As a runner, I always love hearing about all the different ways to train. What works for people, what doesn’t work for people, what science proves, and what science doesn’t prove. There are so many different ways to train and so many conflicting opinions, it can often be very overwhelming and can make a person go nuts!
This weekend I attended the RRCA coaching certification course to become a certified running coach with the RRCA. It was 2 full days jam packed with information all about running, and mainly focusing on endurance events like the half marathon and marathon, but really could be applied to most distances.
I would highly recommend this course to any runner if you have access or the means to attend one, even if you don’t want to coach. It’s a great way to learn, listen to the science behind training and open your eyes to some different ways to train that aren’t necessarily the popular way.
I left on Saturday feeling like pretty much everything I thought I knew about marathon training was being challenged. I was really excited to think about all the information that I just had engulfed, but also was a little nervous and confused on what to do going forward with my own plan.
I am not going to recap the entire course here because that’s what attending the course is for, plus it would take a very long time. I will talk about a couple of the main things that I took away from it and how they are going to impact my training. These are only a few of the many things we talked about, but were some of the major things I left thinking about.
The general course
The course was taught by Patti and Warren Finke who both have countless marathons and ultramarathons under their belts, as well as so many amazing stories. Patti has a background in exercise physiology, which was definitely shown in day one with all the science behind running.
The first day was all instruction, where Patti talked a lot about the science behind why their training plans work, and also about nutrition, stretching, and anything you can think of related to running! My brain was bursting at the seems when I left the course on day one. I was trying hard to absorb as much as I could but they do throw a lot at you.
The second day we got more into methods to actually coach someone and had a sample client that we broke into groups to make a training plan for. This day was much more interactive and things started clicking and making sense regarding why and how to implement their strategies. It also was a great way to learn to deal with difficult, challenging clients we will probably be faced with.
They know their methods are hard for most of us runners to grasp (and I am sure there will be a number of you who won’t agree as well), but they give you a whole lot of support and backing for why they work. They also start the course by saying “all training works,” it’s just which one works best, keeps you injury free (big factor) and leads to a strong successful marathon that is the key.
The training methods
I have definitely heard about long slow distance running and have even tried it a little bit myself in the past. I have read articles and running books that are behind it and can understand the scientific reasons behind it as well (teaching your body to use and build glycogen stores and burn fat, as well as many others), but I know putting it to use is the hard part, both physically and mentally.
Physically it is just hard to force yourself to run slower than you want to run. We get into the happy pace and it’s a great place to be. Mentally it’s hard on your confidence and ego to run slower than you want to run. There is nothing like a boost of your fastest long run ever, but that defeats a lot of the purpose behind long runs according to all their research, and takes a long time to recover from.
Running your long runs slow also allows for a lot of long runs! You know I loved seeing multiple 20 milers on consecutive weekends on a training plan. You know what this also means – lots of miles, which obviously makes this mileage girl very happy!
The “aha” moment was thinking back to my marathons where I definitely bonked, used up my glycogen stores and hit the wall. It makes sense after looking back on my training runs that I was probably running my long runs much too fast. They really focus a lot on endurance and making it the top priority of your training. These long races are endurance events after all.
Train at the pace you are going to race. Which also means do your speed work at the pace you are going to race. Intervals and pace runs should be done at marathon pace if you are training for a marathon, and at half marathon pace if you are training for a half marathon.
This is also hard for me to put my mind around. What about speedwork?!? What about tempo runs?!? There are no such things as “tempo runs” in their training plans, which they have good reasons for as well. There is only easy, long and pace (with different ways to incorporate pace work).
Hard & Easy
The was emphasizing the concept of overloading and recovering in your runs. I pretty much follow this already, but a hard day should be followed by an easy day and visa versa, I think my easy days just aren’t easy enough.
Easy days are short (<10% weekly mileage) and slow (>80% of what you could race the distance at). Hard days are either long (>20% weekly mileage) or fast (>85% of what you could race the distance at).
There wasn’t anything too hard for me to grasp on this concept, but making sure you are recovered is a very big part of training.
So what am I going to change? Well I am still working on figuring it out exactly. It’s kind of hard to implement too many changes since I am pretty far into my training program already, but I am definitely going to change some things. I wish I would have taken this class 6 weeks ago!
The main thing I am going to change is I am going to slow myself down. Specifically on my easy/recovery days and on my long runs. I really want to focus on endurance more. I know I have the speed I need for the time being, but I need the endurance to get me through the entire marathon, not just the first 20 miles. Since I am slowing down, I will most likely up the number of 20 milers I am going to do. Yay!
I will still continue to go to track (especially since I lead those workouts), but may change a few things up there as well for myself as needed. I am also considering switching my tempo runs to marathon pace work now that my half marathon is over, so I can really work on locking in marathon pace for the next 10 weeks.
My plan already follows the general template that the ones we worked on follow with alternating easy and hard days, so it won’t be hard to incorporate these changes. I feel like if I am going to coach people to train a certain way, I should also follow training a certain way, or at least have given it a shot. This won’t be a full complete training cycle like they would write, but I am going to experiment with it a little bit and see how those changes go.
My main goal for Boston is to be able to finish it strong, no matter what the time on the clock is, so I feel like really working on my endurance is the best way for me to achieve that goal. Having a great time on the clock will be icing on the cake.
Have you taken the RRCA course? Did it change your training?
I have to take and pass my test (planning on very soon) and get my CPR/First Aid certification (this weekend) and then I will be a certified running coach!