Category Archives: Resistance Training

Things I want to do differently for the upcoming marathon cycle

While things are still relatively fresh in my mind, I wanted to get some thoughts down on a few things that were different between the two marathon training cycles to see what I can change for the next time around.
Left to right: Manchester to Victoria. I ran 20 minutes slower in Victoria and looked like a hot mess while doing so.

So here goes…

I didn’t get enough of this. One or two “off” nights isn’t too concerning, but when we first came back to North America, I was going through weeks of insomnia. I blame it mostly on stress, the oppressive heat with no air conditioning which made my eczema flare up worse than it has in 10 years (ugh, the WORST), and constantly moving from temporary accommodation to accommodation until we finally settled down into our own place which made me feel unsettled. Back in Europe, Mike and I were working remotely, but if we had trouble sleeping during the night, we’d just allow ourselves to sleep in and wake up when we felt ready. I can’t do this now (newsflash to Alison: the majority of the working population can’t, either), so all I can do is take note and try to be more disciplined about going to bed earlier and at least resting if I can’t fall asleep.

Eh, because I’ve had some ED issues in the past, I try not to come down too hard on myself here. Several years ago, I thought I would get faster if I leaned out, so I cut down my portions to a dangerous low and ended up getting slower and with a stress fracture. I still believe you have to watch what you eat to an extent no matter where you are in life. Having said that, all the running I’m doing does make me crave lots of sugar (imagine that), and sometimes Mike and I can go a little crazy with our sugar binges (yes, I’m calling them sugar binges). Running lots of miles does not cancel out bad eating decisions. I know this, but I’m still learning how to balance. We eat pretty healthy outside of our sugar habit, but I think this is the main thing I need to stay on top of.

Maintain a solid base in the off-season
I don’t want to go crazy and jump right back into speed work or 50-60 mile weeks, but I also don’t want to get so relaxed over the next month or so that I feel myself playing catch up when I start marathon training again. I know I can’t technically control this, but I am hoping another solid Spring season will help me run faster than I did in Manchester, rather than getting back to where I was when I ran Manchester.

Strength training
Yeah… I sucked royally at this. I always drop it until I start to feel an ache or pain that won’t go away. Mike told me the last time this happened in Switzerland that I had no excuses to be lazy about it. I listened, started doing my strengthening exercises and I made it through to Manchester injury-free. But then I fell off track again, and haven’t been able to motivate myself to make time for it. It was always the wrong day of the week (the day before a hard workout) or the wrong time (I was too tired after a hard work out). Basically, I let myself get away with every excuse and it stopped being a habit. I trained through a lot of non-serious, but nagging pains that hindered my progress this summer. It affected my range of motion in my legs. I was sore all the time (but I didn’t *run* in pain, I just adjusted a little which meant running slower). I’m working really hard at forming a habit during the off-season so that I’ll be strong enough to keep it going when I start training again.

Paying attention to taper week / race day
Although I didn’t log everything, I’m quite certain I ate a lot more leading up to Manchester. It’s not like me to under eat – I’m always finding an excuse to eat! But I was stressed out, I was sick… I just didn’t really want to eat food so I didn’t eat as much of it. I really didn’t pay attention at all to my diet during my taper week. I didn’t really make a solid plan for the meals we ate once we were in Victoria (and without access to a kitchen). I just went with the flow in terms of restaurants and meals – and I made some poor choices, in my opinion. It’s hard to say how much this affected my race, but next time I’m going to err on the side of caution and be over prepared. I’ll probably choose an AirBnb over a hotel so that I can cook my own pre-race food.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m also going to do a short warm up so that I’m not panicking over my breathing or pace in the first few kms.


Checking my running ego at the door – HR based training

I came across the concept of heart-rate based training last year when Sweaty Emily wrote a lot about the benefit of training this way. Specifically, she talked about two things – doing the majority if not all of your runs at an aerobic zone (based on a HR that is determined on an individual basis) and training with a high fat / low carb diet. A combination of these two approaches supposedly improves your body’s ability to use fat as your main fuel source, rather than carbs.

My new easy pace – for now

I wrote it off for a while, because I thought I was already taking on a conservative approach with my running. Last year, I adopted what I thought was an 80/20 approach with my training and I like to think that it helped me stay uninjured and get faster.

I don’t know what happened, but I feel like I lost sight of that recently. Maybe I got too fixated on training “harder” for my Fall marathon. I stopped listening to my body and “running easy”. I thought my body would eventually adapt and things would improve. Instead, every single run was starting to suck and I couldn’t hit my target paces on my interval days. I blamed marathon recovery, the oppressive heat, and the stress from the move to Vancouver.

This move to Vancouver has turned out to be more stressful than I ever imagined. But, it’s going to be worth it. We love it here so far.

Over the last few weeks, I have been actively trying to slow down my easy runs. I hoped it would help, but when my glute/hamstring started acting up and hurting on every run I went on – fast or slow – I just snapped and realized that I would likely be injured for the rest of the year if I didn’t make some bigger changes. So, I took the plunge and bought the a new fancy watch with a wrist heart rate monitor. I had been thinking about it for a while (my last watch purchase was from 6 years ago!) and used the Maffetone 180 formula to come up with my target “aerobic training zone” (145-150 bpm).

New watch! I still prefer using FitFriend for splits at the track, but I am loving the fact that I can monitor my heart rate without wearing a chest strap.

My plan so far is to keep one tempo session and one steady state long run each week. Both of these will be completed outside of my target MAF heart rate.  To be honest, I’m doing this to keep my sanity. I have a group of girls that I love doing my long runs with, but running with them, even at our slower long run pace will most certainly set me over my 150bpm target. I’m willing to sacrifice this for now. I also want to keep one speed session a week in case I still race the Victoria marathon on Oct 11 (but in all honestly, that is not likely at this point). I might do hills on Tuesdays, as long as I keep my warm up / cool downs easy and the hills session (e.g. the part where my HR will be outside my aerobic zone) will be short. This is mostly to keep my hill fitness since most races around here all seem to be pretty hilly. The rest of my runs will be completed within my MAF zone which, I’ll be honest, feels really slow relative to how I’m used to running. For the sake of comparison, that has meant slowing down my easy runs to 10:30/mi (6:30/km) from the 8:50-9:40/mi (5:30-6:00/km) that I was running them at before.

I also met this awesome girl last week, who has been training exclusively at her MAF pace for the last 8 weeks. Her pace has dropped from 11:00/mi to 8:35/mi. Everybody is different and there is no guarantee I will experience the same progress – but it’s still inspiring and gives me hope that I won’t be stuck at 10:30/mi pace for a 150bpm HR forever.

Patience has never been one of my strong suits, so it has been tough to “trust in the process”. But I’ve read quite a bit around this approach and I do believe it works. I don’t think I’ll see any real changes by the Victoria Marathon if I still run it. I don’t even know if I will see changes by next Spring… which will really suck because I’m so impatient! But, the idea is that eventually, I will naturally be running at my old easy run paces or faster at the same heart rate, which should translate into better endurance overall and faster race times in the future.

I’m pretty flexible, though, so if I feel like I need to tweak something, I will. So far, I’m determined to give this an honest go, even if that means sacrificing my races in the short term. Ask me if I still feel this way in a month, though. 😉


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