Your goal may be that you need to lose some weight or perhaps you want to qualify for Boston. Oftentimes many people fail to achieve their goals not because they lack talent, but because they can’t stay motivated to train and they ultimately quit. I’ve coached a few busy athletes who purchase a plan with the best of intentions, but after a few weeks, they simply disappear. Motivation is one of the biggest challenges faced by athletes. In this article, I’ll show you some proven strategies to get started and maintain your schedule of working out & training for a race.
You don’t need to get caught up overthinking thinking, taking action is easier than you think.
“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
Leonardo Da Vinci
I’ve been there myself when I was plagued by injuries.I’ve also coached many runners who fall into this category. In this article, I will discuss how you can make a change. The following three steps are a proven strategy to help you Stop Thinking and Start Doing!
Set Your Priorities & Define Your “Why”
Start by defining your priorities. What do you want to achieve the most? Think of this step as defining your “why.”You want to feel connected to what you’re doing.It’s not just setting a goal, but it’s having clarity for why the goal is important.
Some examples may be losing some weight or simply improving your health. You might want to run in a race to raise money for a cause that’s important to you.Your why might be setting a Personal Record in a certain race or distance because you want to challenge yourself and improve upon previous performances.
One strategy I use to help stay motivated anytime I’m thinking of skipping a planned workout, is to think of my “why.”If it’s really important I know that I’ll figure out how to get out and complete the workout.
Project How Life Will Be When Your Goals Are Met
If you have a goal that you really want to reach, focusing on the end result (or your why) is a great strategy to help keep you on track. Think of it as giving you a purpose to do what is needed to meet the objective.
Project How Life Will Be When Your Goals Are NOT Met
This strategy is particularly helpful if you’re running to improve your health.If you feel that your health is not where you want it, then you must “pivot” and do something different. Think about what your life may be like if you don’t lose weight or improve your health. Consider the effect on your family if your health were to decline significantly. Using this strategy is an excellent way to maintain your discipline.
Figure Out How To Reduce Stress
Stress is a big factor if you’re having problems staying disciplined and on track to meet your goals. Identifying the root cause of your stress is the first step in minimizing it’s effect on your ability to follow your game plan. Whether it’s work or family related stress, it’s essential to determine how you can reduce this stress, so you can workout. It might just be that running and/or exercise are the best ways to reduce your stress. Some people like to run in the morning, so they don’t have to stress about it later in the day.Other people like to run later in the afternoon as a way to reduce the stress that’s built up during the day. Regardless, once you figure out how to reduce stress, you will have a much easier time concentrating on the accomplishing your goals.
Put Accountability Into the Mix
Try to find a way to hold yourself accountable for whatever activity or goal for which you’re trying to stay disciplined.
If your “why” is connected to a running goal, I recommend setting both short and long-term goals. It’s important to set specific goals that are consistent with your athletic abilities and your specific situation.The long term goal can be a stretch goal, but the short term goals should be realistic and align with the long term goal. All goals should not only be specific, but measurable with some kind of time to completion.
You can start with the long term goal and walk backwards with goals and/or steps necessary to ensure your success.
One caution is to set realistic goals. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon might be a big stretch if you just started to run.This could be a great long term goal, but it’s more likely that you’ll be more successful by starting small with something like working out 3-4 times per week and then completing a 5k.
Give yourself due dates for each of these goals, but don’t get discouraged if you can’t achieve everything as planned. If you’re better off than when you started, then celebrate the progress.
Momentum Comes Through Actions, so do Anything That Moves You Forward
This is one of the best strategies to accomplishing your goals.Start by identifying small next steps that are “next to impossible” for you not to complete. Every small act is significant.There’s an old saying that may help you better understand this concept, “you can’t eat an elephant in one bite.” What can you do right now to take even the smallest step towards achieving your most important goal?
Break Down Tasks in Subtasks
Following along the previous step, sometimes when a goal seems too big to tackle, this puts up barriers in our mind. These barriers often prevent us from reaching our intended results. Try using subtasks or “small bites” to make the long term goal more manageable.
As you think about your sub tasks or what you can do next, hold the expectation that the answer will be something simple that can be done in the next 30 minutes or less.Whatever reasonable answer pops into your head, accept it and act on it immediately.
Once you commit to getting started, momentum carries you. Producing results builds positive momentum.With momentum you’ll get ahead and make progress much faster.
It’s also essential to look at your progress.If your goal was to lose 20 lbs while getting in shape to run a local 5 or 10k race and on race day you lost 14 lbs, celebrate your progress.It should easily be enough to keep you going because you’re now over half way to our weight loss goal.In addition to the weight you have already lost, my guess is that you have also lost inches off your waist.When you finish the race, you will also feel very accomplished.
