Last night, a friend of mine reached out to me and asked for some guidance on how to prepare for the 2017 Boston Marathon.  This surprised me, because I wouldn’t be the first person I’d choose to impart wisdom as it pertains to training.  If you’ve read my prior blog entries, you know that I am a walking clusterfart when it comes to my daily routine.  However, I’ve been coached by some awesome teams, and their wisdom has stuck in my head – so I’m glad to pass that wisdom on.

I sat down at my laptop last night and basically did a data dump of stuff that I was told by coaches throughout the years.  For today’s blog, I’d like to share the game plan that I just emailed out.

(just remember: I’m not a certified running coach yet – I took the class – I need to take the exam.  If you are looking to go Couch to 5k, or Half Marathon to Marathon, there are certified coaches available all across the country that have forgotten more about training than I’ll ever even know.  Take a look on-line and gather as much wisdom as you can.  Find someone to train with that knows the ropes, and let him / her impart wisdom.  Then take that wisdom, go out and layeth the smacketh down on your goals.)

So without further adieu…


OK Shades, here we go –

Remember, I’m not a licensed coach – so make sure that you gain some wisdom from other people to fill in the gaps.  I’ll try my best to give you some basic guidance. I’m sure there are coaches that can also help you along the way.  One guy I also recommend that you reach out to is Brian The Bad Man Johnson.  This dude is awesome.  He knows his shit.  He’s the guy that developed my training program for Cali.  (He called that training plan “Mr. Johnson’s Opus”).  If you don’t know him – he’s my friend on Facebook.  Look him up.  He can impart some serious wisdom.

1.  Develop a Gameplan
It’s more than 14 months until Boston.  Way too early to start training for it as far as weekly running plans are concerned.  So I recommend that you find a few shorter races to run between now and April 2017.  We’ll use those races as targets during the year.  It doesn’t need to be a lot of races – pick 10ks or half marathons spread out over the next year.  The races will help you keep you focused on training.
2.  Lock Up Some Time
Once you select a few races to run, take a good look at your family calendar.  Figure out what times of day are open for training.  Then pick a time of day and lock it in.  That’s your training time.  It should be a time of day that doesn’t make you feel as if you are rushed to do something else.  Don’t cram training in, or else you’ll find yourself skipping some exercises or blowing workouts off all together.  (I do this all the damn time, and it sucks.  Don’t make my mistake.)  I want your training to be something you are psyched about.  Something that you both look forward to.  Make sure you go over the calendar with your better half, and take into consideration as much of your family activities as possible. (By the way – I suck at that, too.  I always double-book myself in the evenings, and guess what activity gets cancelled: my workout.  Again – don’t make my mistake.)
3.  Develop the Habit
OK – so now you have your race goals set, and you have your weekly workout schedule set.  Now it’s time to develop the workout habit.  It takes 21 days to develop a new positive habit – so for the next three weeks, get completely dialed in and don’t miss a session unless you absolutely have to choice.  Habits take 21 days to develop and only a single day to screw up.  (Trust me – I know that one too.)  What’s cool is that your better half will be doing this with you – so you guys can kick each other in the ass to get going.  That kind of motivation will make this MUCH easier.
4.  Nutrition
I know that you mentioned that part of this process is your desire to lose a little weight.  Losing weight is a fairly easy concept: you just need to take less in calories than you burn.  In order to understand what your diet currently looks like, you should log what you eat daily.  I use  It gives you the ability to break down what you eat as carbs, protein, etc.  If you don’t want to use a web-based application to track your food intake, use a notebook.  Just force yourself to log everything you eat.  Why?  Because it will make you think about what you consume before you do it.  That awareness will help you fight off cravings for crap. That being said – make sure that you reward yourself after you work your ass off.  Maybe you and your better half can say “hey – if we kick ass training this week, we’ll go to _____ for dinner this weekend.”  don’t deny yourself absolutely everything you enjoy eating – just take in less of it and know what those portions add up to daily.  And make sure you note which days you felt fantastic and which days felt like shit – diet may have been a part of the reason you felt those ways.
OK – so that covers game planning and diet.  Now let’s talk workouts.  We’ll break it down into 4 areas: Strength, Running, Cross Training and Core.  Regardless of what’s on the schedule for any given training session, I want you to remember that everything that you do, you do for a reason.
1.  Strength
Don’t rush a set when you are lifting.  Technique is more important than the amount of weight you can lift.  I’m sure your better half will back me up on that one.  When i am weight training for an endurance sport like a marathon or ironman, I have a single mantra that I repeat to myself (most of the time – but sometimes I say it out loud and people look at me as if I’m a tool): SLOW IS SMOOTH – AND SMOOTH MAKES YOU FAST.  Every set, do NOT rush.  Take your time and do it right.
If you want to build muscle size, you lift high weight with low repetitions.  You want definition and lean muscle mass – so we’re going with low weights with higher reps.  Listen to your better half – I’m sure he’s spent time in the weight room for football, so he’ll spot you, motivate you and he’ll watch your form.
I want you to think about why you are doing each exercise as you do it.  Trust me, there is a reason for everything.  I’ll share with you my full body workout that I do on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 5am.  IN THE BEGINNING, TRY TO PICK TWO DAYS A WEEK TO DO THIS.  Try 3 sets of everything to start.  LOW WEIGHT.  Your first time doing this, I want you picking weight so light that you KNOW it will be too easy.  Since your better half has your back in this, he’ll help you pick out weight that fits each exercise going forward.  Everybody is different – this is not a competition to see who can lift the most.
  • I normally start my strength workout with 3 sets of 10 shoulder shrugs.  Take 2 light dumbbells, hold them in your hands.  Stand straight and hold them at your sides.  Then simply shrug your shoulders.  This exercise works your trapezius (neck) muscles.  4-5 hours of your arms swinging back and forth during a marathon – your neck muscles need to be strong in order to enhance your performance.
  • Then take those dumbbells and begin working your deltoids (shoulders).  Hold the dumbbells at your sides, and then left them outward.  This exercise is normally called dumbbell flies.  I am betting your better half knows how to do these.  Three sets of ten to the side, followed by 3 sets forward.  Your shoulders are so important in marathoning – make them strong enough to handle 26.2 miles.
  • Next we will do 3 sets of bicep curls.  Low weight.  SLOW movement – this makes the bicep work longer and get stronger.  Arm swing is key in running.  Work your arms.
  • After bicep curls, do 3 sets of upright rows with a curl bar.  Again, I am betting your better half knows how to do these.
  • Next – 3 sets of dips.  These work the shoulders, back and triceps.  You can use a bench to do them if you like, or there may be a machine in your gym for them. Shoot for 3 sets of 10.  These will not be easy.  Take your time, and if you need to build up to three fulls sets of 10, then that’s fine.
  • Next – an exercise that’s normally called “lat pull-downs”: there should be a machine with a seat and pulley system, with a long bar hanging from it.  Sit in the seat, choose very low weight, and pull the bar down behind your head, touching the back of your neck.  This works your shoulders and back.  Efficient running requires good posture and controlled arm swings – your back muscles need to be strong.
  • Next – the bench press.  Go very light and have your better half spot you.  Three sets of 10.  This is the most basic gym rat exercise, and you are simply cooler because you do them.  Feel free to make those obnoxious noises that you hear the musclehead dudes make when they attempt to bench a Volkswagen.  LOL
  • We are ignoring your core while at the gym.  Why?  Because you can do your ab work in a few minutes, right before you go to bed, in order to jack up your metabolism and burn more calories as you sleep.
  • OK – time to hit the legs.  Your better half definitely knows this one: squats.  Low weight.  Proper form is everything.  3 sets of ten.  This workout hits the quadriceps and the glutes.  No explanation needed on why these are important….right?  LOL
  • Next, find the leg curl machine.  LOW WEIGHT.  3 sets of ten.
  • Last one: wall sits.  x3.
DONE.  You’ve done a full body workout.
2.  Running
Since you’ll have a race or two to focus on from the start, I’ll use my usual training schedule as an example.
  • Mondays, I’ll do a tempo run.  This is a run that makes you work the entire time.  You push yourself at a consistent pace – one where you don’t walk at all.  It’s a hard workout, and it sucks – but it helps to make you faster.  No music.  Dial in to how you are feeling as you run.


