Are You Running Too Many Workouts in Marathon Training?

I was surprised that when I put up a picture about my workout on Instagram, I got quite a few questions from other runners about why doing two workouts is a rare occurrence for me.

Most weeks during marathon training I only do one workout per week.

This surprises a lot of people, but with marathon training, it is more about the accumulation of miles in total that really gets you ready; the long run of 2-3 hours and the workouts faster than race pace for more than a few miles.

I replied to a few people saying that I believe that is why so many people never make it to the start line of a marathon.

Not only because they are running their easy days too fast (I still run 8-9 minute pace on my easy days, and my race pace will hopefully be 5:50-6:00 per mile ish) in a few months, but I also think people overdo it on the workout side of things.

If you have a longer, workout with a sustained portion and a quality long run, meaning more than 2 hours, I believe that is enough to get you ready.

There is no need to do lots of speed workouts, and certainly not every week.

I understand most of you are not going to be running 80 miles a week, but if you are doing a lot of miles for you, and keep ending up with injuries or burned out, maybe it is time to consider removing some of those second workouts in the week.

Within a 10 day period, there should only be three hard efforts in there, and I count a long run over 2 hours as a hard effort just from the time on your feet.

If you really feel uncomfortable about doing only one workout a week, then you can do two within a 10 day cycle, but instead have only one long run.

This is actually what a lot of elites do; one long run every 10 days.

I essentially just switch out a long run for a second workout as we believe this plays to my strengths as a runner.

We also have a down week for long runs once a month.

That means if my usual long run is 18-24, we will take a week at 14-16. Bear in mind that for me, even the 24 is under 3 hours.

So I am not out there for 4-5 hours, and even the 24 milers, I only do once or max twice in a segment. Most of mine are around 20-22, which is about 2.5 hours.

Think about your training within a 10 day period, could you be doing too much?

I will share another week in the life of sometime in the next few weeks, but for now, this just made me think about the conversation Steve and I had when I interviewed him on the podcast.

Steve talked about the importance of the accumulation of workouts, and how important it is to have that coach to put a plan together for you.

As much as it seems to make logical sense in our minds (and I am guilty of this too), you cannot just take someone elses training, make a few adjustments to pace or distance, and think it will work magic for you.

Steve has made me see through marathon training, that there is so much more to this than the workouts themselves, you need to have a plan laid out over the months, with each and every run having a specific purpose to get you ready for race day….and yes, recovery days have a purpose of their own!

It is complicated. It is “just running”, but if you truly want to see just how good YOU can be, then it is worth it to find a coach.

That is why I am not coaching athletes…..well, of course in addition to not having the time 😉 but I believe that coaching an athlete is a VERY important job, that person is trusting you with their hopes and dreams, that can be easily shattered.

I just do not feel I have the ability to be able to create a training plan on my own for someone.

So my friends, PLEASE be very careful who you select as a coach. And if you can’t find one as of right now then feel free to take a listen to my marathon podcast series, it has 5+ hours of solid information all surrounding marathons.

Look at their previous athletes, not just the success of those runners in the short-term, but that they have lots of consecutive successful seasons, with improvement over years rather than just months.

You will often see a runner who makes HUGE jumps in performance, but then they either become stale, and never really progress beyond that, OR overtrained OR go through the endless heartbreak of injury after injury.

There are a lot of coaches out there who will do you more damage than good.

So do your homework, and for the record, I do recommend Runners Connect coaching plans for runners of every level, and no, I don’t get any commission from signing anyone up……but if you do join us, tell them I sent you.

Make me look good please 😉

Finally, if you are not ready to take that step to getting a coach, but you need something to get you through your next marathon, this marathon training schedule should be helpful to you (it’s free too!).

Apologies for the random jumping around of this post, but my brain is not functioning enough to be able to create a streamlined post.

Actually, that’s not true. I rarely create a streamline post.

Usually when I show Steve my posts before I publish them, his remarks are pretty much the same every time:

“It’s good, jumps around a lot, but otherwise good”

So you should be used to it by now.

