When training for a marathon you might consider only having 3 running sessions per week. This would include a speed workout, a tempo run and a long run, and then include 2 cross training sessions in there as well. This training method seems to go against conventional wisdom by making the runner think they will get faster with fewer workouts.
This particular program was developed by the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST) and has gotten results.
By following the 8 rules below anyone can follow the FIRST program’s basic principles and 16 week training plan of running 3 times and doing 2 cross-training workouts in a week.
1. Run Efficiently, Run For Life
There are many good reasons to go to this new training option. By running 3 days a week it appears to be easier and accessible for those who are thinking of running in marathons. It helps to eliminate burnout and overtraining that many runners might deal with. With cross-training it will hopefully help cut the injury risk substantially. This will hopefully lead to better times and help those who do not have a lot of time, but allow for healthy living for years to come.
2. Run Three Times a Week…and No More
The 3 run workout helps decrease the amount of time of running, time, and risk of injuries, which is something many runners need to consider. Each run has a specific purpose, which many runners have probably never considered before when they run. The three workouts include a speed workout, a tempo run and a long run. The reason for each run is to help improve the leg speed, lactate-threshold running pace and endurance.
3. Build Your Long Run to 20 Miles
The FIRST training program will build the runner up for two 20 mile workouts, one of which takes place about three weeks before the actual marathon. It is easy to cover the 20 miles in the FIRST program. The hard part is setting your pace, 60 to 75 seconds slower than the first 10K race pace. There are many programs that allow you to run slower than that. The long runs that are part of the FIRST program is not set up so you can enjoy the scenery, but also doesn’t hurt you either, it just pushes you a little out of your comfort zone. For marathon running you need some long runs in your workouts to get tough and focused for the race day.
4. Run Three Different Kinds of Tempo Runs
Many training programs, including FIRST, have tempo running as part of the program. First takes it a little farther though. With the FIRST program runners will run three different tempo runs which include a short tempo, three to four miles, mid tempo, five to seven miles and long tempos, eight to ten miles. Runners will run each tempo at a different pace, with the longer tempo being at the pace you will run on race day. This allows you to get better at that pace as you prepare for the marathon.
5. Put More Variety in Your Speedwork
When it comes to speedwork many runners do not do any. Then there are those who do and they usually fall into a rut or routine, doing the same thing over and over. Why make speedwork harder than it really should be? It will be a lot easier and you will get a better work out from the speedwork if you change it around frequently. The FIRST program has the runners running at different paces during their speed workouts, for example jogging 400 meters between repeats. The idea is to be creative. The rule to remember in speed training is to start modestly. Then after awhile try something different. The idea is to make sure that you are changing it up to keep it interesting for you as well as helping you with your training.
6. Cross-Train Twice a Week…Hard
Do not just cruise on through the cross-training sessions. This does not benefit you. If you do this portion correctly and effectively, you will take the injury risk down considerable. This can also help you when it comes to your running training the next day, giving you a little extra energy or push to go the extra distance.
7. Don’t Try to Make Up for Lost Time
Because training happens during life, things can happen while you are training. It can be anything from a sprained ankle, getting sick or even work related activities. Some injuries may be harder to bounce back from than others. Don’t try to push yourself to quickly if an injury has slowed you down. All of these can cause you to miss some important training and workouts. It is not wise to double up on training that you missed; it really doesn’t do you or your body any good. If it is something mild you can get back on track rather quickly and easily. If it is some a little bigger then you need to really take care of yourself, which can really affect your training. If this is the case you need to accept this and then start training again once you get better. Then when race day comes you might consider running the half marathon instead of the full marathon. Trying to run the full marathon when you run when you are not ready for it is not wise.
8. Follow a Three Week Taper
The last three weeks of training before the marathon will taper you down a little bit. The run length not only tapers down, but so does the speedwork and tempo runs. The idea of this is to help make sure that you are ready for the marathon with plenty of spring in your step. If you are feeling sluggish during the easy running of the training, which many do, add some strides or pickups after your Tuesday and Thursday workouts. It is important to make sure you get some extra stretching in after the workouts as well.