Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Training Misconceptions

One of the reasons for having a blog is to help you reach their goals.  When I first started running I absorbed everything I could about running.  If the bloggy world existed then (it may have and I just didn't know it) I would have been reading everything I could.  Many ideas were formed from Runners World, from things I heard, from what I thought (with no expertise basis) of what made a good runner, a good half marathoner or marathoner.  Many of those beliefs were wrong. I would compare myself to those false beliefs and not stack up very high against them.  Here are some of my misconceptions and how they have adjusted.  

Misconception #1- You must run every day.
You don't need to run every day to be a great runner.  My marathon training plan consisted of 4 days a week.  Last year when I was training for a marathon I built a schedule running 6 days a week.  That surely would make me a good runner and get me a BQ, or so I thought.  I got injured and was out for about 3 months.  Everybody is different and maybe you can  handle more days a week but 4 days a week is a good number for me. 

Misconception #2- You must run a lot of miles a week.
I thought when starting to train for a marathon that I should be AT LEAST 50 miles a week.  70 would probably be a better number.  These numbers were pulled out of thin air.  Last year I was so proud and excited that my training plan would put me above 50 miles.  But I never got there because I got injured.  This time around, my highest mileage week getting me to my BQ was 41.25 miles.  Again, you might be different and able to run more.  

I would truly love to run more days and more miles a week and maybe I will increase it.  However, the time commitment becomes greater and I can fit the 4 days/40 miles into a schedule pretty easily now.  Could I do 5 days?  50 miles?  Probably but what gives in its place?  

Misconception #3- Each week you must increase your long run and your overall miles.
For my weekly long run I would see saw  between a long long run (18-22) and a shorter long run(14-16 miles) towards the end of the training plan.  The long run paces I didn't worry about too much.  However, I did try and have the last few miles be at goal pace.  The shorter long runs were at goal pace.  In order to be able to run goal pace in a race, you need to train with miles at that same goal pace.

Every 4-6 weeks a decrease of 30% should be built into your schedule.  This allowed a break in the schedule and time for the body to recover.  I would look ahead in the calendar and try and plan my recovery week around a scheduled vacation or a race.   If you are feeling tired or feeling like you have plateaued (even if you aren't training for a half or a full), then you probably need to give yourself a recovery week.

Misconception #4- The pace for the miles doesn't matter and just do miles.
With your miles you also need quality miles (20% of your miles at 10K pace or faster) and goal paced runs to train yourself to run at your desired race pace.  My 4 running days consisted of 

  • Speedwork.  This could be at a track or also fartleks (running faster for a time or distance).  I did 800's and worked up to 10x 800's (Yasso 800's). I also did ladders, 200,400,600,800,1000 and back down.  Or I would go to track with the running club and do whatever the coach told us to run.
  • Tempo Run. I started with 2 mile tempo at 10K pace and built up to 4 miles.  Tempo runs are my least favorite and these would often turn into a tweener run ( a run between a tempo and a goal) or a whatever run...I was just running.  These are easiest if I run with John since he is naturally faster than me and I would try and keep up with him.
  • Goal paced run.  Since 8:45's was my goal pace, I would have one of my mid-week runs be a goal pace run and also the lower mileage long runs be goal paced.  If you are training for a half marathon, a 10K, or a 5K you should build in goal paced miles too.
  • Long run. If it was a shorter long run distance ( 14/16) then I would do goal paced after my warmup miles.  Otherwise I would just run whatever I felt like.
The numbers above are what I did training for a full marathon but it is the same concept for a half marathon, 10K and even training for a 5K. If you're training for a half marathon you still want speedwork, tempo runs, goal paced miles and just time being on your feet at whatever pace.

I have plenty more misconceptions but that's enough for now. 
What misconceptions about running and training do you or did you have?


Johann said...

I think I had a lot of the same misconceptions that you had. Another big one for me was runners never walk. This changed very quickly.

By the way, I keep track of all my races and running in a spreadsheet based log. I used to write everything in books. I moved to PC in 1992. I’m a total stats fanatic/freak.

Molly said...

I thought you had to run every single day to keep up your fitness level, now I can run 3 -4 times a week and be happy, and not stress about not finding time to fit in a run.

The Sean said...

Anytime a must is injected into running philosophy you should probably question it.

