This past week I achieved something in running that a few years ago I would have said was not possible for my body. I ran further than I ever have in a full week. 92.3 km’s to be exact. The greatest victory in this is that I felt good, and today, I still feel good.
Before this training cycle, my biggest week was just over 80 km’s or 50 miles. I’ve reached that milestone a number of times over a few training cycles and the biggest difference this cycle is that I don’t feel like I’m pushing my body towards (or past) a breaking point. It has been a struggle, physically, to get to that level in the past, I’ve had to run through pain, often my legs would be sore and tired for the first 3-5 km’s of a run, needing a lot of time to loosen up, to get the blood flowing. This is not to say that the mileage is easy this time, or that my legs don’t get tired, but it’s a different feeling. They feel strong and capable of handling the volume.
I wanted to take some time to share how I came to this point, and what things I think have made it possible.
- Time. If I would have carbon copied everything that I’ve done over the last 4 months and done it 2 years ago, I think it would have been disastrous. I’ve been slowing building on each cycle over the last 2 years, being very consistent in my running and trying to not push things too soon. I know there are some people who can jump from couch to 50 km to 80 km weeks and be alright, I am not one of those people. Anytime that I’ve jumped into marathon training with a good firm foundation, I’ve gotten injured. My prime goal over the last 2 years has been to avoid injury.
- Strength Training. For the last 3+ years Lori and I have been faithfully meeting once a week to strength train, usually on Wednesday nights. Our routines have changed and evolved over that time, we’ve each had a baby (and continued to meet all through our pregnancies), but through it we’ve been consistent. Today our strength training is usually a total body workout, but focused on hips, glutes and core. Our main goal is to build a strong foundation so that our bodies can support and thrive through many km’s on the roads and trails. Through this cycle, I’ve also added in a second strength day at home, and most weeks a Yoga day.
- Mostly Easy running. After my marathon cycle last fall, I took 2 months where I ran in MAF and kept everything super easy. This gave my body a chance to recover really well from the marathon, and to build a really strong base. Even now, that I’m running other types of workouts, speed, tempo, etc, I am using my heartrate as a guide on my easy days, and I try to run most of my weekly distance at less than 150 bpm, which is my easy zone. A lot of people make the mistake of pushing too hard, too many days and end up injured.
- Take care of niggles before they are injuries. I can confidently say that I haven’t been injured in the last 2 years. This does not mean that I haven’t had niggles, or even taken a day or two off. Even during my current cycle, I’ve had a few niggles. Just over a month ago, my left Achilles stiffened up and gave me some trouble. I didn’t panic, but I did adjust my plan. I’ve learned that there is no benefit to running through and ignoring pain or discomfort. I took a few days where I did not run at all, I pool ran, and cross trained. I also massaged and foam rolled my calf, foot, and everywhere I could imagine. When it felt 100% walking around, I took an extra day of pool running to be safe, and then I cautiously headed back to the road. The issue resolved itself and was fine. If it had gone on another day, I would have been at my chiro’s office getting treatments.
- Recovery. This is one area where there is still a lot of room for improvement. I try to eat something as soon as I finish a tough workout. It isn’t always some scientifically blended array of amino acids and proteins. It’s often bacon, or leftover mac and cheese that my kids had for lunch. I’ve also given up on ice baths, they aren’t pleasant, and so I generally will do a nice hot Epsom salt bath instead. I have been using magnesium gel nightly this cycle and am convinced that it has improved my sleep and recovery.
What about you, do you have any secrets to your success? Has anything helped you push your body to a new normal? I’d love to hear about it!