I’m going to take you through my training plan for the remainder of 2020.
Starting with the structure.
One key point differentiates my training from most other programs. I am not following the typical 7 day week. Instead I’m extending my training weeks out to 9 days.
It’s a better way to fit everything I need to while getting enough recovery. It also allows me not to have the down weeks as much as is in other training programs.
The other reason is it fits in more with my working life.
I’m a shift worker.
I do rotating shift work. At the moment i’m on a 9 day cycle of shifts.
Starting off with the day shift. Then the shifts get later as they go along. Followed by a bunch of days off. It all starts again.
What is on each of those nine days?
Have in mind this plan is a guideline.
I’ll have things that come up that will get in the way and will force me to make changes.
Day 1: Easy Run
Begins with a super easy run.
The idea of this is to make sure I’m recovered and ready for the rest of the training week.
On these days it’s also kind of forced upon me. The work shift usually starts at 6 a.m and it’s 12 and a half hours long. I like to get my training done in the morning, that way that at the end of the day I can spend some time with the family.
I’m usually out doing my training at about 4:30 in the morning. It will be ridiculously slow. I’ll be out with the dog CC. The pace is dictated by her. She isn’t a fast runner but enjoys going for a run. We get 20 to 30 minutes of some very easy running and I’m ready for the rest of the day.
By getting up earlier and doing a little bit of exercise I feel way more awake than if I get the extra sleep and go straight to work.
Day 2: Hill Repeats
A later start for work means I get to fit in something a bit more substantial.
I dedicate this day to hill repeats.
About 20 to 30 minutes worth of work where I select a hill and I run up and come down really easy within that 20 to 30 minutes.
The run-up is not a full-on sprint, but it’s hard work. I’m aiming to get that spring, get the knees up nice and high with a full range of movement. I’m developing that force, power and technique under load.
It’s a session I’ve been including over the previous 8 weeks. I feel like it is making a substantial difference to my running.
Day 3: Easy Run
After we’ve had the slightly harder day of the hill repeats, it calls for something a little bit easier. So it’s an easy run.
All i’m going to do is head out and run for about 60 minutes. Keep the pace nice and easy. The heart rate down in my zone 2 or easy level for me. That’s keeping the heart rate below about 77% of my heart rate max. Which is below 137 bpm.
It’s just an easy run nothing special.
Day 4: Tempo Running
We should be feeling nice and fresh after an easy day. Time for a tempo run.
I define tempo pace above my aerobic threshold also termed that 1st lactate threshold and below the anaerobic threshold or the 2nd lactate threshold. Tempo sits in the middle thinking marathon pace to half marathon pace. It’s a solid run. That middle grey zone many say to avoid.
I find I respond well to these runs. Be careful as it’s easy to underestimate the recovery that’s needed from them. I’m going to gradually push it out.
I’ve been running this at 6km sandwiched between the warm up and the cool down of course.
It’s now time to extend things out. I’m looking at adding 1km each cycle. From 6km next will be 7, 8, 9 and then I’ll probably hold it at 10km for a little bit. See how my body responds. Then be looking at how to increase my training in other means as I consolidate the tempo run.
Just to add to the load on these tempo days it will usually be a night shift at work for me.
Day 5: Easy Run
I’ll work overnight into thisday so day number 5 in the cycle will be easy.
Usually a mixed bag with how I feel. I’m usually pretty flat and find it quite difficult to do any extended training or runs where I’m doing intervals. Asking to hold some high concentration for that day is usually not on cards.
All I’m doing is running on how I feel.
Day 6: Intervals
After I’ve had the easy days hopefully I can switch my body clock back around out of night shift.
I’m back on day times and am ready for interval training.
This is one of my key runs for the cycle.
At the moment intervals is where I’m doing my faster work.
I’m sticking with 6x1km efforts at my critical velocity. I had been running at a 4:30/km pace. This had been based on a 5km time trial a few weeks ago.
Now I am finding it’s a lot easier to run slightly faster.
