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Marathon Training: Base Building

Marathon training has a lot of moving parts. Running, stretching, strength training, fueling, recovering, balancing training with family and work. That’s why it also has seasons. It’s impossible to train everything all at once. So, just like football or competitive swimming, there is an a preseason, an in-season, a post season and an off-season. Base building is that preseason.

base buliding

Preseason is typically six to eight weeks. It begins with gradually increasing weekly miles towards a target determined by your training plan or coach. It consists of easy miles that prepare your body for harder workouts to come.

Base building miles prepare your body for the long haul of a marathon by teaching it lots of things. One big one is motor programming. Muscles learn what order to contract in, how many fibers to contract and how much oxygen and blood that takes. Once our body knows how to run, we need to stress it with more stimulus to see change or improvement. That’s where the build of base phase comes in.

As we push our bodies to run more miles, become more efficient and develop fitness, our stroke volume can increase. Improved stroke volume means more blood is ejected from the heart with each beat and therefore carries more oxygen to hard working muscles. This ties into an improvement in VO2 max, or the maximum amount of oxygen your body can process in one minute. The higher VO2 goes, the better off you are. Other benefits include higher mitochrondrial density. Base building also teaches your body to use fat as fuel and makes you an overall more efficient runner.

While you shouldn’t be doing any very intense or very long workouts during this preseason, it is the perfect time to throw in fartleks, hill work and some shorter tempo runs once a week to break up the miles. It is also a good time to strength train, cross-train and have fun.

Although base building should be fun and seems simple, it is an invaluable part of marathon training. Skipping it can be dangerous. Running hard frequently right out of the gate might give you a confidence boost, but it also looks for trouble. Diving into race pace, long tempo and speed workouts before your body is ready asks for burnout, frustration and potential injury.

Coach Meredith

Workout of the Month: Hill Work

Every runner loves hills. Maybe. Love them or hate them, every runner needs hill work. If you’re racing a hilly course, like New York or Boston, practice and skill running hills is key to race day success. If you want to get faster, stronger and fitter, hills will help.

hill work

Why to do it: Hill work makes you durable. It makes you fast. And it improves your form. The extra power required run maintain your pace running uphill also makes you strong.

Your feet are landing higher then where they started. As a result, that means extra knee drive and generating power from your forefoot. It makes muscles work harder by firing more fibers in a faster sequence than flat ground. That promotes good form and helps muscles remember it. Good form plus strong legs means faster race times.

When to do it: Hill work is useful in every phase of a training cycle because there are short hills, long hills, steep hills and gradual hills. This makes hill work greatly variable and useful at all points in a cycle. Working on specific endurance? Steady long hills. Speed and strength? Short, hard hills. Beginners should start low and slow while more advanced runners can go steeper, longer and harder.

How to do it: Step one is finding the right kind of hill. It might not be what you expect, either. Maybe surprisingly, bridges, parking garages and treadmills can all serve as places to practice climbing. Consequently, if it’s just been raining and you don’t have spikes, a big grassy hill might not be the best choice. Make sure your footwear matches the location and conditions of your hill work.

Finally, if you’re looking to add hills to your training program, seek help from a qualified professional before hitting them too hard. They can wear out fast twitch muscles and leave your next workout lacking.

Coach Meredith

Workout of the Month – The Long Run

The long run is a staple of every runner’s program. And it should be because it has tons of benefits. Regardless of what race distance you’re training for, it is an important part of your weekly mileage. Here are some of the big gains you can earn with your weekly long run.

long run

Builds volume (and fun). The long run contributes a large portion, up to 30%, of your weekly mileage. Running more miles improves your efficiency and strengthens your heart. It’s also a great time to run with friends and have some easy paced fun.

Mental toughness. The long run usually comes towards the end of the week which means you’re tackling it on potentially tired legs. Marathons are hard and you’ll need to practice being uncomfortable if you want to succeed on race day. These long miles provide the perfect opportunity to get your head, as well as your body, ready for anything.

Learning how to fuel. Never try anything new on race day. Long runs give you a chance to learn. Try different fuels on training days, not when the pressure is on. Take the opportunity to explore fueling at different times, different types of hydration and figure out what works best for you.

Stronger bones, tendons and ligaments. Running puts a lot of wear and tear on the body. The cumulative stress from running lots of miles makes your body stronger, as long as you recover adequately. That means your body will hold up better to the strain of race day and can produce more power over the long haul.

How to do it: The long run should be run at roughly 90 seconds slower than your goal race pace. It can also be slower than that or include race pace work. To build the right run for where you are in your training cycle, reach out to a qualified coach.

Where to do it: Anywhere! The long run is a great tool to explore a new city, trail or park. Make sure you check routes for potential hazards, like lots of traffic or no shade, or helpers, like water fountains and restrooms, before you run them.

