How to Portland Fit

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We’ve talked about What is Portland Fit and Why You Should Train With Portland Fit.  Now let’s talk about How to Portland Fit!

Our program is designed to effectively and safely train you for the marathon.  We should mention that there are about as many marathon training schedules as there are marathons.  Some dictate more mileage and some less.  Some are 26 weeks and some are 20 weeks.  But you’ve decided to train with Portland Fit, so let’s focus on our strategy.  If this is your first half marathon or marathon, don’t let others persuade you to change your schedule.  They could be Blue runners and you may be a Red runner.  Not all schedules (or runners) are created equal.  Please trust our system (the one that’s been training thousands of runners and walkers for 15 years).  When you are ready to train for your second event, then you can start fine-tuning the schedule.

Portland Fit is first and foremost a running and walking program.  [Secret: you don't have to do a half-marathon or marathon to participate in Portland Fit.  In that case, see below about modifying the program.]  But if you do want to do the half marathon or marathon, it’s all about following the program.

Following the Program
We’ve learned that the closer you follow the program, the more successful you will be.  But remember — this doesn’t just mean doing the runs or walks on the schedule.  Just as important is following the prescribed rest days.  When we say “follow the schedule,” we mean doing the runs and walks AND obeying the OFF days.

  1. Attend on the weekend.  Woody Allen said that “80% of success is just showing up.”  That’s true about Portland Fit, too.  We hear over and over again how much easier the long days are when you run or walk with the group.  So the most important part of the program is showing up for the long run at our meeting location.  When does the group meet?  In the past, we’ve added start times to the training schedule on the weekend day.  For example the yellow calendar might read “4 miles (7:50).”  This means the Yellow group is going to run 4 miles starting at 7:50am.  If it doesn’t include a time, assume it’s 8am.
  2. Follow the training schedule.  Our training schedule page tells you how much to run or walk each day.  Or when not to run/walk!  OFF = rest day.  Don’t overdo it!  During the week the schedule is in minutes.  20 = 20 minutes.  Just run or walk out 10 minutes and then turn around.  It’s that easy.
  3. Complete your long run/walk.  If you can’t attend a Portland Fit training session, do it on your own.  That might mean running or walking later in the day.  Or doing it the next day (see modifying the program below).
  4. Respect the rest days.  Rest days are as important as training days.  And overtraining is the #1 cause of injuries.  So when the schedule says “OFF” — don’t do anything.  Don’t run.  Don’t do a lot of weight training or other cross training activities. Rest is critical to your success.  In the beginning, you may feel like you aren’t doing enough, but trust the schedule.  Please note: this is never more important than the day before and after your long day.  Take. Those. Days. Off.
  5. Get to know your color group.  The more people you know among your color group, the more likely you’ll attend.  You’ll look forward to running or walking with them.  And you’ll keep each other accountable!  If you don’t yet know your color group, follow the Red schedule.  Most schedules are similar in the beginning.  Ask a coach on your first day to help get you in the right group.  If you attend one of our Orientation Days, we’ll do a group run and walk and assign you to a color group at the end.
  6. Ask the coaches (Red Hats) questions.  If you have a question, ask a coach on the weekend.  With a group our size, it’s impossible to do one-on-one email coaching or other methods.  But we have almost 100 coaches and assistant coaches and they will stick around on the weekend to answer any question.  So just ask!
  7. Have fun!  If it isn’t fun, it’s not worth doing.  And you won’t do it.  We work hard to make our program enjoyable, educational, and entertaining.  So let us know if it’s not fun and we’ll see what we can do.  If you aren’t having fun, we’re doing something wrong.

Modifying the Program
There are a few instances where modifying the program is necessary.

  1. If you miss a long day.  If you are sick, or traveling, or otherwise incapable of getting your long session in, you’ll have to make an adjustment.  First priority is doing the long run (or walk), so do it on the first day possible.  Second priority is taking rest days.  Then midweek days.  If you are following a Saturday schedule, but can’t do it until Sunday, do it.  This means you probably didn’t run on Friday or Saturday.  Run Sunday.  Then take Monday off. You can run again on Tuesday.  Then try to get back on schedule as best you can.
  2. If you miss a midweek day.  This isn’t that big of a deal.  As long as you keep the same number of rest days and you respect the Before/After rest days around a long run, you can move midweek runs (or walks!) around.  Or you can just skip the midweek day.  The more widweek days you complete, the easier the long day will be.  But too many midweek days are not good.  Learn to love your rest days!
  3. If you don’t want to do the marathon.  It’s OK to do Portland Fit without doing the target event.  The easiest modification is just taking out the really long ‘benchmark’ days.  In our marathon program, that’s our Helvetia Half Marathon, the 25K, the 30K, and the 21 miler.  Just do the ‘regular’ long runs and the weekly schedule if you just want to increase your fitness.  And in that case, we’d love to have you as a volunteer on the Benchmark days!  Just send us an email.
  4. Skip speed training and hill training.  Sometimes our schedule calls for hill training, tempo runs, and speed training. Those can be a fun variation on our regular training, but they are optional.  If this is your first training season or you otherwise don’t want to try them, just skip them and do a regular easy run or walk that day.  For more information about those, read our detailed description here.
  5. Substitute another activity midweek.  There are two reasons to do this.  (a) You are involved in soccer, softball, dragon boat racing, etc and have a commitment.  You can replace one of your midweek days with a different activity.  IMPORTANT: these extracurriculars are the number one source of injuries during the program.  If this is your first marathon, it is suggested that at some point, you forego outside activities and make a commitment to our marathon goal.  But don’t add them to your training schedule.  Replace.  (b) If you feel yourself getting tired or hurting, it’s advisable to either skip one midweek day or replace it with a non-impact activity like elliptical, biking, or swimming.  This is an injury prevention strategy. Talk to your coaches for help in finding the right balance.  Due to something called the specificity of training, we want to make sure that running or walking is the primary activity (hence, the long days should not be substituted).  But do talk to your coaches if you have concerns about modifications.
  6. Tweaking the mileage.  We advise only attempting this after you’ve already successfully finished a marathon or half marathon.  Some people like to experiment with more mileage (either overall or on specific days — like adding an additional 20 miler or something).  Everyone’s different, but please only attempt when training for your second marathon.

If you have question or comments or suggested changes, please post a comment below.  Thanks for choosing Portland Fit as your half marathon or marathon (or just fitness!) training group.  We hope you have as much fun as we do.