Workout With Others or Get a Coach
When you regularly workout with others it can really help you to stay disciplined. Many local gyms have running groups that meet 2-3 times per week.Many races also sponsor group training where runners meet regularly to complete longer runs and harder track workouts together.It’s like having a support group that holds you accountable and keeps your motivated.
If you’re able to complete your workouts on your own, but your challenge is you’re not sure what to do to prepare for a race, then a coach can help.You can join a group that has a coach who will help 5-15 people who are training for the same race.Alternatively, you can pay for a coach to write up a custom training plan that uses the athlete’s input and is specific to their goals and athletic abilities.
Some coaches allow you to schedule specific workouts to fit your weekly schedule. This is a nice feature, but what’s equally important is showing the athlete how to make adjustments to the schedule when they miss a workout. For example, many people schedule their long runs for the weekend.However, if you had a preference for another day of the week, a coach could adapt the schedule to fit your needs.
If you desire regular interaction with a coach in addition to a custom plan, then personalized coaching may be the best solution for your needs.These plans are more expensive, but they provide the ability for instant feedback and to ask questions.
I offer a very affordable monthly plan or a discounted 5 month plan that’s perfect for anyone who has signed up for a race, like a marathon, that’s 4-5 months out.
Focus on the Positive
Psychologists advise us to stay positive for a good reason. A negative attitude fuels fear and anxiety, keeping you from reaching your goals. You always think of what could go wrong instead of keeping an open mind.
Keeping a positive attitude is good for your health too. It boosts your motivation and inner drive, helps you stay strong when times get tough and gives you a fresh perspective on the world around you.
In this article, you’ll learn what a tempo run is and why they are so important (for any race of 5k+). I will also tell you the proper way to run a tempo,and when during your training schedule you should include these workouts. Finally I’ll provide some examples of proven tempo run workouts.
Bottomline, this is the probably one of the most detailed guides to Tempo Runs that you will find and I’m sure it will help you understand these workouts are so important to help you achieve your goals.
What Exactly is a Tempo Run?
At the risk of getting a little too “sciencey,” I’ll do my best to describe tempos.
There are multiple types of tempo runs. You may hear them referred to as aerobic threshold (most common), anaerobic threshold or lactate-threshold runs. However, it’s important to note that these are 3 different runs each serve a purpose. Aerobic threshold runs are the most common and run at a pace where you’re producing the maximum amount of lactate that your body can clear from your muscles. If you were to run any faster, you wouldn’t be able to clear the lactate that’s being generated and you would then experience a burning sensation or fatigue in your legs. This is the feeling you get at the end of a short, hard race or during an interval workout.
To get the benefit of Aerobic Threshold Tempo Run for marathoners you want to run it just near your lactate threshold and not any faster.
The goal of the lactate threshold workouts is to move that point where lactic acid begins to accumulate. We can accomplish this with repeat 2-3 mile intervals, sometimes referred to as cruise intervals. These are completed at a specific target pace (discussed below).
Lastly, the anaerobic threshold run is performed at the level of intensity where lactic acid accumulates faster than it can be cleared. Increasing our anaerobic threshold is important because it allows the body to run at faster speeds before fatigue and lactic acid take over.
Why Should You Include Tempo Runs in Your Training?
Tempo run workouts are essential for long distance runners training for races of 5k+. Depending on the distance and type of tempo, these are the most “race specific” workouts you will complete during your training. However, tempo runs shouldn’t be the only hard workout during your training. Remember, variety is essential to getting in shape (10 rule to marathon success).
Aerobic Threshold runs for marathoners should teach our bodies how to burn fat efficiently at marathon pace and improve our body’s ability to run longer at this high end aerobic pace. Tempos improve your ability to hold a challenging pace over a longer period of time. However, if we run too fast at what’s a anaerobic threshold pace, we improve the body’s ability to slow lactate, but we don’t improve our body’s marathon specific readiness.
The goal for these workouts is to boost our lactate threshold. We do this best by running at or near our threshold pace for an extended period of time, because our body becomes more efficient at clearing lactate. Tempos are usually completed at one assigned pace (as opposed to progressive runs or intervals where you vary the pace). One of the goals of tempo runs is to improve your sense of pacing.
The faster you can run while still clearing lactate, the faster you’ll be able to race. However, there’s also a significant mental aspect as well. Tempo runs are challenging, stressful and mentally fatiguing. You need to train yourself to maintain your tempo pace for the duration of the workout. I’ve coached many athletes and some tell me that the hardest part of the tempo (especially longer tempos) is being able to maintain the pace throughout the run. Your mind can wander, you get tired and your pace can slow if you don’t concentrate on maintaining the designated pace.
