6 Ways to Stay Hydrated When Training in Hot Weather

Category : Training Tips & Opinions

how to stay hydrated when training in hot weatherRunning in hot, humid weather can be extremely arduous.  However, with some proper planning and a little preparation, you can survive running in the heat.  Here are six tips to staying hydrated when you train or race in hot weather:

1) Hydrate all day

Proper hydration is achieved by consistently consuming water and electrolytes every day from the time you wake up until shortly before your bedtime. It is not something you do only right before, or during, or after your activity.  Your body needs to adapt to an increase in water intake so it is imperative not to suddenly flood the body with water. Doing so will only result in the excess water running right though your system rather than being absorb into the body.

2) Run at the right times

The afternoon generally is the hottest time of the day, so try to avoid the hottest times when you’re acclimating to the heat (more on this later).

Further, if you don’t plan your runs appropriately around your lunchtime, you can quickly become hypoglycemic (if you run right before lunch) or nauseous (if you run right after lunch).  If you can only run during your lunchtime, then the best way to do it is before you eat however take a gel or have a banana before you run to avoid hypoglycemia and still not have a full stomach to cause nausea.

3) Wear appropriate clothing

Many people think that wearing less clothing and no hat in hot weather is a good idea for staying cool. This is not always true.  If you have dark hair, wearing a white mesh cap can actually be cooler, especially if you have the ability to keep the hat wet or even put ice in it every now and then during your run.  Additionally, there are several clothing companies that have created technical fabrics that actually activate cold when combined with your sweat or water. This can keep you significantly cooler than a shirtless or near shirtless body.

4) Wear sunscreen

In addition to blocking harmful UVA and UVB rays from the sun, sunscreen also helps prevent sunburn.  While that likely sounds obvious, what is less intuitive is that once your skin begins to sunburn, it actually begins to get hotter and, depending on the degree of sunburn, can actually inhibit your production of perspiration leading you to overheat.

5) Consume electrolytes

Consuming 16-20oz of an electrolyte beverage per hour during physical activity in abnormally hot weather is a good starting point.  Depending on your perspiration rate and body type, you may need to adjust that amount.  As a general rule, it is better to have to go to the bathroom on your run than it is to have to go to the hospital.  So drink up.

Another fantastic addition or replacement to electrolyte beverages is to consume an electrolyte supplement (generally in a pill or tablet form) with your water. What electrolyte supplements do is help ensure you maintain a good electrolyte balance and also prevent hyponatremia–a condition when blood sodium is too low which can be a result of excessive hydration.

6) Acclimate to the heat

Avoid doing relatively long runs the first few times of running in hot and humid weather. Your body can and usually will adapt to high temperatures so try to do your shorter mid-week runs in the heat, then you have a better chance at successfully completing much longer distances in the heat.

Finally, remember this: you never know what the weather on race day will be so be sure to train in all types of weather if you have the opportunity.  If you have runs planned on certain days at certain times, then do them rain or shine.  It will not only help your body adapt to different environmental conditions, but it will also provide your mind with the confidence on race day no matter what weather conditions you encounter.

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7 Habits: How to Run Through an Aid Station

Category : Training Tips & Opinions

how to navigate an aid station during a raceNavigating aid stations of a road race can sometimes be challenging and frustrating, particularly if you are very thirsty and tired, and your ability to maneuver quickly is diminished in the later parts of the race.  Here are seven tips to effectively and efficiently run through an aid station every time:

1) Anticipate the aid stations

There are two easy ways to know where aid stations are located on the race course: 1) study the course map before the event so you have a general idea where the aid stations are located, and 2) pay attention during the race and look for signs indicating you are approaching an aid station. It is advisable to do both.

2) Know what you want

Do you want just water?  Is the water at the end or the beginning?  How much do you need, meaning, do you need extra to help get down a gel or just a little bit to wet your mouth?  If you decide what you want and need from the aid station, then you can formulate a plan on what to do when you go through it.

For example, if you want just a water and water is towards the end of the water stop, then be sure you run in the middle of the road until the water section of the station begins.  Then start drifting towards the aid station table (as opposed to making an abrupt turn).  This will help you in multiple ways, namely: avoid tripping over other runners in the aid station, less likely to get spilled on by other runners, and be less likely to trip over or slip on cups on the ground.

