5 Ways to Play the Long Game

We are an immediate gratification society. It’s not a complaint, it’s a fact. Technology makes everything available in a matter of seconds. Our favorite music is on demand, our splits and pace are just a click away.

How many Garmin pictures do YOU see on Instagram every day?

Every other running blog/twitter buddy is telling their thousands of followers that you can run a marathon in 6 weeks because THEY did. You can run three marathons in two months because THEY did. You can run a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and full marathon in 3 days because THEY did.

And you could.

If you’re in it for the short game.

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The long game is playing for the win at the end of the game, not leading at halftime. In running, that translates into smart training, strategic racing, and taking the time to recover properly.

You can DO anything you want. You can run a marathon a week. You can run back-to-back marathons on a Saturday and a Sunday. You can exclusively run, and maybe throw in the occasional plank and foam rolling session, and ignore that nagging foot pain.

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If you’re in it for the long game, here are 5 things you need to do:

1. Strength train. Don’t argue with me about it. Just do it. You need it, I promise.

2. Space out your goal races (key word: RACES, not fun runs)

  • 5-6 months between marathons
  • 3-4 months between half marathons
  • 2-3 months between 10Ks
  • 1-2 months between 5Ks

3. Cycle your training. High mileage weeks mixed in with low mileage weeks, track repeats mixed with tempo runs, hill workouts mixed with strides.

Run beastly hills. I suggest running them with friends.

Run beastly hills. I suggest running them with friends.

4. Address your aches and pains. Yes, I’m in physical therapy and I’m totally biased but overuse injuries will come back to haunt you. Get them fixed. Do your PT homework.

5. Respect your rest days/weeks. Take the time to recover from your race before you go bananas training into the next. TAKE TIME OFF FROM RUNNING.

Have a tough time taking time off? Snuggle a baby. You'll never want to move.

Have a tough time taking time off? Snuggle a baby. You’ll never want to move.

Play the long game. You want to be running when you’re 101, right?

Fauja Singh, age 101.  (Image courtesy of Getty Images)

Fauja Singh, age 101.
(Image courtesy of Getty Images)

Run smart, friends.

Now go out and run.

Training Cycles & The Streak Recap

Happy 2012, everyone! I’m going to pretend that today is Monday and do yet another BTAT post on a Wednesday. My days are all screwed up. I just landed in NYC after flying the red eye to Boston and connecting to JFK. Needless to say, I am a little wonky. So, it’s Monday. Can we all agree on that just for a few minutes? Thanks.

How was your New Years? Did you live it up out on the town or did you do a midnight run/New Year’s day run? Me, I spent my New Year’s Eve with my sweet baby niece and Blondie.

Happy New Year!

So much fun. We were in bed by 10pm MST. Party animals. At least we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the next morning for the last day of The Streak!

Angel baby is pumped for the last day of The Streak! One day, we'll be Streaking together.

I loved The Streak. It was fun and motivating and just what I needed post-marathon. Some of my favorite Streaker moments:

  • Running across town in my flip-flops to get my Streak in and get to CPR class and then go to a birthday party. Phew!
  • Mid-afternoon runs on the East River.

I love a speedy run along the East River!

  • Running to and from all of my subway stops because I didn’t have time to do a proper mile.
  • Cool runs home through Midtown at 7pm, dodging pedestrians.
  • Pre-dawn Central Park 7-miler that made me feel speedy again.

Sunrise over the Great Lawn

  • Streaking over Christmas in Colorado at my parents’ house and hearing them say, “OK, go Streak, Abby!” Hilarious.

Streaker in action on vacation

All in all, Streaking was fun. It was cool to hear about other people jumping on the Streak and how they managed to get their miles in. Did you Streak? What was your experience?

As much fun as I had, I’m glad that The Streak is over. It’s time to cycle down, cut back on mileage and cross train. This is what the pros do, too. I mean, I’m no pro, but this is still what they do. And if you’re racing/running marathons (especially if it’s more than one a year), you should be doing this, too!

Following a marathon, rest is key for recovery. But you don’t want to jump back into high mileage right away. You want to cycle through your training seasons in order to benefit as much from your strength training as you do from your distance training.

Yeah, lifting the serious weight! 15 pounds, baby! (What? You thought the 85s were mine? Ummm, no...)

Here’s what I suggest:

  • Two marathons a year, three max.
  • Two weeks low mileage immediately following marathon.
  • Two weeks building back up to 8-10 mile long runs, slowly adding some tempo runs during the week.

From then on out, it’s all about short, speedy runs and cross-training. Keep the mileage relatively low and taper down to three runs a week with one to two other cardio days that are “off” your legs (cycling, swimming, etc.). This is the time to drop some weight via weight training!!! Want to lose 5-10 pounds before your next marathon? Here’s your chance!

Why?

Well, with the low mileage, you can cut back on your calories without worrying about having enough fuel to get through a 3-hour run. Also, you can throw your focus into strength training and do some serious anaerobic workouts that will blast the calories AND make you a stronger runner for your next race.

Regardless of what sort of athlete you think of yourself as, you cannot live on running alone. Get into something new NOW before the spring marathons are upon us. Enter some shorter distance races and work on being a speed demon for a few months. It’s an especially good time since many of us will find ourselves on the treadmill during cold/wintry days and speed workouts are perfect for the treadmill.

Be a pro. Cycle like the best of them. Get speedier. Get stronger.

Now go out and run!