In summary, tempo runs help you run faster for longer periods of time. These runs also they teach your body how to tolerate more discomfort and I believe that they do a great job to help develop your mental toughness.
How to Pace a Tempo Run
Completing a tempo can be challenging for many runners because they don’t understand the pace and or distance for the workout. I’ll admit, it can be confusing and you may be tempted to run the workout too fast or start too fast and fade. But, it really doesn’t need to be too difficult to determine your pace. The problem comes when runners perform this workout at the wrong pace, because they can greatly compromise its intended training benefits, get injured or worn down.
There a few variations to tempo workouts (which I will discuss below), depending on the outcome desired and the timing in your training schedule.
The tempo workout is run at a pace that’s faster than “moderate” but not exactly “hard.” Many experienced runners can run them by feel or perceived effort.
It’s important to understand that your tempo pace at the beginning of the season will likely be slower than at the end due to fitness improvements. Your pace could also vary in weather elements or fatigue levels.
Tempos are NOT run at your goal pace
This is very important. Instead you need to figure out the pace at which you can no longer comfortably speak a full sentence (try repeating something like the “Pledge of Allegiance”). This is the point that many coaches call “comfortably hard.” It’s a tough effort, but you shouldn’t be gasping for air. As discussed above, do enough tempo runs correctly and you will see improvement.
Depending on the race for which you’re training, tempo pace should be similar to a very recent 1/2 marathon or 10k pace. However, my strongest recommendation is to simply use the “talk test” and run by feel. The longest tempos in my marathon training are about 60 – 70 minutes.
Another way to run a Tempo is by heart rate. This only works if you know your max heart rate (mine is in the low 170s). After your warm-up, I typically recommend about 80% of max heart rate through the duration of the run. Any faster and you’re actually in an anaerobic zone and you’ll likely won’t be able to maintain the pace for too long. You can learn how to calculate and train by heart rate by reading my article (training using a heart rate monitor). For many runners, using a heart rate monitor can be an easy way to ensure they’re in the right range for the workout. If you don’t have a HR monitor, it’s simply a matter of looking at your watch and monitoring your pace as you move through each mile.
If you run your tempos by feel, your pace will eventually quicken.
Types of Tempo Runs
There are generally three types of tempo workouts. (1) sustained tempo runs (20 – 70 minutes at one pace). (2) repetitions (repeat 10 – 20 minutes at tempo pace with a short (1-2 minutes) recovery in between each). (3) Tempos that are mixed into intervals or longer runs. As with other two types of tempo workouts, this latter type of tempo is beneficial for increasing the aerobic threshold. It’s important to maintain the assigned pace during the tempo portion of your workout.
Legendary coach Jack Daniels also recommends inserting periods of Aerobic Threshold running into long runs. For example, two 20 minute tempo runs that bookend a one hour easy run. Coach Daniels schedules this run bi-weekly in the latter stages of race preparation.
The one real requirement of tempo running is that you stick to a steady, specific, planned pace.
When to complete Tempo Runs
If you’re training for a shorter race, tempo runs are best done early in the season during base or foundation training. Tempos completed early in your training will help build endurance that can support race-specific fitness later in your training cycle.
For longer races such as a 10km or longer, tempos are best if completed during the mid to late portion of your schedule.
Some coaches have their runners perform two of these workouts every three weeks during a marathon build-up. As the race approaches (but before tapering) the runner can increase the frequency to one tempo effort weekly. I typically perscribe weekly tempos in weeks 7-11 of a 12 week marathon training plan.
Tempo Run Workouts
Tempo Workout #1
I completed this workout when I was training with Coach Greg McMillan. In the past, I’ve had excellent results training under Coach McMillan. This first workout is perfect for 10km or half marathon. You complete multiple tempos, but with some hills between. It’s a tough workout so my recommendation is to insert an additional recovery day before your next hard/long workout.
The steep hills between the 3 mile tempos will fill your legs with lactic acid so the second tempo helps to simulate that feeling of tiredness at the end of a race.
The key to this session is to try your best to run the second tempo run at the same pace as the first. To make things a little easier, if you’re really struggling, the 2nd Tempo can be shortened to 2 miles. This workout teaches your body & mind to “dig deep” when you’re aching and simply want to stop. Successfully getting through this workout will really boost your confidence.
