Today’s post is part of an on-going series on all aspects of marathon and half marathon training. Catch up on past Marathon Monday posts here.
First off, thank you so much to everyone for all the kind birthday wishes! I appreciate it so much!
My training plan calls for my peak week of mileage this next week before beginning a gradual taper. As I write this (Sunday), the Portland Marathon is only four short weeks away. At this point, I am definitely experiencing the effects of training fatigue as my body adapts to the high mileage and recovers from the demands of marathon-specific workouts. I’m sure many of you who are training for fall marathons and half marathons are experiencing similar fatigue.
Overtraining often results not from training too much, but from not recovering enough. During the last few weeks of marathon training, as you peak your mileage and workouts, enough recovery is essential, not just for continuing to train well, but for coping with cumulative fatigue.
In addition to the normal recovery steps such as foam rolling, wearing compression gear, hydrating sufficiently, and getting enough sleep, there are additional actions you can take to deal with training fatigue and make the most of your final weeks of marathon training.
Take a Nap
This one is certainly easier said than done, especially when you have a busy schedule. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to get enough sleep each night, especially if you are getting up early on the weekends for your long runs. Taking a nap will add extra sleep into your day and help you jumpstart recovery after the strenuous effort of a long run. Elite marathoner Deena Kastor famously added two hour naps when she broke the American women’s marathon record.
The more you run, the more sleep you need per night. Many experts suggest an additional minute per night for each mile per week you run. So, since I’m running 50-60 miles per week right now, I need an extra hour of sleep each night. Some days, it’s easier to fit in a nap than sleep for nine hours a night!
Make Sure You are Eating Enough
Exhaustion can occur when our bodies are not getting enough calories to fuel high mileage in addition to our daily needs. It’s not just calories that we need to worry about; as Matt Fitzgerald points out in his New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition, the more we run, the more carbohydrates we need to consume. Say, for example, you weigh 130 pounds. If you usually ran an hour a day, but then increased your training volume to 75-90 minutes per day during the peak of your training, you need to consume an additional 60-120 grams of carbohydrates a day. If you skimp on carbs and calories, it’s not only your training that will feel the affect; you will feel overall more physically fatigued and mentally foggy, as your muscles and brain require carbohydrates to function.
Pay Attention to Your Vitamins and Minerals
Did you know that a magnesium deficiency can lead to fatigue? Magnesium is one of the electrolytes depleted in sweat loss during running, so athletes need even more magnesium than the average person. There are many magnesium-rich foods available for every dietary restriction, so you can ensure that you are getting enough of this essential mineral.
Low iron levels will also lead to fatigue, especially in female athletes. Even if you don’t show the symptoms of anemia, training can lower your iron levels. Studies have shown that high training volume can correspond to lower iron levels due to a phenomenon known as foot-strike hemolysis. Add beef, chicken, black beans, winter squashes, spinach, and raisins to your diet to make sure your iron levels stay in the healthy zone. I know I crave red meat more during high mileage training!
Carve out Time to Relax
Enjoy a glass of wine, take a yin yoga class, go for a hike, or read a novel. Take time to relax with a non-running related activity (so, maybe reach for The Hobbit or Madame Bovary instead of Once a Runner). This will take your mind off of any stress or anxiety related to training and your upcoming race and keep life from feeling as if it’s all running, all the time. Additionally, a relaxing activity will decrease your stress levels, regulate your cortisol levels (which will then in turn improve your recovery), and improve your quality of sleep.
I know our weekly hikes have helped me unwind and mentally disconnect from marathon training. There’s something incredibly restorative about the mountains and fresh air works wonders for the mind and body. And then there’s nothing more relaxing than a post-hike beer!
Portland Marathon Training Week 14
Monday: AM: 10 miles: 2 mile warm up, 2 x 3 miles at half marathon effort (7:43, 7:46, 7:44), (7:32. 7:33. 7:30), 1 mile cool down. The first interval was into a headwind, so I ran by effort instead of worrying about my exact pace.
PM: 15 minutes of Pilates and 15 minutes of hatha yoga.
Tuesday: 6 mile easy and hill run, 9:31/mile.
Wednesday: AM: 12 miles on the treadmill, 0.5-1%: 2 mile warm up, 9 miles at marathon pace (began at 8:00/mile, finished at 7:51/mile), 1 mile cool down. PM: 20 minutes of strength training.
Thursday: AM: 6 miles recovery on a hilly route (3 with Charlie, 3 on my own) + foam rolling. PM: 25 minutes Pilates.
Friday: 14 mile long run, 8:23/mile, with a fast finish.
Saturday: AM: 3 miles recovery on the treadmill, 1% incline. I was supposed to do 6 but I wanted to save my legs a bit for hiking. PM: 8 miles of hiking, approx. 1000 foot elevation gain.
52 miles of running for the week.
Questions of the Day:
How was your Labor Day weekend? Did anyone race?
Do you take naps during race training?
What macro- or micronutrients do you need to pay close attention to during training?
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