Training for the Chicago Marathon
This is a guest post by Christina Wood, Sports Performance Coach at The Athlete Factory.
Training for the Chicago Marathon officially kicked off for me in June. This will be my 6th full marathon and 4th (yes, 4th) attempt to BQ. I missed my qualifying time by 3 minutes at my most recent marathon, so I am pouring my heart and soul into this training cycle in hopes to turn my Boston dreams into a reality.
The next few months of my life will be dedicated to preparing for race day. From early morning runs, time in the weight room, to what I read, eat and how I sleep. I, however, do have life outside of running that involves a family and a full-time job, so it will all be a balancing act. But I am ready and excited to get training going and go see what I can do come race day!
Here is a look into how I am training for this upcoming marathon…
Over the years, I have read several books on running marathon training from Galloway to Hansons. I enjoyed the cross training information in the Unbreakable Runner and the speed work from the Run Less Run Faster book. I have pulled things from many of these readings to develop a program that seems to suit my training needs and life schedule the best. This program involves three key runs per week, including speed work, a tempo run and a long slow run. Since I ran my first marathon in 2010, I have always followed a three per week schedule and it has worked best with my training and lifestyle, so I continue to do so.
As a performance coach and gym owner, I am most comfortable and confident in my strength and conditioning program. I have three cross training workouts per week that include one day of biking (I’m a spin instructor) followed by lower body strength training, an upper body strength training day and a metabolic conditioning day. I feel as if it accompanies my running program nicely, making me a stronger and faster runner, as well as aid in recovery from my long runs.
Ahhh nutrition. I have to admit, I was one of those “run to eat” folks who thought I could finish a run and devour everything in sight. It actually caught up with me pretty bad during my first marathon when I ended up gaining several pounds by race day! As a bit of a foodie, I continue to struggle with making healthy choices especially post run, but I have certainly gotten much better over the years eating cleaner the majority of the time. Most days I measure my food to control my portions and make sure my meals are fitting into my macros. I fuel and hydrate much better these days and it shows during my performance and recovery. Of course I still do enjoy my chips and beer post long run, old habits die hard, but moderation is definitely key in maintaining a healthy racing weight
I’m a firm believer that we should never stop learning, especially when it comes to things that bring us great passion. I read at least one running-related book each month from training and nutrition, to mental game and biographies. I gain so much insight, inspiration, knowledge and motivation from reading about running. I am almost finished with The Runner’s Brain right now and I am deciding what to read next!
I never want marathon training to feel like a full time job. I already have one of those and I actually rather enjoy it. Of course sacrifice and sometimes stress do come with training for the full distance, but I do not allow it to consume me. Between my family, running a business and training for a marathon, I have quite a bit on my plate, but I do my best to always keep my priorities in check. A happy runner is a healthy runner after all, and the only way to stay happy is to stay balanced.
No great things can be done alone. Even though running is technically an individual event and not a team sport, it is so important to have a great support system of fellow runners. In the past, I often trained alone. The trail would get very lonely and there were times where I gave up rather easily out there. More recently though, and especially now for this upcoming marathon, I have gathered my tribe. We have similar paces and goals, and are there to push, encourage and motivate one another. In fact, we are all training for the same event, so we can not only help each other through training but also come race day!
In the past, I have taken an all or nothing approach to training. I was so focused on one goal and if it seemed like that wouldn’t happen, I was be absolutely devastated. Having experience three failed attempts to BQ, I am much more aware that sometimes, despite our efforts, things just don’t go our way. I am much better equipped now to handle whatever may come my way. But I also have more motivation and drive now than I ever have. I want that BQ so bad. I am laser-focused, working hard and visualizing my success!