1. 15 minutes warm-up at easy pace
2. 3 mile tempo run
3. 3 minute jog recovery
4. 4×30 second steep hills
5. 3 minute jog recovery at easy pace
6. 2 – 3 mile tempo,
7. 15 minute cool down at easy pace.
Completing this workout will do wonders for your confidence because you must overcome the feeling of lactic acid that builds up in your legs during and after the hill repeats. Completing this workout will help prepare you to not give up when you feel like you can’t keep going.
I really like this this Tempo for runners who are fit, but don’t have a race scheduled anytime soon.
Tempo Workout #2
Your traditional Aerobic Threshold Tempo Run and includes one block of running at tempo pace. Depending on where you are in your training plan will determine the length of the run at tempo pace.
1. Start with a 10-15 minute (or 1 mile) warm-up.
2. Run 20 – 30 minutes but with no break or recovery in the middle of the effort.
3. Each week increase the length of the tempo by 10 minutes until you reach 60 minutes.
4. End each tempo with 10-15 minutes (or at least 1 mile) cool-down.
Tempo Workout #3
Just like intervals, but will help improve your Lactate Threshold because it’s done at your tempo pace. The recovery is kept to a short 60-90 seconds and the repetitions are generally longer.
1. Start with a 10-15 minute (or 1 mile) warm-up.
2. 3 x mile at tempo pace with 90sec jog recovery.
3. Finish with 10-15 minutes (or at least 1 mile) cool-down.
Tempo Workout #4
Similar to the sustained or traditional tempo mentioned above except in this run is called a lactate clearance run. Technically it’s a anaerobic threshold run.
The way to accomplish this is during your sustained tempo runs insert a 30-60 second surge at about 5k pace every 5-8 minutes. The surge will bring on more lactate into the blood stream. When you slow back into your tempo pace, your body will then have a chance to clear that lactate, even as you maintain tempo pace.
It’s a tough workout again, but it will train your body to process lactate more efficiently, which ultimately makes your lactate threshold pace slightly faster.
Tempo runs are an excellent way for runners of all levels to work on building their speed and strength.
These runs are also helpful for developing the mental toughness and stamina needed for racing, since you practice running at a pace that’s a little outside of your comfort zone.
To summarize, each of these types of workouts & their associated paces causes increased effort and physiological difficulty when completed. When we successfully run at these paces or training zones, you can ultimately race farther and faster more comfortably.
photos courtesy of Chicago Marathon, Rock n’Roll Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon
Typically marathoners perform best when they run in cooler (40-55 degrees (F)) temps. For many runner’s their best chance to have a good time is with a Fall Marathon. Use this Fall Marathon Guide to select a race & follow the numerous links for valuable training information that can help you achieve your goals.
The only “pitfall” for training for a Fall marathons is that you need to putting in the biggest miles of your plan in the hot summer months. However, the good news is that this is a time when the days are long, and you don’t have worry about ice and snow. Also, there’s typically plenty of build-up races (1/2 marathons & 10ks) available during the Summer or early fall. You can integrate these races into your training schedule and use them as a way to to test your fitness.
Throughout this blog, I provide I number of detailed references which can be used to help you train for your race. I recently published a detailed marathon training follow along of my training for the 12 weeks leading up to Portland’s Foot Traffic Flat marathon. Posts include details of how to set race goals and training paces, nutrition, how to make adjustments to your training, strength training for marathon runners and much more.
Other very helpful posts to ensure your success include:
Here’s a list of some great Fall Marathons. As you can see, I provide some details of each race (like if it’s a flat course, good crowd support, etc). I also include feedback from previous participants so you can decide which marathon is best for you.
If you’re interested in participating in any of these races, please let me know if you would like some help setting your goals or setting up a customized training plan that will be specific to your athletic ability, goals and your busy schedule. I specialize in working with busy middle age athletes, so please contact me if you have questions.
