It may be snowing in Surrey, but spring marathon training is in full swing and if you’re preparing for your first, you’re probably overwhelmed by the amount of information and advice out there!
Training for a marathon means much more than just adding up the miles, so it’s important to put together a plan that incorporates nutrition, strength training and plenty of rest. Here’s our mini guide to get you on the right track!
If this is your first marathon, you should leave yourself a minimum of 14 weeks for serious training (anyone panicking already?).
Building up your distance is a crucial aspect of your training, but this doesn’t happen overnight, or even over a week. First pick a day, typically Saturday or Sunday, mark it on the calendar and devote it to your long runs. These runs should be slow and easy enough that you could still hold a conversation, but distance is important. This run should always be the longest of the week, but also depends on your level and should gradually build up. Pushing yourself too far too early will only result in injury.
Your shorter runs during the week are as important for your training as your long run and should be taken just as seriously. Two to three other days of the week should include actual running. These are either a 30-45 minute recovery run one day, short multiple sprints another day and interval training incorporating hills. Not only will these runs help your endurance, but will build up leg strength and help recovery.
It is always important to know your limits and that skipping a training day is not the end of the world, and when needed the rest will be more helpful to your training than attempting to run when you don’t feel up to it.
There are many more ways you can train your muscles for running other than simply running, and it is important to work these methods into your training plan as much as possible. Building your strength can be the key to increasing your speed and being a stronger, more confident runner. At least once or twice a week you should incorporate core training sessions. Strengthening your core either at home or at the gym will improve your posture and give you a stronger base as support during your running.
The other obvious muscles to focus on for strength training are your legs. On days when you aren’t running, focusing on muscle strengthening exercises such as squats and lunges will help you power through long runs. Other ways of cross training such as swimming and spinning are a great way to work your muscles in new ways and are the perfect addition to your training plan.
When possible it is ideal to add a yoga or pilates class into your weekly training regime. Running so often will tighten the muscles in your legs and this is the perfect way to loosen them, stretch them out and increase flexibility.
During such a long run it will be vital to replenish your energy in some way. In order to figure out the best way for you it is important to test out different products on your long training runs to see how your body reacts and which you prefer.
The first and one of the most common ways is energy gels. With a multitude of flavours and brands, which one you choose all comes down to personal preference. The gels are gooey and easy to eat while running with a liquid consistency. Since these are made for running they are fast at renewing energy and you can have a few throughout the race when needed.
Electrolyte based drinks that can usually be found alongside water along race routes are also a good way to increase energy levels on long runs. The only negative about using these as the main energy source is that you’d have to drink at least a whole bottle to get the same amount of energy as you would from a single gel. Drinking this much liquid would usually take longer to do while running and can be uncomfortable if done too quickly.
Other popular forms of energy include certain protein or nut bars, if you are comfortable with chewing it throughout your runs. Gummy sweets can give you a nice sugar hit, but may not be as sustainable source of long lasting energy as other forms. Raisins also provide a good dose of natural carbohydrates and energy.
There are plenty of other aspects to consider throughout your training. Be sure to incorporate at least one rest day a week and more when needed, and proper nutrition including plenty of carbs, protein and a balanced diet will only enable your body to work harder and recover faster.
Training in London has it’s own perks, with a number of parks, the river, and a vivid running community that wherever you go you know you won’t be alone. For extra motivation you can join any number of the running groups or take part in shorter races to get comfortable with the atmosphere leading up to race day.
Write out your plan, try to stick to it, but always remember to listen to your body and give it what it needs (even if it means swapping a long run for brunch, because we all need that sometimes)!