In many of my training programs, I do not prescribe additional races. I don’t want runners feeling that they are obligated to race on a specific weekend, and at specific distances, because that’s what the schedule says. But a certain amount of racing is good, because it forces you to run at peak speed and provides feedback related to your fitness level. If you know your 10-K time, for instance, you can use one popular formula and multiply that time in minutes by 4.66 and get an estimate of your marathon potential. If you run other distances, you can use various prediction calculators to do the same.
In some of my training programs I may suggest you race or do a race simulation some weeks. If you are unable to find a race on a week I suggest you race, you can also simulate a race on a measured course, or with your GPS. Treat this simulation the same you would a race.
These are days of semi-rest and should be done mostly at a comparatively easy pace. Don’t worry about how fast you run these workouts. Run easy! If you’re training with a friend, the two of you should be able to hold a conversation. If you can’t do that, you’re running too fast. For those wearing heart rate monitors, your target zone should be between 65 and 75 percent of your maximum pulse rate.
Training should be done mostly at a comparatively easy pace. Your program is built on the concept that you do more toward the end than at the start. That sounds logical, doesn’t it? Believe me–as tens of thousands of runners using my schedules have proved–it works.
A tempo run is a continuous run with a buildup in the middle to near 10-K race pace. Notice I said “near” 10-K race pace. Coach Jack Daniels defines the peak pace for tempo runs as the pace you might run if racing flat-out for about an hour. That’s fairly fast, particularly if the tempo run is 45 minutes long, but you’re only going to be near peak pace for 3-6 minutes in the middle of the run. Here’s how to do this workout. A tempo run of 30 to 40 minutes would begin with 10-15 minutes easy running, then accelerate gradually and build to peak speed during the next 10-20 minutes, then finish with 5-10 minutes easy running. The pace buildup should be gradual, not sudden, with peak speed coming about two-thirds into the workout and only for those few minutes mentioned above. You can do tempo runs almost anywhere: on the road, on trails or even on a track. Tempo runs should not be punishing. You should finish refreshed, which will happen if you don’t push the pace too hard or too long. It helps also to pick a scenic course for your tempo runs. You can do your tempo run with another runner, but usually it works better to run solo. There’s less danger of going too slow or (more the problem) too fast if you choose her pace, not yours.
Fartlek was developed in Sweden; the word means "speedplay." Fartlek is similar to tempo training in that it features a continuous run that starts and ends slow with fast running in the middle. The difference is that fartlek includes multiple changes of pace over varied (mostly short) distances. Run as you feel. Be creative. Pick out a tree and run hard to it. Ease back into a jog until rested, then pick out another landmark for your next sprint. Hard, easy, hard, easy. You define the tempo by how you feel. It's an enjoyable form of training that can either be your toughest or easiest workout of the week.
What do I mean by “race pace?” It’s a frequently asked question on my forums, so let me explain. Race pace is the pace you plan to run in the race you’re training for. If you’re training for a 4:00 marathon, your average pace per mile is 9:09. So you would run that same pace when asked to run race pace in this program.
Even though your race of choice may be a flat course, hill repeats can be an important part of your training, because running hills will strengthen your quadricep muscles. Also, there is less impact running up a hill than running fast on the flat. The speed benefits of hill training are similar to those for interval training on the track (below). Olympic champion Frank Shorter refers to hill training “as interval training in disguise.” Select a hill about a quarter-mile long, but don’t worry about the pitch or the exact distance. Run up hard, as hard as you might during a 400m track repeat. Then turn and jog back down, repeating the uphill sprints until finished. If you plan to run a race with more downhill than uphill running (such as the Boston Marathon), do some of your hill repeats down as well as up. This will condition your muscles to absorb the shock of downhill running. But don’t overdo it, otherwise you’ll increase your risk of injury.
Warm up before and cool down afterwards–and don't forget to stretch. Run the 200s at about the pace you would run in an 800-meter race; run the 400s at about the pace you would run in a 1,500-meter or mile race. Walk or jog 200 to 400 meters between each repeat. If you don't have access to a track, you can do these workouts in an open park, on a road, or on a running path. I want your stride to be uninterrupted by cars, street crossings, or other interruptions in your Intervals.
The keys to most of my programs. Long runs build throughout most programs to ensure you’re ready for race day. Consistency is most important. You can skip an occasional workout, or juggle the schedule depending on other commitments, but do not cheat on the long runs. Run slow, I recommend that runners do their long runs anywhere from 30 to 90 or more seconds per mile slower than their marathon pace. I give you specific recommendations in your workout based upon your current running pace*.
*Make sure to update your Plan Settings so that I can scale your workouts appropriately for your current ability.
3/1 Training (3/1 Run)
Toward the end of the run, if you’re still feeling fresh, you may want to pick up the pace and finish somewhat faster. This will convert your long run into what I call a 3/1 Run. That means you run the first three-fourths of your long run (say the first 6 miles of an 8-miler) at an easy pace, then do the final one-fourth (2 miles of an 8-miler) at a somewhat faster pace–though still not race pace. This 3/1 strategy is advised for only the most experienced runners.
What is cross-training? It is any other form of aerobic exercise that allows you to use slightly different muscles while resting. The best cross-training exercises are swimming, cycling or even walking. What about sports such as tennis or basketball? Activities requiring sideways movements are not always a good choice. Particularly as the mileage builds up toward the end of the program, you raise your risk of injury if you choose to play a sport that requires sudden stopping and starting. One tip: You don’t have to cross-train the same each week. And you could even combine two or more exercises: walking and easy jogging or swimming and riding an exercise bike in a health club. Cross-training for 30-60 minutes will help you recover after your hard workouts.
Day Off (Rest)
Despite my listing it at the end, rest is an important component of this or any training program. Scientists will tell you that it is during the rest period (the 24 to 72 hours between hard bouts of exercise) that the muscles actually regenerate and get stronger. Coaches also state that you can’t run hard unless you are well rested. And it’s the hard running that allows you to improve. If you’re constantly fatigued, you will fail to reach your potential. It allows you to gather forces for hard running ahead. If you need to take more rest days–because of a cold or a late night at the office or a sick child–do so. And if you’re tired from hard workouts, take the day off or cut the length of your run. The secret to success in any training program is consistency, so as long as you are consistent with your training during the full program, you can afford–and may benefit from–extra rest.