3) Be aware of your surroundings

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, but worth the reminder nonetheless, you are not the only person running the race! Before making your move towards the aid station tables to grab a cup, take a peek to each side and slightly behind you.  If you don’t do so, then you increase the risk that someone may accidentally trip you or you may accidentally trip someone else.  Remember, you are running a race and the further into it you are, the more your coordination will decrease as the fatigue builds. You won’t be as spry as you are in normal conditions!

4) Consider slowing down

Assuming you are not very experienced at road racing, think about slowing down to pass through the aid stations in a controlled manner. Weigh the tradeoff between going too fast and not getting all of what you need (and/or spilling all over yourself) versus going slower, getting what you need, and consuming it effectively and efficiently. You will not add much to your total race time by briefly slowing down and you will have a more enjoyable race. Not slowing down while getting the most out of an aid station comes with experience.

5) Get a good “hand-off”

Aid stations will often be staffed with volunteers handing out cups, and other times the cups will be left on the table.  If a volunteer is handing out cups, then go to them because it is easier and faster. To get the most out of the exchange, make eye contact with the volunteer you plan to take the cup from and extend your hand a few feet in front of them. Slow your pace a bit and gently wrap your hand around the cup and smoothly take it from the volunteer to minimize spillage.  If you want to be courteous and tell the volunteer “thank you.”  After all, they are volunteers and they are helping make your race a better experience.

6) Master the art of drinking out of the cups

Once you have the cup comfortably in your hand, squeeze the top of it to make a “V” shape.  Holding the cup in this manner will enable you to drink from a smaller opening which both minimizes spillage and helps prevent liquid from getting in your nose.

7) Be polite and considerate

This is just a good habit to develop, in general.  But when it comes to a road race, remember that each volunteer on the course has donated their valuable time and energy to serve the participants–you. So thank them whenever possible.

Further, many events have garbage cans or boxes immediately after the aid stations. If they do, then make a concerted effort to toss your cup in the garbage. While it is perfectly acceptable to throw your cup on the ground, take care to ensure you do not hit a spectator or another runner, and try to toss it where other runners cannot trip over it.

The easiest way to master these principles is to practice.  Many of them can be done with a friend, but simply entering a race and getting out and doing them during events will help you the most.

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How To Train Your Nutrition for an Endurance Event

Category : Training Tips & Opinions

How to Train Your Nutrition for an Endurance EventNutrition is a key component to athletic performance.  This training tip will discuss nutrition before and during your training. More specifically, training for your race day nutrition strategy.  As endurance athletes, we need to possess an understanding of nutrition; what is it, how it affects us, and how it makes us feel.

What is nutrition?

In general, nutrition is simply the items we intake into our digestive system. And yes, that includes plain old water.  Some people confuse nutrition for substances that contain calories and while for the most part that’s true, water is a key component to our nutrition.

How does nutrition affect us?

It is important to understand how our bodies create muscle contractions in order for us to propel our bodies into movements that allow us to complete endurance events.  Our bodies create muscle contracts through a series of chemical and physical reactions that are all possible because of little powerhouses called the mitochondria.  If the mitochondria are not working, we cannot move.  Period.  Nutrition provides the necessary ingredients for these mitochondria to do their job.  Quite simply: you don’t feed them, they don’t work.

How nutrition makes us feel

The primary component to “training your nutrition” is really to ascertain how our bodies react to what we ingest. It is vitally important to let your body adapt to whatever you decide to use on race day.  Therefore, you need to train with your nutrition plan. If you are using gels for your race, then be sure to use them on all your long days.  Do you get sick of them after 15 miles?  You may want to rethink your plan.

The major item to remember about training your nutrition is if your body doesn’t “like” something you use, don’t give up on it right away, especially if you know it is a good nutritional strategy for race day.  Give your body some time to adapt to what you’re ingesting.  Perhaps, several weeks or so is needed for your digestive system to get to “know” it.  Try adjusting the amount you take in at one time.  For example, instead of taking one full gel at the top of each hour, try taking half of a gel every 30 minutes.

