Uta's running column
Uta Pippig is your running expert on the SMS team
In the 90s I won the BERLIN MARATHON three times, the Boston Marathon three times, and the New York City Marathon once - but I prefer to let others talk about that. Now I am a columnist, fitness coach and recently have become a running expert for the SMS Medical Institute of SCC EVENTS.
As a running expert, I am looking forward to providing you with tips on running and sharing my knowledge with you in a regular column. I hope you enjoy my running column about running techniques, training phases, alternative training methods and many more topics.
Look foward to the following topics in my running column:
1 Running Technique: Each Athlete is Unique End of May 5 Training Tips* End of May 2 Periods of Training for Your Marathon Preparation Begining of June 3 First Build-Up Period of Your Marathon Training Mid of June 4 Tips for your Recovery Weeks Begining of July 5 Second Build-Up Period of Your Marathon Training Mid of July 4 Training Tips* End of July / Begining of August 6 5-Points Tapering Mid of August 2 Training Tips* Mid of August 7 Keeping a Cool Focus Beginning of September 8 Recovery after the Marathon Mid of September
1. Running Technique: Each Athlete is Unique
The variations in our running styles are understandable because we all differ in size and weight as well as in the way we are built. Nevertheless, there are basic similarities common to us all that you can combine with your specific body characteristics to reach your optimal, individual running technique. This way, you will be able to achieve the best results, run many miles injury-free and on top of it enjoy your beautiful sport even more.
Before you start with more extensive training, I recommend that you make a video analysis of your running style. Many running centers or stores offer this. At the same time you can discuss with an expert all phases of your running technique and learn how to check certain details yourself later on. During my time as a professional athlete I regularly analyzed and refined my technique. I still practice it today when using the treadmill or during my easy short training runs or afterwards during several strides.
Feel how your head sits over your neck. Make sure it is not tilted forward or backward. For your own safety, look ahead and keep an eye out for movements around you as well as uneven surfaces below your feet.
When the arms and shoulders are moving, they are relaxed, with the shoulders being held straight, not rounded. Your arms move like a pendulum in an even rhythm and in sync with the legs, letting your shoulders hang loose and gently swing with the movement of the arms. Hold the arms close to the side of the body, lower arm and upper arm at approximately a right angle, while keeping the elbow joint relaxed. Make a loose fist or leave your hands almost open and swing them past the waist.
Focus on a natural upright body posture. Some people run with their legs too far in front of the center of their bodies, in a more sitting position, others bend too far forward. Your center of gravity, which is located approximately in the midpelvic cavity — between the joint of the pubic bones and the belly button —, should move up and down as little as possible while running. You can check this by looking straight forward and running so that the horizon in front of you appears to be only slightly moving up and down.
Your feet land slightly on the outer side, but predominantly on the entire sole of the foot, slightly in front of the center of gravity. Then roll inwards towards the arch of the foot, while the weight is shifted to the ball. Use feet and legs as one unit by pressing your foot off the ground, using your hamstrings as well as your butt muscles to move your hip forward while the leading leg is preparing to take the next step. Observe the position of your knee: Do not lift it so high that the thigh is parallel to the floor.
© Michael Reger
Running is such a beautiful natural movement. Use this checklist as an aid if you want to improve or refine your technique. Always make small adjustments only — and slowly, step by step. Give yourself enough time for any change. But not everyone will find them an advantage or advisable. So always get advice from an expert.
2. Marathon Training Periods
© Michael Reger
Your marathon preparation can be exciting and challenging at the same time. And if you follow a systematic build-up of your training you can run with joy and create the best chance to crown your marathon goal with success.
To make good use of the months-long preparation and to train injury-free, it is important to go through each individual training phase, not to shorten it or even skip it. Because each one builds systematically on the other. Follow each phase and you will most effectively achieve your optimal fitness. In addition, schedule a reasonable distance progression for your long and eventually marathon-specific runs.
