26.2 x 1
March 7, 2010 2:58 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a marathon training program that focuses primarily on intervals.

For my last marathon, I did a training program like this one. I've been reading a lot about interval training, and that information plus the CrossFit Endurance program suggests that I should be able to run less distance harder and achieve better results. I'm looking for a calendarized training program that tells me how much to run each week, like the Cool Running one above, but primarily focused on intervals. I'm also interested in anecdotes from runners who've used similar programs.

I'm doing the Starting Strength program and plan to continue doing that during the training season. I'll be running the Portland Marathon in October. Thanks for your help. See you at the finish line!
posted by chrchr to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Do you have a Garmin? It doesn't matter if you don't because this will still work without one, but Runner's World has personalized Garmin-uploadable training schedules.

Select your distance, select your goal time, input your race date, and you'll get a specific training schedule for your entire 16 weeks (or 12 weeks for a half) of training that can be uploaded to your Garmin. If you don't have a Garmin, just follow the schedule with a timer and a measured track or treadmill.

I've used this scheduler to great results. It includes long runs, easy runs and speed work (intervals). You can also tweak the settings according to goal heart rate and goal pace. Love it.

Good luck!
posted by Brittanie at 3:33 PM on March 7, 2010

I also recommend the Complete Book of Running (for Women), which has training schedules including intervals in it, as is an all-round good resource for runners.
posted by Brittanie at 3:36 PM on March 7, 2010

You might want to check out this training plan [PDF]. Scroll through and you'll see levels for beginners, intermediate, and advanced. I have friends who've had success with this.

You may also want to do some searches for fartlek marathon training (like this one) and see if there is a particular plan that might work for you.
posted by icy at 3:40 PM on March 7, 2010

Nike plus has this as a feature in their training programs.

I think that their "Marathon - total beginner" training program doesn't have it. But the other more advanced programs have intervals as part of the training. Silly nike plus though doesn't actually alert you during the runs on the interval times / distances. You'd have to be watching your ipod, which i find annoying (and expensive since I dropped an iPhone out for a run. A $200 run apparently.).
posted by zpousman at 5:09 PM on March 7, 2010

You're still going to have to put in long miles, but maybe a program like FIRST?
posted by lemonade at 7:56 PM on March 7, 2010

Best answer: I don't want to pee in your Cheerios, but I don't think you're going to be able to train for a marathon focusing primarly on intervals; the long run exists for a reason (because running 26.2 miles = running a hell of a long way), and you need to give your body the necessary adaptations for running that distance; even if you're a seasoned marathoner, you don't get to keep your peak marathon fitness along with the finisher's medal.

Many plans have one day of speedwork (aka intervals), usually Yasso 800's or mile repeats. But marathon training is largely about training yourself to keep up a steady, fairly slow (compared with, say, 10k pace) pace for a ridiculous length of time. Speedwork is of limited utility here; if you do mile repeats at 5k pace on race day, you're going to crash and burn. If you train your body to do mile repeats, all that training isn't going to be optimally useful if you then go out and race 26.2 -- instead, you are going to benefit the most from your long runs and tempo runs.

The FIRST program suggested by lemonade is good for people who have scheduling issues (triathletes, people who work a lot, etc.), but you still do a long run with the FIRST program, and the downside to this program is that it becomes a really big deal, really quickly, if you miss runs. You're only getting three a week, so you have to hit those three and they have to be quality. (I'm using this program because of time-crunch issues, and I like it, but you can't skip the occasional run like you can on a plan like the Higdon or McMillan plans.)

May I inquire why you want to focus on intervals when you're training for a marathon? It seems to me that if you want to do a lot of interval training, shorter races would be ideal for that. I find that my speedwork training helps me the most for the 5k and 10k distances, when dueling with other runners for position (in my limited, slow way -- I'm definitely middle-of-the-pack, but I'm not going to let equally-slow runners beat me!)

If it's fat loss you're concerned about, your big obstacle with marathon training is NOT going to be the long runs cutting into your HIIT time. HIIT is for getting maximum results in minimal time, but nothing about that philosophy really applies well to the marathon... you'll burn at least as many calories running slowly for 3 hours as you would burn doing HIIT for half an hour to an hour. The biggest obstacle to fat loss with marathon training is going to be restraining yourself from reaching out with both hands, grabbing every possible food item, and putting it in your face. (Says the woman who, after a long run yesterday, devoured an entire steak, half a box of spring greens, the better part of a quart of milk, and an apple -- and was still hungry...)

I would suggest maybe adopting a cyclical approach to your training -- during marathon season, train for the marathon. If you watch your diet, you'll get pretty lean if you want to. In the off-season, focus on rebuilding muscle that you lost during all the endurance training, and use HIIT as part of your cardio routine.

Good luck in Portland :)
posted by kataclysm at 8:47 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the helpful answers, everybody.

Brittanie, I do have a Garmin, and those programs look at lot like what I'm looking for. That's what I'm leaning towards.

Kataclysm, the CrossFit Endurance people -- iconoclasts to be sure -- claim that lots and lots of long distance running is an inefficient way to train for endurance racing, because high intensity intervals are better at building muscle strength and cardiovascular capacity (explained in their FAQ). As far as I know, this is not in dispute. Mainstream sources indicate that long, slow runs don't do much to build cardio capacity, which is why nearly all training programs combine long runs with shorter runs that are supposed to be done at a faster pace. So, I think there's something to these claims.

I guess I was hoping to see a program with two interval sessions, a tempo run, and a long run each week. It might be that no such thing exists, and quite possibly for good reason. If that's the case, I'll probably do the Runner's World program Brittanie points to, since it seems to focus on intensity.
posted by chrchr at 10:50 PM on March 8, 2010

The problem with the CrossFit endurance people's claims isn't that HIIT is a good way to build strength and cardiovascular capacity -- that's unquestioned. The problem is that those are not the only essential components of distance running. Your bones and ligaments need to adapt to running for hours straight without breaking, your muscles need to learn to recruit additional fibers when you're feeling fatigued from prolonged low-intensity exercise (which uses a different muscle fiber type than short-duration high-intensity activity), and you need to train your metabolism to burn its fat stores more efficiently.

All of these adaptations are essential for success in the marathon and are trained for most efficiently on the long run -- you can't do high-intensity intervals for three or four hours, so you can't keep up your activity long enough to train your body to keep moving for that long, and you're going anaerobic frequently enough that you will burning sugar, not fat (which doesn't matter at all for fat-loss or upping cardiovascular strength, but matters a great deal when you want to use your fat stores as quickly and efficiently as possible -- e.g. on runs lasting 2+ hours). Because it won't actually train you to go long, I don't think that the CrossFit Endurance plan is a very good racing-season plan for anyone who routinely races for more than an hour or so (i.e. 10k for regular people, or a half-marathon if you are Sammy Wanjiru). It's probably A-OK as an off-season plan when amateur endurance racers are desperately trying to put muscle back onto their frames.

You probably won't see a marathon training program with 4 hard runs a week -- even the most hardcore runners need one day to recover between hard training sessions, and at least one true rest day a week, or you're setting yourself up for an injury. Since you only get 7 days a week, that means that you can only work in 3 hard runs (otherwise you would have back-to-back hard workouts on, say, Sunday and Monday). (Of course, you can do easy/recovery runs in between, or cross-train, or whatever.) The plan Brittanie points to is a good one -- Runner's World program is basically the Hal Higdon plan, which virtually every member of my family uses for all race distances 5k or longer, with excellent results.
posted by kataclysm at 8:10 AM on March 9, 2010

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