Should I skip the "easy week" if I’m still feeling strong after a hard block of training?
JamesEarlJones Mike, I realise it's very difficult to generalise as everybody will respond differently to their training, but I'm surprised at your comment about easing back every third week. Do you think this should be a rigid rule, or is it more about listening to one's body and easing back when it tells you too?
For example, if someone is feeling fresh on a week scheduled to be an easy one, should they not train as normal, and perhaps ease back on another week when the schedule may say "train hard" but they're feeling tired?
Mike Gratton There's a case for doing as you say JEJ, but there is a risk that you don't recognise creeping tiredness, so sometimes I think it is good to plan the rest. If you have a target race each month, as opposed to the ones you train through, you could easily plan the rest weeks leading up to them. It may be that you don't have to back off much, maybe do a couple of steady runs instead of speed work just to give the legs a break.
I can’t get my legs to go fast enough in speed work
Micksta I found in my 6x800m session that the limit to my speed was not so much the fact I was out of breath, just my legs would not go any faster, or fast enough to make me out of breath, unless I was really pumping the arms and literally trying to sprint! I’m still getting over a bug - is this a sign that I’m over-tired or just my aerobic system has improved to a point where my LT pace is improving?
Mike Gratton A bit of both probably. If you've had a bug it will hang around in the system for a while and inhibit anaerobic ability, but you will probably snap out of it fairly quickly once your immune system recovers.
Should I squeeze in some more speed work?
Hilly Mike, I've got my target 10K in two weeks time. I've not been doing any speedwork for this as I've been concentrating on building the miles back up. Should I do some faster work, if so what? Or will it makes no difference with it being so close?
Mike Gratton Hilly, if you try to introduce speed work suddenly it will probably result in the opposite reaction, you will get tight muscles. Do some gentle fartlek with occasional fast bursts of 30 to 60 seconds to activate your fast-twitch muscle fibres - your key will be a high, even pace based on your endurance rather than blazing leg speed for a short distance.
How long should my longest run be?
FishAreBest What's your view on the length of the long run? I've been told by lots of people to avoid going much over 20 miles as this runs too great a risk of injury. My 20 miles this morning took me 2:15 and I feel like I should be spending longer on my feet. Should I slow the pace down, run further (how much?), or just do a second run?
Mike Gratton I don't think there is a great need to do much more than 20 miles - maybe go up to 22 (2:30), but after that I think there is a risk of becoming too depleted to train properly in the following days. I favour a second run, if kept slow it also helps the recovery process, and a second longish run in the week consolidates the endurance part of your training.
Threshold runs - how fast?
LizzyB I understand that threshold runs should be about 85% WHR [working heart rate]. I'm always a bit confused about how long I should do them for - maybe about 30 mins with a warm up and cool down at each end? What do you think?
I often scare myself in races, especially 10Ks. I find myself going off at a shade over seven-minute miling and then start thinking "I won't be able to keep this up" and slowing down. I think that's a head thing more than a training thing though!
Mike Gratton 85% is about right. It's not a precise science without going to a lab and getting tested properly. It's easiest to do it with someone else, as running at half-marathon pace (usually equates to threshold) on your own is damn tough. Improvement comes in many guises. I found that doing road relays where you had to run flat out for the team took me to levels I didn't think I could achieve... but I did blow up spectacularly on the first leg of the National 12-stage relay once when running for Brighton, who had a chance of winning it... a very quiet ride home!
Mike, you said that mixed-pace/distance sessions (eg pyramids) can be useful. Can you explain what you mean, eg what they are useful for, how they should be planned and fitted in to a training schedule?
At the moment I tend to do something like one interval session a week (eg 12x400m, 8x800m, 4x1mile), one tempo run, a long run, and a couple of easier mileage builders which might become an ad hoc fartlek run or hill session if I'm feeling good.
My understanding is that short intervals are good for VO2 max, long intervals or tempo runs for lactate threshold, long runs for endurance. But I don't know how pyramid sessions or other variable runs should be used.
Mike Gratton Pyramids are really interval sessions aimed at lactate tolerance and VO2 max sessions similar to a standard session of 400m intervals. Extending the distance having already pushed a few short efforts to build up lactate develops speed endurance - lactate buffering.
The session doesn't have to be as a pyramid (eg 200-400-800-400-200m), but can be done as, say, 3 x 800m at 3km speed, 5 x 400m at mile speed, 8 x 200m at 800m speed. I did them usually in the early part of the final marathon-training phase (10 to 6 weeks before the target marathon) and progressed on to faster intervals closer to the marathon in the 400 - 600m range.
I also did a session of 5 miles at threshold pace followed by 10 x 400 at 5km pace to build speed endurance.
How often would you include a 'long run' in your training?
How often would you include a 'long run' in your training?
Last year before the London Marathon I did two halfs (which I know isn't very long), a 16-miler, an 18- and a 19-miler.
I'm guessing about once every two weeks - but for how many weeks before the marathon would you start to run regularly over 15 miles, say?
Mike Gratton As often as possible - the more you do, the more efficient you become, so if you can, run 2 hrs or so every week that you're not racing. They should count as medium-effort runs and you should be able to recover from them in a couple of days if you reload with carbohydrate and keep fully hydrated.
Most schedules assume that people are starting marathon training from a low level of fitness and build up the long runs over a 12- to 16-week period. However, once you're past the beginner stage you should be putting in long conditioning runs in the period before the marathon build-up phase. Once you get to 12 weeks before a marathon (or any race distance), you should be thinking about speeding up the long runs and not worrying about how many you have done.
For the London Marathon, I would say that long, slow runs should start in September and be run regularly through to January. In January, lengthen the runs to around 20 miles (obviously not for beginners) and through March lift the pace of the long runs and push on at your predicted marathon speed for the last 30 minutes. This, coupled with speedwork at 10K then 5K pace in the last eight weeks, will bring you to a peak... but it is the most dangerous time in terms of getting ill or injured from overuse.
I'm not afraid of hills as I live surrounded by them and think of myself as being able to run them reasonably well. However, in races I notice that loads of people go past me going up, while going down I pass many. Do you think running hills daily on normal training makes a person into a slow hill racer?
Mike Gratton There are three ways to look at hill training. One is to develop leg power and would help you attack a hill, say, in a shorter cross-country race - this would be your traditional 10 reps of one minute on a steepish hill.
Second is what Keith Anderson calls Kenyan Hills. This would be a hill circuit of, say, 800m where you surge on the uphill and stride out on the down part, thus maintaining an even speed for maybe 10 loops, or a set time - 30 minutes. This is the type of hill running I think you need. The slope up and down should not be too steep.
Third is running hilly routes in regular training runs, which are great for conditioning and general endurance building, but won't necessarily make you great at running hills.
In many ways, running downhill is more of a skill than running up, requiring relaxation around the hips. If you can improve your uphill running so you can at least hold your own, you can use your downhill skill to pull away when the others try to recover off the top.
Developing more leg power may help you a bit on uphill finishes and will improve your flat sprint speed at the end of any race - but in the end you may gain just a few seconds with a better sprint finish, but can gain minutes by being able to maintain an even pace throughout the race.
Urban Road Runner What's your take on cross-training? A lot of people do weights or plyometrics.
Mike Gratton I did a lot of weights when I was a track runner, but maintained only one session per week using combination of free weights and multi-gym once I started concentrating on the marathon. Cross training is okay for those who can't take heavy running training, but the only way to reach the top in anything is to be specific - I doubt if Lance Armstrong does much running in his bike training. You do need to maintain strength and flexibility, both of which are lost by endurance running.