I’m back at it. After taking June off of training, I jumped right back into things in July, ramping up my training for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I learned a lot from my training earlier this year for the Ottawa Marathon. I learned about running in the winter. About how to push yourself without overdoing it. How marathon training is about much more than running - cross training, strength training, hydration, diet and recovery. I made my mistakes, and I’ve learned from them.
I’m now 4 weeks into my training, and I’m already noticing the improvements from the small tweaks I’ve made. My running schedule itself hasn’t changed much. I try to get out there 3-4 days a week, ensuring that I always do my long run and hills, mixing in some speed, tempo and fartleks where I can.
There’s something different this time around. I’m finding my training easier. Easier probably isn’t the right word, because there is nothing easy about marathon training. It is still a mental and physical battle. Getting up at 6AM to run hills is always tough. Going out for a 20km long run after a long weekend at the cottage is exhausting. But I’m finding myself more confident in my running. I feel stronger. My mental state is rock solid. A 20km run doesn’t feel daunting. It is no longer the unknown. I know I can run 20+km. I’ve now done it dozens of times. That is not something I thought I would ever say.
Marathon training is like life. Sometimes it’s scary. There are a lot of unknowns. It challenges you and beats you down at times, but rewards you for your hard work. You have good days, and bad days. You make mistakes, and you learn from them. As I get into the heart of my training for my third marathon, here is what I have learned.
Don’t Overdo It
Training for a marathon is extremely taxing on your body. With all of the hours and kilometres of training that you put your body through, you need to give it a chance to rest and recover. This isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s patience and smarts. Even elite runners like Rob Watson will tell you to chill out, and kick back to give your body the rest it needs, when it needs it. Get yourself to yoga to stretch out. Buy a foam roller and use it religiously. And sleep. Lots of sleep.
I’ve made the mistake too many times of pushing myself too hard in a week, wanting to squeeze in an extra 10km run when all my body needed was a day off, only to end up more banged up and even hurt to the point where I was sidelined for a few weeks. Do yourself a favour and take a day off if you have to. Heal up those aches and pains, throw that guilt out the window and do something else if you have to, like riding a bike or some strength training. That one run you missed 2 months before the marathon won’t matter.
Too many runners only hydrate after their runs. They go out and run 20 km, and then come home and drink a glass of water. Sorry to break it to you, but by that point you’re already screwed. People ask me “When do you hydrate?” I say “all the time”. Literally. I’m never more than a few feet away from a cold glass of water, day and night, and I probably drink anywhere from 5-10 litres a day. You should be hydrating as much as possible - and don’t forget to hydrate during your run. It doesn’t matter if it is hot or cold, sunny or cloudy, raining and snowing. Your body needs to stay hydrated. It’s not a weakness, it’s a necessity.
In the winter, I carried a water belt with me. Yeah, it was clunky and uncomfortable, but I needed it. In the summer, I leave the belt behind and plan my runs based on the availability of public water fountains. I also use DripDrop, a medical grade powdered hydration solution, that when added to water provides up to three times the hydration as regular water and 2-3 times the electrolytes as sports drinks, with far less sugar. It’s a really effective solution that tastes great - check them out.
Cross Training & Strength Training
When I was training for the Ottawa Marathon, my focus was almost purely on running. Over time I learned that it is important to mix it up. Yes, you need to run a lot - but it shouldn’t be the only thing you do. I’ve made a bigger effort to incorporate cross training and strength training into my training routine, and have seen a huge impact.
Cross training activities for runners typically include cycling, swimming and cross country skiing. Basically, any kind of exercise to compliment your running that will help build your flexibility and strength. Cross training often works different muscles and helps keep you lean, fit and injury free. I’ve been cycling to and from work 4 days a week, a 20km ride each day - about 80km a week. I find it helps my legs recover from my running, but it also works very different muscle groups, which has helped improve my overall lower body strength.
I also built strength training into my program. Strength training, similar to cross training, helps you build muscles in complimentary areas, balancing you out and ensuring that you are in top shape. Those who know me, know that I despise going to the gym to lift weights. Never been my thing. But after missing my goal in Ottawa, and struggling with a few injuries, I decided it was time for me to bite the bullet and start strength training. After hours of research and planning, I built a strength training routine into my training program that I’m actually enjoying quite a bit. In addition to help strengthen my lower half, it also focuses on a variety of muscle groups including back, shoulders and core. I’ll write about it more and share the actual plan a little later on.
12 more weeks
With the Toronto Waterfront Marathon only 12 weeks away, I’m more motivated than ever. I feel confident, calm and strong. I’m taking my time, but sticking to my routine. The long runs don’t feel so long and the hills not as steep. I just have to stick with it and be patient. One day at a time.