Hard Training Q&As: Training General

From the forum: former London Marathon winner Mike Gratton on dedicated training


Posted: 23 June 2004

Hard Training Q&As

TRAINING GENERAL
Do I need to take an "easy week" when my average mileage isn’t that high?
Should you try and break through ‘the wall’ in training?
Is it just the cold weather, or am I getting fitter?
How do I overcome sluggishness at the beginning of my long runs?
What exactly causes a reduction in resting heart rate?
Do I need a rest?
Is this tiredness a result of working hard, or over-doing it?
How hard does hard training need to be?
Routines and periodisation
Why train twice a day?
Is it better to train twice a day or run further once a day?
I take ages to recover - how can I improve?
How can I get faster with minimal speedwork?
What time of day should I run/twice-a-day runs?
Multiple runs and time management
Can I train for a 10K in summer then run a fast marathon?
Form/running style
How do you run over 100 miles a week?

TRAINING COMPONENTS
Should I skip the "easy week" if I’m still feeling strong after a hard block of training?
I can’t get my legs to go fast enough in speed work
Should I squeeze in some more speed work?
How long should my longest run be?
Threshold runs - how fast?
Pyramids/mixed-distance speedwork
How often would you include a 'long run' in your training?
Hills
Cross-training

MARATHONING
When to move on from base training in a marathon build-up?
How Janice Moorekite jumped from 3:10 to 2:48
I've run 3:12 - how long should I wait to run sub-3?
How often to race in marathon training?
I missed 2:45 in spring. how can I hit it in autumn?
Female, high-mileage: advice on getting from 3:26 to sub-3:15 marathon

NUTRITION
What do elites drink in a marathon?
Nutrition: carbo-depletion/carbo-loading

MISC
Should I race a 5K and a half in the same week?
Can low expectations lead to a better performance on race day?
Should I try to change my running style?
Elite hard training and the will to succeed
Hard training, the old days, and full-time work
'Whatever happened to...'
On hindsight

Do I need to take an "easy week" when my average mileage isn’t that high?

Slightly Do you advise a rest week on my average weekly mileage? I know it's only half of what's being achieved by most people on this thread but last year I ran four marathons and around six halfs and had little time resting. After my last marathon in early November I was up to 47/48 miles the week after.

Mike Gratton I think you should always plan an easier week every third week or so regardless of your training load. It's during the rest periods that the body adapts to the training you have done.

Should you try and break through ‘the wall’ in training?

Rio Fair Someone has said that you advocate ‘hitting the wall’ at least once in training to ensure you can do it in the marathon. This advice is being recommended to even first-time marathon runners which I would not have thought was good. I know you need to run when tired to encourage the body to burn fat but surely not when you are completely depleted of carbs?

Mike Gratton Rio, it's complete rubbish. All you will learn is what it feels like to hit the wall, the body will not adapt because of it. The best way to avoid hitting the wall is to do your long runs and not start too fast in the race.

Is it just the cold weather, or am I getting fitter?

Tea&Toast Man I feel a bit daft questioning stuff when something's gone better than expected, but here goes! Last night I ran seven recovery miles. I planned to stay under 70%; this has recently meant around 9:30 minutes per mile.

When I checked my pace I was running on average 8:33 minute miles (current marathon pace plus 30 secs), but my HR was way lower than expected: average 145 BPM over an undulating route. Thought it might be the cold playing up with the Heart Rate Monitor (HRM), but the readings are fine. Also my perceived effort was very low throughout. Does the cold weather just make the running easier?

Mike Gratton I don't think the temperature would make this much difference. It may just be that you are much fitter than you thought. The only way to tell is to race - I think a 10K would be a good way to experiment and find out where your limits are at the moment. Run it as hard as you can with your HRM, but don't run by it, use the feedback afterwards to see what you pace/HR comes out at.

How do I overcome sluggishness at the beginning of my long runs?

