Ask Pete: Can I Run Low Miles and Nonetheless Succeed within the Marathon?

Picture: 101 Levels West

QUESTION: Can I attain my full marathon potential on decrease mileage and better depth?

ANSWER: Simply as you’ll be able to’t shortcut a marathon’s 26.2 miles and declare to have gone the gap, you’ll be able to’t shortcut the coaching it takes to run your greatest.

It’s like clockwork. A runner approaches me for teaching. She or he needs to PR at a sure race distance.

I clarify the physiological necessities of the race. I clarify the coaching that may get us there.

The runner sighs, then says, “That sounds good for you, however I hoped to do it on about half that a lot coaching—and in half the time.”

To which I reply, “If I might run much less and run sooner, don’t you suppose I’d do it?”

It’s human nature to search for shortcuts. And in recent times, HIIT (high-intensity interval coaching) has appeared to supply that shortcut to endurance athletes. A sequence of high-profile research (Tabata, I’m you) have proven huge features in cardio power manufacturing because of quick, intense repetitions. The marathon is 98–99% fueled by cardio power, so this feels like you will get what you want with much less time funding.

However you must learn the small print. First, most of those research examine an HIIT routine towards a really ineffective health routine (e.g., consuming pizza whereas using downhill on a bike—okay, I made that up, however you get the purpose), then declare HIIT the winner. Second, these research hardly ever hassle to find out which muscle fibers (i.e., muscle cells) are affected by the coaching. For the reason that marathon depends primarily upon slow-twitch fibers, it wouldn’t do you a number of good to stimulate an enormous improve in solely fast-twitch fibers. After I requested Martin Gibala, one of many world’s prime HIIT researchers, about this, he mentioned, “That’s really a extremely good query that I don’t have a full reply [for]. There really isn’t a number of experimental proof [about that].”

So right here’s the factor: Don’t child your self. Positive, you’ll be able to run marathon off a low-volume, high-intensity coaching program. Simply as hundreds of runners do the identical off high-volume, low-intensity coaching. However to succeed in your full potential, you need to run all of it: quantity and depth.

Listed below are 5 the reason why:

  • Cardio power manufacturing: To run a sooner marathon, you want extra of it. To supply extra of it, you’ll want extra capillaries (small blood vessels) to hold extra oxygen to your muscle cells, and extra mitochondria (microscopic, cardio energy-producing factories) inside these cells. You obtain that with lengthy runs and tempo for slow-twitch fibers, and with tempo, 5K-paced reps, and hill reps for sooner fibers.
  • Operating financial system: Your financial system is analogous to a automotive’s fuel mileage. Higher financial system permits you to run farther and sooner on the identical quantity of power. In different phrases, you turn into extra environment friendly. Larger general mileage results in higher general stride effectivity. Tempo runs enhance marathon tempo effectivity. And hill sprints and hill repeats enhance your nervous system’s means to recruit all muscle fiber sorts concurrently.
  • Vitality shops: When your muscle fibers’ carbohydrate tanks run dry in a marathon, you hit the wall. Correct coaching can double the scale of those tanks. Do both runs exceeding 90 minutes or double exercises (greatest if the day’s second exercise is tempo or intervals).
  • Muscle & connective tissue energy: These take a beating in a marathon. To strengthen each, you’ll want resistance coaching, distance runs, and lengthy tempo runs.
  • Mind coaching: Your mind is a fear wart. It thinks that working too arduous may kill you. So it limits how far and quick you’ll be able to run till it’s positive you’ll be protected. Lengthy tempo runs and distance runs that match the projected size, in time, of your marathon ought to persuade your mind that you simply’ll be okay.

Backside line: Should you really wish to run your greatest, overlook the run much less, run sooner technique. As an alternative, run longer, more durable, sooner, slower, up, down, and on and on. Finally, after working all of it, you’ll attain your marathon potential.

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