You arrive home, tell everyone about your newest achievement and just as the day starts winding down you remember… in the midst of the excitement about running your first race, you signed up for another race in just a few weeks! Uh-oh! What should you do?
There are a few ways to answer this question and I’ll go through a few scenarios that will hopefully apply to a wide range of runners, whether you’ve been running for a few weeks or many years.
In this article, I’ll be answering a question from Neil Gillman in the Running and Race Training Facebook group. Click the previous link to join the group and view daily running-related content, share your progress or ask running-related questions – your question might be featured in one of our next articles!
I’ve finished a training plan and…
… I don’t know what to do next.
… I have another race coming up in a few weeks (Neil’s case).
…I want to start another training plan.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
This question is tricky. Neil shows an interest in planning his races appropriately and that puts his miles ahead of any runner who doesn’t pay attention to planning! Planning is important, or even better, crucial for safe improvement.
However, the topic of planning (in running) covers a whole lot of other sub-topics. There’s the principles of progress, picking races appropriately, periodization (which can also be broken down into tons of other sub-topics), recovery, conditioning and so much more…
I’ll try to keep things simple in this article but there are two main things you should know:
Simply put, do not expect to keep improving if you’re constantly trying to run faster + longer all year round. Research ‘running periodization’ to understand what you should do (I’ll have an article about this coming out in August. Sign up to the newsletter in the RunPage website to get notified).
I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO NEXT
Let’s say you’ve just finished a beginner’s marathon training plan. If it was a decent training plan you have been training for at least 12 weeks and now that the training is over, you don’t know what to do…
That’s completely normal. The marathon is the ultimate goal and some runners feel kind of lost after accomplishing that goal. It seems like most runners are become addicted to the marathon and start looking for another one as soon as they finish the first one – however, this section is for those of you who weren’t bitten by the marathon bug!
The marathon isn’t for everyone! It’s a great event but it takes many hours of preparation, time spent away from the family, causes more fatigue and requires lots of mental dedication to train for many weeks, and even months before the race.
Maybe that isn’t for you – and that’s ok! There are many other fun events such as my all-time favorite – the 5K! In my opinion it’s the perfect balance between a speed and resistance event. It doesn’t require too much dedication; I can quickly go out and complete an effective training session and be back home in 20/30 minutes.
My suggestion to you is to decrease your distance and spend less time on the road!
I HAVE ANOTHER RACE COMING UP IN A FEW WEEKS
This is Neil’s case. Neil signed up for two marathons, both just 6 weeks apart from each other. How does a runner properly manage training and recovery in between these two events?
First of all, this should only be done by individuals that are already accustomed to high-volume running, like train runners for example. Trail runners are used to running 40-mile weeks. I don’t know Neil’s full running background, but I’ll assume he is an experienced runner, running at least 30/40 miles per week.
I would structure Neil’s training as follows… After the first marathon (which should’ve been run at an easy effort) Neil would take a rest day, followed by two de-load weeks and then proceed training as usual, until the last 10 days before the second marathon, where we would do a short taper just before the race.
A de-load week is simply where you lower the total weekly volume, and I would lower it by only 20 to 30%. This means that Neil’s normal weekly mileage (let’s say 40 miles per week) would be reduced to around 30 miles per week for two weeks.
The whole goal of this would be to try and keep Neil in tip-top shape, keep his muscles used to the high mileage for just enough time, until the second marathon which would then be followed by a thorough recovery period.
Ideally, this situation (back to back races) wouldn’t happen again any time soon as that would only stress Neil’s body and we could very easily enter overtraining territory. I’d like to stress that running marathons back to back puts a lot of strain on your body if you’re not used to it and it could lead to a slew of injuries! You can run 5k’s back to back, 10k’s too, but anything higher than that becomes too risky for the average runner!
To put it simply, this is how I would handle your situation - 20/30% de-load right after the first marathon (ran at easy effort) for 2 weeks, increase mileage for 14 days and taper for the last 10 days. That should put you at a place of comfort to run the second marathon as effectively as possible (considering the short time window between each race).
I WANT TO START ANOTHER TRAINING PLAN
This one is easy. Take a few rest days after your race and as soon as you start feeling like your body is recovering (could take a few days if you’re a beginner) then go out for a long easy walk and try to mix in a few bouts of easy, light running. Proceed training as usual after you feel recovered.
But what training plan are you going to follow next?
Here are a few training plans I’ve published:
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