Q&A: Peaking Too Soon with Coach Joe Rubio

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Is it true that you can peak too early when training for a marathon? If you train too early before the race begins, will it tire yourself out? Thanks for reading!

– Angela

Answer from Coach Joe:

Hello Angela,

Yes, you can peak too early – and here’s some more information to help you understand why (and how to avoid it).

What is peaking?

Peaking for most runners is arriving at your key race healthy and at the fittest level possible given the time frame with which you have to prepare. Peaking too soon occurs when you achieve your greatest fitness significantly before the big day resulting in either a subpar race or an injury.

How is peaking too soon achieved?

Generally it is the result of consistently training at too high a level in relation to your fitness level, too early within the time window you have to prepare for an event.

How do you properly peak?

There are several schools of thought on peaking. One says athletes can achieve 1-3 “peaks” in fitness per year, and there are those that say you can maintain a peak level of fitness almost indefinitely. Regardless of your point of view, the key attribute is to training consistently at, or just below, your current fitness level. When athletes overtrain, they consistently train at or above their current fitness level. These athletes achieve peak fitness or get injured well before their target race date.

How do you properly prepare for an upcoming event?

There are a large number of methods available to ensure you are training at the proper level and not overtraining. Working with an experienced coach certainly helps. Other runners prefer to use an online resource, and still others use books dedicated to proper training. Regardless, all successful programs follow the simple rules of progression and appropriate workloads. They take a long term approach to fitness, realizing that training within yourself for a year will yield much greater results than training as hard as possible for 3 months.

If you train at a level conservatively within your capabilities, regardless of how long you train, you will avoid peaking too soon.

– Joe Rubio

Joe Rubio is the owner of Running Warehouse. He is the head coach of the HOKA Aggie Running Club and has coached 3 athletes to World Championship Marathon births representing the USA as well as leading multiple athletes to US Olympic Trials qualifying marks. He’s a former 2:18 marathoner who twice qualified for the US Olympic Marathon Trials in ’92 and ’96.

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