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Marathon Training Schedule - The 5 Cornerstones

Your 26.2 was launched in 2011 by renowned coach Jesses Kropelnicki, founder of the nation's leading triathlon and nutrition services websites, QT2 Systems and The Core Diet. Your 26.2 is a running-specific subsidiary whose mission is to take the guess-work out of marathon training. Our well-established and proven training, racing, fueling, and nutritional protocols have improved marathoners across the world, and the Your 26.2 program will continue to help athletes attain PR times year after year.

Although Your 26.2 is primarily geared toward marathoners, runners of any distance can benefit from its principles. Your 26.2 aims to meet the needs of those athletes who have experienced a great deal of success on their own, but have since reached a plateau. In addition, Your 26.2 was established to help those who are habitually injured and/or find themselves burned out. In general, runners typically believe that a good pair of shoes is all they need to train. They just open up the front door,and head out for a run without a real plan of attack. This is mere exercise, whereas the principles behind Your 26.2 will turn that exercise into actual training.

In addition to Head Coach Jesse Kropelnicki, the Your 26.2 support team includes a nationwide network of 13 coaches, and 5 registered dietitians. Unlike other programs that align themselves with general nutritionists, Your 26.2 employs the services of The Core Diet, whose primary focus is on sports nutrition. Each of the coaches and dieticians in the Your 26.2 has used this diet themselves, and therefore fully understands the training protocol. What's more, they are true believers in its effectiveness and ability to produce long-term growth and results.

This blog entry provides a summary of the Your 26.2 training program, but additional information can be found by watching one of our previously recorded webinars. See below…

Your 26.2's preparation protocol focuses on five primary cornerstones: Training, Nutrition/Restoration, Race Fueling, Race Pacing, and Mental Fitness. These areas ensure that all aspects of an athlete's potential limiters are fully considered and accounted for. The well-rounded preparation in this plan enables the athlete to simply show up at the starting line on race day, without the frantic last-minute adjustments or concerns that plague other athletes.

While most athletes will train to the best of their abilities, they often wind up disappointed with their performances, despite months and months of preparation and sacrifice. Over the years, we have essentially nullified this effect through fully customized training plans that take testing, personal/logistical limiters, physiology, mechanics, strength, and body composition into account.

Each Your 26.2 Customized Membership includes a training plan that incorporates appropriate stress increases, based upon previous sustainable training and racing volumes. We develop fully personalized training plans that work within your logistical limiters, utilizing event-specific durability, restoration protocols, and detailed periodization to get you to the finish line as quickly as possible.

The training piece of Your 26.2 customized plans approaches race day performance from two different avenues, namely speed potential and durability. Athletes training for a goal race do so by developing leg speed, through a focus on aerobic based training with a gradual increase in stress over time. While the athlete is developing greater and greater speed, they're also building the durability to maintain it over the entire race distance. In comes Critical Volume, which is the training volume that needs to be attained in order to maintain the paces suggested by one's speed potential for any given race distance.

Historically, short-course athletes have primarily trained to increase their speed potential, while long-course athletes have opted to focus on durability. As a result, the short-course athletes became very fast, and broke down quickly as the race distance grew; while the long-course athletes were able to handle just about any race distance, but lacked any significant turnover. Your 26.2's two-pronged approach hits training from both angles, creating fast athletes who are able to stay the course, and maximize the mantra that Race Day Speed = Durability + Speed Potential.

Your 26.2 athletes train according to HR zones that are calculated relative to the athlete's particular Lactic Acid Threshold, the point at which the body can no longer buffer lactic acid as quickly as it is created. To this end, lactic threshold is typically established through field-testing, which captures an average HR over a given race distance. Along with maximum and resting HR's (The Karvonen Method), this can be analyzed to determine the athlete's threshold and corresponding HR training zones.

Once these HR zones are established, the athlete used them every single day, with the exception of "best effort" intensity days, when HR is not measured. The bulk of the runner's training takes places in Z1, which tends to fall within the "3 to 5" range on the perceived exertion scale of "1 to 10," (with 10 being the hardest). Initially, athletes are concerned that they are not training hard enough, because perceived exertion will be very low and paces are quite slow, relative to others. As the runner becomes more fit, the cardiovascular system dilates, causing HR frequency to slow and stroke volume to increase. This makes it significantly more difficult to get into an assigned training zone. All the while, the body is able to keep up with (and adapt to) the increase in intensity because the peripheral fatigue has been offset by a gradual improvement in overall durability.

