The marathon training plan I’m following right now is the FIRST plan, developed by the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training. I used the FIRST half marathon plan for my last half and PR’d by 6 minutes. FIRST training involves running only 3 days a week, replacing what would be easy/recovery runs with cross-training. The 3 weekly runs are: speed (track) workout, tempo, and a long run. The plans and all the pacing information are provided in the book Run Less, Run Faster. Who could resist a title like that?!
As a triathlete, this works for me, because I have to fit in swimming and biking twice a week anyway. However, I think it’s a great plan even for non-triathletes, especially those who, like me, have suffered from injuries during marathon training. I’m not saying running is bad for you, but replacing some of that pounding with an activity that puts less stress on your joints, while at the same time strengthening your muscles, is a great way to train smart.
In addition to swimming and biking I take a yoga class once or twice a week. Yoga is great for runners – and bikers – because it stretches you out, lengthening your muscles and increasing your flexibility. If you’ve tried yoga and didn’t like it, I recommend trying a different instructor. There are numerous different types of yoga and many different ways of teaching it. If you don’t like the slow pace, try power yoga. This moves much faster than most yoga classes, and is a great workout. If you’re looking for a yoga DVD I recommend Rodney Yee’s Power Yoga. He is one flexible dude!
I also do strength and core work once a week. I should probably increase that to twice a week but, you know, life gets in the way sometimes. Since I started doing strength/core work on a regular basis 16 months ago, I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my posture, stamina, and overall strength. Since a strong core is key in pretty much any athletic activity, I’ve really found this to be a benefit. And I have to admit, I like my new arms! If you don’t do any core work currently, I recommend starting with some planks, increasing the amount of time you hold the plank until you can do it for two minutes. I don’t like standard crunches but like to do them on a stability ball or on a bosu moving side-to-side to get the obliques. Or, if you’re into yoga, a fast flowing down dog/plank/chaturanga/cobra sequence is great.
How do you cross train?