Building up your mileage while training for a distance event is both simple and complicated at the same time. It’s simple because most training plans follow the same formula: they slowly build mileage over the course of 12-18 weeks in a process that is called progressive overload. Thad McLaurin on active.com (7 Ways Runners Can Avoid Overtraining) says that “progressive overload trains your body to adapt to the new conditions being put upon it” by forcing it to complete harder, more intense–or in this case, longer– workouts and then every few weeks recovering, adapting, and healing before placing more stress upon it.
This concept is simple in theory. To progressively overload the body, runners just need to slowly build their mileage every week (it’s recommended that runners don’t increase their mileage each week by more than 10%) by following a consistent formula: 1-2 easy maintenance runs (3-5 miles run SLOWLY), 1 mid-distance run building weekly from 6-13 mile, 1 tempo/interval/hill workout, and one slow, long run (run at conversational pace that can and should be at least one to one and half minutes slower than race pace. Every couple weeks, runners taper back to recover from the progressively building mileage.
Simple, right? Every training program follows this structure to some extent or another. That’s why I don’t even use training programs anymore (unless I am trying to get a PR, which I’m not…I’m just trying to run with my knee injury). Building up mileage can also be complicated, however. This is especially true when we take into account all the different individual factors each runner brings, such as injury, pace, lifestyle, etc. If a runner is prone to injury (like ME!), they might build their mileage very slowly and conservatively and do the least amount of training necessary to complete a race comfortably. Likewise, those who refuse to give up certain lifestyle choices, like going out late at night and drinking (also like ME!) will undoubtedly have to alter their training. A runner who is extremely dedicated to training because they want to achieve a PR or PDR (in this case, first time marathon runners) would–and should–follow the training plan much more carefully. For my first marathon, I followed my training plan exactly. And it worked for me. Now that I have run several marathons and other long distance races, and am dealing with other factors such as injury, I am much more flexible with my training.
Take, for instance, this week. I am running the Colonial Half Marathon in Williamsburg, VA on Sunday. The race is a part of my race and training plan that I developed after New Years. If I hadn’t signed up for this race this week, I’d be running my long run of 16 miles. It was the next step up in terms of mileage/long runs. These are the long runs (9+ miles) I have completed already in 2012 (you’ll see a few 6’s in early January when I was recovering from a nasty sinus infection and taking Prednistone to reduce the inflammation in my knee):
You see that instead of running a 16 miler this week, I decided to change it up a bit. I knew I had the half marathon on Sunday so I wanted to do a modified taper. It’s not a real taper because my overall weekly mileage is about the same (~28 miles). But it’s different because I decided to do 3 10-12 mile runs (including the half marathon). This is pushing my body in a different way and I definitely feel it after completing the first two runs of 11.5 and 12 miles.
Monday’s 10 mile run and 1.5 mile walk went well (I completed 10 miles in 1:35, right on my target training pace and then walked the final 1.5 miles)
Today’s 12 mile treadmill run was bit more difficult, probably because I’m not used to completing two longerish runs in such a short amount of time (even though the overall mileage will be the same).
I was planning on running a 4-5 mile run tomorrow but I think I’ll just rest and wait until Sunday to run (I keep reminding myself it’s another double digit run). So we’ll see how this week works out. So far my body can tell that I changed something up a bit, but not so much that I am sore or overly tired. I suppose only time will tell, and I’ll have to see how my race goes on Sunday
This is what I have planned in terms of long runs in the next 8 weeks prior to the Glass City Marathon (keeping in mind that I am still running on an injured knee and doing the least amount possible to train for and finish the marathon):
6.2 (Irish Sprint 10k)
26.2 (Glass City Marathon)
If you are running or training for a race, what is your training like? Do you have taper weeks built in?