How to train for a Marathon

1. Building up your training distance
2. Fueling for the marathon
3. Technique corrections
4. Bodyweight conditioning

 

When you run a marathon you put your body through, on average, 4.5 hours of stress and impact. Although each step produces a minimal amount of stress in your body. After 5000 steps your muscles and connective tissues are fatigued and your risk of damage increases.

 

 

Building up your training distance

 

In order to reduce this risk of injury and teach your body to cope with such a unique stress you need to slowly increase the volume of your training leading up to a marathon. Normally I would ask for 4 months of marathon preparation, especially if it your first marathon. Each month the amount of total miles you run will increase. Threes – four weeks pre-marathon you will be reaching you biggest amount of miles run in a week.

 

If we look at  a 4 month lead up to a marathon, the first 2 months could look like this. For now, just focus on the longer Saturday session, of which, aim to build your body up to deal with the distance of a marathon. Over the weeks you will take 2 steps forward and 1 step backwards in distance. The sessions highlighted on all tables are defined as slow and long. Time and pace does not matter, however, completing the distance is very important. Highlighted in green is the peak distance of each week.

 

Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5Week 6Week 7Week 8
Sat –

Slow / Long

8 miles10 miles12 miles16 miles12 miles14 miles16 miles20 miles

 

Week 9Week 10Week 11Week 12Week 13Week 14Week 15Week 16
Sat –

Slow / Long

14 miles16 miles18 miles22miles16 miles18 miles16 milesMarathon

25 miles

 

Other sessions in the week also fluctuate in distance in the same way throughout the build-up however other sessions can be defined as a light session, medium session or race/fast paced session. Each are pivotal into slowly building your body up without injury. If the distance ran or intensity is too much too soon then injury almost certainly follows. Most first time runners get overuse injuries in the training stage of the marathon rather than the race itself. For this reason, it is double as important to learn how to train for a marathon and avoid serious long-term damage to your body.

 

An example training programme for learning how to training for a marathon would be as follows,

 

Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5Week 6Week 7Week 8
Mon.

Medium

7 miles8 miles  9 miles10 miles8 miles9 miles10 miles11 miles
Tues.

Rest/ Light

RestRestRestRestRest5 miles5 miles5 miles
Wed.

Medium

7 miles8 miles9 miles10 miles8 miles9 miles10 miles11 miles
Thurs.

Fast

3 miles3 miles4 miles4 miles3 miles4 miles5 miles5 miles
Frid.

Light /slow

3/4 miles3/4 miles3/4 miles5 miles3/4 miles3/4 miles3/4 miles5 miles
Sat –

Slow / Long

8 miles10 miles12 miles14 miles12 miles14 miles16 miles18 miles
Sun.

Rest

RestRestRestRestRestRestRestRest

 

Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5Week 6Week 7Week 8
Mon.

Medium

9 Miles10 Miles11 Miles12 Miles10 Miles11 Miles10 Miles10 Miles
Tues.

Rest/ Light

Rest6 Miles6 Miles6 MilesRest7 Miles5 MilesRest
Wed.

Medium

7 Miles8 Miles9 Miles10 Miles8 Miles9 Miles10 Miles11 Miles
Thurs.

Fast

4 Miles5 Miles6 Miles6 Miles5 Miles6 Miles5 MilesRest
Frid.

Light /slow

3/4 miles3/4 miles3/4 miles5 Miles3/4 miles3/4 miles3/4 milesRest
Sat –

Slow / Long

14 miles16 miles18 miles20miles16 miles18 miles16 milesMarathon

25 miles

Sun.

Rest

RestRestRestRestRestRestRestRest

 

In the final weeks you want to begin to taper down the volume of training whereby you are no longer causing any excess damage to your body so that it can adapt and become stronger.

 

 

 

Best Nutritional Practices

 

Fueling for your marathon can be split in 3 ways – before, during and after. It is recommend to eat 2-3 hours before starting training so that the carbohydrates are digested and stored in both the liver and muscles as glycogen. It also means that there is protein in your bloodstream ready to prepare for the damage caused straight after training. Eating too close to the start time of the race or training increases the risk of digestive discomfort and other associated problems. If you have no option or train really early making time short choose something that is fast to digest like a banana.  Learning how to eat for a marathon is an essential component in learning how to train for a marathon.

 

During your training it is recommended you ingest 25-60g of carbohydrates every hour of exercise. This can be eaten in one setting or spread over the hour. Both factors depend on your body and the reaction to the ingestion while exercises. The glucose pouches you can buy usually contain 60g of glucose / carbohydrates you can can consume that over a 1 or 2 hour period. I recommend eating 30g over an hour to start. Other food which I prefer include jelly babies and home made energy balls. Check out these power balls by http://runeatrepeat.co.uk.

 

Post training it is recommended to eat at around 15-30 minutes post-training to restore glycogen used in the liver and muscles. I recommend something quick and small like 2 bananas or a banana milkshake. A small bit of protein has been shown to help carbohydrate absorption in some studies but others have shown no evidence. Two hours post-training, another meal is needed to help repair and grow the body adequately.

 

 

How to train for a marathon – Technique Corrections

 

Another key factor to reducing injury and improving performance is your running technique. A small error in your stride or foot contact can cause catastrophic injuries after running the necessary miles needed for a marathon. This technical error normally means that other muscles or connective tissues over-compensate and redistribute the force throughout the body. Normally the areas overcompensating are the ones that will reach a breaking point.

 

For technique corrections I recommend training at an athletics club at least once per week. Learning how to train for a marathon is not easy and an athletics club is a great way to learn and build a social support system around your training. The warm-up/technique drills they often perform will give you the mobility you need to run fluently without restriction and also strengthen good technical patterns in your body.

 

The most common technical problems which have a high risk of injury are an individuals foot contact and having weak hips. Foot contact is a little advanced for this article but we promote a mid foot ground contact. If you are restricted in the ankle or within the foot itself you cannot perform this efficiently. A more common problem is having weak hips causing knee valgus. Knee valgus is when the knee tracks inwards on every step predominantly due to a lack of strength and stability at the hip.

 

 

Strength and Conditioning

 

Strength training for running is extremely important. It helps solidify your technique, improve your weaknesses and reduce the risk of injury. We prefer not too use weights but this is also an option. A bodyweight workout for running should aim to –

 

  1. Strengthen the hips and improve single leg stability – Start with our lowerbody bodyweight workout
  2. Strength the core and improve posture with a core workout.
  3. Improve the body’s ability to absorb impact.
  4. Improve flexibility to allow the strides to flow freely. A flexibility workout should be performed everyday for 20-30 minutes.

 

 

Coach and Athlete Advice

 

Kenyan Form Running – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aR2MyqYs1pA

Top 5 Training Tips from Mo Farah – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4_oFO1zp2A

Training for a Marathon with Meb Keflezighi – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LgVPco1CSU

 

 

Writer

 

Coach Ed Young, Instagram – @Circuitspro, FB – @Circuitspro

Director of Circuits Pro, International Strength and Conditioning Coach

 

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