Use the following tips in a comparative and complementary way, inasmuch as you have already set up your own customized running plan. I hope you will have recovered well enough from your last running adventure before you tackle the following four training phases with the corresponding recovery weeks of your next marathon preparation:
Begin with the base period, which normally takes six to eight weeks. The focus is on the continuous development of your general fitness. This gives you the base endurance and strength to be able to train more specifically during the subsequent training phases. First, it is about a strong foundation that can always be built on. The duration of the base period can be shortened, for example, if you have recently completed a marathon. In that case, after a fairly short recovery phase, you are ready to start your next marathon preparation using your form and fitness.
The first build-up period with a duration of up to three weeks will include higher mileage and longer runs.
After a recovery week, the second build-up period will follow – again for three weeks – with the highest mileage and longest runs.
Finally, you will reach the tapering period, or “reduction“ period, which involves shorter and some faster runs. Be sure not to train too intensively so shortly before your race. Train smart — less is sometimes more. Decide on intensities that you can master well and which, rather than tiring you, will make you fit for the coming race. This period is usually scheduled in the last three weeks before the marathon. Some elite athletes "taper" even longer.
Recover well between each individual training period. Many runners take six to eight days — generally known as a "recovery week." During this time you will strengthen your body and mind in preparation for the next phase by processing the workload of the previous phase and starting the next one at a higher fitness level.
Also pay attention to proper recovery between the intensive running workouts within your training period. Give your body the necessary attention, respond to the first signs of tiredness and possible “overtraining.” If you feel tired and exhausted from the more intense training and higher mileage, it is time for a week of relaxation with easy running and fewer miles — even if your scheduled plan is laid out differently. Recovery is as important as running itself!
Finally, a short note about the distance progression for your long runs. Follow your individual training schedule as well. Length and speed of these marathon-specific runs (as they are called in the two build-up periods) depend on your desired marathon finishing time as well as on your current fitness level. I suggest for beginners that you be able to run a half-marathon twelve weeks before the marathon at the latest, and plan to make the longest run of the entire preparation not shorter than 20 miles — 22 miles would be very good.
Intermediate runners should be between 14 and 15 miles twelve weeks before the marathon, with the longest run 22 miles. Our advanced and elite athletes complete 15 miles and 25 miles as their longest marathon-specific run. Plan the longest run not too close to your race. Definitely not less than three weeks before the marathon — and ideally at the end or during the final days of your second build-up period.
Enjoy your training! And I wish you success as well.
3. First Build-Up Period of Your Marathon Training
Following the base period you will enter the first build-up period of your marathon preparation. These are weeks 11, 10 and 9 — or 10, 9 and 8, depending on whether you are planning a test race before your marathon. During this time you will develop your longer runs and increase the mileage each of the following weeks.
Go with your uniquely-tailored training schedule and your marathon goal time and carefully build-up your fitness. Gradually improve the speed of your tempo runs as well as the distances of your long runs to avoid overtraining.
You can use the general training principles listed below in conjunction with your specific training plan. They will help you to be best prepared for the second build-up period — usually scheduled six to three weeks before your race — with the highest mileage and the longest runs of your preparation.
Follow the concept of periodization by completing an easy week of running after a longer period of hard training. A good plan provides up to three weeks of hard and intensive training followed by a recovery week with easy and less intense running.
One basic training principle of the first build-up period is to increase the mileage of your long runs, which are called "marathon-specific runs", from 18 miles up. For beginners, this means being able to complete between 15 to 18 miles at the end of this training phase; for intermediate and advanced athletes, this can be up to 22 miles. Follow the number of your marathon-specific runs from your individual training plan.
For beginners and intermediate runners: If you feel comfortable with the distances of your long runs, you can also gradually increase their pace. I recommend that you first master the mileage before you increase the speed.
Start all runs at a slower pace than you finish them by following the training principle of "Negative Splits." That means taking it easier for the first miles, then running faster the second half of the run.
For our beginners: In addition to the marathon-specific runs, you can also plan one tempo session per week. This can be a fast tempo run that starts at medium pace or, for those who already have attained good speed, an interval training, such as an 800-meter program.
For our intermediate and advanced runners and elite athletes: Some of you will have already begun a weekly interval training, like a 1000-meter-program. In the first build-up period, this should be part of your plan, and can be extended in the second build-up period. Gradually increase the volume of these programs as well as the distances of your medium and fast endurance runs.
