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Training remains a delicate balance

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff  March 25, 2012 04:08 PM

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100marcus_grimm.jpg Marcus Grimm is one of five Boston Marathon entrants testing the Polar RCX5 personal training computer and blogging about it for Boston.com
Maximizing your potential as a runner essentially comes down to balancing three key components: training, rest and fuel.

This particular season, I’ve been working hard to add speed work to my training in the hopes that I can break 3:15 at Boston. Why 3:15? Because the BAA has now decided that’s what a man my age needs to do to be Boston-worthy. My euphoria of qualifying for Boston last year with a 3:17:30 when I needed a 3:20 was quickly replaced by the reality that I’d have to shave a full 2.5 minutes off my PR this year if I wished to return in 2013.

I’ve found, like a lot of runners, that while speed work is hard, teaching yourself to go slower on the recovery days can be just as hard. The idea of “enjoying” my workouts while the pace gets slower and slower has taken some getting used to.

The first secret I’ve found to get over this guilt is pretty basic: run hard on your hard days. Like really hard. Like hard enough so that you wake up in cold sweats the night before that workout, dreading it. Like hard enough so that you can’t pay attention to conversations with loved ones because you’re thinking about your awful workout. I’ve found that if you run that hard on the hard days, the easy days tend to take care of themselves.

But the second secret of holding back is watching your heart rate, which was the first thing I did with the Polar RCX5. When a work commitment nixed my usual lunchtime run, I was forced to knock out six easy miles before work. Running slow before work is particularly difficult for me because I’m somewhat distracted by everything I need to get done that day and inevitably push the pace. But because this was the day before my super-fast-20-mile-with-some-of-them-faster-than-fast-pace-run, it was critical I do it slowly.

So I did. The Polar had told me that Zone 2 (my recovery zone) ended at 120. Any higher than that and I was jeopardizing the next day’s run and not maximizing the recovery from the previous day’s. At the end of the run, I had an average HR of 117, which helped ensure I’d be recovered for the next day's workout. In fact, a cool feature on Polar Personal Training said as much, telling me my workout had a “training load” of 74 and that I was ready for the next day.

Still terrified, mind you, but ready.

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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