As you may remember, I've been doing my best to follow the Hanson half marathon plan for the last couple of months with a race goal of the SF Half Marathon. The Hanson plans focus on building cumulative fatigue, and let me say right now I'm finding out how that works. My legs and body really feel it with every run at this point, and dare I say I haven't even run the plan to its fullest. There are quite a few things I love about the Hanson plans and also a few parts that have been very challenging for me.
What I love.
Training paces: The book outlines training paces based on your goal times. Although I initially thought they sounded too slow, I'm learning that keeping these paces isn't always as easy as it sounds once the legs are super tired. The paces start to make sense.
Hard days versus easy days: They focus on hard effort days followed by easy effort days, meaning the hard days are really hard and the easy are really easy. I love this. I feel like I have the energy to do my speed workouts, and then it's ok to run the super easy pace the next day. I no longer feel guilty about running 'too slow' on other days, and that's been great for my mental AND physical training.
Recovery runs: In the past, I had never run the day after a long run and always took the rest day. That rest day was always followed by super painful calves and a bad run day. Running the recovery day after the long run has helped this issue immensely! I won't say my calves are never tight because I'm still me and that happens, but I'm amazed at how much better it's been.
Shakeout runs: Similar to the recovery run discovery, running the day before my long run or race makes me feel better on race day. This was another time I used to take rest days, but I've learned that's not the way to go for the same reasons mentioned in the recovery run section. If I want the day off, I'm much better off taking it two days before the long run or race and keeping the muscles active the day before.
Tired legs: Although during the run I sometimes hate how tired my legs feel, I know this will benefit me when I taper and get to race day. But let me say, I'm feeling like I need that taper right now!
Running more days per week: I used to run 4 days a week, maybe 5, and do some sort of cross training or rest the other days. I also tended to avoid running more than 2 days in a row. In my head that helped me stay fresh, not sure if it really made sense or not. The Hanson plan is about NOT staying fresh, so I've been running many more days in a row (sometimes 5-6) and also more days per week. I'm ok with it overall, but my body can feel the difference and I often find myself wanting to cut daily mileage back so I can manage to run more days of the week. As a side note, I took time to build to these additional days, stuck to the 10% rule, and didn't go nuts right from the start.
Running more weekly mileage: The Hanson plan calls for more miles per week, but honestly I have struggled to get much higher than I have been in the past. When I started running more days, my brain had trouble pushing through more miles on more days. I think I need more build up time here because doing both at once has been a mental (and maybe even physical) block for me. And more build up time is ok; it's better to listen to the body than to push everything at once. I've always been a low weekly mileage runner compared to many people, so this is something I can keep working on. That said, I feel a little worried at how tired my legs are when I hold around 30-32 miles per week. Hopefully it'll get easier as I get used to it.
Speed Workouts: I run my speed workouts with a track group, and I prefer to run the group workouts as opposed to going on my own. It's much more fun and motivational, and I still feel I'm getting a ton out of their planned workouts. When the Hanson plan goes from speed to strength workouts, I then have the dilemma of leaving the group or continuing with speed workouts. My decision was to stick with the group because that makes me happy, but that isn't technically following the Hanson plan.
Racing: I think race planning is the hardest part of the Hanson plan for me. I love to go to races and trail run events, which adds in harder days. For example, last weekend's Wildcat trail half wiped me out and made this past week less than stellar for training. The Hanson book suggests having one big goal race and maybe a couple of shorter ones to tune up, but overall they suggest not racing during training. That's not realistic for me, partly because I love the races and partly because putting so much pressure on one event is too nerve-wracking.
I haven't yet decided how I want to handle my next marathon training cycle for CIM. Using the Hanson half plan was a test for how it worked out on a smaller level, and I'm not sold on it as the right plan for my goals mostly due to less racing and changing my group workouts.
That said, I definitely want to keep working on more mileage and more run days per week because the tired legs approach is great. I also plan to continue the components of the plan I mentioned under 'What I love' as I get into marathon training. Going that route basically means I'll run many elements of the Hanson plan but at a little less intensity than the full plan. This is ok with me, because I believe in listening to the body and doing what makes YOU happy.
If you take on a plan that's stressful and takes away your run happiness, then you might forget why you even do it in the first place.