What does the minimum effective dose look like?
The training for my 47th marathon state was a self experiment to answer this question. Rather than a 16-18 week traditional training, here’s what I did:
300 swings + 5K/day for 30 days
10 weeks formal marathon training
Rather than building a base of training volume with a bunch of miles that would later break me down or put me at risk for overuse, I did what I believe to be the minimum effective dose for building an endurance engine to then layer running specific training on top of: 300 swings and 5K worth of running daily.
The swings were anyhow- sometimes within one block of time (often 10 OTM for 30 minutes) and sometimes Pavel Tsatsouline “grease the groove” style (10 here, 20 there all day until I reached 300).
It is worth noting I am experienced in the kettlebell swing. This is not a new movement for me. I’ve been doing them for almost 8 years consistently at CrossFit (though we disagree on American versus Russian style swings) and my own strength programming. My Husband is both RKC and StrongFirst certified also so I benefit from his coaching on technique and healthy form. You cannot learn to swing a kettlebell through a YouTube or IGTV video, y’all…you just can’t.
The 5K was also anyhow- sometimes a race, often without a watch, sometimes 800m x 6 or some other speed work that equaled 3.1 miles.
Within the formal running training, I programmed for myself and pulled best practices from:
- Hansen’s Method – don’t go over 16 miles in a single effort
- CrossFit Endurance – long runs every other week
- Hal Higdon – 10% volume increase each week, 2 week taper
- Furman FIRST – key runs + total mileage
Each concept or take away is what I used in my own hybrid plan. It is worth noting that I have completed all of these plans, some multiple times, as written.
How did it go? By the numbers, remarkably well! I ran a very evenly paced 3:31:46 (8:05/mile) on a course that was 22 miles of double track trail.
That performance earned me 3rd female overall; anytime I can podium above age groups I am really pleased.
Outside the numbers? Even better. I stepped up to the starting line feeling healthy, rested, and eager to go long. You’d think this feeling would be a given for a marathoner, but oftentimes traditional training schedules have us riddled with injuries, mentally drained, and ready to hang up our racing hats for months after.
…not me! I feel so great, I’m already registered for my next race (100K trail) and mapping out the associated training in a similar pattern.
Will this work for everyone? No. You have to be an experienced runner and well versed in the kettlebell swing. I feel strongly about this specific movement because it not only builds an aerobic engine but also injury proofs your body.
Speaking of injury proofing, I’ll add that I did a strength progression (5×5 push/pull/squat) throughout both the 30 day cycle and the 10 weeks of formal training. This is non negotiable. Strong first.
I want to mention what I wore: ZYIA All Star Bra + ZYIA Copper Charged Tank + Lululemon Run Speeds. I’m not a ZYIA rep anymore
but still stand by this choice.
- All Star Bra($49): look, it doesn’t get any better than this. High neck with breathable mesh detail, ultimate support with zip up back. I don’t think I’ve ever run a marathon- this was lifetime number 54- without having some sort of chafing under my arms or at my bra line until this weekend. I didn’t even lube anything up! It’s almost a little suspicious.
- ZYIA Copper Charged Tank ($31): this performed exactly like the Lululemon Silverescent Racerback tank has in the past. No chafing, light material, breathable, stylish.
- Lululemon Run Speeds ($64): these are my gold standard and I don’t see that changing. I prefer the 2.5” inseam with the block-it pocket. They are flattering, perform well, and I like the two internal front pockets as well as the lined pocket in the back (where I keep gum and ibuprofen so they don’t get sweat soaked).
Great training, great race, great gear. I’m thrilled and only have 4 states to go until I’m at all 50 plus DC. Somebody pinch me!
To God be the glory!