Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Ed Eyestone
When training hits a snag, stay calm and reassess.
Several years ago, one of my athletes was having her best buildup ever in preparation for the St. George Marathon in Utah. But just weeks out from race day, Julie bonked on a long run and felt consumed by an overall feeling of fatigue. We had to make a decision fast—should she rest, continue to train, or defer her entry? Ultimately, we chose a multifaceted course of action that allowed her to bounce back with happy results: She won the race and set a new personal best.
High-level training is like a high-wire act. When you lose your balance, it’s crucial to remain calm and resist freaking out. Because when it comes to prepping for a 26.2, it’s more common than not to have a hiccup along the way. The following steps helped Julie quickly recover and regain her confidence. Use them to weather your own training storms and arrive safely at the starting line.
ID THE PROBLEM
Unseasonably warm conditions coupled with a high-mileage week and inadequate hydration left Julie dehydrated and run-down. So we moved her workouts to the cooler early morning and focused on hydrating with electrolytes throughout the day.
TAKE TIME OFF
Since Julie’s problem manifested at the end of a long run, we had to ensure she was fully recovered before she worked hard again. Otherwise, we’d be beating the proverbial dead horse, which would only prolong her recovery. Following the disastrous run, she took the following two days completely off.
START BACK SLOW
After 48 hours of rest, we hit the reset button. We cut Julie’s mileage for the remainder of the week to a third of what it had been the previous week, and she ran only easy-paced runs. This helped her recover and maintain most of her fitness.
At the end of the reset week, we evaluated how Julie was feeling. If she still felt run-down, we would’ve had to work harder to identify the cause of her malaise and the proper resolution. However, she was full of energy and chomping at the bit to get back to work.
ADD VOLUME AND QUALITY
Two weeks after her bonk, we bumped up Julie’s mileage to just over two-thirds of her prefunk workload. During this time she performed one fartlek workout. Fartleks are perfect for reintroducing quality because it’s hard to know the exact distance covered. This is important for athletes who might push too hard to hit marks set before the break. The remainder of Julie’s running was done at base-mileage pace, about 30 to 40 seconds slower than marathon race pace.
HEAD BACK TO MAX
Julie resumed her maximum mileage three weeks after her funk. Quality sessions during this week included a fartlek and tempo run performed at least 48 hours apart. She ran the remainder of her mileage at base pace. The following week, she stepped back into 26.2 training—at the point she would have been at without the break.
Reintroduce these quality sessions after taking a break.
Do no more than 15 minutes of hard running. Warm up, then run 5-4-3-2-1 (or try 2-3-4-3-2 or 3-4-3-2-3). Run hard for five minutes, then jog easy for five. Follow each hard effort with the equivalent time jogging.
Keep a tempo pace of 10 seconds per mile faster than marathon pace, but run for just 15 to 20 minutes. Jog one minute at the halfway point.