St. George Marathon – great scenery, fast & well organized race, net downhill of nearly 2,600 ft Location: St. George, UT Date: Saturday, October 6, 2018 Website: St George Marathon
Bank of America Chicago Marathon – huge race (45k+), but very well run and tons of spectators throughout the fast & flat course. One of my best running experiences was at the 12 mile point in this race (downtown and packed with loud cheering spectators, truly amazing). Location: Chicago, IL Date: Sunday, October 7, 2018 Website: Chicago Marathon
Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon – very well run & supported race on beautiful twin cities course. Tons of spectators. This race gets fabulous reviews, year after year. Typically perfect racing conditions. Location: Minneapolis, MN Date: Sunday, October 7, 2018 Website: Twin Cities Marathon
Steamtown Marathon – net elevation loss of almost 1,000 ft. Good course to BQ, but be careful with the 2 hills near the end. Gets very favorable reviews from past participants. If you live in the Northeast, this is an excellent alternative to the bigger Fall marathons. Location: Scranton, PA Date: Sunday, October 7, 2018 Website: Steamtown Marathon
Mohawk Hudson River Marathon – Easy hills up front when adrenaline is high and only a few shorter, steeper uphills around 12/13. About 1000 runners participate. The bike trails make for fast, easy running. Past participants love the nice spread of post race “goodies.” Location: Schenectady, NY Date: Sunday, October 7, 2018 Website – Mohawk Hudson River
Portlandathon Marathon – for 1 year, the owners of Portland Running Company and the company that manages many Portland area races, will operate a marathon in the City of Portland. The course will differ slightly from the Portland Marathon, but it’s still a USATF certified and BQ course. Location: Portland, OR Date: Sunday, October 7, 2018 Website: Portlandathon Marathon
Nebraska Marathon – starts/ends downtown with much of the course near the Missouri River and into Council Bluffs, IA. A fairly new race, but has excellent reviews from participants. Location: Omaha, NE Date: Sunday, October 14, 2018 Website – Nebraska Marathon
Baltimore Marathon – mixed reviews due to hills in the 2nd half and because ½ marathoners converge with marathoners in the 2nd half of the race. It’s a challenging course that may not be best for 1st timers or runners hoping for a BQ. Past participants generally rave about how well the race is organized and run (lots of aid stations). Crowd support is excellent. Location: Baltimore, MD Date: Saturday, October 20, 2018 Website: Baltimore Marathon
Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon – very positive reviews from past participants. Most had a great experience between expo, pre and post race activities. It’s well organized and there’s excellent crowd support. A few hills, but nothing that runners complained about. Bottomline, it’s highly recommended. Location: Columbus, OH Date: Sunday, October 21, 2018 Website: Columbus Marathon
Edward-Elmhurst Health Naperville Marathon – small race in suburb outside of Chicago. It’s not the fastest course (due to a few hills and lots of turns), but if you don’t want to run in Chicago with 40k+ other runners, this is a good alternative. Location: Naperville, IL Date: Sunday, October 21, 2018 Website: Naperville Marathon
Detroit Free Press/Chemical Bank Detroit International Marathon – Good organization, but not a lot of crowd support during the middle of the race. Relatively flat course, but there is a climb up the Ambassador Bridge which is a little steeper and longer than many would like. This race has been selling out because it’s very popular, so register before end of August to ensure you get in. There is an underwater mile between Miles 7 & 8. Location: Detroit, MI Date: Sunday, October 21, 2018 Website: Detroit Marathon
Ashworth Awards Baystate Marathon – billed as BQ marathon because of it’s mostly flat course. Right outside of Boston along the scenic Merrimack River. Gets a lot of positive feedback for being well organized. Location: Lowell, MA Date: Sunday, October 21, 2018 Website – Baystate Marathon
Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon – very well organized, plenty of water stations and exuberant spectators throughout the course. Relatively flat (just a few hills) course, so it sets up nicely as a Boston Qualifier. Location: Toronto, ONT Date: Sunday, October 21, 2018 Website: Toronto Marathon
If you’re interested in joining me, I can put together either a custom training plan or I can personally coach you. Either program will be specific to your goals and athletic abilities. Just click on the links for details.
