Week One Beginning the Training Program
PART 1 Making Your Own Reality
We human beings have a unique capacity to make our own reality. We are pretty sure that all the other creatures are stuck with reality as it is, but we have the ability to imagine things as we wish them to be and, by a fascinating psychological twist, we then begin to behave as if that is really how things are. Sometimes that ability works to our advantage and sometimes it doesn't, but even that is within our power to determine.
Here is how it works. In the frontal lobes of your brain, (the part that fills your forehead), you have the ability to make visual and auditory images of things that you want to happen in the future, or of things that you hope will not happen in the future, or even interpretations of things that are going on right now. If, when you make these images, you develop the belief that they will come to pass or are taking place the way you have imagined them, they influence your present and future behavior through creating expectations.
For example, if your head is full of images of yourself running easily and effortlessly on your long training run of the week and you are telling your-self that you feel strong and powerful and can run forever, you will have a more enjoyable run than if your head is full of images of yourself suffering and straining and if you are saying to yourself, "I am exhausted. I am dying. I can't keep this up." And this will be true whether your body would have been feeling strong that day or not! That is, your state of mind creates a bodily reality!
Now of course there are limits to this, but what we are telling you is that your mind does influence your experience in profound ways and it does so all day, every day. If you allow your brain to be full of negative images, your experiences will be mostly negative. If, on the other hand, you become skilled at creating positive images, your experiences will be mostly positive. That is what it means to create your own reality. We will be returning to this idea often in this book, but for the moment we want to discuss a particularly important aspect of this reality.
Locus of Control
Psychologists have been studying people's concepts of what is called locus of control for many years. The word locus means "place" and what the psychologists are interested in is what effect it has on people if they believe the place of control in their lives is somewhere inside them as compared to the effect it has on them if they believe their lives are controlled by forces outside themselves.
Before reading on, stop and think about this for a few moments. What do you believe? Are you mostly in control of the events in your life? Do you hold yourself responsible for how things go for you? Or do you tend to assign the credit (or blame) to others or to luck, fate or some other force outside your own influence? If you believe that you are mostly in control of the events in your life, you tend toward what psychologists call an internal locus of control. If you believe that your life is mostly controlled by forces outside you, you lean toward having an external locus of control.
No matter which of these two points of view sounds more like you, we are not talking about reality here. That is, for our purposes in this discussion, it doesn't matter whether the events in your life are REALLY in your control or not; it only matters whether you THINK they are. If people believe they are in control of events in their own lives, they usually try to exercise that control, whereas if they feel what they do or don't do makes little or no difference in how things turn out, they usually don't even try to influence events. When it comes to training for a marathon, it helps a lot to adopt an internal locus of control because you are going to need a lot of determination and motivation to get this done. We are going to be giving you a lot of help with developing that internal locus of control as we go along, but for the moment it will be a good idea to begin working on convincing yourself that you can do anything you set out to do. Believing that is a very important part of developing an internal locus of control. If this subject interests you and you want to know more about it, check the article by Julian Rotter that is included in the readings list at the back of this book.
PART 2 Beginning Your Training
The Training Program at a Glance
You are now ready to begin the more structured training program. As we showed you in the introduction to this book, this program lasts 16 weeks and if you are able to complete the entire program, you will be able to complete the marathon. This is a program that prepares you to finish your first marathon. It is not a program that will necessarily allow you to run a marathon in the best time you could possibly run it. It will allow you to have a successful first effort and will lay the groundwork for future marathons if you so desire. Sixteen weeks of training is the shortest program that will consistently allow success. The program is also a four-day-per-week training program. We have experimented with training programs of four to six days per week and have found that four-days-per-week programs are just as successful as programs involving more than four-days-per-week. We conducted an experimental study of just this issue and found no difference in the four-day-per week program and a six-day-per-week program. (See the article describing this study at the back of the book.) The runners in the study liked having three days of recovery each week as opposed to just one day. After you get a marathon or two under your running shoes, you may want to experiment with more frequent training sessions per week, but for this first marathon, we have full confidence that four-days-per-week is the appropriate frequency of training.
