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531 and Half Marathon Training: The Verdict

Hey all,

I ran a half marathon this past weekend, and (after much pondering), found a nice way to keep up the lifting while doing well on the half marathon. I’ll share here.

I chose the Limited Time templates from the Forever book, but kept DL and squats at lower TM’s and did not push any PRs for these lifts. I did push the upper body pressing throughout. I would do 1-2 days of bodyweight training as my “assistance”, favoring dips, rows, and ab wheel rollouts.

My programmed running was also only 2 days a week, with a mid week run of 5-6 miles and a progressively longer weekend run up to 12 miles before tapering when I was two weeks out from the race. I played soccer 1-2 times a week as my other conditioning. Note also: my running was very submaximal, and I only ran 2 hard runs where I pushed it to stay under 8 min miles for a 5 mile run. The others were focused, but more on “get the miles in” and not treated at all like a competition.

The results were somewhat unexpected, in a good way. For my lifting, I broke a PR on bench with 225 lbs x 11 reps. This was with about 10 days before the race. I was shocked, because I assumed lifting only twice a week and pushing conditioning would not be conducive to setting PRs on a lift, but I did.

For the race: I completed the 13.1 miles in 1:43:25 (one hour, forty three minutes, 25 seconds), which was a 7:54 minute/mile pace. This was far faster than any of my training, and I beat my goal time.

My takeaways: I was very happy that, in the 45-49 age group, I beat my half marathon times from 20 years early. Also, my bench press from any time in my life. I really like the 2 days a week barbell lifting, as I always felt fresh and strong and motivated for each workout. It really suited me well to train like that. Also, the 531 mentality of submaximal work done consistently and progressively translated well to endurance training, which was unexpected.

Anyway, I think these 531 templates like Limited Time (and also the Dan John 2 days a week) are great for anyone looking to push other training or competition goals. Not only did I not get weaker from less frequent barbell lifting, but I actually got stronger and felt better and more explosive on training days.

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That’s awesome! I can’t believe your half marathon time was that fast with only two days of running per week. I think that’s great (and probably better for joint health).

Thanks for the write-up and congrats!

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Thanks for the review, I’m currently pushing climbing and running which is I must learn to not get hung up by the weight on the bar, but I can’t.

Did you BBB the bench?

Btw I’ve just started limited time myself

I mixed it up a bit. I did the Limited Time Widowmaker for one cycle, but capped the Squats and DL at 10 for the widowmaker set. I then followed the rep schemes from Dan John’s 2 days a week for the main lifts: work up in sets of 10 to a heavy set; but for DL work up in sets of 2. This worked well for the last ~3 weeks, as I didn’t want to beat myself up with the DL (which takes me the longest to recover from).

Dropping to 2 days a week was mentally tough. When I started 531 templates that were 3 days a week, that was initially tough for me too (I was used to 4-5 days a week of lifting). However, I felt strong and fresh throughout and as a bonus my joints feel much better, too.

Thanks for the write up. What will you do now? How will this experience change what you do in the future?

I think I will stick with a 2 days a week barbell program, and fill in with 1-3 days of calisthenics/assistance. My joints and strength feel great, and I have more energy to put into other endeavors (athletic or non). Also, at my age (mid 40’s), I have different goals than some posters here in their mid 20’s in that I’m not trying to bulk up or “cut”, but to continue to improve and stay healthy.

Another big takeaway: applying the 531 philosophy to endurance training worked really well. I kept my running training submaximal, and really thought more about “getting in the miles”. In the past, I would push myself more for the training runs almost like they were races, and this wore me out. After a training run, I felt more invigorated rather than beat down, which aligned well with what I’ve learned from strength training using 531 templates.

Last thing was with my deadlift training. I used Dan John’s method of working up in sets of two. So, doubles with 135, 185, 225, 275, 335 was what I used for the last few weeks when the miles were adding up. I felt like this aligned better with running than higher reps of DL. I think I will stick with this type of scheme for this lift, and use the 531 reps/sets for the others.

This is a really good write up. How did your bodyweight change over the course of the training block (before? after?)

Thank you very much. Just more evidence that progressing slowly and working submaximally really work.
It took me a long time to understand that progressing slowly, working submaximally and setting personal records works. I hope to be in such shape as yourself when I am mid 40’s.
Keep posting!

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I’ve hovered in the low 170’s throughout. I was definitely eating to fuel my runs.

I did notice I craved sweet things and carbs a lot more. I had trips to the corner market to grab a candy bar or sweet tarts or ice cream more regularly, and ate pasta a bit more than usual.

That’s fairly common when doing more cardio. I think Wendler even mentioned it in Forever