A Reflection on Training

Last weekend’s marathon was the first marathon I was able to get to the starting line of without an injury. It was also the first one I was able to get to the finish line of without an injury. Two very good things which make me feel like I trained the right way for my body.

Looking back there are a lot of things that I think I did right, but a few things I still need to improve on for next time (ok, you caught me, I think I’ll do another one, but not yet).

What Worked:

Running three days/week: I really think this is a big reason why I did not get injured. I’ve learned that my body is not built to sustain running multiple days in a row let alone 5-6 days/week. Not to mention, fitting in runs with a one year old is tough. I can’t get  up any earlier than I already do (5am) and there are only so many hours in the day.

Speed training: I saw a vast difference in the speed at which I could run as my training progressed. Some of this I attribute to not being as scared to push myself, but most of it I think was due to doing two speed workouts a week. These included intervals of varying lengths and a tempo run every week.

Longer runs: Once training started, before tapering of course, I rarely ran less than 7 miles at a time. If I was only going to run three days a week, they had to be good quality runs. I think this gave me a good base. I also did more long runs. I did five runs of 16 miles or longer including 19, 20 and 22 milers. This helped me build up my endurance as well as gave me the opportunity to practice fueling.

Fueling: During the week I tried to focus on eating all of my food groups and enough calories to carry my through runs and still nursing. If I was particularly sluggish on a run, without lack of sleep as an excuse, I knew I hadn’t eaten enough.

I also ate the same thing before every run and took my gels or bloks at the same time during the runs. This trained my body so that I avoided the dreaded trots. I knew exactly how long I needed before starting out on my long run and when my body needed that extra boost during the runs.

Recovery: Making sure I stretched and fed my body after long runs was very important to me this time around. It’s easy to slack off but I knew my knees and IT bands would be pissed if I did this.  After long runs I’d stretch for at least 15 minutes then drink chocolate milk or a protein shake for quick calories, fat, protein and carbs.

Marathon training can be a platform for weight gain. After all you’re running a ton of miles and you get hungry. It’s easy to reward yourself with something(s) indulgent after long runs because you ‘earned’ it. I tried to pick one treat after the long runs, but made sure that I was giving my body the fuel it needed to recover.

Resting: I was really good about resting this time. If I felt a strange ache or pain, I’d rest, without questioning myself. I think this was a huge factor in me staying healthy. For me, it is always better to rest to prevent injury rather than rest to recover from injury.

What I’d do differently next time:

Weight Training:I started out with the best intentions this time. I went to my Cardio Sculpt class once a week for months…until I started traveling more for work. I haven’t been in about two months now, which means I haven’t really been strength training.

In my next training cycle it is really going to need to be a primary focus just as running is. I think had my leg muscles been a little stronger, the hills may not have felt quite so hard. I also need to work on my back and ab strength so that when I get tired I’m not so prone to hunching over. That is bad bad bad and definitely slows you down.

Cross-training: Confession time, I got lazy. I did not cross-train as often as I should have. I’d cross-train maybe 1-2 times/week towards the end of my training cycle. I don’t think it hurt me a ton, but it could have helped.

Mental Prep: I was once told that marathons are 90% physical and 10% mental. The thing about that is you cannot brush off that 10%. Mentally I was defeated by the end of the race due to several factors, like the additional mileage. Just as I mentally trained myself for labor and delivery of Ella, I need to do the same thing for my next race.

Hill Training: Next time I’m going to pick a friendlier course, but I still need to work on hills more. Even if I have to do hill work on a treadmill, I’ve got to do it.

Have you done a race recently that you would have trained for differently?

P.S. Good luck to Kimberly who is running her first marathon this weekend!

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