. This includes a plan on how to determine your maximum heart rate using a treadmill.
It’s clear that Derek LaLonde is not just very knowledgeable about treadmills, but he’s also well informed about long distance running and proper training methods. He’s been training on a treadmills for 15+ years and clearly enjoys the experience of “pounding the rubber.”
If you’re interested in diversifying your training (something I strongly advise to help avoid injury), then I recommend you purchase, read and implement the strategies discussed in How Not To Hate The Treadmill. The book is available as a downloadable e-book. It’s an easy read. The worksheets are helpful to set goals and the heart rate charts can be printed out for easy reference. I’m always open for new and effective marathon training ideas. How Not To Hate The Treadmill, provides fresh concepts that will help any runner vary their workouts and achieve their goals.
For your convenience, I have included a link to purchase How Not To Hate The Treadmill. You will also notice in the sidebar that there’s a banner ad for this book. Full disclosure…your cost won’t increase in any way if you buy by going through these links, but I will be compensated if you do make a purchase through them.
TREADFLIX – ACTUAL COURSE VIDEOS FOR YOUR TREADMILL
If you’re really interested in something different and unique you really need to try Run Chicago, Run Boston or Run New York. These are 1-2 hour videos taken directly off the courses of each of these world famous marathons. The concept is simple. Download the video onto your iPad, tablet or laptop and then place it in front of the treadmill. Set the treadmill to whatever pace you desire and then play the video. It’s genius.
I’ll admit, I haven’t had the opportunity to try any of the videos yet, but I do have plans to fully try out at least the Chicago and Boston videos because I’ve run both of those marathons.
Following are some screen shots of each product. You can click on each image to be brought to the purchase page.
I completed the Vancouver Lake ½ Marathon last week. I finished in 1:28, 7th place for my 45-49 age group (top 6 receive commemorative pint glasses). This is a small race (about 525) on a flat course adjacent to Vancouver Lake and the Columbia River in Southwest Washington. Race time weather conditions were perfect. Temperatures were in upper 40s/low 50s, with no wind or rain and a slight fog. In past years, racers have experienced freezing rain and wind. Although I didn’t train specifically for this race, I’m still happy with the time. 6:45/mile pace isn’t bad considering I haven’t done much speed or tempo work.
My specific mile splits are captured below. Right now my sights are set on the Vancouver USA Marathon in mid June, so I view this race as just a 13 mile tempo that I ran 17 weeks prior to the Newport Marathon. Following are my splits for the race:
Below I outline my training for this event. I think it’s a good template for half marathon training at the beginning of a race season. I mostly relied on my running base (typically 25-35 miles/week during the offseason, plus cross-fit conditioning workouts twice a week). Although this may seem like low mileage, at my age, I don’t want to breakdown during my marathon training. Read my post on building an offseason mileage base for more information.
I also recently completed the Runners World 36 day challenge (running every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s). I completed medium to long runs (8-12 miles) at a relatively easy pace and I finished 4 track/interval sessions. The rest of training was balanced around my busy work/travel schedule and consisted of workouts in hotel gyms. As discussed in my marathon training tips for busy professionals, the goal of these gym workouts was to maintain my level of fitness. My 6 week half marathon training plan included:
1. At least one long run per week – 3 (total) x 8 milers, 2 x 10 milers, 2 x 11/12 mile runs at 7:30/mi pace.
2. Weeks prior to the race, 11 mile run at 7:15-7:30/mile pace in the vicinity of the course
3. Approximately half the long runs included hills.
4. Interval/track workouts. I completed 1 (each) of the following workouts, starting 5+ weeks prior the half marathon. These were not super strenuous, but each was run at 5k pace. I honestly haven’t felt too motivated to run a hard/long track workout. All of these started with 1.5mile warm-up, stretching & 8 x 100m strides
Week 1 – 4 x 200m with 60 seconds of rest between each
Week 2 – 2 x 200m, 1 x 400m, 2 x 200m with 60 seconds of rest
Week 3 – 4 x 200m, 2 x 400m, 2 x 200m with 60 seconds of rest
Week 4 – 2 x 200m, 3 x 400m, 2 x 200m with 60 seconds of rest
5. Other workouts included either 4 miles on hotel treadmills with assorted plyometric exercises or 2-3 mile warm-up runs followed by 30 minute cross-fit/Universal Combat Conditioning (completed as group at Universal Jiu-Jitsu in Camas, WA).