  • Tuesdays I either cross-train or do a very relaxed run.  Crank up the Itunes.  Slow pace.


  • Wednesdays are speedwork. Hill repeats, sprints, etc.  Shorter workout – but it sucks too.


  • Thursdays I either cross-train or do a relaxed run.  No time goals.  Just log some miles.  It helps the legs to recover.


  • Friday is a rest day.


  • Saturday is your long run.


  • Sunday you can rest or do a relaxed run.
Tempo runs are done at a pace that you want to run a 10k.  That’s what makes it hard.
Relaxed runs simply shake out the legs.  Take your tempo run pace and add 90 seconds.
Long Runs are run at marathon goal time pace and then add 60-90 seconds.  Example: so if you want to run a 10 minute mile in Boston, you should run 11:30 in training at the beginning.
Speedwork is just that: fast and short exercises.  It’s done at Throw Up All Over Your Shoes pace.
3. Cross Training
1-2 times a week, change things up a bit.  Go bike riding.  Swim.  Hike.  I don’t care.  Just get some work in with the better half.  Weight training is a form of cross-training, so you can count your lifting sessions as cross-training.  But I don’t want you ODing on running.  Change things up once in a while.  OK?
4.  Core
Core work:
Right before you crash for the night, take 10 minutes and jack up your metabolism.
3 sets of 20 crunches to start.
Then three sets of russian twists (I frackin’ hate these)
Then 3 sets of leg lifts.
End it with 3 planks.
DO NOT SHORT-CHANGE YOUR CORE.  The stronger your core, the stronger you’ll run.
Thus endeth the sermon.
– Joe



Author: backofthepacker

A slow running, wine slurping, Disney-loving, bourbon swilling triathlete that is simply looking to go from ordinary to extraordinary...and hopefully motivate others along the way.

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