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Running with Us coaches give their top tips for a successful marathon training journey.
We wanted to give our top tips for first-time marathon runners. Keeping your training in balance, enjoyable and healthy will ensure you arrive on race day, fit, positive and having learnt loads about yourself, physically and emotionally.
Yes, the marathon is a long way. Respect the challenge and the demands of the race but don’t fear it. Fear can lead to making poor training decisions and trying to progress too far, too fast, too soon. Your goal is to arrive at race day healthy and energised.
Top tip: Get yourself a training plan that builds training in gradual increments, but take ownership of it and change it to make it work for you and your lifestyle and fitness. Remember you can always replace running with cross training to reduce the impact.
It’s easy to get caught up with focusing just on the long run. Of course, it’s important to build more time on feet over coming weeks, but focusing on the other runs in your week is just as important.
Top tip: 3-4 runs a week is a good aim for new runners, any additional cross training will really help boost your fitness. Remember it is the collection of your training that will see you over the line, not just your longest long run.
Whilst, of course, the volumes of your running will increase as the weeks go by, marathon success isn’t just about the miles. Adding some controlled faster efforts into your running week can help speed up the rate of your progression.
Top tip: Including some blocks of ‘controlled discomfort’ effort into one of your weekly runs will help build a stronger, bigger heart and get your mind used to pushing. Start with something simple like 5 x 3 minutes at a 3-4 word answer effort, building to 5 x5 minutes, 5 x 6 minutes or even 3 x 10 minutes with a short 90-120s recovery.
Spending time thinking about your nutrition and adding as much variety as possible into your day to day diet will help you stay strong, energised and healthy by increasing your available energy and keeping your vitamins and minerals topped up.
Top tip: Unless there is a clear medical reason to do so, don’t exclude whole food groups from your diet. Carbohydrates from healthy, complex sources, including protein with most meals and plenty of fruit and veg is the way to go. A blood test can help you check your levels for key markers such as iron, B12 and zinc amongst others to see if you could be making any lifestyle changes to improve your performance.
Marathon training is a journey and isn’t always a smooth, linear process. There will be runs that don’t go to plan, races where you don’t feel great and runs you will need to miss or change. As the weeks go by make sure you focus on positive outcomes each week, it’s about what you DO complete, not what you don’t.
Try this: Keep a training diary and note down 2-3 positives every week, runs that went well, conditioning you completed or an improvement in your nutrition. In a few weeks, you’ll have banked of mindset boosting evidence of your progress.
Your body gets fitter though stress and recovery. Your training creates stress but it’s not until you recover that all of the adaptations take place which will leave you feeling fitter. Balance your training with your recovery and you will get fitter.
Try this: Every 3-4 weeks look to include a lighter week of training, cutting back your volumes to allow your body a bit more adaptation time. Respect your rest days, your body will back your back!
Your marathon training doesn’t just sit in isolation. Stress in your work, family or social life will impact on your ability to train and recover well. Keep an eye out for the warning signs of overtraining. You can monitor your day to day training readiness with an HRV app, watch for inconsistent sleep, regular small colds and niggles or a loss in motivation.
Try this: A blood test can give you information on a range of markers that can indicate overtraining such as cortisol: testosterone ratio and C-Reactive Protein in combination with a reduction in value such as ferritin.