They say to never judge a run by the first few miles.
Never judge a week by how Monday goes, either.
I’m adding to this wisdom: Never judge a training cycle by the first few weeks. Because life is crazy, and sometimes the first few weeks of an eighteen-week plan need to serve other purposes in life, like bouncing back from an especially heavy holiday season.
This has been the case for me lately. While I’m deeply grateful for so much that has happened since life changed in November, it has been physically and emotionally draining. And our family life continues to be filled with uncertainty, so sometimes I lace up to run barely able to walk.
I needed much of January to feel like myself again, and certainly running helped. But I was just logging slow miles and crying a lot.
Anyway! What I’m saying is, the warm-up is over. It was good. And I am so glad I didn’t give up yet because this past week delivered a kind of a breakthrough that has me thinking about setting a very concrete and exciting goal for this year’s Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon on Sunday, April 29th. Time to get to work.
Why Hansons this time? In short, because the feedback is compelling. Since last summer I have read so many personal testimonials from competitive and recreational “age groupers” who used this method to become stronger runners who reach their time goals without dieting, without gaining weight, without getting injured, and without feeling burned out. Hansons runners are passionate and openly celebrate not just their success but also their health and happiness along the way. (Weird, right? To do something you love only to suffer unnecessarily along the way?)
Some of these folks I stalked online are competitive racers, which I admit is something fun to think about. But all of these runners want to run well and discover their own potential. That is for sure me already. Remember back in 2015 that I said I wouldn’t run another marathon until I believed I could do it “clean and strong?” No more dieting. No more sloppy, half-hearted efforts. No more hitting the wall and crossing the finish line in tears.
Well, this plan’s mileage already feels great. I’ve been building up that much since late autumn and it is satisfying overall, even before playing around with paces, which really is where the magic hides. I’ll share in the week five recap below, how the method is already helping me see results.
Besides the promise of improvement, I am smitten by the science here. It just makes so much sense. Chapter by chapter, the book explains what happens to your body over time as you provide it new challenges. It details the muscular, cardiovascular, and even cellular adaptations you make from week to week, and why each different workout is useful and important. It helps you visualize the draw of energy and the power of speed, the glide, the transfer of oxygen, and more. It’s beautiful, really. Reading each chapter then recalling key sentences while running, I can almost feel my body responding.
I am following the advanced marathon plan. If you are interested at all, please read the book. It’s fascinating! Until then, here are some key differences this plan boasts over others:
- Higher weekly mileage, which is fun and satisfying, but most of those miles being easy effort (from 38 on week one up to 62 just before your race)
- No long runs over 16 miles, even during peak, so fewer days lost to long hours on your feet, plus fewer days lost to extended rest and recovery
- More “Something of Substance” workouts, which train you for strength, speed, and tempo running
- Less of a taper, which in my mind mitigates race-week nerves and more importantly trains you to run under mildly exhausted conditions, called “accumulated fatigue.” This gets your strong for the second half of your marathon. No bonking!
- Goal-specified training. I LOVE THIS!!! The Hansons plan helps you pinpoint specific paces for a long run (used to be my favorite, that might be changing), tempo run, easy days (surprisingly slow but luscious), and speed intervals (adrenaline!!). And it all helps you approach your race intelligently to finish in the time you want.
- Race well and discover your potential, above just finishing. That’s the bottom line here.
My January so Far:
My mind and body have needed this past month to recoup. I am grateful for the time and resources to run most days each week, eat good, nutritious food, and rest well. The weeks since January 2nd have been fruitful in many ways.
Week One: The plan asked for 38 miles and I ran 34 due to our extended break. Those were all slow and easy miles, letting the emotional holidays drain away. I also joined a luscious yoga series and started reigning in the treats. Shark Week for me was that week, and I complained about that a little in my training log, ha. (Ladies will agree with me that hormones can greatly affect running. That’s a whole topic for another day!)