Tigger’s mate Roo I did my medium-long run (14 miles) tonight and had the same problem as I almost always have. For the first mile I can only do 10:30 pace, then 10:00 for a couple of miles, then 9:00 for several miles, and only after about 90 minutes am I able to really get going, to 8:30s. By the end I was feeling great. All at the same "steady" effort. What can I do about it taking me so long to warm up? On shorter runs I rarely feel as good as at the end of long runs, and until 17-18 miles or so I don't feel at all tired, like I do in the first few miles. I know that one implication is that I need really long warm-ups before races. Is it because my legs are often tired? But if so, why do I feel OK after lots of miles?

Mike Gratton Not sure about this one - you should warm up in 20 minutes or so even on tired legs. Maybe you could try deliberately lifting the pace to say 10K pace for short bursts after 30 minutes of your long run and see if that clicks you into faster gear earlier in the run.

What exactly causes a reduction in resting heart rate?

Micksta Does your resting HR become lower by training more miles or by adding quality to your sessions? I’ve noticed over the past six months my resting HR has gone from average of 50-52bpm, to now being 42-45bpm, just wondering what training was causing this?

Mike Gratton Both will lead to increased fitness, therefore lower HR, but it does appear that longer stuff does promote a drop more than anaerobic training. I think there are better indicators of fitness, though HR is a good guide for gauging training effort.

Do I need a rest?

Tottie Applebuns Am I doing my long runs too hard? I am quite willing to admit that lack of breakfast probably played a part, but yesterday I dropped right down in pace when I hit two hours. (My HR averaged 145 bpm and it felt steady, not hard). Last week I felt fine going out for 2:25. There are lots of hills though, I can't get away from them here! Do I keep plodding on, or take a rest and only do one good session today. This is the second time I have felt like this, but my tempo runs are on target. Where am I going wrong or is this just training?

Mike Gratton TootieA, It sounds like you are just generally fatigued from the training - if you have three or four consecutive runs where you just don't feel up to it then take a rest week. It is normal at this stage to feel that you are dragging your legs, but adaptation will take place and it does start to feel easier - the difficulty is judging whether you are too tired and heading for break down. Keep an eye on your resting pulse and reduce training if it stays elevated over a period of days.

Is this tiredness a result of working hard, or over-doing it?

Tigger’s mate Roo Do you find that when the legs feel tired and you can't raise your pace, you cannot raise your heart rate to where you want or expect it to be for the type of session? I had this experience today, trying to do hill circuits, and could only get my HR to circa 10 beats lower than last week, though I was working as hard as I could.

Mike Gratton TmR, I think you need to look for a pattern; if you are consistently too tired to be able to push a session two days after your long run it may be that you are going a little too hard on the long run and getting glycogen deficiency, so you need to slow them down a bit. If it is a one-off it may be just one of those days or you may be on the edge of a cold. Another thing to check for is anaemia.

How hard does hard training need to be?

U/A Distance runners obviously need to work hard to achieve good performances, but we know it's all too easy to overtrain. What do you reckon is too much? Is it necessary to train twice a day? How slow is too slow?

Mike Gratton Bruce Tulloh sums it up nicely with a story he tells about British athletes going to Kenya. They asked how much training they would be doing and were told two sessions a day. So they got up and did an hour run with the Kenyans at the camp before breakfast, went back to bed, got up for the midday session and thought that would be it... until they were told that the next session was at 4 o'clock. When they questioned the third session they were told, 'we don't count the hour run in the morning; it's not fast enough'.

In reality, the ability to be a world-class marathon runner does in part depend on being able to absorb the training over two or three years. I don't know of any elite marathon runner who doesn't average around 100 miles a week, mostly around 120 miles a week. The most efficient ones can take it and become elite runners; those who can't drop out of marathon running. That's the nature of elite sport.

There has been much dumbing down of training to try to find a level that will enable athletes not to get injured, and to cater for people who just want to marathon-train in the 16-week period between getting a London Marathon acceptance and the race, but I believe it has resulted in lowering of standards at the highest level. We can't afford to be soft about it. At that level it is not a pastime, it is like premiership soccer, very tough, commercial and rich pickings for those who make it.

