Subscribe Subscribe | Subscribe Comments RSS
running biking athletics training swimming exercise

Archives for November, 2011

Event tapering

Let me start out by saying, I don’t understand tapering.  I taper because I am told it is good for me.  I also want to show up at the start line healthy.  I figure a healthy start will give me a better chance of having a healthy finish.

Tapering for the big event is a difficult thing.  You work so hard to get into great shape only to rest for the last few weeks leading up to the big event.  I was cycling my training up and down for 3 months to get ready for the marathon, now I am supposed to rest the few weeks going into the marathon.  My running buddies can do a marathon every 6-8 weeks with no problems.  They don’t need to taper, why should I?  I feel great; I should be able to go out for some speed work, a couple of days before the marathon.  I am tapering, I will just let my legs “carry me” for 4 miles.

Now that I am tapering for a marathon, I realize why I write a plan before I start training and stick to it.  I may vary on the day to day implementation of the plan but overall, I am pretty close.  The reason I create and follow the plan is simple.  When I am planning an event, marathon or triathlon, I am in planning mode.  To plan an event, I work on my current fitness level, what worked and what others recommend.  I take my work schedule and current ambition level into account when creating the plan.  Now that I have the plan, I move into work mode and just follow the plan.  Following the plan takes emotions out of the picture.  There are days, when I just want to roll over and go back to sleep because it is too cold to go out and run.  No excuses, stick to the schedule.  There are days when I feel great and just want to go out and tear up the trails.  Slow down, stick to the schedule.  When it is time to taper, I just want to out and do tempo runs because that is how my legs “carry me”.  Slow down, stick to the schedule.

I also take my brain into account.  I am tapering for a marathon that will happen next week.  I have an ambition for a triathlon in 9 or 10 months.  While I am doing my taper training, my mind is wandering toward big bike rides.  I realize 2 things from my cross training dreams.  I want to do a big triathlon next year.  In order to complete a big triathlon, I will have to finish the marathon healthy.

You may ask yourself how a triathlon that will happen in 10 months will impact a marathon taper.  It is because I need to finish the marathon in good shape in order to start the triathlon training.  To finish the marathon, I will need to show up healthy and slow down during the run to increase my odds of finishing healthy.  Tapering is individual.  Do your best.  Take it easy and have fun.

While talking about running half marathons and marathons, I was recently asked how people get started in running.  Now that our culture is designed around cars, we don’t walk so much.  A lot of people have desk jobs and live in driving communities.  The most exercise we get is when we walk to the parking lot to get into our cars.  If you are in this group and just starting out, I will explain my plan.

I will start my explanation with a couple of rules.
Rule #1 – Have fun
Rule #2 – Be proud of yourself
Rule #3 – Take it easy

My half marathon plan is a 3 month plan with a one month warm up to get ready for the training.  The first month is basically the same training repeated every week with the expectation of getting stronger as miles build up on your legs.  I start out with a 30 minute run/walk plan.  Make no mistake about it; running for 30 minutes is hard.  I started out by running from one telephone pole to the next, then walk to the next pole and alternate the sequence.  As the run progressed, I would start walking a step short of the pole then start running a step after next the pole.  I would talk to myself about how close to the pole I would get before I started walking.  Then I would drag my feet a little before it was time to run again.  It would look something like this:

  • Pole 1-2: Jog
  • Pole 2-3: Walk
  • Pole 3-4: Jog
  • Pole 4-5: Walk
  • Pole 5-6: Jog
  • Pole 6-7: Walk
  • Pole 7-8: Jog
  • Pole 8-9: Walk

You may only jog for 1 or 2 of these legs the first time you go out.  That is just fine.  Give your body time to adapt to motion.  Over time, you will be able to follow the plan.  As time progresses, you will be able to run the whole time and do speed intervals on the poles.  For now, just work on being able to jog for 30 minutes without walking.  Take your time.  It may take months for you to be able to jog for 30 minutes straight.  You are better off easing into things than to try and race right off.  Avoiding injuries and feeling good enough to go back are very important to every runner.  If you go out too fast, you may not want to run again because it was so painful.  If you ease into things, you feel a lot better about running and you can find that inner peace.


