Friday, January 27, 2012

Confessional Booth

I have a confession to make.

No, this isn't where I jump into a room, and like on The Real World, start dramatically ranting about how I can't stand my roommates. (Fortunately, I don't have roommates.)

My confession? I need to change my training plan.

You see, when I was designing my training plan, I came across the Intermediate Marathon Program on Cool Running. Description: "For runners who currently run 25 to 50 miles per week and expect to run the marathon in under 3:30 for men, or 3:50 for women." I thought to myself, "This sounds like me. That's how much I run now, and that's my goal time. Okay, let's try that." As I penciled in all of the runs on my calendar, I didn't think twice about how the plan involves 6 days of running and 1 day off a week. I've been on that plan for about two weeks now, and what have I noticed (besides the 60+ runs that are on my calendar alongside my classes, research advising meetings, trips/visits, and other appointments)? A pain in my right leg that resembles sciatica (and shows up if I've been sitting for more than an hour), tightness in my IT bands, and a fear that if I run this much, and do (practically) nothing but that for the next three months, I'll come to hate and dread running (assuming that I'm not sidelined by IT Band Syndrome, Piriformis Syndrome, or any other injury that's possible). 

I love running. But I don't want to become obsessive about it to the point that I no longer enjoy it. Or become injured from overtraining and can't even run/finish Eugene.

I read at one time that cross-training (in addition to running) can actually help in marathon training. (Among others, Jeff Galloway, former Olympian and creator of the run-walk-run plan, endorses it in his marathon training plan.) How? Cross-training (e.g., cycling, swimming, elliptical, rowing machine) is a low-impact way to add extra fitness. Plus, you're using different muscles than you use for running!
(Other good articles on marathon training and cross training: here and there.)

Because of this, I figured that I should add some cross-training to my regimen. However, I had no idea which runs in my training calendar would be best replaced by cross-training. While considering all of this, I read about the Smart Coach app from Runner's World. You tell it a recent race time, what distance you're training for, how hard you want to train, and your race date. You can also tell it what day of the week you want to do your long runs. And the best part? It's free! (They have a paid version that comes with spiffy features such as daily email reminders of workouts and the ability to adjust your plan, but I think the free version is suitable for my purposes.) So I tried it out (what did I have to lose aside from the few minutes it took me to enter everything into the form), and was quite surprised. It came up with a plan that has 4 days of running a week, 3 days of rest/cross-training, pace times for all of my training runs, and a projected race time consistent with my goal. After Googling "smart coach reviews" and seeing good feedback, I've also found Hal Higdon's plans. His Intermediate 2 program seems great (5 days of running, 1 day of cross-training, 1 day of complete rest), though it's more generalized as far as what pace you should do each run. (Higdon's paid version supposedly offers more guidance, but since I've never used it, I can't confirm this.)

After reading all of this information, I think I'm going to adjust my plan. Any good plan (not just a training plan) must leave room for adjustment. You test the plan, and if it (or part of it) doesn't work, you figure out why it didn't work and how you can change it so you can achieve your goals.

Have you used a training program before (specifically, one of these)? If so, what was your experience like with it?

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