By Coach Lora Erickson, BlondeRunner.com
As a coach and triathlete/runner for over 28 years I am often asked these questions. As you might have guessed, the answers vary depending on each person’s needs but I think it is helpful to offer some general guidelines that can help you make better racing and training plans.
How much time do I need to train?
The answer to this question is different for everyone depending on experience, fitness level and race length. As a general rule I would suggest a person with average fitness following a good plan at least 6-8 weeks to train for a 5K (walk-run to finish), 7-12 weeks for a 10K, 4-6 months to train for a half marathon and 6 months or more for a marathon (longer for a first, or shorter for those with more experience). As for a triathlon, that depends very much on your experience with each discipline, but it’s reasonable to complete a first-time sprint distance event within 8-12 weeks with good coaching.
How much time do I need to train each week?
Most people can get really fit in 7-12 hours per week if they are doing the right things. That is about one to two hours most days of the week. More hours are needed to prepare for longer distances (ie. Marathon, 70.3, Ultra or Ironman events).
What Do I Do?
This question can be tricky to answer and as a coach, much of my time is spend designing specific training plans to meet individual needs which can vary drastically. In general all good training plans should include these components; Cardiovascular training (endurance), Strength Training, Mental Training, Recovery, Flexibility & Nutrition.
All of these components are vastly important and interconnected. I find that athletes that get injuries repeatedly are usually missing one or more of them. Don’t let that be you. Although I will not be able to cover each area in depth in this article there are a few tips I can give you.
Cardiovascular training includes training at a lower intensity for a longer period of time (cardio). This will improve your endurance and help the body learn to process oxygen more effectively and increase blood volume. Pacing work is also essential to improve endurance running performance as well. An example of pace work would include tempo or steady-state runs. I believe cardiovascular training should consume the majority of the workout time for a runner or triathlete.
Be sure to include some resistance or strength training into your routine two or three times per week. This can toughen up joints and increase muscle mass to rev up the metabolism and shape the muscles. Your body can also withstand long workouts and this type of training can prevent injury. Be careful not to overdue weight training or you will be carrying around more muscle then you need to which can be detrimental to your overall endurance race performance.
To train yourself mentally be sure to include difficult and high intensity efforts into your training. This will help you develop more mental stamina and build your confidence as well as improve your overall fitness and ability to perform. Be careful not to overdue these types of workouts, it can lead to burn out and/or injury. One to three workouts of this type are ample per week.
Recovery Training includes things like proper rest, cryotherapy (read a recent review), ice, foam rolling, proper cool-down, etc…This should be done in some shape or form daily. Flexibility can also be included here and is often neglected which contributes to injury. As we age it becomes more important to stretch to maintain our muscles elasticity. Consistency is key to get the maximum benefits.
And last but not least proper nutrition is essential. This includes avoiding highly processed foods and eating more whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. Staying hydrated is also incredibly important and often neglected (Cellular Hydration Article). Timing is critical when it comes to properly fueling our body so be sure and pay attention to when and what you are consuming. You may even want to consider a food journal. Be sure to eat to fuel your body and integrate all these components into your training plan for a successful race season.
Coach Lora Erickson aka Blonde Runner is a USATF certified running coach and nationally ranked triathlete. She loves the opportunity to work with athletes to help them reach their true potential. To learn more about her classes or services visit www.BlondeRunner.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org