Now I know the thought of doing a significant sized endurance event, such as running a marathon or cycling 100miles, can be daunting. Even more so when trying to consider how to actually train to do so.
So here is an in depth guide on how to go from no experience at all the feeling like a fully-fledged endurance athlete!
Understanding the basics
The human body is extraordinary in its ability to repair, rebuild and improve.
However, I’m sure you’ve probably realised at some point if you push it a little TOO far it pushes back. This is because the body can only cope with small changes at a time, which is why everyone tells you that consistency is key (at least they should).
So that being said, any programme in which a huge amount of work is required, it’s always best to build in small increments. A good way to go about this is the follow the 5% rule. That dictates that you only ever increase your output by 5% a week, allowing for your body to keep up and repair optimally.
So, on to…
How to write a programme
The best way to do this is if you have a specific event in mind; work backward from the event distances going down by 5% each time/week. If you do that all the way down to 0% you’ve got yourself a starting block.
From this point you find your actual starting point. This is at the distance you do or would find comfortable to complete at that moment in time; this then becomes your week 1!
After that you’ll need to incorporate some de-load weeks to allow the body to recover (basically a rest week only difference is that you keep moving), these are best placed once every 4-weeks and would involve reducing the distance covered the week before it by 40%.
The only things left to add at this point is the period leading up to the event:
Firstly, you want a bigger increase in which you will cover more distance then required on the event (known as overtraining), that allows your body to accustom to doing more than is required, making the event actually feel a little easier. This is done by carrying on the 5% increases for a further 2 weeks until you’re at 110% of the event distance.
Following this is a taper down to the actual event so that your body is fit and refreshed. This comes in the form of a 3 week drop off reducing the overall distance by 20% for the first week, another 20% on week two and then a final 25% reduction for the last week (this will be the week before the event/race).
An example of how this would look would be:
This is just a basic view of how it would look for that event, as you can see the options are there to either; start at a higher week if you already have a good starting point or starts from the very beginning if you’ve never cycled before.
In should also be noted, by no means do you have to do each of the distances as a single ride each week. Imagine the total distance as a total for a week instead of single rides/runs e.g. 30miles could be broke down into 2 x 15miles (you never see a marathon runner doing a marathon to warm up for a competitive marathon)
Complete vs Compete
There can be two different ways to approach an event/race. Some people do them as a means of proving to themselves it is possible to do. The other option is to train to either compete in a race or set a specific time. Neither is better nor worse than the other, all attempts are applauded.
– If the aim is just to complete a specific event or distance, then ensuring you hit the weekly target of distance and intensity of gradients (If it’s going to be route with lots of hills).
– If the aim is the compete, add different types of training stimulus each week to control intensity and improve both speed and fitness. One way of doing this would be to add intervals of either distance or time to do an all-out sprint as part of the overall run/bike e.g. 30mile bike with 6 lots of 60sec flat out sprints incorporated evenly.
Having a way to measure exact distance, speeds and intensities will make tracking and logging progress so much easier to do. The added benefit of doing so is; with apps such as Strava it will give you certain outputs for each ride to see how well you are progressing but also allows you to create your own routes to follow ensuring you’re hitting the correct targets each week.
Heart Rate trackers
Any form of fitness watches/straps/devices these days that will track heart rate are another great tool to have, especially for running events, as you can set certain runs in which you stick below a targeted BPM (beats per min) to improve on aerobic ability and test fitness levels be seeing how far you can go before your body becomes tired and starts working harder. Also heart rate is a great way to pace set!
Yes, we are tools the same way as any high level gadget on the market (if not better).
Having a coach will allow you to concentrate purely on just doing the exercises without the stress of all the calculations to keep up with. Also the added accountability which everyone needs at some stage.
Thanks for taking the time to read though this guide, I appreciate it was a little long winded, BUT hopefully you’ve learnt something from it that you can use to aid your own training.