Marine Corps Marathon – this was my first marathon 30+ years ago, when approx. 9,000 runners participated (really big for back then). It’s now a much bigger race with 30k+ participants. Because there’s no corrals at the beginning, it can get a little crowded. Past participants have commented about how the beginning of the race is tough when after mile 1 the course narrows significantly. Overall, mixed reviews, but many are positive. You get to run by a lot of monuments, so it’s a memorable experience. Location: Washington, D.C. Date: Sunday, October 28, 2018 Website – Marine Corps Marathon
Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – 10th most Boston Marathon Qualfiers among all North American marathons, with this flat, fast course. Lots of crowd support, bands, cheering sections. Very positive comments from participants. Location: Indianapolis, IN Date: Saturday, November 3, 2018 Website – Indianapolis Marathon
TCS New York City Marathon – The largest marathon in the U.S. Not much for me to say here as most runners are very familiar with this race. If it’s on your bucket list, definitely apply and train hard because it’s a tough course through Central Park and across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at the beginning. Location: New York, NY Date: Sunday, November 4, 2018 Website – New York Marathon
Anthem Richmond Marathon – Really positive race reviews from past participants. Many rave about the course, organization and fan support. A lot of runners say they would run this race again because they had such an enjoyable experience. Location: Richmond, VA Date: Saturday, November 10, 2018 Website – Richmond Marathon
Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon – mixed reviews, mostly bad, about the course. It’s fun to run through the Vegas lights in the evening, but most complaints centered around the course and challenges with the start (in 2017 additional security measures were taken due to the mass shooting in October). Lots of bands, entertainment and crowd support throughout the race. They offered a finisher jacket in 2017. Location: Las Vegas, NV Date: Sunday, November 11, 2018 Website: Las Vegas Marathon
Fort Worth Marathon – Fast and flat out and back course along the scenic Trinity River. Don’t expect big cheering crowds or perfectly executed signage at every mile. The course is out and back. Not many spectators line this course. Location: Fort Worth, TX Date: Sunday, November 11, 2018 Website – Fort Worth Marathon
Gore-Tex Philadelphia Marathon – mostly flat with a few slight inclines. Some recent negative comments about poor/confusing organization. Lots of friendly spectators Location: Philadelphia, PA Date: Sunday, November 18, 2018 Website – Philadelphia Marathon
Williams Route 66 Marathon – this is a challenging course with multiple hills. Overall reviews are favorable because the support is excellent, expo was fun and the course through the neighborhoods of Tulsa gets lots of local support. Location: Tulsa, OK Date: Sunday, November 18, 2018 Website – Route 66 Marathon
California Intl Marathon (CIM) – billed as fast course with net downhill. This course has wide streets so you don’t feel overly crowded, but with rolling hills for the first 20 miles, If you don’t train for hills, your quads may be “trashed.” Bottomline, you can BQ here, but you must train on hills prior to coming to this race. Location: Sacramento, CA Date: Sunday, December 2, 2018 Website: CIM
BMW Dallas Marathon – This is a highly regarded race. It’s 40+ years old and they have plenty of spectators on the course to keep you motivated. Location: Dallas, TX Date: Sunday, December 9, 2018 Website: Dallas Marathon
Race & Recovery
In this post, my results are below. I finished the race well above my target time of 3:00. My time was 3:17:22. I discuss my take away’s & race specifics below. The main purpose of this post is to share my best strategies for recovery after a long race.
Proven Post Marathon Recovery Strategy
In my week 11 post, I discussed how to recover from a long run. The purpose of this recovery strategy was to optimize your training so you get the most out of your hard days (which are typically spaced 2-3 days apart).
The following post marathon recovery strategy is similar in some respects, but keep in mind that we’ve just completed a 26 mile race & the 3-4 months of training. The race alone is an extreme test of endurance that takes much more out of our bodies than a typical workout. As a result, we need a comprehensive 3 week recovery program.
Barring any injuries, the best strategy for full recovery starts in the first 30 minutes after the race and should last for the next 3 weeks, before you start training for your next event. There’s little to gain by rushing back into training within days of a marathon. Your risk of injury is high due the reduced resiliency of your muscles after running 26 miles.
Day of Race Recovery
Within 30 minutes of finishing the race, you need to consume some calories right away. Typically there’s plenty of food available after the finish line. However, at smaller races, like the one I completed this week, there was very little food, so I brought my own. You can check beforehand with the race to understand what will have available.
I prefer to eat easily digested high-carbohydrate foods such as bananas, bagels or even protein bars. Others like to drink their calories. Whatever you crave, go ahead and have it because the important thing is to get some calories into your body. You’re also dehydrated and your blood glucose is low, so you need to replace electrolytes.
In addition to solid food consumption, I recommend water and sports drinks.
After you leave the post-race celebration area, head home or to the hotel and get off your feet and then get cleaned up, stretch and get in some comfortable clothes and shoes. Consider wearing compression socks or tights.
I really like my compression socks from Bauerfiend. I’ll wear them for at least 3 hours.
I saw it on Bauerfeind USA Inc
Sports Compression Socks Ball & Racket | Compression | Medical aids | Bauerfeind B2C US
You should consume a meal that consists of carbohydrates (fruits & vegetables), proteins and healthy fats. Choose nutritious foods like fruits, whole grains, vegetables and your favorite protein source like red meat, chicken or fish. Continue to hydrate and replace calories the rest of the day. In fact, drinking plenty of water throughout the week after your race is one of the best things you can do to ensure proper recovery. I strongly recommend consuming food that helps to reduce inflammation. There’s a list below.
Week 1 Recovery
The morning after your race, you may have difficulty walking down stairs. This is common. Your quads may be stiff for 3-4 days after the race. Taking a break from running is actually helpful to your recovery. However, if you have access to a flat 2-3 mile route, try to walk or really easy jog (walking is preferred) for 20 – 30 minutes on the day after the marathon. The goal is to boost circulation and gently get the blood flow to your legs. This helps bring healing nutrients into your muscles and will also help to remove waste products and damaged tissue. Walking, light running and gentle massage can help.
