First Build-Up Period of Your Marathon Preparation and Ideas for Your Recovery Weeks

February 5, 2013 By Uta Pippig
© BettyShepherd

Dear Friends,

In today’s message I would like to share some thoughts on training for your first build-up period and your “Recovery Weeks.” It follows from my previous posting here on “Uta’s Insights,” in which I provided information about periods of training for your marathon, recovery in between each training phase, distance progressions for your long runs, and other related topics.

If you are planning to run a marathon between the middle and the end of April, I hope by now you have moved from the base period of your training to your first build-up period, with higher mileage and longer runs this month.

Please focus on the following key points for your training during the upcoming three to four weeks to ensure you will be well-prepared for the challenge of your second build-up period in March, which will include your highest mileage and your longest runs.

  • Follow the concept of periodization by adding an easy week of running after a longer period of intensive training. A good plan would be two to three weeks of a hard training phase followed by one week of easy and less intense training.
  • Since you are in your first build-up period, adding more miles to your long runs is essential. You may want to check my January 20 message for suggestions on specific distances for each level of runner.
  • For our beginners and intermediate runners, slightly increase the speed of your long runs, but only if you are able to handle the distance. Please focus primarily on the distance and later you can add more speed. Also, start your long runs easier than you finish them by running “Negative Splits.” This means covering the second half of your chosen distance faster than the first half.
  • For our advanced runners, some of you already have included interval training in your workouts and now is the time for everyone to do so. Also, add the necessary mileage to your interval workouts, tempo runs, moderate runs and long runs, according to your uniquely-tailored marathon schedule.
  • For our triathletes who follow these general guidelines and who will compete in a triathlon some time after the marathon, it would be good to shift your focus more and more towards running now. A combination of both marathon and triathlon training certainly can engender successful outcomes for both types of events.
  • During this first build-up period please keep in mind that another build-up period will follow in March. Always run with reserves—rather than running too often and too hard—and train with the overall training schedule for both periods in mind! Understand that you are “building-up” your form and that you are training in such a way as to be able to strongly finish this training phase. It should leave you ready to recover for a week and to feel motivated and energized enough to be able to run the best workouts of your marathon preparation in March.

I hope you are on target and all is going well for your training. And I hope you feel confident with your current schedule. You still have a good amount of time until your marathon.

If ever you feel in doubt about your next hard workout—to do it or not—always play it safe and go easy. Please avoid risking “Overtraining.”

Signs of Overtraining include having (1) an elevated resting pulse in the morning and elevated pulse during training and recovery after your workout, (2) a diminished ability to recover in general, (3) prolonged fatigue and higher muscle tightness than usual, (4) an inability to complete your workout, (5) a greater propensity to get injured, (6) immune support which is lower combined with an elevated risk for colds, (7) a decreased appetite, (8) a change in your sleeping pattern, (9) a lack of concentration, and (10) a sense of often feeling tired and overwhelmed.

Please try not to feel discouraged if you suffer an injury or get the common cold, or if travel or other work-related or personal challenges delay your training. These can happen to everyone and all of us are even more susceptible when we are training intensively. It always is good to step back, re-think, re-schedule, and continue your training—and maybe even re-adjust your time goal for your race. Why not, if you need to? It is better than adding too much pressure to your already challenging daily and training schedules.

Your Recovery Weeks

A relaxing bath will help you relieving muscle soreness and rejuvenating your body. © Betty Shepherd
A relaxing bath will help you relieving muscle soreness and rejuvenating your body. © Betty Shepherd

Your easy training weeks will play a key role during your marathon preparation—helping you to stay in sync with all your training efforts, enabling you to build-up your fitness level most effectively, and achieve a good result in your race. Previously, we looked at the importance of those easier weeks of training and when to include them in your plan. Now I would like to explore them in detail in conjunction with your uniquely-tailored schedule.

Beginners I and II: For your “Recovery Weeks,” make sure that your mileage and intensity are lower compared with your “Hard Training Weeks.” Please run only 50 to 60 percent of the mileage of your “Hard Training Weeks.” The distance for your longest run in your recovery week is shorter as well—just 50 to 60 percent of your longest runs in your “Training Weeks.”

If you are training for the Boston Marathon or any other hilly 26.2-mile course, it would be prudent if you can make the longest run of the week on a similarly hilly course to prepare yourself. Move up from an easy to moderate pace—but only if you are rested enough from the hard “Training Weeks” that have gone before. Also, for Beginners II, please don’t add intervals or a tempo run, as is the case for your “Hard Training Weeks.” Instead, run easy for 3 to 5 miles with 8 to 10 strides afterwards. For information on strides, click here.

Intermediate I and II: For your “Recovery Weeks,” you too will find that mileage and intensity are lower in comparison with your “Hard Training Weeks.” Please make sure you run only 50 to 65 percent of the mileage of your “Training Weeks.” The distance of your longest run in your recovery week should be just 50 to 60 percent of your longest runs in your “Hard Training Weeks.”

And similar to the beginning runners, who are training for the Boston Marathon or any other hilly course, it would be ideal to prepare yourself by running the suggested distance on a hilly course. A 10-mile run could be a good choice. You can cover this distance at a moderate pace, but only if you feel rested enough after recovering for more than 5 or 6 days from the “Hard Training Weeks” that have gone before.

Advanced Runners: Please, use your “Recovery Weeks” as much as you can to get ready for the next “Hard Training Weeks.” You will find that mileage and intensity in these weeks are lower, so “let go” from your intensive training mode and choose a relaxed and easy speed for your easy runs. Please focus on recuperating in each of the “Recovery Weeks” so you are able to get through the entire marathon preparation. Make sure you run only 60 to 65 percent of the volume of your “Hard Training Weeks.”

Decide wisely on the distance for your longest run of your recovery week. Avoid going further than 75 percent of the distance of your longest runs in your “Hard Training Weeks.” To be best prepared for a hilly race, it is ideal to run the longest run of your Recovery Week on a course with some rolling hills. You can cover this run at a moderate pace, but only do so if you feel well-rested after recovering for more than 5 or 6 days from the previous “Hard Training Weeks.”

By the middle of your recovery week, or three to four days after your previous long run, you can go for an easy fartlek. Elite runners might run a short interval program as suggested in your training plan. A fartlek is a “free-flow” speed workout with a less structured form of alternating fast and slow intervals on the road or on a trail—ideally not on a track. Choose a loop that is relatively flat and does not exceed 5 miles (including warm-up and cool-down half miles). Alternatively, instead of the fartlek, you also could add short intervals, e.g., 200-meter repeats. Eight to 10 of them would be fine.

One day after your fartlek and/or interval program you may do a longer run—not as far as the longest run of your recovery week. Train on an easier course and at a slow to moderate pace. Please only speed up and go “moderately” at the end of your run if you feel rested.

To all runners: If you think you need even more recovery time because you still are feeling tired from your “Hard Training Weeks,” then please focus on additional rest. This means adding one or two more days without running to your recovery week and doing only easy running for the entire week.

I send you good wishes for your fitness and training. Enjoy all your runs on always happy trails and I hope you can stay injury-free.

Keep running,

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