My training from 1981 (3rd in AAA Marathon) to the 1983 London Marathon looked something like this:

  • Sun: am 22 miles. pm 5 miles easy
  • Mon: am 5 miles easy. pm Hill session
  • Tue: am 5 miles easy. pm 20 x 400m at 5km pace/100m jog recovery
  • Wed: am 5 miles easy. pm 15 miles.
  • Thu: am 5 miles easy. pm 6 x 1 mile reps. 3 mins rec.
  • Fri: am 5 miles easy. pm 5 miles.
  • Sat: XC race or fartlek.

I averaged 113 miles per week for two years before winning London. The long runs were slow in the winter, but got faster as the season progressed, so that I would be running close to race pace on the long runs in the last six weeks before a marathon. Number of reps also reduced and recoveries lengthened so I could run efforts faster - eg 10 x 400 in 58 sec/200 jog rec.

In 1985 I started to get injured and that was the end of my elite career... but I wouldn't have changed it to have a longer but less successful one.

Routines and periodisation

Urban Road Runner Mike, did you follow the same routine every week? No macro/micro cycles, periodisation, or base training?

Mike Gratton I ran basically the same quantity year-round, as did most marathon runners, but the intensity and make-up of the mileage was different and we definitely used periodisation - mostly steady miles through Oct/Nov/Dec, changing to heavy intervals and hills in Jan/Feb, then speeding up the intervals and long runs in March/April.

The speeding up was a natural consequence of getting fitter as the season progressed. This pattern was used by Rob de Castella, who put in big but slow mileage in the early season and progressively got quicker as the season went on. Steve Moneghetti was another who did much the same training throughout the year but changed the emphasis to quicker running the closer a marathon came.

Why train twice a day?

Gumpster What do you think is the value of doubles [training twice a day] for the average club/county-standard runner?

Would an easy 5/6 miles in the mornings four times a week be of much benefit, and is there a threshold weekly mileage at which this should be started - 45/50 miles?

Mike Gratton It depends on how much training you are already doing. If you're running four or five times a week, there is no point, but if you're at six or seven times a week, it's the next logical step.

Most athletes I have coached have made big improvements once they have gone on to twice a day - if you're at 50 miles a week and introduce a couple of days when you run twice you will be up to 60, and so on. It's an easy way to increase your base mileage.

Janice Moorekite was running around 3:10 for the marathon until we pushed her on to twice a day: she improved quickly to 2:48. Barry Royden moved up to twice a day to prepare for the marathon: he never quite conquered the event (although he did 2:18), but he improved his cross-country ability and came second in the National XC twice off the back of it.

At Invicta, most of the club runners were on twice a day and we all trained in big groups, I'm sure that the incredible depth for a small club came from that. We were three-times winners of the London Marathon team race, winners of the Southern 12-stage relay, fifth in the National 12-stage, and third team in the National XC - all from a club with 50 members in the 1980s.

Is it better to train twice a day or run further once a day?

Pantman Mike, I was doing doubles [training twice a day] and have recently shifted back to singles (90 miles a week) mainly due to life getting in the way. But I have done more miles for the main run as a result and found it really helpful - 14 miles now feels more like a regular run rather than a longish one.

Is this a useful period without doubles (as a temporary thing) or am I better off with doubles ALL the time?

Mike Gratton If you're doing the mileage, then once a day is okay. It might be that once you start doing interval sessions, you'll benefit from doing a few morning runs to keep the mileage up and also to help to relax the legs as recovery runs. I always ran better in the afternoon if I'd done a run in the morning.

For the marathon the critical thing is a long run over 2 hrs once a week, and if time and experience/conditioning allow, a second longish run in the week - around 1.5 hrs.

Pantman I am running 1.5 hours almost every day - is that too much? My body seems to be adapting to it fine. I am trying to get close to 2:30 for a marathon debut in October and am happy to do the work necessary.

Mike Gratton That's okay for base training, but at some point you need to do some speed work and threshold running to come to a peak.

I take ages to recover - how can I improve?

Helegant It takes me much longer to recover than most of the training plans allow, so it's easy to cause injuries by trying to do too much. How do we 'ordinary' mortals improve this aspect so that we can train harder?

Mike Gratton The secret for you may be to run less intensely and a bit more often - increase quantity at the sacrifice of quality for a bit to build the base, then increase quality once you're better conditioned.