The patient athlete sticks to his/her training zones, allowing the body's soft tissue to stretch and strengthen over time without injury, and then reaps the aerobic rewards of consistency in training. The impatient athlete is easily frustrated by the early training zones, and ignores them. This builds short-term fitness more quickly, but increases the runner's risk of significant injury, due to soft tissue that is not prepared for the demands that are being placed upon it. Great fitness is useless when it can do nothing but sit on the couch for two weeks, because of an injury.


We base our general nutritional philosophies on the "core diet," as referenced above. We offer plans with both quantitative and qualitative guidelines, to appeal to the athlete's preference (some prefer specific numbers when it comes to how much to eat, others prefer a simple description). Just as physical training is periodized, so too is the nutritional plan (that means pizza is permitted during certain times of the year, yeah!). The basic idea is to learn when it's best to consume (or avoid) certain types of food. For example, athletes should stay away from grains and refined sugars unless they're consuming them during workouts (or within a certain window preceding or following the workout). They should focus on nutrient density between workouts, and seek out low glycemic foods (lean meats, fruits, nuts and seeds) to maintain a low, steady blood sugar. This helps to keep off excess body fat. For custom nutritional programs, we further refine an athlete's plan by evaluating their BMI and body fat composition to determine what the ideal parameters are for this person based on their age, gender, etc.

Race Fueling

Practice makes perfect when it comes to race-day fueling, which is why we encourage athletes to use their race-day fueling strategies during training periods. Doing so transforms these habits into second nature (some of our athletes have been doing this for more than five years!). In order to evaluate an athlete's specific fueling needs, we ask them to complete a comprehensive questionnaire to determine the fluid and sodium requirements for each race distance. From this we can determine the amount of carbohydrates an athlete needs for a race, based on the course distance, the person's lead body weight and gender (this becomes the athlete's carbohydrate loading program). Additionally, the fueling plan we provide to athletes includes a detailed race-day breakfast protocol for long-distance events. All plans are made available through the

Race Pacing

The overall goal of establishing a race pace is to keep the athlete's HR stimulated enough to secure a strong finish for the final 10K of the marathon. This is based on the athlete's ability to maintain a consistent pace throughout the day, and the athlete's specific event durability. For the latter, we're looking at how close they come to critical volume levels (a minimum of 60 miles per week for the marathon). For those who fall below this weekly mileage, we implement the run/walk strategy (walk 0:05-0:10 seconds every two miles, and run at all other times).

We also have a unique run calculator that accounts for one's actual training volume. As a result of that feature, an athlete's absolute durability can be predicted. This enables athletes to put together a more reasonable pacing strategy, based on the HR zones described earlier (Z1, Z2, etc). Additionally, we offer a very detailed pacing analysis for athletes we work very closely with.

Mental Fitness

Mental-skills training is an area that every athlete should explore. Successful athletes learn how to increase their mental fitness as a tool for helping them reach new limits and develop sound racing strategies. A strong mind can lead to a groundbreaking athletic performance, but a weak mind can quickly unravel one. Specific mental fitness protocols are currently being developed for the Your 26.2 program and will be available soon. In the meantime, please refer to the webinar above for more details.

At the end of the day, there is no magic to running a successful marathon. It comes down to having a disciplined approach to the way one trains, fuels and thinks. Athletes must look for a plan that enables them to work toward consistent aerobic development; determine their ideal race pacing and fueling strategy and develop confidence in their ability to succeed.

In addition to pacing, we look at goals. When it comes to setting goals for a specific race, there are three specific areas to focus on:

Your Specific Goals: Something you want to achieve that you have total control over (i.e. having a positive attitude, or executing your fuel plan flawlessly).

Your Targets: Something you want to achieve that you have limited control over (i.e. running a certain pace in the last 10K, based on previous training periods where you have done this before).

Outcomes: Something you want to achieve that you have zero control over (i.e. qualifying for a spot in the Boston Marathon).

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