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Challenging winter requires flexible approach to training

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff  March 26, 2013 07:00 AM

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100chrisgarges.jpg Chris Garges is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
It’s not much of a secret that the Northeast has had a “challenging” winter, one that just doesn’t seem to want to let go. Unless you train indoors 100 percent of the time, this winter has definitely thrown a curve ball at your training plan.

More than just precipitation, cold weather and slippery surfaces make for cold, tight muscles and dangerous footing.

So how do you adjust to these unforeseen circumstances? Well, first and foremost you must be flexible. Move your workout to a different day or skip it all together. Experienced marathoners will tell you that in the long run a missed workout or three doesn’t really matter.

Secondly, you must be cognizant of injury. A long run in extreme cold can be painful and dangerous, and a speed workout on slippery footing can put you on the injured reserve in no time. Be confident in the work that you do get to accomplish and consider the missed workout as extra recovery, maybe even catch some extra sleep.

Last week was one of those weeks where mother nature, my body, and life in general were not cooperating. A couple of night meetings at work, kids swim lessons, snow covered roads, a sore knee and eventually some form of illness or allergies all wreaked havoc in my weekly training schedule.

I had to break one of my “rules” (I ran 4 days in a row, 3 is typically my maximum), but in the end I accomplished my goal mileage and one of my key workouts. The weeks after a hard race are typically tough physically, so looking back it was a good week. I rebounded to have a great weekend of training with a 21-mile long run on Saturday at 15-20 seconds slower than marathon pace followed by a 10-mile recovery run on Sunday.

Sunday’s run was “fun” in that, keeping with the recovery theme, I challenged myself to keep my heart rate below 130 beats per minute (<70% max HR), which I succeeded, averaging 127 bpm!

Below is a screen shot from my Polar Personal Trainer account. It’s a weekly diary that shows the times and days of my runs and includes a summary. Note the weekly totals of 63 miles and 7 hours, 28 minutes (7:06min/mi) as well as my attempt to “spread out” my runs over the four days in a row. My Thursday and Friday runs were in the early morning, I then maximized recovery with a good night of sleep on Friday and an afternoon run on Saturday.


Now that Marathon Monday is a short three weeks away, I’ve also started to consider my “race plan.” I’ve got my shoes and my basic outfit in mind, now it’s time to get some of the details planned out in my head.

I always like to look back at my race reports (2012 can be found here) to remind myself of what went right, what went wrong and what I should change for 2013. I also like to look at nutrition and make sure that I’m practicing with the same nutrition that I’ll be using on race day.

powerbar-gel-double-latte.jpgAs I read through last year’s report, I remember how important the extra sodium in the PowerBar PowerGels was. They have four times more sodium than some of the other brand gels, and when you’re sweating for three hours it’s easy to lose sodium very quickly, which will ultimately lead to cramps.

I also use the caffeine to my advantage, starting out with no caffeine in my first gel, moving to 1x caffeine and ultimately my last gel will have 2x the caffeine. Boston has a PowerGel station at mile 17, which allows me to carry less yet still use the same brand/flavor that I trained with.

One last long run planned for this weekend and a mixed tempo / speed this week. Have a great week!

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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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