From what I have seen, 'back of the pack' runners often push themselves on every run, whereas faster runners will do much more easy running.

Just stepping off the effort a couple of percent will reduce stress levels - heart rate monitors are good for working this out.

How can I get faster with minimal speedwork?

LizzyB I am fired up to do a sub-3.30. I just need to sort out my training for the next six months, and get some priorities in place.

I absorb training well, and recover quickly, but my problem is that I was born with a hip problem, have a very uneconomic gait and subsequently don't and can't reach high speeds. What it means that my training needs to revolve around making sure that I can run at my fastest pace (which is around 6:45 miling) for longer.

Mike Gratton Threshold runs would be one way of developing speed endurance. Similarly, pushing hills on your steady runs and maintaining pace on the down slope before easing back to steady.

What time of day should I run/twice-a-day runs?

Urban Road Runner If you're running twice a day, I assume the first run is mainly to loosen the legs, for recovery and to prepare for the second session. Is there more magic to it? For example, the resting heart rate is quite low after you wake up (assume ~50 or less), is there an additional training stimulus if you go out of a run and raise it to, say, 150? So far I applied another pattern: go for one-hour threshold-type run for lunchtime on the treadmill and run 90 minutes in the evening. Does the early-morning run make any difference?

Mike Gratton I don't think time of the day makes much difference - it depends on your body rhythms. I personally hate running in the morning, but it got me to work and the run out of the way. My meaningful training was always in the evening. Sarah Rowell, who trained with our group, used to do all her hard stuff in the morning, as did Ian Stewart, who shared a house with me when he ran his 3:53 mile and 7:43 3km.

Ian used to be asleep by 9pm. When he ran the Bislet Games in Oslo the 3km race started past his bedtime and he said he had trouble staying awake... not sure if he meant during the race, though. There is a case for doing some long runs in the morning before breakfast so that you run the glycogen down quickly and bring in fat-burning earlier... pretty horrible experience though.

Multiple runs and time management

Stifler I need help managing my time properly. I've got an essay in for 4pm today so I stayed up late last night trying to complete it. That resulted in me missing my morning run! This happens quite regularly. I know the Kenyans do three sessions a day so would it be okay for me to do 5 miles at, say 11am or 12, and then do an evening session at 6ish?

What can I do to help me organise my schedules properly? I only end up doing 25-30 miles per week rather than the 45-50 I should be doing.

Is it better to do the morning runs? Particularly when some races start at 10 and I feel well asleep?

Mike Gratton Time management is what it's all about. Five or six hours between sessions is plenty as long as one is easy, usually the first one. Don't worry too much about matching race start times with training times (with the exception of events that start really early) - you'll be up and ready on race day.

Can I train for a 10K in summer then run a fast marathon?

Skip Can I train for a 10K in summer then run a fast marathon?

Mike Gratton As Paula Radcliffe, Steve Jones, Richard Nerurkar and Paul Evans (all Olympic 10km finalists who followed up with great autumn marathons) have shown, it is possible to switch to 10km in the summer by changing the emphasis of the interval work to shorter and faster sessions while maintaining the long runs, then switch back to marathon-specific speedwork 10 -12 weeks before your target marathon.

I think it is necessary to use the seasons that you're training in to good effect, and running short fast intervals is best done in early summer when the weather is good and there are lots of good 10Ks around.

Form/running style

Chaos I don't want to start a forefoot-vs-heelstrike debate but I would like to know what runners hoping to seriously improve should focus on in terms of improving the efficiency of their running.

For instance did you -

  • do specific technical drills
  • focus on particular elements of technique
  • have general aims in mind (e.g. running "tall", minimise vertical oscillation, etc)
  • get coached on technique, etc

Most conversations relate to intervals, distances, pace, exertion level (whether HR or RPE) and so on, but very few look at efficiency and how it can be improved.

Mike Gratton I believe that you can't change your running action dramatically as it is determined by a load of factors such as bone length and muscle flexibility. There are some pretty ugly running styles among fast runners - I had a pronounced forward lean and shoulder roll due to tight hip flexors, Hugh Jones had a huge ungainly stride.