During this first build-up period, always hold back some energy in reserve. Your goal is to get into good shape so that you are able to finish this current training phase strongly, without feeling too tired. Then, after a week of recovery, you will feel fresh and motivated again to achieve the best results of your preparation in the second build-up period.
As a short summary: (1) gradually increase the mileage for each week, (2) increase the distances of your “marathon-specific runs,” (3) include one tempo session per week, and (4) complete all workouts with the necessary attention to the training principle of “Negative Splits.” This approach will help you to avoid overtraining and ensure that you start the second build-up period with plenty of reserves and the best fitness level possible.
I wish you good results for these important training weeks.
4. Tips for Your Recovery Weeks
From your training program you have already discovered that recovery is an indispensable part of optimal marathon preparation. Recovery is as important as the running training itself. The more you exercise, the more your body and mind need proper rest. This applies to all individual training periods, from the basic to the first build-up period and from the first to the second build-up period, as well as between the intensive running sessions.
It is all about finding a balance between the workload and recovery throughout the entire training process. This builds up your fitness steadily and effectively until your Marathon Day. You stay mentally fresh, which allows you to better focus on your training and master everyday life more easily. You are also able to give your body the necessary attention so you avoid overtraining and injury.
The state of equilibrium of the effected cells is disturbed by intensive work loads and must be restored and ideally even improved. In addition, our body endeavors to repair structures damaged by physical activity, such as muscle cells, or to replace them with new ones. At the same time, the glycogen stores are replenished and other performance-determining factors are improved in quality and quantity. This is crucial for good performance and your health.
As summarized in my article about the different training phases [See above im my tip: 2. Marathon training periods]: “Many runners take six to eight days to complete a recovery phase between each training period — generally known as a ’recovery week.’ This strengthens your body and mind for the next hard training period. Now you are able to start the next period with a higher fitness level.”
The following advice refers to the recovery week after the end of your basic period (about three months before your race) and the first build-up period of your marathon preparation (about two months before the race). You can add, compare and supplement them according to your specially tailored training plan.
Beginners: Compared to your intense training weeks, your recovery week should only have a total distance of 50 to 60 percent. The same applies to the mileage of your longest run during this week. Choose lower speeds for your main running sessions. Begin at a relaxed pace and accelerate in the second half — but only if you feel recovered enough from the hard training weeks you just have completed.
Beginners: Beware of too much intensity! Some strides are an exception — they offer a great addition. Add them to your plan twice during your recovery week, preferably after your shorter and easy runs.
Intermediate runners: Compared to the hard and intense weeks of training, a total distance of 50 to 65 percent is planned for each recovery week, as well as a 50 to 60 percent duration of your longest run of your hard training weeks. The speeds for the main training sessions should be lower to allow for proper recovery. And your longest distance in these easy days? Many of my athletes would complete up to 10 miles for their longest run and found that to be sufficient.
Intermediate runners: In the middle of the recovery week I recommend a lighter interval session, for example a 200- to 300-meter program, at the earliest four days after completing the previously hard training period. Run these intervals only playfully and with enough reserves to loosen up your muscles and not overwhelm them with new intensities. I would definitely refrain from high intensities in your recovery week. The exception would be a scheduled competition, but then postpone the start of the next intensive build-up period by a few days.
Those who want to run faster than three hours: For the respective recovery week, only plan a total distance of 60 to 65 percent compared to the hard and intense training weeks. Decide wisely the distance for your longest run. Avoid a mileage of more than 75 percent compared to the hard training weeks and choose a moderate pace, but only if you have already recovered well for five to six days. Your detailed plan will give you additional information. In the middle of your recovery week, about four days after the previously completed hard training period, you can run a light, short interval program. I recommend, for example, a 300- or 400-meter-program.
And advice for all runners: Prolong your recovery week by a few days if you are not feeling well rested. It is important to take enough time to be able mentally as well as physically to start the new hard training period. Also, during your training periods, listen to your body. If you feel prolonged fatigue and higher muscle tightness than usual, have less appetite, or experience a change in your sleeping pattern, these are all signs of possible overtraining. Allow yourself to take a step back and give yourself a few easier days than planned. On these, a good massage can be very helpful. You can also add cross-training, such as swimming or cycling, even if your program does not include it.
I wish you success and a good balance between your workouts and recovery,