It is easy to get into a rut.  Pay attention to yourself and break out of the rut by doing something different.  Think about what you do every day.  Odds are, you have a routine.  You have to figure out a way to break the routine and change things up.

More on cross training

My last note on cross training missed my intended point, when I started talking about how easy it is to get into a rut and not cross train enough.  I started out with the goal of saying how important it is to train for your specific sport.  Every time we go to the internet or open a magazine, we are inundated with the importance of cross training and magic formulas about how standing on a Bosu ball will help us run faster.

A Bosu ball will not make you a better runner.  Running will make you make you a better runner.  Cross training will certainly help by making your supporting muscles strong.  When you are worn out from a long training session, a strong body will help you get through it.  Part of my weak body realization came when I was out on a long run and choked on a payday bar after I was out running for about 3 hours.  The coughing hurt my stomach.  Some work on the abs solved the problem.  Good abs help when you are choking while running.  They did not help me be able to run for 3 hours.  Running did.

I was out for a swim last week and ran into a young guy training for a big swim event.  He was really ripped.  He told me he spent a lot of time getting into shape to be ready for the swim.  I was thinking he would win, if the competition included standing at the end of the pool posing.  I told him that pool time was very valuable and the time should be spent on swimming.  When you are in the pool, it is not a good idea to waste pool time doing pushups on the pool deck.  Public pools can get very crowded and people will get mad if someone wastes a lane by doing calisthenics at the end of the pool.  A lot of people will sit on the bench and seethe, if someone hogs a lane.  People like me, who are used to swimming in crowds, will jump right in and make you suck it up and share.

The biggest benefit I get from cycling is that I have an elevated heart rate for hours.  Having an elevated heart rate for a long time burns a lot of calories.  Burning calories is good for weight control.  Weight loss for some and weight maintenance for others.  Stopping to do pushups and sit ups on the side of the road, help burn calories and build strength but it will also build fatigue which will cut your ride short.  The best way to be good a climbing hills on a bike is to go climb hills.

At the end of the day, it is better to get out and do something than to sit on the couch all day.  Both cross training and sport specific training are good.  Use some sense and think about your situation.  Try not to trade a long run in for a session of squats.

It is time to start training for the Oakland Running Festival half marathon again.  I will be carrying my 2:15 pace sign once again this year.  Last year, a lot of people fell off the pace during the run.  I did not like watching so many people fall off the pace, so I wrote a training plan for a successful 2:15 half marathon. 

Completing a 13.1 mile run in 2:15 requires an average pace of 10:20 per mile.  Last year, I planned on running a 10:15 pace to make up for time lost at the start line.

In reality, we ran at a 10:03 pace to make up for the start time and walking through the water stops and finished at 2:15:35 clock time.  To finish at 2:15 you will need to train for a 10:03 pace.

To make training easier, I wrote a training plan for you to follow.  I know a lot of people do not want to run four days a week.  Running four days a week will certainly make things easier for the half marathon but days can be skipped. 

It is very bad to skip long runs (need to build up those miles) or tempo run (which is when you build your speed and endurance).

The main training begins in January.  I started with a month of run/walk for people who are just getting into running or getting back into the swing of things.  It is a good idea to be able to run 4 miles before you start your half marathon training plan.

I like to do my long runs on Saturday.  Sunday is fine for long runs too.

Long runs – During the long runs there should be no hard breathing.  You should be able to hold a conversation for the whole run.  If you start to breathe hard, slow down.

Cruise runs are a bit faster than the long runs but do not need to be too fast.  These runs are just to add miles to the legs.

Runs are random things that are a bit faster than cruise runs.  You can vary the pace of normal runs to change things up.

Tempo runs are where you build your speed.  They hurt.  You will need to build up to 9:00 to 9:30 miles for 30 minutes.  It is good to start out by jogging for about 10 minutes then pick a target a few hundred yards away and run towards it.  You should be breathing hard when you get there.  Slow down and repeat the process.

