Monday, March 7, 2011

What Worked for Me

Shoes with Evidence of Race

Reflections on Training

Thank you all so much for your sweet comments and congratulations on my half-marathon race recap.  Your kindness makes my slightly crippled condition on the day after the race much easier to manage as I shuffle around, trying not to bend my legs too much because they hurt!  Just like the last time I was recovering from a half-marathon, I want to hire a very strong undergraduate to carry me around for a few days because oy!  Walking is hard today!  My thighs and knees are feeling those 13.1 miles.

Today might be a little painful, but this season of half-marathon training has been my best ever.  It’s been the longest season by far: I started training for this race in May 2010, about two months after the 2010 Armadillo Dash.  I knew I wanted to run faster this time, and I wanted my training to be more thorough.  To me, “thorough” meant that my long run training distances would be closer to the half-marathon distance and more vigorous—faster and with fewer walking breaks.  I’m a low-tech runner—I always run by time and my own subjective “feel” for the pace—so I can’t tell you exactly how long my runs were or how fast I ran them.  But my half-marathon results demonstrate that whatever I did this year, it worked.  Here is how I would summarize my training this year.

* Honor thy long run.  I didn’t skip a single long run, though I did have a few days during which I shuffled things around.  My goal was to do a long run every week, and every other week, the duration of that run increased by 10 minutes.  I did have at least one week where I pushed back the mileage increase by repeating the previous long run’s duration, but I did not skip the long run.  When I went on vacation, I planned to take time off of running, which is part of the reason that my training season was so long.  I think a long training season works better with my professional life because I need some flexibility on both ends to accomplish my goals.  Extra time to get ready for a big race gives me that flexibility.

* But don’t do just long runs.  I tried to do at least one short run every week in addition to my long run.  My short runs were the reward for long runs: by comparison, short runs are so easy and fun.  I felt light on my feet and happy to be outside for those speedy work-outs.  Like the long runs, I ran these by time, not by distance, and usually ran about 30-40 minutes.

* Cross-train.  I biked a lot!  I also did yoga and took walks and generally stayed active in non-running ways. 

* Take rest days.  I think this point was really key for me.  I usually had 1-2 days each week when I didn’t run, bike, or do yoga.  I still walked around a lot for work, errands, or pleasure, but I didn’t do a “formal” work-out.  Rest days are important for letting your body heal any tiny injuries you may have inflicted during recent work-outs.  I find that they are also good for my mind, and they give me time to cook, which is important to me.

* Be positive. I think this is really the key to being a happy runner.  Enjoy your runs and your work-outs, be your own cheerleader, and keep your spirits up.  Running is hard work, but it’s so rewarding physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Your run can be the best part of your day if you let it, so be positive.

Of course I have things I wish I had done more of.  I would love to do more speed work to get even faster.  My strength training consisted of hauling my groceries home, lifting heavy pots, and the occasional push-up.  It would be amazing to run three or four days a week, though I think four might be more than I can handle without sacrificing something else in my life.  I’d love to do yoga more than once or twice a week because I enjoy it so much.  But really, I have no regrets about how my training went.  I did the best I could with my goals and circumstances, and that’s all I could hope to do.

Sweet readers, what are your best training tips?  What do you love and recommend to any runner who happens to jog past you on the road?  Any training mistakes you’d be willing to admit to save us from shin splints, blisters, achy backs, or overworked legs?


  1. Fartleks and half-mile intervals! These work like magic when you have a base and want to get faster.

  2. Zoom zoom, Speedy Shawn! Yes! I would love to try more interval training if I can maintain my base this summer in the Texas heat. Ugh, I feel hot just thinking about it.

  3. "But really, I have no regrets about how my training went. I did the best I could with my goals and circumstances, and that’s all I could hope to do."...

    Words to live by :) xoxoxo

  4. Aw, Theresa, you are so sweet! Indeed, words to live by. xo and :-)

  5. I'm really intrigued by the fact that you did your training by time rather than distance. I really need to be more dedicated about cross-training and especially right now as I'm trying to rebuild my fitness after injury.

  6. I've read marathon training plans where they give you the choice of running by time or by distance, which made me feel better about my decision to stay low-tech in that way. I think if I were trying to hit a new PR for my next race, I would probably do most of my long runs by time again, but every couple of weeks I'd do laps around a marked path to see what my pace per mile was. That might be my strategy when I finally sign up for my first 10K!

    Good luck with your training, friend. Take it slowly!