If you train your nutrition, you will lean what really works well for you and what doesn’t.  By the time race day comes, you will be ready and your body will be adapted to your nutritional plan.  Remember that your body loves water, so if you’re having digestive issues with gels (or whatever nutrition you choose) drinking a little more water than usual along with taking a gel can help make the osmolality of your nutrition similar to the osmolality of your blood allowing it to be more readily absorb out of your digestive system and where we need it, into those little powerhouses…the mitochondria.

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How to Successfully Complete an Endurance Event: 10 Important Habits

Category : Training Tips & Opinions

How to Complete an Endurance EventAre you going to do a road race, triathlon, cycling event, or any other endurance event? Great! Signing up was the easy part.  Now the work begins.  Here are 10 habits to successfully complete an endurance event:

1) Consistency

This is your magic bullet in training and in life. If you cannot get your planned training day in due to life’s constraints, get at least something done for that day’s workout.  Think “progress,” not “perfection.”

2) Have a greater purpose

There undoubtedly will be days when you just don’t feel like training, or times when you need to redefine your limitations of what you can do.  Does waking up at 5:30am to go to the pool…in the middle of winter…when it is dark and frigid outside sound like fun? No, a warm bed and an extra hour of sleep sounds much more ideal. On those days, you need to be driven by something greater than yourself. Find a great cause you deeply believe in to dedicate your efforts. It often will be the difference between doing and not doing, or keep going and quitting.

3) Do not cram

This is not a final exam at school.  You can’t cram for the marathon, meaning, you can’t skip a few days or a few weeks and then “make up” for those lost training days by doing extra runs the following weeks. This will almost surely lead to injury or illness.

4) People are a great resource…but

Find a training partner or group to do at least your long sessions with if you can.  Having a training partner creates accountability, but it also can be fun or motivating. Just be sure to train with people who are a pace similar to yourself.

But people can also distract or confuse you and you must be able to filter the noise.  For example, you likely will meet many people who provide unsolicited advice to you, and books and magazines with training advice from every philosophy imaginable are ubiquitous. So, pick your primary sources of information, training advice, and mentors, have faith in them, and stick with it throughout the duration of your event. Assess what worked and didn’t work, then make refinements. It is true that while there is no “one way” or “perfect way” to train and there are multiple ways to get to the same goal: to finish your event. At the same time, changing your training plan several times during your training is not an optimal approach.

5) Recover well

Nothing will derail your training faster than not getting enough recovery from your training–especially with running.  Key things to remember: drink lots of water all day every day, sleep 30 minutes longer than you think you have to, cold water and/or ice baths after long runs will speed up recovery, and eat clean, nutritionally-dense foods as often as possible (again, think “consistency” with diet, too).

6) Shoes expire, too

Change shoes after you have 250-350 miles on them.  Got new shoes?  If not, get some and track your mileage in them. Don’t wear those shoes you bought 3 years ago and never ran in them. The midsoles in running shoes break down with age (as well as mileage). If you’re new to the shoe-buying scene, check out this post on how to find the best running shoe for you.

7) Do not treat training as a weight loss plan

Many people train for a marathon or triathlon to “get in shape” which is often synonymous with “lose weight.”  Be cognizant that training for an endurance event is not a weight loss plan on its own merit.  It is an arduous undertaking that your body needs to recover from on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis so don’t short-change it when it comes to food. Your body needs fuel to recover and you undoubtedly will be more hungry than when you were not training for an event (particularly if it’s a long-course event). As such, you will need to eat more.  The best advice to follow is: don’t drastically change your normal diet/routine, but rather just gradually make better and better nutritional decisions at each meal.

8) Fuel your body after training

Within 20-30 minutes after you workout, your body (aka muscles) are primed to receive nutrition to help build/speed up the recovery process.  Drinking some post-workout fuel that contains approximately 40-60g of carbs and 10g of protein is important.  Get into this habit as quickly as you can and don’t miss out on this easy opportunity to help recover better and faster.

9) Do not “race your training”

People are competitive in nature.  People are competitive with their friends.  And many people train for an endurance event with their friends.  These facts create an environment whereby you may find yourself running faster during training that the training plan might call for on that particular run.  Don’t fall prey! Stay true to your training and save the racing for race day.  You will be much better for it.

10) Promptly address injuries

You will most certainly get aches and pains during your training that you haven’t felt before.  Knowing if those aches and pains are injuries or not comes only with experience.  If you get an ache or pain, always err on the side of being cautious and see a medical practitioner who understands endurance training and have them opine.  Better to address something early with preventative action rather than exacerbate any issue!

