When I was training for my first marathon, I ran practically all my runs on the treadmill. I’d get to my local Gold’s Gym in Bozeman first thing in the morning, right around 630am, and hit it hard for an hour or so. I’d bring along my hand towel (to wipe the sweat off my face), a bottle of water, and my iPod. I’d set the speed to 7.5mph and just go. Sometimes I’d score a treadmill that let me run more than 60min without stopping. Six days a week, I’d be on the ‘mill, sometimes hitting up Gold’s in the evening, too. Since all I did during that phase of racing was run, there were weeks when I’d run 70-80 miles a week, all on the mill. Yes, that meant I was running a 2.5hour run at 8:15min/mile. But I got it done, and marathons of America’s Next Top Model helped.
So I did all my training on the treadmill, big deal. But, the cool thing was, I ran my first marathon (on four months of training) in 3:22. I don’t know if it was the elevation that Bozeman sat at (around 4500ft) and the fact that my marathon was at sea level, or that I ran a consistent pace on my regular runs and still included hills and intervals, but whatever the case may be, my training worked.
After my run, usually two days a week, I’d do pull-ups to failure to increase my max pull-up count. During my first-mary training, I made it up to 14 pull-ups in one go. Sweet!*
I luckily didn’t succumb to any injuries during my training, and nixed any weight lifting I had been doing (other than the pull-ups and occasional sit-ups). I’d take recovery days, have long-run days, and really looked forward to my intensity days. I had a lot of fun (believe it or not) with the treadmill that season.
One of the most important things I included with my training was my recovery. This took all shapes and sizes. I worked part-time as a nanny at the time, so I’d spend my evenings with my feet propped up reading a book to my boys, or watching a Felicity episode (or three) with my roommates. After most workouts, especially evening ones (some ending as late as 11pm), I’d have the smoothie bar at Gold’s make me a protein shake. I practically became addicted to vanilla Champion Ultramet made with ice, water, and peanut-butter. So much so, that my roommate bought me a smoothie-punch card for my birthday. I had recovery days, I never had two hard workouts in a row, and the time after my long runs was usually spent at the Daily or Rockford Coffee Shops (for some serious rehydration, of course).
Ok, so you may be asking youself: why would an endurance geek even want to take a protein shake after running? Well, there is recent evidence to suggest that protein and carbohydrate ingestion reduces protein breakdown following exercise . Similarly, ingestion of calories in liquid form acutely during and after exercise likely increases nutrient absorption and enhances muscle glycogen resynthesis [2,3]. Plus, it left me feeling really satisfied and ready to tackle the day (since I did my runs in the morning, of course).
If you think about it, your body is going through a whole mess of changes when you ramp up your training for the first time (or after a break from training). Training works by forcing your muscles to do things they aren’t used to doing. Neurological and musculoskeletal adaptations take place, but if you don’t allow your body to recover from your training adaptations, your body won’t have such an easy time adapting. Your muscles will break down their protein backbone, they won’t have an easy time rebuilding because they aren’t given any rest, and they’ll become weak and susceptible to injury. So, in other words, recovery = good.
Training for my first marathon, I had to let my body adapt. In fact, I still have to let my body adapt. That’s what training is all about. Although I had trained with high mileage during my collegiate cross-country and track seasons, I had taken a year and a half practically completely off to “recover” from my previous racing days and big training blocks. Sure, I ran a few 10Ks and even threw down (and threw up) at the Bridger Ridge Run, but I was really fit throughout the training for my first marathon, and it was dedication and diet that got me there. Now, I’m pushing through a big block that includes some high mileage and big hours. I don’t run all my runs indoors, thanks to the well-maintained sidewalks of Houghton, but I do follow a lot of the same rules as I did three years ago…
“Big” Training Blocks: One of the ways to encourage your body to adapt is to incorporate big blocks in your training (after you’ve provided ample time to get to the period of building your miles.. see below). So what is a big block? Big blocks are periods in your training plan that incorporate increased time spend on your feet, in the saddle, and/or in the pool. It’s getting your body ready for the race-focusing periods ahead. Your big blocks don’t necessarily have much intensity involved in them (they do incorporate some threshold paces, usually once or twice a week, but definitely not any max-effort speeds), and they teach your body to build its endurance so when the time comes for hammerfests, you’re ready (and can hang on for the long haul). You’re teaching your body to adapt to longer training days, so when it comes time to fine tune your race strategy and race day performance, you’ll be ready (and your lungs, legs and feet won’t be holding you back).
Recovering during big training blocks can be hard. During the big weeks, you might not find time in the day to find peace. During the recovery weeks, you might feel like you’re losing ground, that pulling back on your training isn’t what you’re “supposed” to be doing. But, its absolutely essential to get in some good recovery time. Here are some tips I have as you ramp up your training:
- Get to bed early. I have a bad habit of sitting at my computer catching up on bloggy/facebook/twitter worlds until as late as 11:30 at night. So, I’ve made a vow to shut my computer at 9pm and get ready for bed. Nine o’clock too early? Well, how about 9:30? This is important to follow throughout the big endurance-blocks of training, whether its the biggest volume week of the season or simply a recovery week. [P.S. Sleeping in on Saturdays definitely warrants a late(r) night curfew on Friday!]
- Get up early, consistently. I set my alarm for 5:45am. That’s not really that early compared to a lot of my endurojunkie friends, but I seriously love sleeping. I need a good 8 hours. And I make sure that I get it!