Important – If you have an injury or are experiencing any kind of pain (not general soreness) that prevents you from any prolonged walking/running, don’t walk or run. Completing this easy workout on day 1 is something that I have done the day after all of my marathons, because I believe it shortens my overall recovery time.
I recommend taking the rest of the week off from running, with only some short (20-25 minutes) non-impact exercises on an elliptical or stationary bike. The other critical element of week 1 recovery is to drink a lot of water & continue with foods that reduce inflammation. Post marathon soreness typically disappears by the end of the week. However, damage within the muscle cells remain, so it’s important to continue with a full recovery plan.
My Favorite Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Regularly include the following foods in your diet. Increase these foods in the weeks following your race to speed recovery.
Spices such as Ginger and turmeric – sprinkling onto food for a different flavor or drink as an herbal tea flavor
Whole grains – regularly include oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and other unrefined grains into your diet.
Week 2 and Beyond
Following schedule outlines 3 weeks of post marathon recovery workouts. The first week is very “light.” Although I show some short runs starting in week 2, if your body is still sore, continue with the cross/low-impact training. Otherwise, keep your effort easy and the distance short (30-60 minutes). In week 3, the runs are a little longer and a little faster. You can also start some basic conditioning work in Week 3 if you’re not injured or feeling any residual/post race soreness. By week 4 you can move closer to your regular level of training. It’s essential that you don’t jump back into training for another race too soon. Typically, the soonest I race (any distance) after a marathon is 3 months. This is particularly important for less experienced and runners that are 40+ years old.
Here’s the link to my Strava Dashboard so you can see the details of each of the workouts that I completed this week & throughout my journey.
Following are my workouts for the week of July 2nd.
Monday July 2nd – rest day – minimize time on my feet
Tuesday July 3rd – 3-4 miles @ easy pace Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 3.5 miles, 28:28 minutes, ave pace 8:08
Wednesday July 4th – Race Day
I didn’t come close to my goal of 3:00. Although I had been training to break 3, my last month’s workouts were leading me to believe that at time closer to 3:05 was more realistic. With this in mind, I decided to start conservatively at around 7:05 – 7:10/mile pace. My thought was that if I could run 7:00 – 7:10 for the first 6+ miles, I could then settle into a low 7:00/mile pace and then pick it up if I felt good from mile 13+.
As you can see with my splits, it didn’t work out that way. My primary challenge was that I was never able to sustain a sub 7:10/mile pace. Eventually, my feet started to really hurt (due to worn out orthotics that really had not bothered me too much) and I just ran out of gas the last 3-4 miles.
The good news is that the 3:17 is still 12+ minutes under my Boston Qualifying benchmark.
I now that I’m blessed to be able to run and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I didn’t get sick or injured the entire time I trained for this marathon. It’s really “icing on the cake” when we can reach our time goals.
Here’s my take away’s from the race and my training.
I need new orthotics. Mine are worn. My feet were definitely feeling it the last 6-7 miles.
I should have completed a few more longer runs (19-21 miles). I followed a plan that had worked for me earlier where I completed more longer tempos and longer repeats (1.5 – 2 miles). I was also training with a personal trainer at that time to get strong. My very best results over the years have come where I completed 2 x 19-21 mile runs.
I should have completed more strength training. I used to go to a physical trainer who really helped me get strong. I did much of my conditioning on my own this time and I think at times I didn’t push myself hard enough. Being strong really helps towards the end of the race. Especially if you haven’t completed any 19-21 mile runs. Although my feet hurt, to be honest, my legs and hips were feeling it too.
I always learn a lot from each marathon & the 3+ months of training. I will continue to share what I learn with each of those that read my blog and those whom I coach.
If you’re interested in joining me, I can put together either a custom training plan or I can personally coach you. Either program will be specific to your goals and athletic abilities. Just click on the links for details.
Following image shows my race splits.
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 26.5 miles, 3:17:22 minutes, ave pace 7:27
4 Days of Recovery Notes
Thursday July 5th – Off Day – Rest & Recovery My quads are tight today, however I can easily walk up/down stairs.
I took my dog out for 3 mile walk around a lake in our community. This gives me a great opportunity To stretch my legs, get the blood flowing and simply speed recovery. No running today, but if I wanted, I feel I could.
Also, I continue to drink plenty of water and eat healthy carbs, proteins & fats or a well balanced diet.