It is tradition to tell yourself to go get a physical before you start a running plan.  If you have good luck with getting a sports physical, let me know who your doctor is. 

Get to training and I will see you on March 25th.

Week :    Mon                  Tue             Wed             Thur          Fri          Sat         Sun

12/05| 30 min run/walk | Cross train| 30 run/walk  | 30 min jog| cross train|1-3 mi|Rest
12/12| 30 min run/walk | Cross train| 30 run/walk  | 30 min jog| cross train|1-3 mi|Rest
12/19| 30 min run/walk | Cross train| 30 run/walk  | 30 min jog| cross train|1-3 mi|Rest
12/26| 30 min run/walk | Cross train| 30 run/walk  | 30 min jog| cross train|2-4 mi|Rest
01/02| 30 min up tempo| Cross train| 40 min cruise| 30 min run| cross train|4 mi|Rest
01/09| 30 min up tempo| Cross train| 40 min cruise| 30 min run| cross train|5 mi|Rest
01/16| 30 min up tempo| Cross train| 40 min cruise| 30 min run| cross train|6 mi|Rest
01/23| 30 min up tempo| Cross train| 40 min cruise| 30 min run| cross train|8 mi|Rest
01/30| 30 min up tempo| Cross train| 40 min cruise| 30 min run| cross train|7 mi|Rest
02/06| 30 min up tempo| Cross train| 40 min cruise| 30 min run| cross train|9 mi|Rest
02/13| 30 min up tempo| Cross train| 40 min cruise| 30 min run| cross train|10 mi|Rest
02/20| 30 min up tempo| Cross train| 40 min cruise| 30 min run| cross train|11 mi|Rest
02/27| 30 min up tempo| Cross train| 40 min cruise| 30 min run| cross train|12 mi|Rest
03/05| 30 min up tempo| Cross train| 40 min cruise| 30 min run| cross train|13 mi|Rest
03/12| 30 min up tempo| Cross train| 40 min cruise| 30 min run| cross train|10 mi|Rest
03/19| 30 min easy run | Cross train| 40 min cruise| 30 min easy| cross train|rest  Half Marathon

A note on cross training.

Sport specific training takes practice on the specific sport you are training for.  Cross training is great for the rest of the body.  I spent six months training for a Half Ironman triathlon this year.  I took a couple of weeks off, and then started training for a marathon.  I took it easy on my marathon training because of my knee issues that started to scare me on the second to last long run in my marathon training. 

Since I had a scare, I started tapering a week early.  Since I had all of this extra time on my hands, I went out and did a 90-minute Vinyasa yoga session.  I struggled to make it through the session and I was sore for 5 days.  All of the pain led to the realization that, I am getting out of shape.  I spent most of the year training for endurance with little time spent on strength and speed.  I jumped on the scale and saw that I weighed in at 153 pounds.  Not fat for a guy who is 5’ 7” tall but certainly not lean.

If you are reading this, you are probably not a couch potato.  If you are a couch potato, you are thinking about changing.  Here are some thoughts:

  • Athletes are in better shape than most people.
  • Athletes tend to develop sport specific muscles.
  • Sport specific muscle growth causes muscle imbalances.
  • Muscle imbalances lead to injuries.
  • Being an injured athlete with imbalanced muscles is better than being a couch potato.

I found that I am in a rut.  I can see how I got into the rut.  Things in life happened and I let things happen.  As soon as I realized these things were happening, I set about changing them.  I could have easily told myself to wait until after the marathon to change things up.  I did not do that.  I took charge and started changing things that were in my control. 

I looked at my life and told myself that I was in a rut and I had to get out of it.  Because of the upcoming marathon, I am not making big changes but I have already changed my routine and started doing light workouts just to break up the routine. 

Life is full of people who tell you not to do something or you can’t do something.  Those people are followers.  We must all lead our own lives.  Do not worry about other people.  Get out and lead the way.