The four-day-per-week training program includes two "short" days, one "medium" day and one "long" day each week. This program is built on the principle that the most crucial element of training for your first marathon is to get in one "long" run each week. Initially this long run is not so long, but is long relative to the distance you will be running on the other days of the week. As the program progresses, the long runs become longer and longer compared to the other three days of the week. The longest single run is 18 miles during weeks 12 and 13. Trust us, if you can go 18 miles in training, you can go 26.2 miles during the marathon.
A second general principle that is adhered to in this program is that once you begin the structured training program, the training mileage should not increase more than 10% per week. Increasing training mileage too quickly will increase the chance for injury, the number one enemy of any marathoner. Each time mileage is increased, the body needs a week to adapt to the increase. If the increase is too great, the body does not completely adapt and after several weeks the tissues begin to break down and become injured. Also, it is a big mistake for "average" runners to try to mimic the training programs of high-ability runners. To think that the average runner could run 80-100 miles per week without suffering injury or overtraining syndrome is nonsense. High ability runners can train 80-100 miles per week because they have a genetic ability that allows them to train at these high miles. Even if she or he could run 80-100 miles per week or more it would not permit the average runner to run a marathon in under two and a half hours as high ability runners do. This high level ability is primarily due to genetics and only a very small percentage of the population is born with this kind of ability. We can all get better by running more marathons and by improving our training, but it is unreasonable to try to do what elite runners do.
A third aspect of the training program is that the recovery days should be spread out over the week and not bunched together. You should not run four days in succession and recover three days in succession. If at all possible, one recovery day should precede the long run and one recovery day should follow the long run. The long run should be sandwiched between two recovery days. The recovery day prior to the long run helps ensure adequate muscle fuel to be able to do the long run and the recovery day following the long run helps ensure that the desired training adaptations will occur and injury risks will be reduced. The third recovery day should be used at some point during the remaining three training days. This pattern for the recovery days becomes more important as the long runs become longer. For the first several weeks of the program it will not be as crucial, but establishing an early general pattern of training/recovery will he helpful as you progress in your training.
Beginning now with the formal training program, the training will be described in terms of mileage, not time as it has been in the preliminary training program. Although exact and precise distances are not imperative, you should have a pretty good estimate of your mileage. Go out in your car or bicycle and measure off several running routes of 3-8 miles. Variety in running routes is useful for motivational purposes. Running the same route every day can become very boring for some people. Also, running on soft ground as opposed to asphalt or concrete will be helpful in decreasing the risk for injury. It may not always be possible to run on soft ground, but take advantage of the opportunity when you can. One last suggestion regarding running surfaces is in order. Running next to the curb on most roads is not recommended. The problem is that most roads are sloped toward the curb and when you run next to the curb facing traffic, your right leg is always running on a higher surface than your left leg. If this becomes a habit, it can cause enough biomechanical alteration in your normal running gait that injury is more likely to occur. If you can't run on a running trail or level ground, it is better to run on a sidewalk than next to the curb because sidewalks are normally level side to side. If you must run on a road, move out from the curb as far as possible but be cautious and watchful for oncoming traffic.
You should be at a point in your preliminary training that allows you to jog 30 minutes continuously. The mileage for the first week of the training program is going to be increased to a total of 15 miles. The two short days are 3 miles each, the medium day is 4 miles, and the long day is 5 miles.
How Fast Should You Run?
Your pace each day should be one that is "cardiovascularly comfortable" for you especially during the first 15 minutes of the run. Starting out a run at too fast a pace can be devastating. Starting out at a pace that is slower than your normal pace allows for proper warm-up and will enhance your ability to finish the run. At no point during the run should you feel it is difficult to breathe in a rhythmical fashion. If you do, you should slow down. Your legs may become fatigued, but this is normal and expected. The major objective of the first several weeks of training is to just get some mileage in. However, pacing is important and we have included a section in Part Two of Chapter 9 called "Determining your Appropriate Training Intensity." You should skip ahead and read that section right now before continuing this chapter.
