Peak week in marathon training is the final moment when you’re asking your body to push through. Every muscle in your body feels like it’s on lunch break, but you still have miles left on your long run.
Head down, now you’re wondering if this race is even possible.
Welcome to peak week!
Well I hope it’s peak week, it could just be a rough training day – those definitely happen too!
Today we’re exploring why your training plan forces you into that week of fatigue and how to add speed work to your plan without injury. It’s also really important to note that peak week shouldn’t be a massive jump in volume or speed from previous weeks!
What is Peak Week Training?
According to most studies, we can improve our fitness for four to six months before hitting a temporary plateau.
The goal of a training plan is to consistently increase mileage and intensity to a specific peak week, which will be the hardest week of training followed by taper to race day.
When we say hardest week of training, what that means is after months of building the cumulative fatigue is definitely starting to hit home. And yet this is the week where you might be doing your longest marathon training run with some goal pace miles.
It’s going to be doable, but tough.
By following this method, you are slowly taxing your body to create new levels of fitness, rather than trying to decrease your pace rapidly or increase mileage quickly. Your body is supposed to respond better to this training method rather than pushing yourself to a limit all the time.
When is Peak Week in Marathon Training
After base building, which includes hill work for strength, it’s time to finally add in some speed, which leads to your peak week of training and finally taper!
You may even notice your watch tries to predict when you are peaking! Ideally that means you’re hitting some of your highest fitness levels about 2-3 weeks before race day. That gives you time for a complete taper to allow your muscles to fully recover and adapt to the training stimulus!
Old training plans had runners peaking 3 and 4 weeks prior to the race, which leaves a lot of time where you feel like you can phone in training and runners showing up to the start line feeling really sluggish.
Two weeks seems to be the ideal time frame.
Because it actually helps you embrace tapering and it’s not so much time that you lose the benefits of the gains you make while building up to this tough week.
The goal is to push your body hard, give you a few weeks of recovery, and then let it all loose on race day for a PR because you’ve now trained both body and mind to go hard.
Since peak week can be confusing , does your coach hate you?
And exhausting, why would anyone run farther than the race distance?! I wanted to dive in so you know what to expect and how to overcome any obstacles you may face.
Why We Have a Peak Week (or weeks)?
Peak week is your highest mileage week of training, – which comes from slowly building up to your longest run – and is followed by taper.
Taper is normally dreaded by many runners, but not when you peak correctly – which is just a couple weeks prior to race day – and your body is now craving the rest. Tapering is important to give your body that recovery, and when you do it the right way – it will be extremely efficient as well.
Peak week will not only test you physically, but is also the time when you build a lot of mental confidence. It’s when you find yourself pulling out all the reasons why you CAN, rather than making up excuses to why you cannot. Plus knowing that the two weeks after you peak will be easier leading up to race day, makes it a lot easier to get through.
How to succeed at peak week marathon training
If we break it down, there are a couple of major things to focus on in order to come out of peak week stronger and successful!
- Try to simulate race conditions during your long run (seek out similar elevations or similar weather)
- Test out your marathon day gear to make sure it all fits exactly how you expect
- Focus on doing just what the training plan calls for, not more!!
- Dial in your race day nutrition (practice with your energy gels, are you carrying hydration, drinking from cups?)
- Using the appropriate amount of fatigue to create fitness means not overdoing it, just leaning in to the tough workouts
- Practice your mantras and visualization, when better than at this toughest part
- Fuel like it’s your job (think about post workout fuel for recovery, pre-run fuel to test you GI, all of it)
What Does Peak Week Include?
Well, that varies for each person. So it depends on your race and your own personal race goals! What are you hoping to get out of this race? Is it one you’ve done before or something new you’re trying for the first time?
Peak marathon mileage is going to vary by runner. I discussed this in how long should your longest long run be! While some folks may do 22, others are stopping at 18. There’s a huge variety and good reasons for it.
Create a list of goals (or just one single goal!) for why you’re training for the race in first place. It will then be easier to figure out what peak week will look like for you.
For those who are attempting a new half marathon PR and have been running consistently, peak week could include a run of up to 16 miles. Or for those training to conquer their first marathon it could mean your mid-week run is 10 miles and your weekend run is 20 miles with 10 miles at goal pace.
The nice thing about peak week is it will be tailored to your specific goals – but no matter what, it should effectively be one of your biggest weeks of training. It’s called peak week for a reason, right?Do you know when to do your longest run before a race? You might be surprised #runchat Click To Tweet
What not to do?
Did you miss a run? Did you have to cut a long run short? Life happens – don’t try to make it up and don’t feel bad!
Training plans are designed with a mix of easy, speed, and cross training to keep you progressing without leading to over training. Don’t try to go longer on that longest run and don’t try to go faster than prescribed, it all works together…but only if you aren’t playing fast and loose with the plan.
Oh, and don’t use this mega week as a good excuse to skimp on the right nutrition. It’s incredibly important during peak week (and any week) to make sure you’re fueling up on all the best food.
If you’re looking at your training plan and terrified of the big week, embrace it. You’ll be happier and better off in the long run (literally!) knowing you trained properly.
Know that this plan is designed to help you push through the discomfort on race day with the knowledge that you have before. Know that it’s designed to give you the power and strength to hit your goal. Know that it’s worth it.
Looking for more marathon training tips?
- Marathon Training Secrets
- How Long Does Marathon Training Take?
- Comparing the Best Marathon Training Plans
- Best Marathon Running Shoes
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