However, you can become as efficient as possible with sprint drills and work in the gym. Without doing the drills and strengthening, certain muscles (core muscles, hamstrings etc), you will not be able to maintain an efficient action once you start to tire.

How do you run over 100 miles a week?

Urban Road Runner Mike, you say you averaged 113 miles for two years. No cut-back weeks?

Mike Gratton I hardly ever dropped below 100 miles a week except for marathons and the National XC. I won the 1982 Inter-counties 20 miles in 1:42 off a 100-mile week, and won the Southwark 5 miles in 23 mins in the afternoon after a 22 mile run with Keith Penney (who was a 47-minute 10-miler, so it wasn't a slow run). You have to build up over many years to reach that level of fitness and resilience, but it can all come crashing down very quickly if you get it wrong. Ron Hill once ran all six legs of a relay... not sure if he won it though.


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Discuss this article

i am well aware that elite runners train several times a day, and that even county runners also do it twice a day.

the question is, is this a good idea for me? i have only been running for 3 months (and entered my first race - the lincoln 10k last week)

would it be worthwile for me to run for 30mins in the morning and then another 30mins in the afternoon, or just stick to a 60min run?

thank you for your time....
Posted: 08/04/2005 at 16:01

I would say one big run
Posted: 08/04/2005 at 16:09

look on the training forum, this is a regular question.
I run 20-30 miles\week,
but run 2x per day monday to thursday, the second run of the day is only 20 mins and i consider it a recovery run from what i do in the morning. As this is my mode of transport to and from work.
Wife makes me go shopping after work on Friday, that's why i use the car and have a rest day. Do short run sat and long on sun.
Horses for courses mate, I have never been laid up with injuries with above scheme.

Good Luck

macky
Posted: 08/04/2005 at 16:12

When training for an event or season I always try and run twice a day, the plan being that to get 60 to 80 miles in a week can leave you a bit tired and muscle sore if doing it in one run of say 10 to 13 miles a day.

I usually train 30 mins recovery run in morning and then 45 mins at evening with a session mon, tues, Fri and a long run of say 15 on Sunday.

I have tried the one run thing and it just left me too tired and one paced to do any faster work.

I go out at 6am for the morning run so the added advantage is my evening run does not take up 1.5 to two hours and miss family time.

If I was you I would regard the morning one as a recovery though as its morning and not a good idea to start charging round from cold.
Posted: 08/04/2005 at 16:26

I guess the answer to this question depends on your fitness level - however I think in all honesty the answer would be no. As you presumably want to develope further as a runner, your next stage should be, I think, find and enter a target race for say maybe 3 months time - another 10K would be ideal because, having already run one - you will be able to use a second one as a guide to your progress.

Then, instead of trying to do more and more, find yourself a schedule that suits you as a runner - A schedule will give you sessions that will vary the pace and distance you are running each time and will gradually build up your fitness level speed and endurance.

If you look at the top runners, a lot of them use the first run as a recovery run with the second run being the actual training session,. Also a lot of these guys are running 100 miles plus each week and it is almost impossible to run that sort of weekly mileage on one a day sessions.

The club runners, probably do use two a day sessions purely to build up mileage, which at this stage you do not need to do.

You can improve by increasing the quality of your sessions rather than the quantity.

This may or may not be helpful but enjoy your running.
Posted: 08/04/2005 at 16:29

Back when I was a super-fit run monkey in a former life, I tried running twice in one day (one day a week) to increase mileage.
If you've only been running for 3 months then I'd say DON'T DO IT!!!
It really does put your bod under enormous stress. All the training benefit of running comes during rest & recovery; if you don't allow adequate rest time between runs then the risk of injury goes ballistic.
I eventually had to drop this silly idea, as I would inevitably be useless for anything the following day, and would end up having to take a second rest day, which made it an exercise in nothing but pointlessness.
If you want to increase fitness without killing yourself then look at cross-training or tri-training schedules, where two workouts a day are common, but you balance out upper and lower body and hard/easy sessions so the physical load is not too onerous (but the time required might be).
Even so, I'd say that two a day training is not a method to get you fit; it needs you to be pretty darn fit to start with.

Posted: 08/04/2005 at 16:34

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