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Should I Train When I’m Sick?

Category : Training Tips & Opinions

should i train when i'm sickI have had several people who have come down with summer colds or sickness ask me: “Should I train if I feel sick?”  Since “feeling sick” varies from person to person, one simple rule of thumb to follow is: look no further than your neck.

If your symptoms are “above the neck” then carrying on with your training should not be a problem.  Headache, runny/stuffy nose, sneezing or sore throat got you down? No worries; get to work. In fact, training might even help you feel better because exercise releases an adrenaline hormone known as epinephrine, which is a natural decongestant. But if you train, be sure to monitor your body for worsening symptoms such as dizziness, nausea or profuse sweating. If those symptoms occur, stop training and get some rest. Of course, consult your doctor if symptoms are bad enough or if you are concerned.

Alternatively, if you have “below the neck” symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, sweats, swollen glands or a hacking cough, then chances are high that you have a virus and you should not train. Running under these conditions increases risk of dehydration or lead to more serious problems. Furthermore, if you are contagious, then you put others at risk of getting sick, which is not cool. Take some time off until you feel better. If you are worried about losing your conditioning, don’t.  The body is very resilient and has great memory, so it probably won’t take as long as you think to get back on track!

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How to Keep Yourself Cool When Training And Racing In The Heat

Category : Training Tips & Opinions

hot weather marathon training tipsWhen you do a fall marathon, the majority of the training is in the dog days of summer which are right upon us.  Furthermore, the race you are doing may be known to have very unpredictable weather.  So while it’s hard to predict what the weather will be like on your race day, hot weather is much more of a performance inhibitor than cold weather.

So what should you do?

First and foremost, it’s very important to understand what is happening to your body from a physiological standpoint when running in the heat so that you can adapt and change things during your run depending on what your body is telling you.

When it is hot out, you sweat but your body also pumps oxygenated blood away from your inner organs and towards your skin.  Your blood is then cooled due to the cooling affect that sweat has on the skin’s surface.  This cooled blood then returns to the heart and inner organs to regulate your body’s temperature.  The primary thing to understand is because you are generating heat when exercising coupled with the fact that the ambient temperature is also hot, your body will continue to prioritize pumping blood to the skin’s surface over pumping blood to your stomach, intestines, and internal organs.

This is important to understand because your body pumps a greater percentage of your blood to the skin’s surface during hot weather than during cold weather and this will affect how quickly (and sometimes even how completely) you can digest the fuel (gels, banana, etc.) you are taking during your hot runs.  Heat can cause you to have a bloated feeling, your stomach and digestive tract can get backed up and not empty out, and it may even cause you to not want any more gels, bananas, etc.

While there are many things to consider when running in the heat, the three most important things to remember are:

  1. Stay hydrated as this will, among other things, maintain good blood pressure, optimizing your body’s temperature regulation system described above.
  2. Take the same amount of fuel each hour but in less quantities and more frequently.  For example, instead of taking one gel every hour, take ½ gel every 30 minutes.  This will help your stomach and intestines digest the fuel you provide it with less blood that it has available to do the work.  If your stomach is still not digesting everything well, reduce your hourly intake of fuel.
  3. If you begin to have any of the following symptoms, it is extremely important to seek medical attention immediately:  you become dizzy or disoriented, you stop sweating, or you become cold.

Heat can be uncomfortable and even dangerous to run in, but if you listen to your body and understand what it is telling you; you can safely train in the heat.

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Endurance Training: How To Properly Taper For Your Race

Category : Training Tips & Opinions

tapering for a marathonWhen athletes ask what is the proper way to taper for a marathon, it is helpful to ponder over this quote: “What you do can’t help you, what you don’t do can hurt you.”

How is that helpful, you ask?

The essence of this quote is that during a taper, one of the primary focuses should be on increasing your recovery rather than increasing your fitness.  Training for a race is not like studying for an exam.  You can’t “cram” for it.  Once you are a couple/few weeks out from a race, whatever training you do will most likely not be 100% absorbed by your body and 100% translated into gained fitness for your target race (some of it will, but most likely not all of it).

How to properly taper for a race, like all training decisions, is part art and part science.

