Training and planning for races
When setting out to train for an upcoming race, there can be lots of confusion on the best way to plan and structure all the runs that need to take place.
Using a pre-made plan can be a good option for those that may be new to run programming to have generic training parameters that you can just follow. However, a major issue with using a pre-made plan is that it’s not designed for your specific fitness level, injury history, strengths and weaknesses. Every runner is different and has different needs as far as what types of training they need and will respond well to, how much mileage is appropriate, how much rest they will need, and what their goal is when it comes to their desired race.
When all these factors are considered, the race training plan should adapt from what was planned on any given day, depending on how the runner is feeling prior to setting out for that day’s run.
When it comes to race programming success, our Physio Coaching standard is getting you to race day feeling strong and injury free to help accomplish your desired goal. The best way to ensure that this happens is to know how to be adaptable with your plan and understand when to make changes.
For each race distance, there is an ideal amount of training time prior to the race, with longer distance races requiring more time to train. This time, which for a marathon distance could be up to 24 weeks, should be designed to gradually improve your fitness in targeted ways to have you peak close to your goal race.
There are many ways to get a good training plan, with the best being working with a coach experienced in running, rehabilitation, and performance. The plan for a longer distance race like a half or full marathon will usually be structured in three parts: the introductory phase, the pushing phase, and the sharpening or tuning phase. Each of these phases have a specific goal as it relates to that time in the training plan.
- The introductory phase is intended to build up your base mileage and overall running fitness, with just a light amount of higher intensity running.
- The pushing phase is when you should really be pushing your fitness in terms of distance and intensity. Mileage will continue to increase, but not to the same degree as during the introductory phase, except for the weekly long run which will continue to increase in distance.
- The sharpening or tuning phase is when the mileage will decrease as you approach your race. The body can only tolerate high level training for so long and the goal is to peak and reduce mileage so that the body can feel as good as possible on race day.
During the introductory phase, there will be consistent building of weekly mileage so that you are well prepared for when the intensity picks up during the next phase. For the beginning of the plan and progression of mileage to be tolerable, it’s best to make sure that your weekly mileage volume in the weeks leading up to the start of the training program is not too dissimilar. For instance, if the first week of your training plan calls for a weekly volume of 35 miles, you should be running close to that amount in the weeks prior to the start of the plan to avoid an imbalance in load and capacity.
The pushing phase is when the more specific race pace training becomes more prevalent. More training will be completed at high intensities for a longer duration to build your tolerance and endurance at faster speeds. The major distinction, besides the increase in race pace training, is the increase in the weekend long run distance. The long run will progress in this phase to near peak distance, with more race-specific pace during longer efforts also being added as a test of preparedness for race day.
The final phase of training is all about fine-tuning. During this phase, the goal is to perform a substantial amount of race pace training to really push fitness and get ready for your race. Right before your race, mileage will drop to allow your load to decrease and your body to feel as fresh as possible while not decreasing volume too soon so as not to affect your running capacity. It is this fine balance during the tuning phase that when achieved successfully will allow you to arrive on race day feeling as good as possible.
If you would like to have a custom running program designed to help you run your best race, get started with a two-part running assessment today.