But hopefully you took some snippets from today that can be helpful, or at least make you think. I may dive into this a little further in the future, but for now, after a busy weekend, I have a lot to catch up on.


How do you structure your marathon training workouts?

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  • When I create plans for my clients, I try to curate their workouts based on what will best serve them, but I give them a good deal of easy miles. Burnout is a very real thing, for brain and body, and overtraining is very hard to fight against once you are in the thick of it! Congrats to your sister and your family!

  • Sounds like you had a great weekend in Philly. Sad to have you so close than miss you! Too many workouts while marathoning is something I’m going to need to work on I think if I choose to go that route. I like racing a lot but I know that racing too much and long runs will add to another injury. But then again, who knows if I will actually get to the marathon LOL.

  • EXCELLENT advice, Tina! Ditto on your Runners Connect comments! I’ve been a member of the RC community for a few years now and couldn’t be more pleased with the support, coaching advice and plans I’ve received as an injury prone runner. What you’ve shared makes perfect sense, especially as I look back on my training which has been designed very similarly to what you recommend and has kept me in the game! BEST TO YOU in your upcoming Marathon and CONGRATS, AUNTIE!! Nothing ROCKS like family and nothing blesses a family like the beauty of a brand new life!!

  • I think that folks read “one workout per week” as “one run per week” on the Instagram post and that’s what caused the confusion for some.

  • Soren Brockdorf
    October 3, 2016 9:06 am

    Odd that one of your most profound post ever began with, I am afraid I do not have too much to say this morning.

  • Sandra Laflamme
    October 3, 2016 9:42 am

    You are the cutest! We missed you this weekend at the retreat but tried to channel you with some Tina dynamic warm-ups! I have to agree on Philly as its where I am from and I do miss it so sometimes! Congrats on becoming an aunt! How very exciting!

  • I love this post, Tina! I watched all of the Runner’s connect videos you linked to when I was first figuring out this marathon cycle and how I wanted to train and I found them super helpful!! I am guilty of doing too many speed workouts in the past. This time I focused on tempos and long runs, and was just second guessing myself as I’m now only 6 days out so this timing was perfect! I needed that reassurance that cutting way back on that 2nd workout was the smart thing to do this round. We’ll see how it all comes together on race day.

    And YAY for soon becoming an aunt!!

  • Great post, Tina! I love those Runner’s Connect videos are a resource in marathon training. Once marathon training gets intense, one workout and one long run is enough “hard” for the week when those miles are piling up!
    Congrats on becoming an aunt! What a blessing to your sister and your family!

  • I was surprised by the instagram comments too! I ran a very decent marathon time on 2 days a week of running and simulating workouts on the elliptical machine. A “coach” I know thought I was nuts and didn’t believe I did that. I think it’s so individual what someone needs. I’d never make it to a starting line (never mind week 2 of a training plan!) if I were running 100 miles a week or 2,3 hard workouts of pounding a week. Great post, Tina! Thanks.


  • Lindsay Knake
    October 4, 2016 1:39 pm

    This is great stuff. In my current marathon training, I’m finding two workouts a week plus long runs is too much for me. I’ve stepped back and tried to focus on one workout plus both faster and easy-paced long runs is enough for the rest and recovery I’m able to get with a stressful job. If my stress levels were lower, I might be able to handle more workouts, but I’m going to rethink my marathon training for my next one and look at a 10-day cycle instead of a 7-day cycle.
    I also realized I’ve been running my easy runs much too fast. In the past decade, the pace I consider easy has increased by 2 minutes, 30 seconds, so I have to be cognizant of my pace more than ever and slow the heck down on easy days.
    I’m hoping to salvage this training so I can still have a good race, but I find I need to dig myself out of a whole with less than a month to go.

  • Wait, one long run every 10 days? Oh wow I always thought it should be 7! And I suppose everyone’s opinion of long depends on their running skill, doesn’t it?

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