Consistency over time and why you should NOT panic!

By this point in your training program, you've likely experienced some great training runs, some tough training runs, and maybe even a skipped runs due to illness, or other interruptions.   One of the keys to marathon training is consistency over time with your training.  It's not about 1 great run, or 1 missed run, or 1 run that you stopped half-way through.  It's about the accumulation of the training over time.  The more consistent your training, the better the results. 

How do you know if you've been consistent?  Look back at the schedule.  How many runs did you do per the schedule?  And, how many missed runs/training sessions?  If you are at 80% consistency, that is pretty good.  If you are at 90% or more, that is very good!  If you are at 70% or less, I recommend improving the consistency assuming conditions are within your control (a prolonged injury or illness may require you to adjust your race plans).

Below are Common Training Concerns/Questions & Recommendations:

  1. Concern: I missed a week of training due to a minor injury. RECOMMENDATION: do not panic!  Assuming you are good (healthy) to return to training, you will be just fine if you have missed only 1 week of training.  My general rule of thumb is for every 1 day of training missed, it will take you 1 day of training to get back to where you were, up to a full week.  If you missed 3 days of training, 3 days back with training nothing lost (nothing gained either). If your injury extends beyond 1 week and forces greater time off from running, and you ARE able to perform quality cross training to maintain aerobic fitness, you should adjust your overall training volume when you return to running, as well as modify training paces and race goals.  If your injury has required an extended period of time off completely, then you may want consider a later marathon that will allow full preparation.
  2. Concern: 1 missed my long run because I was sick. RECOMMENDATION: do not panic! One missed long run in the 18-week training cycle is minor!  Even 2 missed long runs (ideally not back to back) can be ok.  Again, consistency over time is the key to success.  My rule of thumb is to never try to "make up" for a missed training session.  Meaning, if you missed your Sunday long run today (due to illness), do not try to fit it into the next week's training plan!  You will be on overload if you try to fit an additional high quality training run in.  Remember, there was a reason you were not able to do the run (illness).  Focus on getting healthy and being ready for the next long run!  
  3. Concern: I missed a week of training due to family/work/travel/other life circumstances: RECOMMENDATION: do not panic!  This is actually the easiest to bounce back with a great week of training.  Using my rule above, up to 1 week of missed training will take you 1 week of training to be right back where you were with fitness.  Do not try to put two weeks worth of training into 1 week and 'make up' the missed sessions.  Instead, resume your training on the current calendar.  You will likely feel a bit fresh!  Now, don't get over eager and go overboard because you feel a little fresh... again, do not make up and try to double your training week.   
  4. Concern: My training volume has been lower than my original goal due work, or injury, or illness. However, I have been consistently running each week.  RECOMMENDATION:  do not panic!  Your best option is to adjust your training goals and outcome goals.  If you originally planned to hit a peak mileage, say of about 50 miles, and you've only been 35 at the most, then your overall endurance/aerobic strength will be less.  Adjust your training paces (slower) and your goal pace for the marathon (slower) to reflect your mileage/strength. 
  5. Question: Should I switch my race to the half marathon if I'm not prepared for the full marathon?  RECOMMENDATION:  Decide soon!  If you are not getting in the training needed to safely complete your marathon, it may be wise to drop down to the half marathon.  You can defer or switch your registration for just $10.  However, if the half marathon race is full, you won't be able to switch.  Check the Buffalo Marathon Website for information on how to SWITCH YOUR RACE or DEFER.
  6. Question: Why does it look like it is so 'easy' for the fast runners?  REALITY CHECK: It is NOT!  Those "fast" runners are working hard, putting in a lot of miles and quality training sessions.  It may look effortless, but I assure you, there is a great deal of effort exerted! 

As you continue your preparation, remember CONSISTENCY OVER TIME is key, and DO NOT PANIC! 

Run Strong and enjoy the process. 

Vicki is a distinguished athlete and international competitor, Vicki competed in the 1996 US Olympic Trials in the 10,000 run. She made her marathon debut at the 1999 Hong Kong Marathon, where she qualified for the 2000 US Olympic Marathon Trials. In 2001, she was invited to join the Fila Discovery USA training program, a program designed to develop American distance runners into elite marathon athletes able to compete with the best in the world. She has been a member of five USA national teams, including the 1993 World University Games and 1998 IAAF World Road Race Championship in Manaus, Brazil.