I’m going to let that happen. Let the pace creep up. I’ll keep an eye on this session afterwards and double check my heart rates. Making sure I’m not doing anything crazy and really pushing it. Just creeping the speed a little bit faster. Going from 4:30km down to 4:28 maybe 4:26 or 4:25/km.
I’m getting used to the faster speeds. Taking about two minutes easy jog recovery in between each repeat.
That’s the main body of the session. There’s one key thing I’ve added beyond. Adding some faster repeats after the 6x1km.
I’ll do about 150 meter efforts for 4 repeats. 4x150m. With one minute recovery in between.
The pace will be significantly faster than I had been doing for the 1 kilometre efforts. If I was running 4:30/km efforts the pace for these 150m efforts would translate to maybe 3:30 or 3:20/km.
Really it’s a way of teaching my body to get used to running fast after already going hard for some time.
Day 7: Easy
It’s an easy day and again.
Probably somewhere around a 60 minute run. Might be a bit less. Might be a little bit more. Depending on how I feel.
The goal of that day is for it to be really easy.
Day 8: Long Run
This is will be one of my favourites. This is the day of the long run.
I have been running up 2 hours for most of my long runs lately. Now adding 10 minutes each cycle to that so 2 hours 10min, 2:20, 2: 30 and 2:40 will be the progression.
I will aim for a mixture of terrain. Trails, roads, hills, some flats and undulating sections.
The pace of it I’m not too worried about. It will be a by product of trying to keep my form up to scratch while keeping the intensity relatively low.
I’m keeping this one in my zone 2 which will be the same as I’ve mentioned for my other easy runs. But I will be working a little bit closer to that threshold area. Maintained below my aerobic threshold for me that’s below 137bpm for my heart rate which translates to about 77% of my maximum heart rate. Probably averaging between 125 to 130 beats per minute for the run. The pace will purely be a by product of that and the terrain.
Day 9: Non-Running Strength & Conditioning
I won’t run.
But I’m still training.
Something a little bit different.
I’ve been finding that by running every single day the loading on my Achilles’ tendon is too much. It’s not quite getting the break it needs to adapt and recover from all the training. If I give it that little bit of extra time off running it seems to respond way, way, way better.
This is still a very solid day.
I’m going to be spending that time in the gym.
Doing a mixture of exercises. Which will include some:
range of motion work
heavy weights with low reps
isolated strength and conditioning targeting some weak points
Aiming to be fit enough to run rather than just running to try and get fit.
Usually finishing off with some upper body and core work. I’ll mix it up. Having the aim of adding a challenge that hurts. (recommended: How To Push Harder | 6 keys to run hard). I’ll be pretty stuffed at the end of it. I want to finish with something that challenges the mind to force myself to keep going that little bit more. The exact format will vary each cycle.
Extra Thoughts On The 9 Day Training Cycle
There we have it that’s my 9 day training cycle. Preparing for running in 2021.
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned weekly mileage.
I’m not too concerned about it. Mileage becomes the by product of getting everything else right. From experience what I notice is this will probably translate to about 60km per normal week. So that’s over a 7 day week.
Then will gradually increase as my long run and tempo run extends. I’m not increasing the other runs at this stage. Just keeping those 2 runs out of the 9 day cycle. Everything else will stay roughly the same.
The 9 Days:
Strength & Conditioning
I’m not having up and down weeks. Not having like 2weeks build and then drop it off.
The recovery is built into the program. I’ll take some extra time off if I need it.
Hopefully I’ve got this one right. Unless anything else comes up this is the plan for the remainder of the year. At least until Christmas.
The aim is to be consistent in 2020 for my best running in 2021.
I’ll adjust it if my work schedule changes.
Keep on running and let me know if like this approach or have different ideas.
Don’t forget I have plenty of videos on this running thing on Youtube!
Running with the Tail Runner harness and bungee lead.
Took CC our border collie out for her first run with the Tail Runner dog harness and bungee lead. I think she loved it. With some time, training and conditioning she may well become a pretty decent running partner
I’d been waiting for CC to be old enough to start her running.
Did CC Run?
She already loves her long walks. Covering 8-10km per day usually and still has a lot of energy. Adding in some running may help keep her happy.