Now that you have read the material in Chapter 9 about using the RPE as an indication of how hard you are working when you run (you DID go and read that, didn't you? If not, do it now or the next paragraph won't make complete sense to you) we want to introduce to you an important feature of the book that will appear in each chapter from now on.
It is a training log and it will appear as the last page of each chapter. What we want you to do is fill it in as you go. As you will see, we have provided a space for each training day and within that space there are places for you to enter the number of miles called for in the training program for each day, the number of miles you actually ran (we hope these two numbers are the same for most, if not all, of the days), your RPE (rate of perceived exertion) and then a comments space where we suggest you write things like what the route was that you ran, who was with you, what the weather was like, how you felt mentally and physically during and after the run, any injuries you may experience and what you are doing about them, etc. When you get farther into the training period, this will become a very valuable tool, both physically and psychologically, to use as a review of what you have accomplished. Try to establish the habit of filling it in right after each run when everything about the run is fresh in your mind.
Good running shoes are a marathoner's best friend and you should not underestimate the value of appropriate running shoes. If you do not have or cannot afford a pair of good running shoes, don't train for a marathon. Invariably you will get injured and wind up spending far more on treatment of the injury than you would have on a pair of running shoes.
Shoes act as shock absorbers for the forces that are developed during running. Running is classified as a "traumatic" type of exercise because of the constant pounding that occurs. The bigger you are and the more and faster you run, the more important shoes become. It is the constant pounding and the forces that are developed each time the foot strikes the ground that eventually causes most running injuries. At best, good running shoes can eliminate injuries and at worst they can reduce the chances of serious running injuries.
Fortunately the runner has a wide selection of good running shoes from which to choose. However, there are some important distinctions between types of running shoes that should be understood in order to select the most appropriate type for your foot and running biomechanics.
Types of Running Shoes
There are four primary types of running shoes produced by most manufacturers and made for training on roadways, sidewalks and smooth tracks and trails. The four types are motion-control shoes, stability shoes, cushioned shoes, and lightweight training shoes. Because shoe types have some overlapping characteristics, several shoe types may be appropriate for any given runner. Experience and a little "trial and error" will help you to eventually select the best shoe type for you. Lightweight running shoes will not be discussed since they are primarily for high-ability runners.
Motion-control shoes are designed to control excessive or uncontrolled movement in the joints of the foot. These shoes are constructed to be relatively rigid, and offer stability and maximum support along the inside border of the shoe. These shoes are particularly appropriate for heavy runners with flat feet in need of extra durability and control of foot movement.
Stability shoes are characterized by a good blend of cushioning, support along the inside border of the shoe and durability. They are made for normal-sized runners who do not need a lot of motion control.
Cushioned shoes have the most cushioned mid-soles and the least support along the inside border of the shoe. They are for runners who have stiff, rigid feet who underpronate. (See definition of pronation below.) They are good shoes for runners with high arches who do not overpronate.
What is Your Foot Type?
In order to know which of the three categories of shoes would be best for you, you should determine your basic foot type. Foot types fall into three categories, normal, flat, and high-arched. To understand the relationship of the various foot types and the appropriate type of shoe for each, a brief description of foot mechanics during running would be helpful. Part of the role of the foot in running is to act as a shock absorber to the tremendous forces developed as each foot strikes the ground. In order for the foot to be a good shock absorber, there must be some movement in the foot as it strikes the ground. Normally, the foot should strike the ground at the heel or mid-foot and then roll inward toward the inside margin of the foot. This is called pronation and the movement helps to distribute the landing forces over more of the foot's surface area. If the foot does not pronate sufficiently (called a supinated foot), the forces are focused on a smaller area of the outside portion of the foot. In some cases, the foot overpronates, rolling inward too much. This puts strain on the muscles, joints, and tendons of the lower leg.
Normal feet have a normal-sized arch. When a normal foot lands on the ground, the foot rolls inward (pronates) in order to absorb and distribute the landing forces over more of the foot. Normal-weighted runners with a normal foot usually do best in a stability shoe with moderate control features. Runners with normal feet and biomechanics usually show shoe wear on the outer edge of the heel, under the ball of the foot, and at the front of the sole.