This post is part two in the training series for those participants in this year’s March for the Fallen event. You are reading this for the following reasons:

  1. You’re probably insane.
  2. You are already signed up for the 2017 March for the Fallen (“MFTF”).
  3. You’ve said you are going to sign up. (pro-tip: sign up now!)
  4. You’ve said you would never do it in a million years, but I decided I’d guilt trip you into doing the event anyway. (pro-tip: sign up now!)

We are about 6 weeks out from the event and Dave Babulak is helping educate March for the Fallen participants with tips/pointers each week leading up to the event.

Dave’s knowledge package will include the following:

  • Training Rules
  • Workout Plans
  • Footwear and footcare
  • Uniform/Gear
  • Secret Weapons
  • On the March nutrition

Here is Dave’s second installment in the series: Workout Plan

There’s no one way to train and a lot of training plans can work. Here’s one I think is reasonable and realistic. However, I am not a professional trainer nor am I an endurance racing expert.

Please keep in mind what works for me may not work for you. Listen to your body! All that said, here’s what I’m doing this year. I believe it is better version of what worked for me last year.

Two types of workouts each week: Raise the Ceiling and Lift the Floor.

Raise the Ceiling.

Done once per week, the weekly long hike. Full kit, full load. The goal here is to build our max work capacity. We are teaching our body to endure a repetitive motion, under load, for hours on end – I know, good times! Find a trail and commune with nature. Don some headphones and listen to Wes and Jack yap away on one of their many podcast appearances. Find a loop course and get your spouse, kids, significant other, or friend to join you for a lap then do a few more on your own. Tip: when you get over 15 miles you may need to do all of the above. Make sure you get some hills in.

These hikes need to get 10-15% longer every week. Increasing the distance more than 15% in a week can leave you too worn out to complete the other workouts or worse, lead to injury. If you can do 8 miles this week, your progression might look like 8, 9, 10.5, 12, 14, 16, 10 (taper week). If you are already further along, that’s great. Getting in at least 1 hike over 20 miles will be very helpful. At the high end, I wouldn’t bother going over 22 or 23 miles. If you are not that far along, that’s ok too. Train where you are at and stick to a 10-15% increase each week.

These hikes should be challenging but you want to be ready for more training 2 days later. If you hike on Saturday you should be recovered and ready to go by Monday, Tuesday at the latest.

Lift the Floor.

Done 2-4 times per week. Walk 2 miles on an incline treadmill at 3.3 mph. Keep your heart rate below 180 – your age. These workouts are designed to increase aerobic capacity. We want to train our body to do as much work as possible at a moderate level of exertion. If you can complete all 2 miles with your heart rate below 180-age, increase the incline on the next workout. If at any time your heart rate goes over 180-age, drop the incline significantly, long enough for your heart rate to drop at least 10 bpm. Once your heart rate stabilizes at the lower rate, take the incline back up to your training level. Repeat this cycle as needed.

Specific example: This week I’m using incline 7 and I have a max training heart rate of 133 (yeah, that’s right). During my last workout my heart rate stayed below 133 the first 25 min but then it went over so I dropped the incline to 4 and let my heart rate fall to 125. This probably took a minute or so. Then I took the incline back up to 7 and was good for several minutes. I hit 133 again so I dropped to 4, recovered and finished back up at 7. The 2 miles takes about 36 min at a 3.3 mph pace. I suspect one or two more workouts and I’ll cover the full 2 miles with my heart rate below 133 and when that happens, I’ll start using 7.5 incline for all future workouts.

You can go a little faster or slower and the actual incline does not matter. There is nothing particularly magical about 2 miles but 35-45 min is a good time range. I like the treadmill because I can control and measure all the variables (speed, distance, incline, heart rate) but you can certainly do a version of this outside. The whole point is to start wherever you are and over time, increase the amount of work you can do at a moderate heart rate.

If the 35lb pack (water/food is extra) is giving you a hard time, go ahead and wear it for one of the Lift the Floor workouts. Wearing the pack for the long hike plus one Lift the Floor workout should be plenty. If you wear the pack, keeping your heart rate below 180-age will likely require a reduction in incline for that workout.

Putting it all together:

Weekly Plan 1: Hike, off, off, Treadmill, off, Treadmill, off. This is a basic, minimal plan. I think it’s a good starting point and probably gets the job done. It’s pretty minimal though so I think after a couple of weeks most people can handle and would be better off with Plan 2.

Weekly Plan 2: Hike, off, Treadmill, Treadmill (with pack if needed), off, Treadmill, off.  I think this plan gets it done with only one long workout. This is what I try to do. Some weeks I only get 2 treadmill workouts in but I’m also lifting weights 4 days a week. The extent of my weightlifting is sub optimal, but at least I’m tapering and trying to be smart about it. I only wear the pack on the long hikes.

Remember: more is not always better! Recovery is just as important as the training stimulus.

I’d love to hear your feedback, your training plans and any thoughts you have on training philosophy.