The science/physiological part of tapering consists of allowing your body to be 100% ready/recovered to race while the art or “tricky” part of tapering consists of ensuring you are 100% recovered exactly on race day.

Let’s break it down a bit.

The overall concept of tapering for a race is to SLOWLY allow your body to decrease volume from the peak volume 2-3 weeks prior to race day (depending on how long your race is).  However, you want to keep the intensity and frequency of your workouts about the same, operating under the assumtion that you aren’t nursing any strange aches or pains, etc.  Additionally, depending on your background in endurance sports, a week or so before your race might be a great time to do a short (20-30 min) all out effort to recalibrate your bike power/HR zones or running zones.  I don’t advocate doing two of these efforts, but pick one (bike or run for example) that you feel might have encountered the biggest change since your last test.

Basically what you are trying to do during a taper is allow your body to recovery fully but also allow your body to benefit fully from your peak week of training.  If you shut down 100% from your peak training week, you’ll be “recovered” from it within a few days to a week but you will begin to lose fitness too quickly before your body has time to “adapt” to or “fully benefit” from your peak week of training.  As I mentioned above, this physiological adaptation takes about 2-3 weeks to fully occur so the taper “delays” your 100% recovery so that it occurs on the same day that your body has gained the 100% fitness from all that work you did on your last peak week.

Doing nothing or too little will have you recovered BEFORE total fitness is gained, doing too much during a taper will not have you toe the start line 100% recovered.  Since what you do 1 to 1.5 weeks, for example, prior to race day will not completely benefit you fitness-wise coupled with the reason(s) stated above is why during a taper: “What you do can’t help you, what you don’t do can hurt you”

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Should Hill Training Be A Part Of Your Endurance Training Routine?

Category : Training Tips & Opinions

hill training for marathonsHill running is often used to prepare you for a hilly race.   But can hill running also be used to help you prepare for a race on a flat course?  In short, the answer is yes.

There are two primary things you accomplish when training for a marathon: 1) prepare your muscles and ligaments to perform for the duration of 26.2 mile race, and 2) prepare your cardiovascular system to perform for the duration of a 26.2 mile race.  Hill running helps accomplishes these two primary goals.

First and foremost it must be stated that, just like anything else, if you have never done hill running or have not done it recently you need to gradually adapt to the demands of this type of training.  The two ways outlined below that can help in your marathon training for a flat/fast marathon course operates under the assumption that you will gradually work into this training; otherwise you expose yourself to unnecessary risk of injury.

Hill Repeats – Muscular Strength

The most common form of hill running is to run a hill or series of hills multiple times with a specific rest interval in between each hill effort.  Running up a hill that is approximately 200-400 meters in length can provide muscular adaptation in the form of strengthened running stride and more efficient running form.  Strengthened running stride occurs because of the increased resistance that gravity is placing on your body as it runs up the hill.  More efficient running form can occur as you find that lifting your knees, pumping your arms, and leaning forward assist in creating more momentum to get up the hill.

For those new to hill repeats, it’s recommended to find a short hill (100-200 meters) and to NOT run/jog down the hill but rather walk down the hill.  Running/jogging down the hill can cause knee discomfort to those not yet accustomed to this type of training.  A good beginner hill workout is to do 4 hill repeats that are 100-200 meters in length at a moderate grade (3%-5% grade) and do this no more than once every other week.  You should then gradually increase the number of hills before increasing the grade of the hill.

Hill Repeats – Cardiovascular Strength

A less common but still often used form of hill running is to run a hill or series of hills and focus on your effort or perceived exertion.  This is useful when you want to get zone 4 work done but do not want or find it hard to get into these higher heart rate zones while trying to run “faster” on the flats.  Additionally, on the treadmill, you can easily increase the incline of the treadmill to “adjust” your effort.

These types of hill repeats are good if you are new to interval training and need to stimulate the upper end of your cardiovascular fitness that you may find otherwise difficult to do.  These are also useful to obtain the cardiovascular benefit of zone 4 without the speed and pounding your body needs to sustain while in zone 4 on the flats.

