How to train for a marathon
The golden rules of marathon training.
Looking to get fit? Looking for a challenge? Looking to make friends? It doesn’t matter why you want to do a marathon, if you follow these simple steps, you can make your next marathon a breeze.
Know your limits
26.2 miles is a hecking long way and will put your body under a high amount of stress, putting you at a greater risk of injury. It certainly isn’t something to do on a whim so make sure you are being realistic when deciding to embark on a marathon campaign.
You will want to start your training nice and early to give your body as much preparation as possible. If you’re wanting to take it really seriously, they say that you should start your training 6 months before the big day. This will give you enough time to get as much effective training in as possible.
Start small and build slowly
You’ll always want to start your training with a smaller load. Start with some shorter runs until you start getting fitter and are used to the strain before you start adding on the mileage. Why not try a couple of 5k and 10k races first to get used to the setup of a running race?
As a rough rule, you’ll want to increase your overall weekly mileage by around 10% a week so you can gradually add the miles on and get the most out of the weeks you have.
Run just enough
You will need to find the fine line between overtraining and undertraining. Overtraining can often lead to fatigue and illness and vastly hinder your overall training so if you’re feeling tired for days on end, don’t be afraid to take some days off. It’s better to be slightly under trained but feel strong and eager to perform, than to be overtrained and exhausted, so try and find that balance between the two.
Don’t neglect your body of the recovery periods that it needs. You don’t need to train 7 days a week so do take your foot of the gas and take days off when you need them. It’s better to train 3–5 times a week and recover effectively than to train 6–7 times a week with sub-par recovery.
One of the most important bits of training you can do is longer runs. The newer and slower you are to marathon running, the more important long runs are. You will simply need to get accustomed to being on your feet for long periods of time.
Don’t ignore injuries
If you’re feeling a little niggle in your knee or if your calves are feeling tight, don’t push it. There’s nothing wrong with taking some days off or doing some cross-training instead, if you’re feeling an injury coming on. US Olympic marathon runner (1984 and 1988), Peter Pfitzinger said that if he could do it all again, he would take rest days or cross-train at the first hint of a problem. So if you think you’ve got something coming on, go for a gentle bike ride or a swim or any other kind of cross-training to give your running muscles a rest and a chance to recover.
To keep your training effectively on track, you will need to ensure your body is efficiently fuelled. Make sure you keep your carb levels up to keep your energy supply topped up. This will not only help you during training but also help your recovery. Energy-gels and sports drinks are a good thing to get used to tokeep your energy levels topped up during training.
You’ll also want to keep your iron levels up. You will lose a lot of iron through sweating and through running in general so will need to up your iron intake to balance this out. Do this by either eating iron-rich foods with vitamin C (which increases iron absorption) or by cooking your meals in an iron skillet.
Finally, add a good dose of protein to aid in muscle repair and recovery.
The final, and arguably most important, step of marathon training is the taper. Your body will have been under a lot of stress if you’ve been following a good and effective training plan so you will need to give it a good chance to rest up before the big day of your marathon.
For the 2 weeks before the marathon, scale back on the mileage you’re covering. You will want to keep training to keep your fitness levels ticking over but decrease the distance and intensity of your runs so you’re well rested for the main event.