Weeks 9 - 13 of a 20 Week Plan
As we continue our marathon training and increase our mileage, proper recovery is essential to avoid overtraining and injury. If you are training for your first marathon, you may be running the most mileage and putting your body through the most physical stress you have ever experienced. In this post, I’ll discuss strategies to aid with your recovery in addition to the detailed workouts you should be completing during weeks 9 - 13 of a 20-week plan.
Many runners experience a loss of flexibility during their marathon training, so it is important to maintain your range of motion. Doing so will help improve your running technique and maintain a healthy stride length. Both will help reduce your risk of injury, because tight muscles provide resistance that limits your ability to stride out.
To ensure you maintain flexibility, I recommend including at least two 15-minute stretching sessions each week. I recommend some form of stretching after each run, but these longer sessions, completed with warm muscles (after you’ve already been running), will speed recovery by increasing blood flow to the muscles. When you stretch, hold the stretch for 20 - 30 seconds and repeat each stretch twice. Ensure you breathe while engaged in the stretch.
Two of the most important areas for marathoners to stretch are the hip flexors and hamstrings. Other muscles I usually work on after running include calves, quads and lower back.
Hip Flexor Stretch
How To Safely Increase Your Mileage
As you increase your mileage, you become at greater risk to injury. The following guidelines will help you increase your mileage without getting injured.
Follow a plan that doesn't increase mileage too much at once, because that is the easiest way to get injured. I recommend gradual weekly increases of no more than 10% per week. I recently spoke with a friend who completed 3 long runs of 17 - 20 miles over the last 3 weeks. Now he’s in pain only 3 weeks before his race. Unfortunately, he fell behind in his plan and tried to make it up too quickly. When you increase your weekly mileage, do it in small steps, like adding 2 miles to your previous long run. I recommend a lower mileage run (13 - 14 miles) in between your 18 - 20 mile runs.
Also, ensure you incorporate recovery or easy runs into your training. These runs should not be run too hard because you will run the risk of over training and ultimately reducing the quality of your hard training sessions.
Other Recovery Strategies
- Practice proper nutrition and hydration – drink plenty of water before and after your workouts. I encourage use of sports drinks to replace lost sodium. As the weather gets warmer, proper hydration is critical.
- Learn how to run slow so you can vary the speed of your workouts. Take advantage of “easy days” by actually running slow…
- Get plenty of sleep (7 - 8+ hours/night). This can be hard when you live a busy lifestyle, so try to get as many of these longer nights of sleep as you can each week.
A marathon training plan schedule for weeks 9 – 13 could look like the following:
Refer to my last post for program/workout definitions.
Hill Workouts: Complete the first and last parts of these runs (warm-up and cool-down) on relatively flat terrain. Start slow by running the first half of the hill at a relaxed but controlled (half or marathon pace). Accelerate the last part of the hill while carrying your pace over the top. Stay focused on your form when completing a tough ascent. Keep your torso upright and fix your eyes directly ahead of you. Hold your chest and head up. During the climb, try to get up on your forefeet and take shorter strides. If you push your legs off and up, rather than into the hill, it will feel like you are actually springing into the hill.
Perform hill repetitions on a moderately steep hill at an effort level of 10k pace. Go as slowly as necessary to recover during the easy segments between hill reps. Practice running fast (but controlled) on the downhills.
Hill Workout Week 10: Start all Hill workouts with 10-minute warm-up (including some strides). Find a hill or sloped road with 5 – 10 percent slope. Run up at approximately 10k pace with rapid stride rate and good knee lift. Recovery jog back down the hill/slope. Start with 3 - 4 repetitions and then gradually increase to 2 sets of 4 repetitions in subsequent weeks. Push yourself to go further up the hill with each repetition. Finish with 10-minute cool-down and stretching.
Track Workout Week 13: This workout is different from typical track workouts. Start with a mile warm-up run and 8x100m strides. In this workout we combine strides and conditioning exercises.
After each of the 8 X 100m strides you will complete a different conditioning exercise followed by 1 minute rest. The first set will include a 100 meter stride at a controlled pace, then, without rest, complete 30 squats. Take one minute of rest then do another 100 meter stride followed by 30 mountain climbers and one minute of rest again. Complete 2 additional 100 meter strides in the same manner, but finish with 30 push-ups and then 30 sit-ups. One set is the completion of all 4 conditioning exercises. Complete 2 sets. Finish the workout with 2 miles of easy jogging.
Over the next 4 weeks, you will be completing your longest runs during the training plan. It’s essential to practice the above recovery strategies throughout your training, but in particular during this stretch where most injuries occur.
Stay tuned for additional marathon training tips. In my next post I’ll cover workouts for weeks 14-17. I will discuss some essential nutrition and hydration tips, including how to best balance your protein/carb intake for high performance. Additionally, I will reveal six characteristics of successful marathoners.
Author Bio: Dan Lyne is a long distance runner from Camas, WA. With over 36 years of running experience, he specializes in coaching long distance runners and helping them achieve their half and full marathon goals through his website, middleagemarathoner.com.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is based on the author’s personal experience and thorough personal studies. The information provided here is designed to help you make informed decisions about your health. It is not intended as a substitute for any treatment that may have been prescribed by your doctor or physical therapist. All forms of exercise pose some inherent risks. The author advises readers to take full responsibility for their safety and know their limits. There is no guarantee that you will experience the same results & benefits as presented and you accept the risk that the results can differ by individual.