Marathon Training - Part 4, Peak Phase

Time to run fast! Repetition and interval training! We discussed the BASE and BUILD phases of our running program utilizing endurance periodization. Next, let’s talk about is PEAK phase. Here, we increase the intensity of running, defined by adding interval or repetition training. Hill training can fall into either category. With an increased workload, adding rest breaks to the run is essential. This peak phase of running should finish one to three weeks before the race. Peak training is completed at an above-threshold rate. The heart rate variability (HRV) should be between 90-99% (ZONE 4-5) or “hard!”. PEAK training improves speed and maximizes aerobic power and running economy. Aerobic capacity is defined as how much blood (carrying oxygen) can be delivered to the muscles and how well that oxygen can be converted into energy. Otherwise known as VO2 Max.

We can reach our goals in the peak phase by incorporating interval and repetition training.

Interval runs: intervals should be HARD running for 1-5 minutes (max of 5 minutes), and the speed should be about the max speed you could race at for 10-12 minutes. If you’re more comfortable picking a distance versus time, start with 800 meters and progress to 1200 meters. Rest in between and repeat. Rests should be no longer than the time you spent running. Interval training targets aerobic power.

Repetition training: short duration than intervals (never more than 2 minutes) at even higher speeds. The speed should be comparable to your current max one-mile time. The rest should be longer – about two to three times the time spent running. Again, if you’d rather distance versus time, start with 200 meters and progress to 400 meters. Elite runners can progress to 600 or 800 meters. Repetition training targets improving the speed and economy of running. Typically, interval training is perceived as “harder” than repetition training. Look for my next post to discuss what tapering for races looks like and the goal of rests.

Marathon Training, Part 2

The miles are building! In a good marathon training plan, there should be four focus items for endurance running – we call this Endurance Periodization. Each period has a specific goal and targets a different need for long-term running success. The four periods are BASE, BUILD, PEAK, and TAPER. I built my training plan based on these periods, and my next several blog posts will discuss them and their purpose.

The BASE period in marathon training is where the emphasis is on increasing your volume of running and building anaerobic capacity. This should be your marathon training plan's first several weeks to months based on the goal distance. Most of the running of this phase (about 80% of total mileage) is "easy running" or zone 2 if using heart rate variability.

10% of the mileage is done at the threshold "tempo pace" or zone 3, and the final 10% is done above the threshold "sprint pace" or zone 4. So what is easy running? This run can maintain a zone 2 heart rate and is considered a conversational pace. Breathing should be relatively normal. This type of running strengthens the heart muscle tremendously. It improves the heart's stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped with one beat or contraction of the heart). It allows for improvement without overstressing the system. Easy running also improves muscle fibers. They are shown to have an increase in number and size. The mitochondria (power powerhouse of the cell) move to the periphery of the cell, which is closer to the oxygen supply that comes into the cell. This helps the body exchange fuel for energy and complete oxygen exchange more effectively. These changes in our cardiovascular system and muscle fibers occur with time spent running in this space. Not speed.

We must remember that success with marathon training occurs with consistency - not speed or pace. As my mileage increases, I am cautious about monitoring my heart rate and how I feel. Items such as stress, sleep deprivation, water intake, and dietary changes all impact our heart rate variability and rate of perceived exertion. Now that you are familiar with heart rate variability attempt to monitor your "easy long runs" maintaining zone 2 measures. Check in for the next marathon training post to discuss threshold and above-threshold training changes.

If you missed my first post on max heart rate and tracking exertion.

Part. 1 Marathon Training

Today begins the first week of my marathon training. I am reminded the number one factor for running success is consistency. We measure consistency with the volume or duration of running. Often, the intensity of the running ( pace or speed) becomes the primary focus erroneously. Grossly 60% of running-related injuries are due to this.

Understanding the difference between volume and intensity is essential to maintain running consistency and decreasing injury risk. The volume of running is our total time or mileage. Intensity is effort. We measure this effort through heart rate variability and perceived exertion (RPE) rate. Heart rate is the measure of how HARD we are ACTUALLY working. RPE is self-feedback about how HARD we FEEL we are working. RPE is rated on a 1-10 scale. See the chart for examples.

Using our max heart rate, we can place ourselves into one of five zones that correlate with heart rate variability. The easiest way to find your max heart rate is by subtracting your age from 220. Each zone correlates to a percentage of the max heart rate. 75% of our total running volume should only be in zone 2 or 3. Use the chart below to determine your heart rate and RPE in each zone.

In the next few posts, we’ll talk about each of these zones in relation to running and what kind of cross-training is good to do during these times. Look at your training plan to determine which zone you spend most of your running time in. Are you at risk for overtraining? Or, if you need to recover now, learn more about running injuries here