Looks like she will take to the harness and bungee lead quite well. Turns out, she was better with direction and following commands that I though she would be.
CC has been used to walking with a lead and correction chain. I thought there may be some issues with the harness not providing the same level of feedback if she tried to go off course. Running beside me instead. I was pleasantly surprised.
There will definitely be more runs into the future.
The lead and harness is impressive. Definitely a purchase that I’m happy with. Check them out at Tail Runner
Running With A Dog Is Good Lesson
Dogs don’t care about pace or running statistics. It is about enjoyment. Maybe we can learn something from that.
How do you reach your next level marathon training?
For me personally most of my run training hasn’t changed much since these restrictions have come in. Mainly because almost all my training is based from home and the runs are by myself. One of the issues with these changing in life is the lack of goals. I have always had a running goal going. Usually some race in the future that I’m aiming for. At the moment we don’t know when any of that’s going back.
Times when I’ve had problems in races and training is when I have neglected consistency.
Now training is lots of easy runs, strength work, some tempo runs, the occasional MAF test and long runs. All while getting my Achilles back up to scratch. I still need to be careful not to aggravate the Achilles tendon.
I have a goal. It is to earn the next cycle of training.
Training is now going to go out to 8 or 9 day blocks. I need to be able to complete that training block without any issues cropping up. Without causing injury, without my Achilles flaring up or getting sick. I need to be able to handle and absorb the training.
The structure is to have 2 cycles of 9 days of very similar training. These will be my hard weeks. The first cycle is a step up in training, but the second should be a small extension. After which I will take an easier 9 day cycle which will focus on recovery and testing. This training should build me up, not tear me down.
This provides close goals. They are only 9 and 18 days ahead, so are achievable. The goals aren’t extreme. It’s to get through the training without it breaking me down. This forces me to look at recovery and consistency in training. I’ve got to do the daily workouts. I’ve got to be disciplined in the intensity. Take it easy when I should. Push it hard when I should.
Earn The Right
Earn the right to increase your training next week.
This week you have to be able to absorb, handle and adapt to the training you’re doing. If you pay attention you already know whether you are or not. If training leaves you stuffed for the next 3 or 4 days and you have to miss some training sessions you haven’t earned the right to train at that level. So do what it takes to build yourself up earn the right to train hard people and running.
The steps I’ve taken in my Achilles rehab.. In particular insertional Achilles tendinopathy. Some guidelines which may help you with your achilles troubles.
One of the problems with the Achilles tendon is as you get older it can get a lot weaker. Running alone will not provide the strengthening required.
What’s made my case harder is it’s an insertional Achilles tendinopathy. Where the Achilles joins the heel you start involving the bone and bursa. The bursa is a fluid-filled sac that usually creates a bit of glide and cushioning. This becomes inflamed and you end up with bursitis. This will create further damage.
In the acute phase of injury the most important part is don’t cause further damage. So I stopped running, took the load off it avoided stretching the Achilles. Kept it elevated and used iced the injury for 15 to 20 minutes about every 2 hours with 2 days worth of oral anti-inflammatories.
Tendon injuries require loading to get better. After we get past the first 2-3 days of the acute phase there are 2 key points to follow:
applied load to strengthen the tendon
don’t cause anything to aggravate the injury
One of the biggest problems with an insertional Achilles injury is when you stretch it pulls the tendon across and presses up against the bursa. Any stretching we usually do for our calves will likely aggravate the injury. Doing calf exercises where you drop the heel down below level will stretch the tendon.
Limiting movement and stretch of the tendon while applying load is the early plan.
How do we do that?
You have 2 main muscles in your calves .
The gastrocnemius which is the main muscle that goes from the tendon itself up across the back of the knee and joins just above. You strengthen that mostly with a reasonably straight leg. The other muscle is the soleus, which joins below the knee. To target that we need to take the gastrocnemius out of it. So you need to do the exercises with a bent knee.
The isometric protocol I used was an isometric calf raise straight leg and an isometric calf raise bent leg. The plan was to increase the load every week on the proviso that 24 hours after a training session I didn’t have increasing pain. There could still be some discomfort but not an increasing pain from the previous day.
