My Training Plan

As the time approaches at a frighteningly screaming-fast rate for the Wisconsin Half Marathon (just over two weeks away!), I realize I essentially have said nothing about the race or my training on this here blog. This was not my intention. When I initially decided to revamp my blog, I intended to focus just as much on my fitness efforts as I do my sugar-laden concoctions. I guess, as time passed, I just figured readers would be more intrigued with alcoholic Girl Scout cookies than reading about huffing through mile repeats around a track.

However, I have received a few questions about my current training plan and my experience as a runner. First of all, though I've been running consistently since about the age of 16, I'm no expert. In fact, it wasn't until last year that I ever ventured out of my "safe zone" and ran more than six miles (non-treadmill assisted). And though I don't always love running, I do always love the feeling I have after running - no matter how tough, how bad the conditions or how poorly I think I did.
[Chicago Half Marathon. Sorry for the pixelated photo, but I wasn't about to purchase these for $60. BARF]

That said, I've been struggling a lot with training this spring. I don't know if it's because I didn't give myself a buffer between not running at all and starting training (as in, I didn't give myself time to just go out and enjoy running without a plan in mind), or if I'm just so incredibly fairweather I can't get into running under less-than-pristine conditions. Either way, it's been tough, mentally, for me to get excited about this race.

I reached rock bottom, motivation-wise, about two weeks ago. The weather was ultra crappy, I hadn't seen any improvement in speed or endurance, and I had come to grips with the fact that I might not meet my finish time goal. I wallowed around in my sadness for a few days, then, out of nowhere, something clicked: The following Monday, I went out for a run and felt a spring in my step for the first time in weeks. I bounded down the sidewalks, smiling, and not caring what pace I was running (often, I hate having to stick to an "easy" pace during my plan - I feel so much better when I can just let go). Two days later, I completely surprised myself at the track, busting out mile repeats that were about 30 seconds faster than I was scheduled to run them that day. Without jinxing myself, I feel like I'm back in the game - and happy to be here. I'm hoping this newfound excitement toward running stays with me - at least through May 7th. I may not finish in the time I'd hoped for at the beginning of the year, but I'm going to give it my all either way.

Now that that's out of the way, I'll give a little insight to what a typical week of training looks like, for me. I started an 8-week training plan in early March, which was scheduled for me through Runnersworld.com's Smart Coach program. I used a similar 12-week plan last summer when training for my first-ever half marathon. I had a couple hiccups during the Chicago Half in September, but finished in 1 hour, 58 minutes - not bad for my first-ever half marathon. My training schedule this time around has me finishing in 1:53, but I don't see that happening - and that's OK (I promise).
[Me after the Chicago Half Marathon last fall. Excuse the totally pixelated photo, but I just had to point out that I took EVERY. SINGLE. TREAT. they passed out after I crossed the finish line. Water bottle, granola bars, banana, cookies... my hands were FULL. The photographer and I had a good laugh about my gluttony.]

Because I didn't run, like, at ALL over the winter, this spring's training plan is pretty low-mileage. I didn't want to go from zero miles a week to 25 - that, my friends, is a recipe for INJURY. So here's how I've been running for the past 6 weeks, more or less:

Monday: Easy run! Usually around 3 miles, at a very easy pace (around a minute slower than race pace)
Tuesday: Rest or cross-train. For cross-training, I'll do some weights (nothing too intense), hop on the bike trainer or just take a nice walk.
Wednesday: SPEED WORK. Speedwork is always the toughest run of the week (yes, even moreso than the long run). Depending on the week, I'll either do a tempo run (one-mile warm up at an easy pace, followed by 3-4 miles at slightly-faster-than race pace, ending with another mile cool down) or mile repeats (one-mile warm up at an easy pace, followed by a fast mile - about 45 seconds faster than race pace - then a 800-meter recovery jog, and the mile and recovery jogs are repeated 3-4 times, ending with a mile cool down).
Thursday: Easy run! Again, usually around three miles, at a very easy pace.
Friday: Rest or cross train.
Saturday: LONG RUN. My first long run was 8 miles, then I built up every week (this Saturday, I'll run 12 miles). This run is often referred to as your LSD run (Long, Slow Distance). I run mine at about a minute slower than race pace.
Sunday: Rest, baby!

So, there you have it. If you've ever questioned running a half marathon because of the training, my example above should be a testament that it's not a 10-mile run every single day - I'm only running four days a week! Anyone can do this. In fact, if your goal is just to finish the race, swap out the speed work for a good 4-5 mile run and you'll be golden!

I'll try to keep these running/fitness posts more frequent, as I think it's important to illustrate that I work really, really hard in order to keep eating boxes of Cadbury Creme Eggs while not gaining 50 pounds. 

Any more questions on running or fitness? Shoot 'em my way! This is a topic I could entertain for hours.

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