So you want to sign up for a race, that’s great! After all, the absolute best way to keep yourself running and hold yourself accountable is to initially find a race, sign up for it, pay for it and mark your calendar. A race date will help you stay focused and plan your training accordingly. In this blog you will get all of your most pressing questions answered from FRC coach and training program coach, Dave Ringwood. At FRC, we recognize that each race is different and every runner has his/her own unique needs and challenges. Our training program coach can work with you to customize a training program based on your needs and training goals. These programs will set you up for success by being personalized, holding you accountable and of course being fun.
HOW TO PREPARE
Like runners, every race is unique. And the training to prepare for them should be too! The very first step should be to choose a race that allows enough time to appropriately prepare. The time between deciding you want to run your race and actually toeing the start line will be filled with new experiences, lessons, and moments that deserve your attention. I recommend taking approximately 12 and 16 weeks for the half and full marathons, respectively.
Next, it is important to identify what days throughout the week work best for training. For longer distance races, I recommend dedicating at least four days per week, so identifying where those best fit around the standard week.
Once you’ve decided your goal race and found time for training, I recommend finding a community (large or small) that can act as a source of motivation throughout your training. This could be in the form of family/friends, a running group, or a coach-led program. The motivation derived from a group is invaluable to maintaining a positive attitude over the course of a training program. And speaking of training programs, a coach can provide appropriate training for meeting your race goals in a healthy and fast way! Guess where you can find this type of community and training program… that’s right, FRC!
To that note, I cannot emphasize enough how beneficial a training group or coach is for seasoned runners training for their first half/full marathon. The more experienced one becomes at running, the more detailed the goals become. The workload feels lessened with a positive group surrounding you and the mental stresses are minimized with a coach guiding you along the way!
If a coach or training groups aren’t realistic options for you (not the case if you live near FRC!), the most important first step is identifying a training plan that works for your schedule. Structure is the key to success when preparing for long distance training.
I typically recommend 12 and 16 weeks for the half and full marathon distances, respectively. Of course, there is always room for flexibility based on the individual. Typically, a more seasoned runner will need less dedicated time to the training program, simply because they have more “base” miles under their belt, and are likely coming from a place where they are already running. These runners might not need to build up into the mileage, so might be just fine running fewer than 12 or 16 weeks. On the other hand, beginner runners might be coming from a place where they are just beginning/returning to running, and will need additional time to build up their mileage, and could benefit more from the full 12 to 16 weeks.
And beyond that, every runner is unique. For example, it’s worth noting a runner’s injury history and noting how that might affect time needed during the buildup. If injuries have been an issue in the past, it’s worth spreading the training out a bit more, allowing a more gradual progressing towards peaking on race day. Understanding that each runner is unique is essential to bringing your best self to the start line on race day.
IMPORTANT TRAINING FACTORS TO CONSIDER
Speed work, intervals, and hill training are all important pieces to incorporate in your training. The key is making sure they are appropriately executed based on the time until your race. Early in the program, intervals are typically longer and less intense. While more speed work is included towards the later stages of training, with intervals moving shorter but more intense.
I typically recommend hills based on the race course. For example, if hills are prominent in the later stages of a race, racers need to prepare for attacking hills on tired legs. A great way to simulate that experience is to finish a long run with a few hilly miles.
HOW TO PREVENT INJURY
Dynamic stretching (functional movements, bringing much of your body through full range of motion) before working out and static stretching (stretches held in place for an extended period of time) after working out are the bare minimum for preventing injury. For some runners, this is enough to remain injury-free, and they don’t need to consider anything more. Lucky them!
For many others (myself included), more is needed to remain confident in our ability to remain injury-free. A simple preventative measure is to make sure you are adequately hydrated throughout the day. Hydration plays a key role not just during performance, but also for prior to performance. Hydration promotes loosened joints ready to run.
Additionally, recovery services (found at FRC) provide a great opportunity to keep injuries at bay. Foam rolling, massage, compression sleeves, cryotherapy, cold water soaking, and infrared saunas are all valuable recovery resources that help keep injuries from occurring!
WHAT SHOULD A TRAINING PROGRAM LOOK LIKE?
When building training plans, I work the week around what I like to call “quality runs.” Quality runs can include speed work, intervals, hills, and/or long runs. I structure most weeks to include two quality runs, with easier/recovery days surrounding them.
The longer of these quality runs will be completed during the weekend, to prepare runners for the weekend race. The shorter will be mid-week, to allow appropriate recovery between the two.
For longer races, I recommend at least four total runs per week, but how those runs are structured and how cross training is incorporated depends largely on the runner’s experience, goals, and injury history. Beginners will likely need to work up to the four days per week of running, using cross training as recovery, with complete days off on a weekly basis. While extremely seasoned runners might be running every day with doubles included. It’s all about finding each runner’s “formula!”
SUPPLEMENTARY WORKOUTS FOR RUNNERS
I’m a strong proponent of yoga and body weight exercises, regardless of your experience with either. Yoga is a fantastic way to open up your body and allow it to work as one coordinated structure, rather than isolated parts moving near each other. Yoga is a way to develop your body’s ability to communicate with itself, providing smoother and more natural movements during your run.
Bodyweight exercises are fantastic because they do a great job developing a runner’s core through functional movement. At the later stages of a distance race, a strong core that is used to functional movement will do a better job maintaining form, allowing the runner to focus all remaining energy on moving forward.
WORDS OF MOTIVATION
Running is such a special activity because it provides us these condensed lifetimes over the course of months (training programs), weeks (training blocks), days (workouts), and even minutes (hard intervals). And like a normal lifetime, these condensed versions are filled with ups and downs, triumphs and failures, joys and heartbreaks. But the beauty of the lows is that they make the highs worth it. The contrast between the two is amazing, and we are gifted with the opportunity to experience that contrast on a regular basis. The end result is all the more rewarding thanks to the tougher parts of training!
Trust your training, trust your plan, and trust yourself. The work has been done, you know your plan, and all that’s left to do it go out and do it. Luckily, that’s the most fun part of all! No half or full marathon experience will ever be the same, so have a great time with your first, and embrace the fact you get to do it again!