It can be tempting to up the ante and increase your training to much higher levels when reaching for higher goals. I love that you’re tuning into your body now rather than later, as venturing down this training path too far can really put you behind the eightball.
When I coach my runners, I have them assess their training throughout the season. How’s it working? How am I feeling? Am I feeling stronger or weaker? This is important because every season–and every runner–is unique. Some of you are able to push harder than others due to the happenings in your life, your health, stress, sleep, and other variables.
The key is to understand that your body is telling you something isn’t working and you need another plan. That’s where the marathon makeover comes in.
Here are three ways to modify your plan to get back on track with your fall half-marathon racing goals:
Give yourself a mid-season timeout. In most cases, with the initial level of fatigue you’re describing, taking a step back from the progression, intensity, and mileage is enough to reboot your training. Although you may be concerned with getting off your training plan, the goal isn’t to finish a perfect training plan, it’s to reach your goals and get stronger. You can’t do that until you recover.
Circle the date on the calendar two weeks from today and reframe it as a mid-season reboot to allow you to recover, regain strength, and set yourself up for a stronger second half of the season. That way it holds meaning for you rather than seeming like a setback. Keep in mind, I’ve had more runners reach their goals with less training under their belts than too much training, so even if you come in under what you planned training-wise, it doesn’t mean you won’t achieve your goals.
Run short, easy, and hard-effort runs. The body can recover and maintain with a healthy dose of rest days, easy short runs and a few short, hard interval runs. The short distance (30-40 minutes total) will allow your body time to heal while still maintaining your running workouts. Because you’ve been running five to six times per week, it’s best to cutback to four total runs for 30-40 minutes and include two easy-effort runs and two hard interval workouts for the next two weeks. Here is an example of those workouts:
Stagger the workouts every other day and invest in downtime on the days in between (complete rest – not yoga, or Zumba, or cycling).
Monday: 40-minute easy-effort run
Wednesday: 30-minute interval run
Friday: 40-minute easy-effort run
Sunday: 30-minute interval run
Easy-effort run: Run 40 minutes at an easy, conversational (aerobic) effort. If you can talk in full sentences, you’re in the right zone. The easy effort allows for easier recovery, so make sure to dial in the right effort (not pace) here.
Interval run: 30-minute interval run. I know what you’re thinking–”30 minutes? What’s the point?” The key is that running short, hard intervals maintains fitness without pushing beyond the point of fatigue. Be cautious to avoid adding more to this powerful workout. It’s enough all on its own.
First, warm up by walking for two minutes and then running five minutes at an easy effort. Then repeat the following seven times: Run one minute at a hard but controlled effort (sprint). Follow with a one-minute walk, then jog for one more minute (two minutes total recovery). Walk it out for two minutes after your final interval to cool down. You’ll be surprised at how good you’ll feel with this short workout.