Issue: How should you modify your plan based on what your body might be telling you?
Solution: "I try to get people to do less first, not more," says McMillan. For example, if the workout of the day is a 4-mile tempo run, try to run just 2 miles at your 4-mile tempo pace, and then stop there. Don't be tempted to run more unless you're really feeling good, and don't dwell on the fact that you didn't follow exactly what your training plan prescribed. You will still benefit from the stimulus, and you'll get a sense of how running at that pace should feel. Work yourself up to 3 miles, then 4 at this pace.
"The training in the beginning should be very easy to accomplish. If it leaves you feeling like you can do more, then you're probably in the right zone," says McMillan. "As you get into the meat of your training, you will have workouts that are more challenging to complete. The training should be in small doses because we need to allow for the stress-rest cycle to occur."
Issue: You had an unexpected layoff during training, but you're ready for a comeback. Should you start back where you left off?
Solution: No. You'll want to insert a rebuilding phase of a week or two, where you ease back into running—especially if the layoff was due to injury. You don't want to do too much, too soon. When you're confident your body can handle the stress of running, you can work back to your training plan if all systems are go.
If you're training for a marathon and took a little bit of time off for a niggle, you don't need to spend time building your fitness (you're already fit), but you want to do things to feel like a runner again, says McMillan. Getting back to the consistency and frequency of your plan will help.
Issue: You've toed the start line feeling sluggish and awkward in the past. How can you show up on race day feeling fresh and ready to run?
Solution: Examine what you did during your pre-race taper in the past. McMillan proposes that runners execute a short taper, and only a two-week taper before a marathon. Showing up at the start line tired can mean you didn't taper enough, but more often, runners rest too much, and they take themselves out of the racing game. "I'm a fan of keeping the rhythm up, of keeping the same frequency of running during the taper. So, if you normally run four days a week, don't suddenly run two days a week because the body will react negatively to that. Run for four days, but run everything shorter by 25 to 50 percent." Insert a few "feel-good" workouts into the taper to boost your confidence, and remind the legs what honest efforts feel like.Consider this: You likely ran one or two (or more) tune-up races during your training cycle to prepare for your goal event. Think about how much you rested before these tune-up races—probably not much. The same principle applies to your goal event. "You don't have to taper much to get a peak performance," says McMillan. "It's too bad we didn't call it freshening up because then we wouldn't think about resting so much."
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