Jamoosh said...

I would tend to disagree a bit with #4. Having coached first time marathoners for several years, the long run miles were important, but the pace wasn't. Our goal was to get their bodies used to being out on the course for a long period of time. And keep in mind that these were first time marathoners who may have never run anything more than a 5K. Our goal was to give them the tools to get them to the finish line in one peice; not to pursue a time goal. That said, speed work and hills are still an important component.

Obviously, you are right on with a seasoned runner or marathoner.

Janet said...

Great info! Thanks for sharing. It's good to hear someone of your caliber confirm some of those things in the back of my mind.

Katie A. said...

I too, was under the misconception that I needed to run a buzillion miles a week to meet my goals. Only until this past year did I realize that I didn't need to - that quality over quanity was necessary for me. It's a tough lesson to learn, especially for someone like me who had started running to loose weight.
Great post!

Ewa said...

Everyone is different so this comment is not to argue with your points.
The big misconception for me was often repeated wisdom that one ought not to run every day. This is to assure that there are rest days built into the program. That does not work for me very well. If I skip a day, my first run after the rest day feels sluggish, my legs are tired and stiff and I actually don't like running then. So what works for me best is runs every day. Go figure.

Christina said...

Sean- Excellent point. I would extend that to all of life. Any "must" or "should is someone else's belief and not necessarily my truth.

Jamoosh- I completely agree with you. That the long runs are meant to get us used to being moving and on our feet that long. Even for a seasoned runner building up to those distances again is challenging.

Johann - I still struggle with runners never walk although I have got better about that one when racing a course with hills. I've been beat by a woman who walked up the hills and ran down them. I had no energy left after running the hills that I knew the woman was onto a secret I hadn't learned yet.

Ron said...

Excellent post. These misconceptions are quite popular amongst injured runners. When I analyze the running plan they are using I usually remove "junk miles." Take away unnecessary miles and add in more quality runs like you pointed out. Well done.

joyRuN said...

Excellent post.

I think where I usually fall short is hitting my goal pace during the long runs. I get so tired & let my pace slow to a crawl by the end - not good.

It definitely showed on marathon day. I was able to finish the thing, but nowhere near the goal pace I had in mind.

Staci Dombroski said...

Awesome post! I thought it would be better if I trained harder and every day! I was wrong, I just got burnt out.

ajh said...

I know I do too many "Junk" miles and not enough with speed work/pace work etc. This is a good post to think about.

Tina @GottaRunNow said...

I like seeing how other runners train for marathons. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

When I started I had the same misconceptions. I run about 3-4 days a week. I can't run every day due to my plantar fasciitis.

Anonymous said...

wow i really like this post. i tend to buy into all of those misconceptions even though i know i shouldn't! thanks for the reminder (and for commenting on my blog :) )

Tara said...

I always thought that you had to run fast and run hard on every run in order to improve. When I started working w/ my coach she told me that I needed to learn to run slow in order to run faster. I now run 4 x a week like you do and each one of them is a different type of run.

RunKathyRun said...

Awesome post and a nice reminder of some things we tend to forget as we get deep into our training.

Hills and speed work are a must in any successful training program.

lindsay said...

i have had some similar "standards" set in my mind that i am starting to realize aren't necessarily true too!

i have an issue with mileage... i *want* to run high mileage in my mind, but i don't think i have the schedule for it. i know you can run well on less (not 70+ miles) and i am trying to remind myself of that!

one of my biggest 'lessons' is quality over quantity. yes, those easy/recovery runs are important, but you gotta make sure to put in some speedwork/tempo runs if you expect to hit a goal pace! like you said, can't expect to race at a certain pace if you haven't practiced it :)

justagirl said...

Wow, I'm just starting seems as if there is so much to training! My only goal right now is to some day achieve a ten minute mile (within the year). I used to think you have to run every day when training. I'm really enjoying that I have rest days and cross training days though. I love the break. It gives my body time to use different muscles. I love doing some type of yoga and stretching once a week after a nice long walk. I've been listening to my body too and if my knees say I need a bit of a break, I take one or two days.

Thank you for all these tips! As I get into longer races I will be able to come back and use this information. I know you say you can apply this to shorter races too, but I'm trying not to focus on speed, just finishing right now.