11 Week Conditioning Plan

With the days and weeks between now and the marathon flying by the time has come to get serious about my plan for success. I’ve read a few books and blogs and skimmed over many more with suggested training plans for first time marathoners and I’ve taken what made most sense to me given my goals, my schedule and my current level of fitness.

The plan has two parts—

11 weeks of conditioning

16 weeks of training

In this post I’ll outline the 11 week conditioning plan. As the end of the 11 weeks draws near, I’ll outline the 16 weeks to follow.

The major influences for the plan I’ve laid out for myself are:

Marathoning for Mortals by John “The Penguin” Bingham

The Non-Runners Marathon Trainer by David A. Whitsett, Forrest A. Doldener, and Tanjala Mabon Kole

I’ll be posting a more detailed review of these two books, comparing and contrasting them to one another in my very first review post.

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Goals

One piece of advice every text I’ve read has in common is not to get fanciful about a time goal for your first marathon. They all say to just worry about finishing.

There is no question in my mind that I can finish under the time limit of 7 hours. Even if I walked the entire thing I’d only be a touch over that limit. That said, I’m taking this universal advice to heart; I am not setting a time goal for the marathon.

I am setting some smaller goals.

  1. Finish the first 5k of the marathon in 30 minutes or less with no walk breaks.

  2. To be determined closer to Marathon Day: 10k time goal

  3. Have fun high fiving people and taking photos and enjoy running without ruining it by constantly doing math in my head about my possible finish time.

11 Week Conditioning Plan

For this 11 weeks I’m committing to more strict adherence than I observed for my March challenge. The point of this plan is to get in shape and gradually build the habits I’ll need for my 16 week marathon training plan. There will be two components to the plan, running and walking, and nutrition.

Running and walking Plan:

The distances here are to be done in addition to my regular work outs which include Yoga every Sunday and Monster Cycle at least once during the week and the occasional boxing class when I really need my ass kicked. These added walks and runs serve the purpose of re-acclimating myself to regularly traversing miles on foot and establishing a routine of carving out the time every day to do so.

Day 1 of my conditioning plan happens to coincide with the Muddy Princess Obstacle Run! I didn’t plan that but I think it will be a fun way to kick things off and establish momentum. I’ll do a post every Sunday or Monday recapping the previous week.

In general, I run for distance, not time. It’s more motivating to me to try to hit a distance because the faster I go the sooner I’ll be done. For conditioning I’m taking the time approach because I am hoping that this will help me to regulate my pacing and not go out too fast and end up getting injured as I seem to do every year when it’s time to start training.

That said, the times I’ve listed below are minimums. My plan for incorporating walking and running into my routine will likely mean that these walks and run/walks will be more like an hour long because that is about how long it takes me to get to the Dekalb stop (the stop on the Q in Brooklyn furthest from my home).

These are the minimums. I can always do more, but this is the baseline ramp up.

These are the minimums. I can always do more, but this is the baseline ramp up.

Nutrition:

I don’t believe in depriving myself and this is a pro-food, pizza-positive blog. I am outlining guidelines for making sure my dietary focus is on fueling my goals but I can and will have whatever I feel I need over the course of this plan and the rest of my life. That said, I’ve been getting a little careless with what I eat recently and don’t feel I’ve been respecting the signals my body is giving me with my food choices. Some changes need to be made in a few areas.

Snacks—

here are some things I tend to consume mindlessly that do not make me feel my best when I eat them. I am not happy when I consume these items in moderation; it’s easier to simply cut them out.

These are the cut items:

  • Crackers with or without cheese, hummus, other dips and spreads

  • Chips / bagged crunchy snacks like Chex Mix or Cheese Itz

  • Cookies

Instead, if I’m craving a snack I can munch on while I’m enjoying a movie or reading I am going to turn to popcorn (I bought a really neat popcorn popper!!), carrots with hummus, olives, and pickles, smoothies.

Meals—

I’ve also been eating way too much restaurant food which tends to contain WAY more sugar and other junk ingredients than I would ever include in a recipe I was cooking for myself. I’ve been pretty lazy about cooking at home, and while I’d like to commit to 100% cooking at home, I know that just isn’t realistic while I’m working full time and adding additional time commitments to work out. Plus— I love restaurants.

The easiest thing for me to cook at home is soup. Every Sunday I can commit to doing meal prep for the week IF it’s soup of some kind. Salad is something I pretty much only order out but that is a fine thing to order for lunch at work or out for film club meetings.

For that reason, for these 11 weeks I’m going to stick to a mostly soup and salad based diet. Both soup and salad provide outstanding opportunities for variety while limiting the availability of fried or misleadingly sugary items while eating out.

I never feel like I’m depriving myself with either option so it’s easy to default to those two items and still be happy and healthy and see results.

I can also enjoy pizza (or really anything I want) any ol’ time I please because pizza is the food of celebration and accomplishment and I plan to celebrate plenty of accomplishments over the next 11 weeks.

Beverages—

Alcohol contains a lot of empty calories and despite whatever nonsense article is out there claiming heart benefits from one glass one wine a day, (really though, what good did ONE glass of wine ever do anyone anyway?) is not actually healthy in any quantity.

I drink alcohol because I like it. I don’t need to ignore the ever widening research that shows those pop science articles about wine being good for your heart or career is outweighed by the damage it does to other organs. I’ve made an informed decision that I enjoy drinking anyway.

With that in mind, for the next 11 weeks (and the 16 to follow) I’m giving it up completely 6 days a week and imposing a 2 drink target / 3 drink max (over 2 or 3 hours) for the 7th day. I can choose to abstain 7 days a week obviously, but one day a week to enjoy brunch drinks with pals or wine at film club, or post race beers to celebrate, or even champagne in a bubble bath is a reasonable allowance and a 3 drink max gives enough room to feel free and easy about it. Other days if I’m feeling like I wish I had an alcoholic bev I can sub in a Kombucha.* or a seltzer water in a fancy glass.

I am going to continue to enjoy one latte or iced coffee with skim* in the morning but after that one I’ll switch to tea. No caffeine after 11 am. Sleep is so important and I don’t want to interfere with that.

I don’t drink juice* or sodas anyway so it’s not hard to say no to those.

*Alcohol isn’t the only beverage that is not healthy despite pop science that claims otherwise. Juice is not good for you. Milk is also not good for you. Kombucha may or may not have probiotic benefits but it also contains plenty of sugar and the science behind their claims is specious at best. Juice is just sugar rot water and Milk from another species is a totally gross and weird thing for a human to drink. I still like latte’s though, and the sugar in a kombucha is still better than any alcoholic beverage I could choose. We all have our vices. Just don’t lie to yourself about it being a healthy choice.

Amanda McCall