Get excited for your next long one and have fun out there!
Coach Meredith

Workout of the Month – 400M Repeats

Welcome to August’s Workout of the Month, 400M Repeats!

This month we’ll cover a classic track session that everyone loves to hate, 400M repeats. This is a great workout for runners of all levels and can be ramped up or down based on your goals. Are you starting to get fit or increasing speed, maybe you’re working on lactate tolerance or maintaining 5k pace. No matter what your race day goal is, the variety with this workout provides will help you reach it.

Why to do it
To build speed and strength, to run race pace specific work. To build pure speed or to increase lactate tolerance. Each of these is a powerful tool depending on the event you’re training for and where you are in your training cycle. These are also fun workouts and you’ll enjoy performing whatever style you choose.

400M repeat

When to do it
After you’ve trained to train. That means you should have a solid base of mileage and your body should be prepared for hard work. To develop speed, run fast with longer rest whereas if you want a race pace workout, run at race pace with slower running rest.

What to do
Start with a solid warm up before you hit the hard stuff. A good warm up can be anywhere from 1 to 3 miles or 15 to 25 minutes. Be sure to include drills and strides to get your legs ready for some serious work. From there, you can choose from two kinds of 400M repeats: one for speed and one for endurance.

Speed: Complete between 8 and 12 x 400M runs with 2 minutes rest. Focus on consistency during this workout because it will get harder to maintain your goal pace as the reps build up. Adding reps, decreasing rest time or increasing goal pace will also raise the session’s intensity. Changing the intensity introduces a new challenge and provides a stimulus that helps your body continue to adapt.

Endurance: Alternations are 400M at 5k pace with a 400M jog at steady pace. Steady pace is not a slow jog but easy enough that you feel reasonably recovered. The key to alternating 400M workouts are that they don’t provide a full recovery. This teaches your body to tolerate more and more lactate, work hard when it’s tired and is great for developing your threshold from half marathon down to 5k pace.

Once you’ve completed your sets, cool down with a light jog and some stretching. Make sure you hydrate and have some protein within two hours of finishing your session, too.

Want to know more about how to fit 400M repeats into your plan? Reach out to a qualified coach who can help you achieve your goals while staying happy and healthy.

Coach Meredith

5 Reasons to Love Rest Day

Running is hard.  Regular training can leave it beat up.  It’s called progressive overload and it’s the process of constantly challenging our bodies in new ways to perform better on race day.  To reap the benefits of that hard work, however, we need to recover.  That’s where the ever needed rest day comes in.  Included in any quality training plan, here are five reasons to give yourself a day off.

Reflect.  Taking a rest day gives you an opportunity to review your block of training.  You can rest daydecide if you liked something, didn’t like it, did it well or had an ugly workout.  Knowing what made each session great or not-so-great will help you adjust your plan.  Then you can adjust and move forward in a positive way.

Recover.  Pushing yourself during workouts is necessary for improved performance.  Easy days are a must, too.  Each workout creates micro tears in muscle fibers that need to be repaired and along with those beat up muscles go tendons and bones.  Blood flow to tendons is a lot less than to muscle and they take longer to recover.  Bones likewise get damaged and need to rebuild from being landed on thousands of times.  A day off can be a big boon for avoiding tendonitis, stress fractures and any other over use injury.

Balance.  Every workout produces a stress hormone called cortisol.  Too much is a bad thing.  Rest days, or even just a nap, can help get cortisol levels back in balance so you feel fresh for the next session.

Adaptation.  Not only does a rest day let your muscles repair damage, it repairs them better than they were before.  Allowing your body to heal is when it builds those more powerful muscles, stronger bones and tougher tendons.

Learning to listen.  Do you feel good after your rest day?  Experience a boost in performance?  Great!  You nailed it.  On the other hand, if you still feel tired or unreasonably sore after one rest day, take another. Listen to your body.  An extra rest day will never derail your entire training cycle.  It’s better to be 10% under trained than 1% over trained.

Train smarter, not harder.

Coach Meredith

Welcome to East Coast Run Project!

Welcome to the East Coast Run Project Running Coach Blog!

running coach

I’m happy you’re here and can’t wait to help you become a happier, stronger and more durable athlete. This blog will cover everything from running your first 5k to marathon nutrition, strength training specifically tailored to runners and just about everything in between.

ECRP wants everyone to reach their running goals while reducing the frequency of injury and having as much fun as possible.  From an ultra marathon to stealing second base, East Coast Run Project is the running coach with answers to your running efficiency and power questions.

Whether you’re marathon training, half marathon training, racing or going from couch to 5k, we’re here to guide your running adventure and cheer along the way.

Posts will come directly to your chosen inbox on the 1st and 15th of each month (subject to change) and if you have questions, don’t hesitate to send them in!

Work hard.  Recover correctly.  Reach your Destination Faster.

Welcome to the team!

Coach Meredith