De-train to Re-train


by coach Amy Anderson

Fall Marathon training is off to a fantastic start.  Now that you’ve had a chance run with your group a few times, first-time marathoners may be wondering if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

Have no fear!  Rogue has trained hundreds of first-time marathoners to successful races and if you follow the plan, you’ll be successful too.

However, veteran marathoners (repeat offenders!) may be thinking, “BUT BUT that’s shorter than I’ve been running on Saturdays!  And those quality workouts?  They seem so… so easy.  What about all that fitness I built up over the spring?”

Well, you can add this to your list of trademarked Amy-isms: “You have to de-train to re-train higher

Wait, what?

Fitness doesn’t increase in a constant like this:


Instead, it goes up like this:


You have to de-train to re-train higher” is a concept called “periodization”, where training loads are varied in a systematic way to maximize the benefits and prime you for an optimal performance.

You’re already aware of periodization with respect to microcycles.  We sleep at night and that helps us recover to train more the next day.  We take a day off every week or 10 days and that helps us recover to train the next week.  Every 2-3 weeks we take a “down week” and that helps us recover to train for the next 2-3 weeks.  So you probably get it that time off actually makes you more fit, not less.

The same is true in macrocycles, or the big picture.  We all know people who run a marathon, then immediately (next weekend? next month??) run another, then another, then another.   They’re not de-training, and most of them are not re-training higherTheir times aren’t improving, and may even be getting worse.

Here’s the thing.  You will have rest breaks interspersed in your training.  It can be because your coach asks you to.  Or, you can force it on yourself.  Because even if your coach can’t make you take a break, your body will find a way, either through injury, illness, or burnout.  The thing is, if you do it as part of a structured, periodized plan, you’re still running.  If you do it in one of those other ways, you miss out on another trademarked Amy-ism: Consistency Trumps Volume.  

Of course best of all is Consistency AND Volume, but we’ll save that for another discussion. For now, remember that these early weeks are a critical part of your training cycle. This is the time for first-timers to develop consistency and strength, for the returners to absorb the work done in the spring and for everyone to prepare to push past previous limits – to re-train higher than you ever have before.


amybostonAmy Anderson has coached and run at Rogue since the beginning, and has enough time-tested words of wisdom – Amyisms – to write a book. She currently coaches Team Rogue PM, a premium group aimed at experienced, goal-oriented marathoners.