I share my weekly workouts here on the blog, so I thought it would be interesting to share the rationale behind my training as I look forward to my next half marathon training cycle. I self-coach and have my eyes on a big goal this year: a 1:35 half marathon (down from a 1:38 in my past two half marathons). My half marathon plan is 11 weeks long; while I can comfortably run 13 miles now, a big PR requires weeks of dedicated training.
Outside of my Comfort Zone
A quote in my Compete training journal caught my attention: “Get outside your comfort zone – you can always go back.”
My goal for this half marathon is to push myself outside of my comfort zone, both during training and on race day. Sometimes, I’ve trained within my comfort zone: workouts that are familiar, that I know I can complete. When I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone – such as when I trained for a 10K last spring – I’ve seen more improvements in those few weeks than in entire months where I have stayed in my comfort zone.
Every week I have two hard workouts. Some weeks, those two workouts are in addition to a long run; other weeks, the long run is one of the hard workouts. On the weeks of easy long runs, my goal is to run further than 13 miles and pick hilly routes.
I deliberately put some workouts that scare me into my plan. The first four weeks focus on speed, which is my area of weakness. I have short intervals and mile repeats planned – workouts that are certainly not within my comfort zone. After those four weeks, I shift into more specific half marathon training, with some new (to me) workouts.
Emphasis on Recovery
Recovery is essential to improving – but it can be the easier part of a plan to neglect. I am slowly realizing that I’m not 25 anymore and can’t go through weeks without a complete rest day. If I want to push outside my comfort zone in my training, I need to recover better.
My plan is to try taking a complete rest day each week – no Pilates workouts on those days, as I used to do. Instead, I will use those days to foam roll and focus on recovery.
As I mentioned previously, I am also improving my post-run nutrition. I plan on taking a protein shake within 30 minutes of my long runs and hard workouts to jumpstart recovery. Along with protein, I plan on taking tart cherry juice after these runs.
Hard Long Runs
Long slow distance runs have a purpose in training. However, for an experienced half marathoner and/or marathoner, they no longer provide a hard training stimulus. A hard long run is specific to the demands of the half marathon. You are trying to race 13.1 miles and a long run with fartlek or tempo woven into it will prepare you better than 13 miles of coasting along at an easy pace.
So that’s exactly what I am doing. About half my long runs have harder segments built into them: progressions to half marathon pace, 2-mile repeats, and fartleks. My peak workout is a particularly challenging long run, with 4 x 2 miles at half marathon pace folded into 13 miles.
I utilize this approach in coaching: for many athletes that I train, hard long runs are a staple in their preparation for the half marathon and marathon. (This is not the case for first-time marathons or half marathons.)
Personally, I notice a significant difference in my running when I’m strength training twice per week and doing Pilates once per week. My goal for this training cycle is to do exactly that: two sessions at the gym and one Pilates session per week. I will completely admit that I will probably have to bribe myself with chocolate or beer to get to the gym twice per week every week until I form the habit, but I know it will pay off on race day.
My strength training includes more upper body workout. I mentioned previously how one of my goals is improved shoulder mobility, which for me comes with a stronger upper body. I’m hoping to be able to do a full pull-up someday soon, so I’m targeting that goal in my strength workouts as well.
What races are you training for?
How have you pushed yourself outside your comfort zone recently?