A good beginner workout for this type of hill work is to find a similar hill (or use the same one) as described above (100-200 meters in length at a moderate 3%-5% grade) and do not focus on running up the hill but rather listen to your breathing and focus on increasing your effort (RPE or Rating of Perceived Exerction) so that you get into zone 4.  Focusing on your heart rate for this short of an effort will not be useful as your heart rate will take a little bit of time to catch up to your effort.  Do 4-6 hill repeats a session and do no more than one session twice a month and do not run/jog down the hill but rather walk down it.

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How To Integrate Strength Training Into Your Marathon Training Program

Category : Training Tips & Opinions

marathon cross trainingA common marathon training question athletes have when training for a marathon is whether or not they should they do strength training.  First and foremost, lets differentiate the difference between strength training and cross training.  Strength training is weighted resistance exercises such as leg press, squats, bench press, pull ups, etc.  Cross training consists of activities such as swimming, elliptical, rowing, cycling, etc.

As a general rule, strength training is beneficial because it keeps overuse injuries at a minimum by providing increased strength to balance to the body’s muscular system.  However, too much of a good thing can be bad.  If you find yourself having difficulty fitting in your run training for the marathon due to family and work obligations, then sacrificing sleep and recovery to execute strength training exercises may begin to become detrimental to your goals and fitness.

A much better use of an athlete’s time-constrained week could be executing one or two cross training activities each week of 30-60 minutes each.  This will still allow some muscular balance adaptation to occur and continue to provide aerobic benefit while potentially keeping overuse injuries at bay.  Additionally, even though yoga has limited aerobic benefit for marathon runners, it is also a good cross training exercise on your rest days as it will provide you with core strength and flexibility; two things that help keep overuse injuries at bay.



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Should Speedwork Be A Part Of Your Endurance Training Regiment?

Category : Training Tips & Opinions

marathon training speedworkWhat does marathon speedwork look like and can it help you get fast?  The short answer is yes, but the long answer is that it depends.  Speedwork in the correct doses at the correct time of the season and at the correct intensity and duration can make you a faster marathon runner.  However, for runners doing the marathon for the first time and particularly those with little running background in their lives, it’s imperative that the goal for the first marathon is to reach the starting line on race day 100% healthy and injury free, NOT getting faster.

For the first time marathoner that has a strong running background such as 5-7 years of 5k or 10k races along with several half marathon races under their belt, speedwork would be reasonable to prescribe.  The type of speedwork that is useful typically looks like a pyramid where at the very beginning or even before marathon training begins, the athlete is doing short intervals of fast running at approximately 5k speeds and gradually moves to longer speedwork intervals that get closer and closer to marathon pace.

A good pre-season or early season speedwork for a marathon goal race could be something like:

  • 4×400 or 4×800 at 5k pace once per week slowly increasing over several weeks to 8×400 or 8×800.
  • Then the athlete could begin to move towards 2x1mi or 3x1mi at 10k pace and increase this to 5x1mi over several weeks.
  • Then in the meat of marathon training season the athlete could begin to incorporate speedwork in their runs by running several miles of their 7-8mi mid-week runs at half marathon pace.
  • Finally, as their marathon training reaches the final crescendo, the athlete could add intensity to their weekend long runs by running the last couple miles to 1/3 of their long runs at marathon race pace.

The main idea to incorporating speedwork into your marathon training is to be very careful and conservative in the dosage and frequency, particularly for those runners new to marathon training, endurance sports training or new to speedwork in general.  The secondary idea is to gradually move your speedwork to longer in duration and at marathon race pace as your goal race draws near.

It must be noted that you should NEVER train/do speed work at a pace that is faster than you can handle.  You should never train at a marathon race pace you WISH to run the marathon at but rather train at a marathon race pace that you CAN run the marathon at.  What I mean by this is if you go to the marathon race pace prediction website I shared with you (http://runbayou.com/jackd.htm), your intervals (400m, 800m, 5k, 10k, half marathon, etc.) should all be based on this calculator and your CURRENT abilities.  If your current abilities have you projecting to run a 4 hour marathon but your goal is to run a 3:40 marathon…do NOT do your speedwork based on a 3:40 marathon.  You will unnecessarily expose yourself to injury risk.  Test your speed every four weeks or so by using the 3 mile track test described in our free marathon training plan.  This is how and when you will know that your body can handle faster interval or marathon race pace training.

If you train faster than your body can handle, it can actually make you slower on marathon race day.  The most common way this occurs is by getting injured and having to miss several key runs during your training.



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