A blog by runners. For runners.

You can’t do it all – and it’s OK

You can't do it all in training - and that's OK!

I had good intentions when I created my New York City Marathon training plan. This race is important to me, so I wanted to do everything in my power to ensure it goes well.

And I really mean everything.

By trying to do it all you may accomplish nothing at all
The first iteration of my training plan was over-ambitious to say the least. I planned on doing easy runs, tempo runs, Yasso 800s, and long runs. I also intended to cross-train like it was my job – spin classes, outdoor bike rides, and swimming, too. Twice weekly strength training sessions were must-dos as well. Oh, and one yoga class each week. This was in addition to rest days, of course.

I crossed the line from driven to delusional. You see, in researching and writing all of these articles for WalkJogRun, I’ve learned a lot about what you “should” do when training for a race.

“Speedwork is vital for getting faster.”

“Easy runs are a must so you don’t burn out.”

“Lift weights regularly to prevent muscle imbalances and keep injuries at bay.”

“Cross-train to get a cardiovascular workout while giving your running muscles a break.”

“Practice yoga to stretch out sore muscles.”

I’ve written sentences like these several times. Don’t get me wrong – each statement is true, and there’s plenty of research to back them up.

But if you try to do it all, you’ll likely do more harm than good. And everything you were trying to prevent from occurring will happen because you’re overtraining. You’ll get burnt out if you don’t get injured first. You won’t get faster and meet your goal because your muscles will never get a break. Heck, you may not even make it to the start line.

So, how much do you need to do?
On the flip side, I want to make sure I do enough to be able to complete those 26.2 miles come race day. The last thing I want to do is skimp on training and be under-prepared.

Experts suggest identifying your key training sessions each week, and penciling in bonus workouts. For instance, I’m following the plan based on the FIRST approach (here’s more about the FIRST training method). My must-do workouts each week are 3 runs – one easy, one speed, and one long – and one intense cross-training session – a spin class. Those four workouts are the bare minimum I need to do each week to successfully train for a marathon.

I’ve also penciled in another spinning class and two strength training sessions per week as my bonus workouts. If I can do them – great! If I can’t then it’s not a big deal. I’ll do them on weeks I feel strong. This will likely be in the beginning of training. Once I start running 18- and 20-milers, I’ll probably trade extra workouts for additional rest days.

Keep in mind, your bare minimum will depend on your goals, fitness level, and experience. If you’re a novice marathoner just looking to cross the finish line, you may not need to do speedwork – two easy runs plus one long run each week may be enough. But if you’re an experienced marathoner with a lofty time goal, you may need to do 4 or 5 training runs plus a couple of strength training sessions each week to stay on target.

If you ever feel like you’re over-doing it during training, take a step back and reassess your goal. Remember that there will always more races, but you only get one body, so don’t go too hard on it.

 Written by Jen Matz.