The aim was to do these exercises at least once a day, preferably twice.
Loading initially was holding 30 seconds with 30 to 60 seconds rest in between. Do that for a week then increase that to 5 times 1 minute with 30 to 60 seconds rest. Progress to 3 x 2 minutes with 30 to 60 seconds rest in between finally ending on 1 x 5 minutes.
After isometrics we moved on to the next level and start introducing some movements.
I kept the isometric training going but this time the training sessions started with some actual movement of calf raise both a straight leg and bent leg.
With body weight the aim was to do 3 sets of starting at 10 reps and building that up to 20 reps for each exercise. Taking 30-60 seconds rest between movements. The aim was to get it done almost every day, but I was happy with 5 days a week.
Next progression was to add extra weight to the loading. Using a barbell across the shoulder for the straight leg calf raises. Or across the knees for seated calf raises.
The Achilles’ tendon requires loading to improve. It takes time. Longer than we all want it to. Plus this post only covers the early stages. Beyond these first weeks you will need to start addressing power, elasticity and reactive strength. But that is for a future post.
For a look at earlier stages of my Achilles Injury check out the video below
I’m gonna take you through my current marathon base training.
There’ll be a few tips on how you can apply it to your own program.
What Is Marathon Base Training?
Most people think it’s lots of slow training. Keeping down the intensity and pushing up the volume. Lots of long slow distance work. To a point for some applications that might be the case. For me the point of base training is a bit different.
The Point Of Base Training
The point of base training is to develop a well conditioned athletes capable of optimally responding to the demands of competition specific training.
Training to train is getting fit enough to handle the really hard training that makes up your competition specific work. The better your base the harder you can train further down the track. The more gains you can make as you get closer to racing.
Marathon Base Training Outline
I set up my training in four to five day blocks. At the moment given my circumstances, doing a lot of extra work hours. In this new world of corona virus my work is flat-out. Extra night shifts and extra hours. I haven’t really got a pattern. So only looking 4 to 5 days ahead seems to be the best approach at the moment.
In those 4 to 5 day training blocks I’m trying to include:
a long run
a tempo run
strength (running specific)
strength (other stuff)
How these sessions fit into those days will vary with each block. It’s about the best fit each time. I’m gonna try and separate the tempo and the long run with 1 or 2 days in between. I could start with the long run. It could be the second session, or be the 4th. Whatever is the best fit in amongst the rest of life.
Keeping tabs on recovery and if needed I’ll stick in an extra easy day or recovery day between the training blocks. It’s a work in progress. These times are uncertain at the moment. At the moment I’m still able to run outside. That may change in the not-too-distant future. Isolation or lock down may get stronger. So this plan though allows me to adapt to the ever changing constraints forced upon us. It also is a good setup for other situations as well.
The tempo run is just my little bit of introduction into something a bit faster or a little bit harder. I’m going to keep it within a heart rate zone between 75 to 87%. Not too concerned about exactly where I sit in that range. Just going to run out on feel. Keep it at a steady consistent effort. An introduction to get my legs and Achilles tendon used to something a little bit faster. Pushing it any quicker than that will leave my Achilles tendon at risk. Faster running at this stage still leads to a bit of a flare-up. The basic approach with these tempo runs is to start out at 20 minutes and each time around will add about five minutes.
About every 2 to 3 weeks I’m going to replace that tempo run with a MAF test. It is the Phil Maffetone test where he’s talking about maximal aerobic function. For me being 42 years old 180 minus 42 that gives me a heart rate of 138bpm. The point for me is to run 8km at exactly that heart rate.
As my training progresses I should be able to maintain that exact same heart rate. How much I slow down from the start to the end of the run should reduce while the average speed of the run should improve.
I’m not following the Meffetone training program. I’m not limiting my training to below that heart rate. As such it’s a good reference point that I can go back over the years for my own training. It will give me a good guide to where my basic fitness sits.
Probably my favorite run is the long run.
