As a group, we runners are an impatient sort. Case in point: I just ran my first 5k, I think I want to run a marathon. I saw a training plan in Runner Universe that says I can be ready in 20 weeks. Doing a marathon is actually easier than it sounds, running a marathon, not so much. If you want to RUN the marathon, be patient, that ability does not come in 20 weeks.
I read the Runner Universe training article, it suggested, like many training plans do, adding 10%, or about one mile, to your longest run per week. After reading the article, I did a little experiment. I went to the gym, worked out everyday, and at the end of every week I added 10 percent to my 100 pound bench press. After the first month was over, my bench press went up to a whopping 146 pounds. Bet you’re not surprised that when I tried to push this weight, I hurt myself. I want you to think about this experiment as it applies to running, and the 10% a week increase formula. Do you still think it’s valid?
The obvious argument to this experiment would be, you’re comparing aerobic exercise to anaerobic exercise. Yes, yes I am, but both types of exercise are comparable if you think about the SAID principle. “Specific Adaption to Imposed Demand” asserts that if you increase demand your muscles will adapt to that demand. I might add into the SAID formula, “after adequate recovery”. Exercise training is an adaptive process. The body will adapt to the stress of exercise with increased fitness if the stress is above a minimum threshold intensity. To achieve maximum effectiveness, we must consider factors involved in the adaptation of muscle to stress. When training clients in my personal training business I use a formula akin to the 10% increase, but only after 3 weeks of specific activity and careful examination of the clients gains. Why 3 weeks? It gives the client the ability to adapt to the additional demand. Adapting to demand takes more than one work-out, one week, or one run in our case. If we continually add another 10% every week, we have overloaded the system past adaption capacity and the adaption process becomes slower and injury incidence is greatly increased.
A slower graduation of demand will protect you from the danger of injury, make you stronger, and give you an opportunity to toe up to the race start with a well adapted muscular system. Down side is it will take you much longer to prepare. Question is do you want to RUN the marathon? Or do you just want to do the marathon?