Marathon training

As I mentioned in my list of goals the other day, my BFF and I made a pact to run a marathon this year — his first; my first in a decade.

We started our training program yesterday with a three-mile run and continued today with a four-miler. Both runs were fairly easy, mainly because I’m using the Jeff Galloway approach, which involves building in walk breaks at planned intervals to help reduce the risk of injuries and maintain a sustainable pace for the duration of the run.

I used to base my intervals on time: Run five minutes, walk one. I know other runners who base their intervals on distance: Run a mile, walk a minute. Both methods have their merits, but this fall, I began experimenting with the idea of basing my breaks on steps rather than time or distance. I may never bother with a stopwatch again.

Your mileage may vary, but here are the advantages I found on my runs using the step-counting method:

1. More consistent effort expended between walking intervals. When I use the stopwatch, I end up running a lot more steps in five minutes at the beginning of a run than I do at the end.

2. More effort in general. If a quicker pace gets me to my break faster, I’m probably going to run harder between breaks, and I’m less tempted to slow down when I’m tired. Theoretically, running a specific distance between breaks would accomplish the same thing, but distance is harder to measure reliably.

3. It’s easier to keep track of, especially in cold weather. I have an iPhone with a stopwatch and GPS on it, but I have no idea where I put my touchscreen-sensitive gloves, so if I’m trying to track time or distance on my phone, I have to take off my gloves and coax it out of sleep mode every time I want to check. Instead, I use a cheap mechanical lap counter, logging a “lap” every 100 steps.

4. It makes a long run feel more manageable. I have something to think about besides how tired I am as the mileage increases, and I get a little psychological boost from clicking the lap counter every 100 steps. Never underestimate the value of a mental lift on a long run. Distance running is more mental than physical, and every little nudge helps.

Emily

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