Time for a change, and change is good.

Over the last several years, I have completed many marathons and many ultras. I start this post with that statement so that I am not misunderstood. I am VERY proud of what I've accomplished. When I started working out and doing the Couch-2-5k plan in November of 2009, I never dreamed I could run a marathon, much less 11 official marathons, 7 official ultras, 2 unofficial marathons, and 3 unofficial ultras since my very first marathon in March of 2011. These are things I never dreamed I could do in just 4 years.

All that said, I am not happy with where I am right now with my running, or my fitness in general. When I started, I did more strength training than running. That was the case up until I had a stress fracture in my foot shortly after my first marathon. I was not able to workout, much less run, for 8 weeks. I missed running more than anything. Ever since then, my focus has always been running. I still strength train, but usually not that hard and definitely not that often. I have just wanted to run all the miles I could, so I never made time for anything else. Run, run, run, run, maybe lift some light weights, run, run.... you get the idea.

My training plans always center on running and I say I'll lift weights, but I don't. I just don't leave enough time in my training plans to get in my scheduled miles AND strength training. As a result, I have gotten fatter and slower. Even worse, I keep running marathons & ultras while I struggle more & more to finish them. I sit around wondering why I cannot get better or lose weight, but deep down I've always known the answer. You can't lose weight or get stronger if all you do is cardio and you don't eat appropriately. When all I do is run, I have a hard time watching what I eat, whereas when I strength train, eating better comes more naturally. I don't know why.

With all of that in mind, I started contemplating how I can go about making the needed changes. When I am training for marathons & ultras constantly, I feel like I can't sacrifice the miles to make time for strength training. So what do I do? I started thinking, what if I kept my weekend long, slow runs, but change my mid-week runs? Normally during the week I am hitting 4-10 mile runs depending on what I'm training for, and they are almost always slow, easy effort runs. So what if I change that? What if I cut them to, say, 3-4 mile runs with much higher intensity (interval and tempo runs)? That would allow me the time I need to get in serious strength training and maybe it would get some speed back by doing higher intensity. Interesting.

But is this a viable plan? Can I marathon/ultra train this way and be successful? I really don't know. So, if you don't know the answer, what do you do? You seek the advice of experts. I'm lucky enough to have several friends that are experienced trainers and coaches, so I sought their advice. I told them all my thinking and asked what they thought of the plan I suggested above. They all were very supportive of it and gave me some further tips on how to go about it. I am truly lucky to have so many friends that not only have great experience, but also care enough about the success of others to be willing to offer advice and answer questions.

So that's the new plan. Lower mid-week mileage, higher mid-week intensity, strength training set in the schedule, and long, slow weekend runs. Oh, and of course rest days, I'll get yelled at if I don't include rest days! Three weeks from the writing of this post, I will start my training for my upcoming Fall/Winter races, so I am writing my training plan according to this new concept. I also started strength/core training this week so that my body is used to it when I start building my mileage again. I'm excited about this new strategy and I look forward to seeing if it works, but I'm very positive about it. I believe using this strategy for this upcoming race season will help me get lighter, stronger, and improve my endurance. If that all holds true and I have stronger performances this year, then next year I can look to hold that and work more on increasing my speed as well. But that's a topic I'll hold off on until I see how this works out for my Fall/Winter races. Wish me luck, and good luck to all of you with whatever you are working on currently!!

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