John Feeney’s marathon training tips - week three

ARE you training for a marathon this year? Do you want some inside knowledge on how to get the best out of your training, or hints and tips to help you on the way?

Each week we will be bringing you the training diary of endurance sport specialist John Feeney.

He is writing a weekly schedule on topics covering everything from running physiology and training to choosing the right footwear, recovery and tapering.

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For week three, Feeney writes:

There are likely to be occasions when your marathon training is reduced or temporarily stopped due to injury or bad weather.

Unfortunately, training adaptations are reversible and may result in reduced performance when training resumes.

Maximal aerobic capacity (VO2max) and aerobic endurance are important determinants of exercise performance.

Although short term reductions in training are unlikely to cause any issues, VO2max and aerobic endurance should be maintained during prolonged periods of reduced training.

In addition to reductions in VO2max, your body becomes less efficient at utilising fat stores placing a greater reliance on muscle glycogen during exercise at the same intensity.

There may also be significant increases in blood lactate levels at the same work rate and decreases in muscle mass during longer periods of detraining.

So, what should you do if you have to reduce your training? For runners, a treadmill is the obvious option provided there is no injury risk.

Always ensure the gradient is set at one per cent to take the lack of air resistance into account when running indoors.

Cross-training using an elliptical trainer may be a suitable, sport-specific option.

For all cross-training sessions, it’s important to maintain the same frequency, relative intensity and duration as your normal training sessions.

If you are unable to take part in sport-specific exercise due to injury, arm cranking or deep water running in a swimming pool may help maintain VO2max or prevent a significant reduction.

In some cases, you may be able to reduce workload, rather than have a complete break and still maintain aerobic performance for up to three weeks.

This shows that enforced time off should not always be viewed negatively, provided low-intensity exercise can be maintained.