Changing Marathon Training to Avoid Injury: Less is more
Study the past if you would define the future.
When I got a lottery entry for my fourth marathon, I had mixed feelings. I was excited, but I was also more than a little apprehensive about starting to train again. It was a fast course. And I really wanted to BQ. But my marathon track record always resulted in fighting off or running through an injury near the end of training. The previous year it was horrible shin splints. Before that it was IT band issues and plantar fasciitis.
How could I make this training cycle different? What did I need to change to meet my goal? I applied the wisdom of Confucius – “Study the past if you would define the future.” I am also an avid reader of running books. As a result of this study and reading, I decided I needed to try a less conventional training plan:
- Run less (yet run each run with a purpose)
- Include more quality cross-training
- Incorporate more strength-training and yoga
A couple of my running friends qualified for Boston with a Runner’s World 3 day a week training plan, and I decided to give it a try.
This was may recipe with that plan: 1 day of speed work + 1 tempo run + 1 long run + plus 2 days of cross-training on my stationary bike + 1 day of yoga = 6 total work out days. On the cross-training days I also did 30 minutes of strength-training (usually P90X workouts).
I got that BQ – only running three days each week!I made it through my marathon training feeling I was as ready as I could be. It turned out I was ready. I am now a firm believer in sometimes “less is more” – when it comes to mileage. For me, high mileage is a recipe for disaster. I’ve learned that my body responds better to “variety.”
Another vital lesson I learned this training cycle is to ‘rest’ when you feel an injury coming on.
It will not kill you to miss a day of running or a week or even a week and a half. In week 10 of 16, I had sudden severe knee pain 6 miles into my 15 mile run. (I think it was in part due to all my ‘downhill’ training for the net -3,000 feet of downhill in my race. I needed to get my legs trained, but there is a fine-line of too much downhill training.) I thought all my goals and dreams were side-lined. Again. But I was not ready to throw in the towel!
“Strength does not come from physical activity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – GandhiI knew from past experience that trying to train through injury does not work. I forced myself not to run — for 8 days. I cross-trained on my bike like a mad women — but I did not run!!! This is where “indomitable will” comes in handy. When I returned to running, I took it slowly. I even walked/jogged 21 miles on a treadmill just to get it done – now that takes “indomitable will!”
I truly believe that “not running” salvaged my “running!” Don’t be afraid to take some days off from running – even in the middle of marathon training. It just may work!
Two other important aspects of my training were smart eating and lots of praying.
I am a firm believer that taking care of both body and spirit go hand-in-hand in finding success. Many of you may be skeptical about this, but my personal religious beliefs in ‘”fasting and prayer’” played a vital role in my marathon training. Sometimes we just need a little faith and help from a higher source to accomplish our goals. “But they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
The wisdom is that you have to listen to YOUR body. There are tons of training plans. Not all of them are suited to every person. Don’t get intimidated by folks logging tons of miles and do what is right for YOU and your goals! And most importantly, don’t be afraid to try something new, especially when your old plan is not getting you there!
Have you made a radical change to your training?
Have you tried a low mileage plan?
Do you feel like you need a change?