Like climbing Mount Everest or earning a PhD in physics, completing a marathon is one of the greatest feats that people aspire to. Marathon runners vary quite a bit on their training and preparation routines, but there are seven basic guidelines that all runners should adhere to properly prepare for this grueling event.
1. Start early
Since you need to conserve your energy leading up to the last two weeks before the race, the endurance training needs to begin far in advance. Experts advise that people begin training at least one year before the race to build up endurance and conditioning.
2. Increase mileage gradually
Some of the most common injuries during marathon training are due to the sudden increase in distance that the runner hasn’t prepared their body for yet. You should spend several months running 30 to 40 miles a week for your body to get used to long distances before you start marathon training. Also, before entering a marathon, participate in multiple races such as 5K and 10K events.
A marathon training plan consists of a base mileage which serves as a target of total miles run per week. This consists of three to five running sessions that are mostly done at an easy pace. Increase your base mileage over a period of 12 to 20 weeks until you can easily complete 50 miles per week.
3. Other types of training
Beside long-distance running, a marathon training program can benefit from other types of workouts. Strength training helps your body withstand the rigors of a marathon, and abdominal strengthening is particularly beneficial to help maintain good running form. Speed training such as high-intensity intervals helps improve your cardio and helps you reach the finish line in less time.
4. Long run practice
The point of a marathon is to run long distances, so you need to do this at various times during your training plan. Once every seven to ten days, schedule an extended run of 10 miles or more. Increase the long run a little more than the previous one and do them at a slower pace. Long runs condition your body for greater distance and enables your body to adjust to burning fat for fuel.
The maximum distance goal for your long runs should be 20 miles rather than 26. It’s best to wait until the actual race day comes to push for those final 6 miles. This keeps your body in peak condition during training and prevents injuries or drawbacks that result from over-training.
5. Taper off training prior to the event
In order for your body to have maximum endurance, you don’t want to train strenuously just before the race. Two weeks prior to the race, reduce your total base mileage by up to 50%. Your last long run should be done three weeks before the marathon. The week prior to the event should focus mostly on adequate sleep and rest, and there should be no strength training on the last week either.
6. Optimum diet
It’s important to remain hydrated during long-distance running sessions, so carry water bottles or plot your training course where there are water fountains on the trail. It’s also helpful to eat complex carbohydrates from foods like potatoes and brown rice in order to have plenty of glycogen stores to fuel long distance training. The week before the marathon, drink plenty of water to optimize your condition for the event. Another concern is iron depletion from long-distance running. Make sure you eat food sources that are rich in iron and vitamin C.
7. Have fun
Training alone can be peaceful and meditative, but it’s also great to be in a fun environment with people around who can spur your competitive nature. Fitness centers like RetroFitness offer group classes that provide a high-energy, enjoyable atmosphere to add variety to your marathon training plan.
Guest Post written by Annie Grace Wilson, Public Relations Specialist