Trust Your Training

You’ve been working hard for weeks, perhaps even months, and your fall marathon is looming in the horizon.  You have multiple friends who are experienced endurance athletes and as you approach the big day they start handing out all sorts of advice and ideas for your training.  Before you know it you are wearing new shorts, trying new shoes, and changing your training routine so that you can finish just like they did.


Noooo!!!!  It’s like a coach’s worst nightmare.

The other day I was sitting in a meeting at the Bank of America building where the discussion was centered around the upcoming Chicago Marathon.  We are just weeks away and the last piece of advice given by one of the directors was, “Encourage your athletes to stick to their routine.”  Now is not the time to start experimenting.

For months I have emphasized the importance of figuring out what works for you.  What kind of foods can you eat the morning before a long run?  How long does it take before your stomach is working properly and you can head out the door?  Which sports bra can you wear for 20 miles without chafing up a storm?

By now you will have spent months running and hopefully following a training plan.  You will have logged hundreds of miles and turned yourself into a running machine.

As much as the running component is important for your training, so is figuring out what the perfect combination is with the other elements.  It is a tricky thing to figure out too.  I had one athlete recently tell me that although she has loved eating a certain type of fuel on her runs, she discovered that on really long runs she will find herself stranded in the bathroom.  She switched to Gu and her long runs go much more smoothly now.  It took her a few weeks but now she has a plan of action and will use the Gu on race day.

Earlier this year I made the mistake of buying a pair of shoes that “looked” fun and later ended up with a serious Achilles injury.  It was silly mistake on my part.  So you can imagine how bummed I was to hear that another athlete took the recommendation of an ultra running friend and switched to their preferred shoes with just a few weeks left in training.  He complained of nagging pain in his Achilles area that wouldn’t go away.  All I could tell him to do was put those new shoes aside and go back to his “plain old pair.”  Although those shoes helped his friend run ultras, they weren’t the perfect choice for this particular race.  His friend might also have a different build as well as a different gait, and likely trains in a different manner.  All of these factors can affect which type of shoe you should be running in.

It is important to remember that when you first set out on this journey you had a plan.  Hopefully you found a trusted training plan or had someone help set you up with something that would work for you.  Training plans vary and it is important from the start that your plan fits you as an athlete, just like your shoe should fit your foot.  Your plan should be made with your level of fitness in mind, the amount of time you can commit, the amount of miles your body can handle without injury, as well as your own personal goals for a particular race.


One of our athletes set out an a 22 mile run this past weekend and several people asked why she had that in her plan when many others only have a 20 miler as their longest.  While many people are running their first marathon, this particular athlete is on an advanced plan for a different race and is hoping to qualify for Boston.  In my opinion a 22 mile long run isn’t always necessary in marathon training, especially for beginners or first time marathoners.  Some coaches don’t even have a 20 mile run in their plans.  I personally prefer the 22 mile long run as part of my marathon training but wouldn’t necessarily put it on most training plans unless I felt it was truly appropriate.

It would be tempting for some athletes to see a girl take off on a 22 mile run and think that they might also need to do that in order to finish.  A fellow runner might tell you that they added speed work to their weekly schedule to help them qualify for Boston, but that might not be necessary if you are running with the goal of simply finishing your first marathon.

The best thing you can do for yourself if you have a good plan from the beginning is to trust your training.  Before you start out make sure you have a plan that is appropriate for you.  Stick to that plan, accommodate for injuries or other factors, and continue on the path you set out on.  Don’t allow other people’s well intentioned helpful hints or ideas throw you off of your course.



A good training plan should be periodized.  There should be weeks of building as well as weeks where your mileage scales back.  As important as the weeks of building are, your body relies on the scale back weeks just as much.  This is where your body repairs and recovers and prepares for the next step.  Just as climbers work their way up Mt. Everest, they stop at base camps and don’t simply climb straight to the top.  Remind yourself of the importance of these shorter mileage weeks when you are tempted to throw a few extra miles into that long run.  Remember that there is a reason why you have a shorter long run that week and that it is part of the grand plan.

Remember, smart and steady will help you complete your race.  Once you cross the finish line you can start experimenting if you must.


19 thoughts on “Trust Your Training

    • Never too late. Sometimes we have to adjust for life and for injuries. You’re on track and being wise. Keep up the great work. Looking forward to getting to run some of the marathon with you!

      • I am sooooo unbelievably excited to run with you and the rest of the team. It’s going to be an amazing weekend!!! I will never forget this experience, not just the marathon but the months before. Talking with April the other day, I requested we keep out group open indefinitely. I want to maintain our relationships for socializing, support and maybe even go through all this work again next year 😉

  1. In the words of the first commenter: Excellent advice, coach. Way back in the spring, when Mama Salt was about to run her first marathon, I wrote a post about dealing with marathon taper crazies, and the biggest and best piece of advice that I could or would give anyone training for a race is to trust your training, and to apply the lessons learned during it to the day of. When i was freaking out before my marathon last year, wondering if my ITB would hold, ultimately, I just had to trust that I had done everything that I could, and it would either work out, or it wouldn’t. It is the awesome and frustrating part of running.

  2. I am into week 13 of my 18 week (first) marathon training. I have so many butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it. I’m nervous about everything. My 16 miler was a disaster but I finished it. My 12 mile this past Saturday seemed like a breeze maybe because it was cooler. Weather and temps are very important to me and my performance and attitude. I have 18 miles coming up this Saturday. I read your posts often and it is hard for me to trust my training. I just want to finish in the upright position! I’m 54 so I am not speedy. Truthfully, it’s the longer runs on Wednesday that is my biggest challenge. I’ve worked a 12 hour day and then come home to run 9 miles! Those are the worst. Thanks for your posts. 🙂

    • You’ve got this. Stick with it. Remember that these summer temps and humidity make perceived effort feel even harder. Come marathon morning it will be so much better and you will be ready!

  3. Thanks for the insights! I need to remember this always. My 4th marathon is Saturday and I get freaked thinking I haven’t done enough. I know I need to stick to my “nothing new on race day (and month)” mantra, but it’s hard.

  4. I like this advice and agree that you can’t compare training methods. If you stand at the finish of a 5K race and ask how people trained, no 2 people will tell you the same thing. You will have people from walkers to Couch-to-5Kers to mid-pack, age groups, and more elite people… but they will have all finished the 5K.

    It’s definitely fine to try new things in training, but you try on an easy training run and not a race or very important run. I’d rather find out that a pair of shoes or a fuel isn’t right for me on an easy 4-mile run than in the middle of a half marathon.

  5. Thank you for always having an insightful blog post for me to read! Sticking with your plan + trusting your training is oh-so important on race day, even those longer-mileage days. I plan to share a link to your blog [you’re a favorite blogger of mine] on my Facebook fan page. 🙂

  6. Excellent advice. I’ve been doing this for about 12 years and this is how I roll.
    Chasing after the latest idea or recommendation may be okay in the first 3rd of your training, but eventually you need to settle on what works and stick with it.
    Sometimes trying a new shoe can cause you so much discomfort that it will mess up the next few weeks of your training.
    Try new shoes during the off season.

  7. I love the comparison of Mt Everest base camps. That’s a great analogy for not just running, but many things in life. Your insight is always refreshing and down to earth!

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