Week Two asked for 41 miles, which I ran greedily, plus 0.61, haha! More yoga. My body felt better that week, but still no Something of Substance (SOS) workouts yet. This is where the self-compassion comes in, the part where I forgive myself for not pushing it because at least I got the time on my feet (TOF). It’s all contributing to a strong base like I had back in October (passed my 200-mile goal that month). A couple of weeks of easy movement and time to think also helped me shed that holiday bloat and heaviness. Overall I felt pretty good.
Week Three That week I ran 45.77 miles, just almost exactly what the plan called for (45). I did attempt one sloppy speed session of my own design, just a very casual “fartlek,” and honestly you guys, though it was nothing to brag about performance wise, it felt amazing. I had so much fun! Like a little kid, giggling and running and feeling perfectly free and happy. I am always amazed by days like this because so often people talk about how much speed work hurts. Surely down the line, I will learn how to work my body so hard it does hurt. But for now? For now, the speed play is fantastic. Anyway. Week 3 I kept up with daily yoga and focused on eating more vegetables and protein than anything else. Sleeping rough, also lots of bad dreams due to some emotional stuff. I’m looking forward to the gardening season and to cranking up mileage so my body is too exhausted to lay awake at night.
Week Four I missed one entire day this week due to extreme winter weather (my treadmill is a goner), and another day I did a shorter run than planned due to some special family events, so the prescribed 46 miles got whittled down to 36.31. I forbade myself from making it into a big deal because life is full and good and in the scheme of things, missing 10 miles this early in training is fine. Okay. Moving on. Winter is almost over! : )
A Quick Word About Paces: I hesitated for months to ask anyone for help in pinpointing my correct paces because I felt ashamed of my abilities. It was a lot like discussing weight or age, ha! Which is both silly and a double-edged sword. You will always find running friends who are faster, and you will always find running friends who are slower. So why waste a bunch of energy comparing? It does not matter. Even in competitive groups (which like a dork I have to remind myself I am not in), you have to focus on your own health and your own journey, staying happy and grateful for the current season you’re in.
When I finally reached out for some guidance, I was pleasantly surprised by how encouraging all my local friends and volunteer coaches in the HMM group were. The concept here is to discover your running potential and make measurable progress for yourself, relative to your own starting point. It’s definitely a long-term vision kind of thing, which I love love LOVE. I love it so much, the promise of running and improving for many years. That said, here is the list of paces I am following day by day for this training cycle. Huge thanks to Paul in our local HMM group for spending his time calculating these for me:
Week Five: Shark Week again. Thankfully my symptoms were mild this month, and for extra credit, the worst of all days happened to land on Wednesday, a planned rest day, ha! So no running. Just lots of rest and yoga and easy housework like ironing my husband’s shirts and sewing a few things. Overall this week, the plan called for 49 miles, and even taking Wednesday off it was easy to hit that number. I ran a total of 52.66 miles, including three true SOS workouts! The highlights of week 5 were running my first speed, tempo, and long run days at prescribed paces (see above). Each effort was completely different, and each one felt amazing. Seriously so much fun. After the long run especially (12.54 miles at a smooth and effortless pace of 9:29) I walked away feeling shocked that my body could move like that, keep that momentum, and feel strong and comfortable the whole time, with gobs of energy to spare. This is not what I am used to, you guys. I dare say this method works.
As I hit publish on this very long post (thanks for hanging in there), I have made a good start on Week Six with six easy recovery miles (41 to go) and some yoga. Whether I commit to the April 29th marathon is still a big question mark, but either way, I will certainly be enjoying the process. And I will post here on Mondays and on IG a little to track my progress.
Have you tried the Hansons method yet? What were your results?
Are you doing any fitness challenges for January? Anything you plan to stick with in February? What feels amazing to you lately? I would love to know. Everyone is different, and it’s so fun to hear how people discover health and wellness.
Take care of yourselves!!
“Comparison is the Thief of Joy.”