The aim is to get in about two hours and maintain a heart rate between 65 to 75% of heart rate max. Pacing I don’t really care about. I’m hoping to keep an even pace from the start all the way to the end nothing much more complicated than that.
About every second long run I aim to increase the time out by 10 minutes. On alternative long runs I’ll stick to two hours. Giving the pattern of:
2:00, 2:10, 2:00, 2:20, 2:00, 2:30, 2:00…
Hopefully I can progress safely with this format. As long as the Achilles isn’t flaring up I should be able to.
Strength Training For Marathon Base
For strength training I’m going to do one key session. This is the session that I have will make sure I include every training block. It’s my run specific strength training. Currently concentrating on the calves, hamstrings and glutes. Predominantly leg work with core strength stability training. This is the primary strength training session. I will always include this. Skipping an easy run if needed.
A second strength session is listed as other. This covers everything that isn’t directly run specific. It can be just some fun stuff, upper body work such as overhead presses, pull-ups, more core work. Basically anything in order to stay fit for the rest of life and work.
Easy runs are dotted in between the mix of training. Ideally I’ll be running between 60 and 90 minutes, but I know how time pressures are at the moment. I’ll be happy with anything between 30 and 90 minutes.
Before a 6 a.m. work start I’ll be getting up at 4 a.m. giving about 30 minutes to fit training in. The pace of these easy runs is purely based on intensity. I’m going to keep the heart rate between 55 and 75% of heart right max. These easy runs will feel excruciatingly slow. They are so slow that I’ve turned off the pace data fields on my Garmin. I don’t need to know my pace. This helps with the intensity discipline that will allow me to get the ongoing training done. This is why including a semi-regular MAF test means I’m able to keep track of improvements around that first aerobic threshold. Improvement here I can indicate I’m setting up a good base.
Marathon Base Training Summary
The plan is pretty simple:
4-5 day training block to include:
This simplicity makes it easy to adapt according to different roster cycles and other commitments of life while I’m still able to run outside.
It’s quite doable nothing overly hard in the training. What becomes hard is being able to maintain that consistency over a long period of time.
How do you plan the first four weeks of training after you’ve had a long break from running?
This post will take you through my plan.
4 Week Running Plan
To start out with I’m working in four week blocks. The reason for 4 week blocks it tends to match my work schedule. You could do it in 3 or 4 weeks or even as a month. Something around that range would work. I’d say you need least three weeks to get an idea of whether or not the training program is working. Training takes a bit of patience as you don’t see the results straightaway.
I set up a four week grid:
days of the week across the top
weeks down the side
Key Runs: Intervals
Start with the main key sessions for this cycle. I’m using interval sessions. These begin with intervals 3 x 4 minutes as the set. Then I’m going to repeat this about every four days. They might jump out to 5 or 6 days depending on how my body reacts.
After a second 3 x 4 minutes interval run I hope to be able to increase the volume. I’ll do that by adding another 4 minute interval. Then in the 3rd week I’ll try to add another interval. Making for 5 x 4 minutes. I’m not sure how my body will take it. I might still be stuck at 4 x 4 minutes. This is the plan if everything goes as expected.
The goal during these intervals runs is to be able to run hard, but maintain the same speed throughout the first interval as well as the last. Of course hard still means hard.
Next up we’re gonna a secondary key session. That is the long run.
We’ll space it out away from the intervals a little bit so it’s gonna be 2 days after the intervals and 2 days before interval sessions. We’ll be starting at 60 minutes. After 2 runs we’ll extend out by 10 minutes to 70 minutes. Repeat again 4 days later. Beyond that I aim for another 10 minute increase to 80 minutes in the final week.
In the 4th week I want a bit of a break from the higher intensity work. Give the body a chance to recover. A chance to absorb the training and make the adaptations that are needed. If things go to plan two days after that 80min long run I may get in a 90-minute run there.
At the moment long is a relative concept. The long run is mindset at the moment. That mindset is to keep moving in a way that’s sustainable all the time. The long runs are guided by time and effort. That effort is easy.
