Did you ever read a book that just makes your jaw drop? Every so often, we come across books or speeches or something that makes us think, “Oh my gosh. NOW I get it. I actually get it.” Hansons Half Marathon Method by Luke Humphrey, Keith Hanson, and Kevin Hanson has me reassessing many of my training practices. I’m not all the way through the book yet, but the philosophy is explained in the first chapter, and I must share.
As a veteran half-marathoner, I wish I’d found this book from the onset of my half marathon dreams. Even if you choose not to follow the plans, you can at least make sense of what the Hansons say are some very important aspects of training for a distance race.
Let me explain.
I’ve written this in a way that explains some of my poorer training decisions with explanations from Hansons Half Marathon Method. More than opinions, the book is based on scientific knowledge and studies.
MISTAKE #1: TRAINING BASED ON CONVENIENCE. There are two types of training: those that require you to be up at the ass crack of dawn and run six days a week, and those that tell you to fit running in on your lunch break “if you can.” Let me be clear about something: a short, lunch break run is better than no run!
When I started training for my first half marathon, aspects of the training slowly faded because “other things got in the way.” I was initially running three days a week, lifting weights, and cross training on a stationary bike or an elliptical. First, the weights went. Then, peace out to the stationary bike. Finally, I did nothing but run three days a week.
Mentally, this is not what you need. You do not need a training plan that makes tons of things “optional.” I thought this would help me avoid injury, but really, it probably heightened my chances and put me right in my place with a hamstring sprain.
Hansons Method makes it very clear that while life happens, training that varies each week or changes often will do you no good. And I agree. Focus and sticking with a training plan, to a tee as much as you can, is crucial not necessarily to run the fastest, but to finish the race without hurting yourself.
MISTAKE #2: NEGLECTING THE EASY RUN.
Believe it or not, none of my apps said anything about these “easy runs.” So, what did I do? I tried to run every single training run as a tempo. Tempo runs are those run at your desired race pace. However, it likely isn’t healthy, sustainable, or helpful. It will burn you out. It will up your chances of injury. It will leave you feeling like you hate running sometimes.
Because Hansons Method is focused on running on slightly fatigued muscles, a longer, easy run is beneficial for many reasons: tendon development, specific muscle fiber adaptation, bone development, mitochondrial growth and disbursement, glycogen storage/fat utilization, general endurance, improved running economy/accumulated mileage, improved VO2 max (52, fig. 3.2).
Like, really? This is science. I don’t think you can argue against hardly any of this. I will be honest with you: I ran my first easy run today. To. Day. I’d never run easy in any of my training plans before. Can I personally vouch for the benefits right now? No, I can’t – I’ve literally done one easy run. But what I can tell you is that scientifically, this makes sense.
Running at 100% all the time is not healthy, and apparently, it doesn’t do a ton for development. We cannot always be Nyquest, unfortunately…
MISTAKE #3: USING THE GALLOWAY RUN/WALK/RUN METHOD AS SPRINT/KIND OF WALK/SPRINT
I’m a big believer in Jeff Galloway’s run/walk/run method. I abused it, though. I don’t see much commentary about this method in my Hansons book, but I have plenty to share…
The run/walk/run method should be done that way: running at tempo pace, a brisk walk, running at tempo pace (during a race, of course – that’s when you want to run tempo!). I totally abused this method. Big time.
There I go, starting a run at 7:15 per mile for 3 minutes. When my watch beeped, I could barely breath trying to walk the next interval. When it beeped again, I could barely keep up. The result was either an unfinished training run, pace that suffered immensely, or utter frustration with myself that allowed negativity to take over my run.
This method is available to runners of all skill level to follow because they want to, not because they run so damn fast that they have to. I didn’t realize that until very recently (like a few hours ago, probably…). The point of walking is early recovery. You don’t recover when you’re sprinting the run intervals and practically jogging the walk intervals.
MISTAKE #4: AVOIDING SPEED TRAINING BECAUSE IT’S “JUST FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO WIN.”
Can you blame me for thinking that, though?! Doesn’t “speed training” just sound like it’s for people in the front of the pack?
FALSE. It is for everyone. Hansons outlines many benefits of speed training, many of which are not related to being a gazelle on the course: maximal development of muscle fiber, running economy improvement, increase myoglobin, improved anaerobic threshold, triggering of increased glycogen storage (67). I can’t explain a ton of this to you on the spot (the book does a much better job than me), but that I can tell you is this: The point is not to sprint your half marathon. It is to endure it at the pace of your choice and ability. Speed training will help you endure.
I did my first speed session a week ago. I was still a bit ignorant to how it worked, and come to find out, running 400 repeats “as fast as you can” is not the correct method. The correct method is to pick a 5K or 10K pace and run the repeats based on Hansons chart.
Mentally, speed training is very rewarding. It’s a short distance, so you “get there” in record time and feel accomplished. You also get the bragging right of “I’m sorry, I can’t go to lunch. Today is speed training day.” Say whaaaaat?! Own it – it’s a confidence booster!
If you’re like me, and you love mile races, this is great training for the mile and other short distances.
MISTAKE #5: SUBSTITUTING RUNS WITH CROSS-TRAINING ACTIVITIES.
I believe the quote in Hansons is something like “If you want to run, you have to run.” Makes sense, but it’s something that I know I have neglected many times. A bike ride is better than nothing, but it is not the same as running. Replacing runs with cross training should be a last resort, according to the book.
Too much low-impact activity may not prepare you because running is not low impact; it’s high impact. I can’t tell you the number of times I thought “well I’ll just do X instead.”
The Hansons training plans are a bit intimidating at first. All of them, including the “Just Finish” plan, are made up of six days of running. Six. This is drastically different than many novice (and even intermediate and advanced) plans out there. But, the theory makes sense – running will make you a strong runner.
I’m still healing up, guys. Still battling the ITBS on the left, but it’s getting better! I hope to train for my next half using Hansons Method. I’ll be finishing the book soon.
Keep in mind that I am not a doctor, trainer, or running coach. All of this information is based on a book, The Hansons Half Marathon Method, other training resources, and my personal experience. You should not take this information as medical or training advice, but more of an editorial or commentary. You should not begin training heavily without consulting a doctor or health professional. This blog and author are not responsible for any injuries you may incur that result from any attempt to perform any of the exercise outlined in this blog entry.