Friday July 6th – Easy/Short Run
Minimal stiffness in my quads, so I complete my first run after the race. The key is to jog slowly.
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 4.16 miles, 36:39 minutes, ave pace 8:48
Saturday July 7th – Walk/Hike 3.5 mile walk (with dog) on flat crushed gravel path
Sunday July 8th – Walk/Hike
3 mile walk (walked my dog)
Weekly total = 34.1 Miles
3+ Month Run Total (March 26 – July 6) = 607.5 miles
In this post, I’ll share what I do the last 7-10 days prior to my race and how to ensure I that I’m fresh, fit and ready for my marathon.
As I wind down my training, I have found that the strategy that gets the most consistent (good) results, is to slightly reduce my volume over the last few weeks, but don’t decrease the intensity.
A month out from the race, I topped my weekly mileage at 57. Although I still completed strength & longer tempo runs in subsequent weeks, I decreased my weekly mileage by 10-15% weekly. The last week before my race, I completed some intervals/speed on a trail and a shorter tempo. I also completed strides on the track to ensure I have some faster running. This strategy that I learned when I was coached by Greg McMillian, is called “keeping the engine revved.” My weekly mileage the last week prior to the marathon was 37 miles.
These workouts in the last 1 ½ weeks stress your body, but not as much as earlier in the plan. The goal is to ensure you’re fresh, fit and ready to run on race day.
In the last 3-4 days do your best not to go hungry. This doesn’t mean you should overeat. Instead, make sure you are consuming nutritious snacks in between your healthy meals. Snacks I recommend are whole wheat bagels, bananas, avocado (to spread on toast or bagels), peanut butter and energy bars. Consume these with plenty of water. In fact, you should be drinking a lot of water (48 – 64 ozs more than you typically drink before a long run or hard workout). In the last few days before the race, you can have some sports drinks/electrolytes. Just remember, don’t overdo any eating or drinking and definitely do not consume anything that you haven’t previously tested before a long or hard run.
I don’t think you need to “carbo load” 1-2 days before the race. Instead, I recommend eating a balance of healthy fats (salmon, avocados & nuts work for me) and quality carbs (whole grain pasta with marinara, salad & whole grain bread). Substituting a few extra carbohydrates instead of protein works well for me and other runners. We don’t need to overdo it with too many carbs because your training volume has decreased slightly. Trust me, a slight increase in carbs typically works fine.
Just remember what worked during your training, should work now.
Following are my workouts for the week of June 25th.
Monday June 25th – modified Fartlek
This is not a “push it the max” workout. Instead the purpose is to get some quick leg turnover, but also not allow full recovery between reps, that’s why I call it a Modified Fartlek. I like to complete this workout on a bike or dirt trail, because I won’t push as hard as if I was on a track. This is an 8 mile workout.
1 mile warm-up at easy pace 2 x ¼ mile at 10k pace with ¼ mile modified rest (at brisk, not a slow jog) 1 x 1 mile at MP with ¼ mile rest 2 x ¼ mile at 10k pace with ¼ mile modified rest (brisk) 2 x ¼ mile at 10k pace with ¼ mile modified rest (brisk) 1 x 1 mile at MP with ¼ mile rest 2 x ¼ mile at 10k pace with ¼ mile modified rest (brisk) 1 mile cool down at easy pace
You can see the mile splits below. This is a hard workout, but it’s not meant to be very demanding. It’s important to not go too slow in between the 1/4 & 1 mile intervals.
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 8.0 miles, 1:00:23 minutes, ave pace 7:32
Tuesday June 26th – Treadmill @ Easy Pace + Conditioning Exercises
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 5 miles, 40 minutes, ave pace 8:00
Wednesday June 27th – Treadmill @ easy pace
Very limited time to run today due to business travel. I completed 4 miles @ easy pace on a treadmill. The purpose of this run was just to get in something.
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 4 miles, 32:00 minutes, ave pace 8:00
Thursday June 28th – Off Day
Rest & Recovery Day – Business Travel
Friday June 29th – Short Tempo
1 mile warm-up @ easy 4 mile tempo @ 6:50 – 7:00/mile pace 3 mile cool down @ easy
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 8 miles, 1:00:46 minutes, ave pace 7:32
Saturday June 30th – Easy Run + Strides – recovery
Strides are to practice quick leg turnover & keep the “engine revved.”
Run Distance, Time, & Average Pace: 6.1 miles, 51:36 minutes, ave pace 8:25
Sunday July 1st – Easy Run – recovery
The purpose of today’s run was more easy running. Recovery, just lower volume
Run Distance, Time, Pace: 6.1 miles, 49:18 minutes, ave pace 8:00