Between all these key runs there is one thing left to do. Fill in the gaps. These gaps are easy runs. I’m going to make the first easy run up to a maximum of 60 minutes. Anything shorter is fine. Just fill in all the gaps over the next week Same again for the 3rd and 4th weeks.
We’re keeping the pace way down. So easy it should allow me to be fresh to push the pace on the intervals. It should allow accumulation of run volume relative to what I have been doing.
Why so slow?
Ironically it’s so I can do more and go harder. This comes back to polarized training. Make your easy, easy. Make your hard, hard.
Overtime that slow pace gets faster. You just need patience.
There’s one more part to these easy runs.
Strides, run throughs, striders, easy sprints or pick ups. Call them whatever you want. Basically they just some short sprints. About 10 seconds to a max 15 seconds where you are sprinting below maximum effort.
Don’t over complicate things. Don’t worry too much about rest. It could be anything from like 30 seconds, a walk back recovery, you can space it out by five six minutes or anything in between. If you start feeling the burn in your legs you’re running too long and too much. This isn’t about fighting through fatigue.
One more element that fits in this is strength training.
I’m aiming to put them on the same day as the interval session. For first week,
I was lucky enough to go away on holiday for the first week. Down at beach I didn’t have the usual access to the weights I do at home. So I used more body weight work. These sessions were a bit lighter, so I was able to fit 3 in for the first week.
Back at home hitting the weights the load was actually a fair bit bigger. Strength training comes back on the interval days and that’s the plan for the remainder. In the fourth week we don’t have any interval sessions so I’m going to put a strength session after that long run. If I’m going to push the distance out to 90 minutes on that Friday a moderate strength session on the day afterwards on the Saturday will be the plan.
Keep your easy, easy. You’ll get more from accumulating some volume at this stage than you will from pushing the paces too much. Staying easy on your easy and long runs you should be able to run faster and harder in the interval sessions.
If you’re not going to run every day, put more time in between the interval sessions. At this point you want the interval sessions about once after every three or four easier more aerobic base type running so if you’re running five times a week that’s probably going to be one interval session every week.
Remember these long runs aren’t really pushing the distance out-crazy. Overall the workload is going to be fairly even throughout. Just gradually pushing out the envelope a little.
My first week of run training went well. The first day of training started with an interval session:
3 x 4 minutes hard with a 2 minutes recovery jog.
Performed over undulating terrain this was my first real run. It was a struggle. So much slower than hoped. I’ve got a long way to go.
Finally back into my first week of training. I’ll tell you it feels good to be back running. I’ve lost a lot of fitness. If I’m really honest it’s not just since the melanoma that I’ve had time off. It’s more than two months with the injury before that. I hadn’t really put together a good training week for over four months.
Bonus for the first week of running we went down on holiday to Cape Woolamai on Phillip Island. It’s a beautiful location with amazing beaches, nature park, wallabies and views that are fantastic. I highly recommend spending some time down here. Click here for even more details.
First Week Of Running Principles
Truly back at square one. I’m keeping easy at super easy. This means feeling way too slow. Sometimes faster running feels easier. If I was running with someone I would definitely be able to hold a conversation with no trouble.
The training format is intervals followed by three days easy running. Then back again for intervals and another three days of easy running.
Getting a lot of the smoke haze coming in from the bush fires. With a bit of hindsight I probably shouldn’t have run. Starting a couple of those runs just as the sun was coming up I didn’t appreciate how bad that smoke was. Not until I got towards the end and had enough sunlight.
For the first week those easy days were all about 60 minutes. Limited to just covering some distance to get used to running again. No worry about pace. In fact I set up my watch so that all it showed was time. No pace, no heart rate, nothing about effort or even distance. That way I wouldn’t have to worry about how fit I used to be versus how fit I am now.
For the intervals. Starting with three by four minutes with two minutes recovery. That recovery is just a super easy jog. Those four minutes on are definitely not easy. The aim here is to run at a pace that I can maintain for all intervals right to the end. I went out too hard and couldn’t maintain that pace anyway.
The first week of run training went well. It’s so good to be back running.
The beauty of Cape Woolamai comes out better in video than it does in word…