When planning your training for a marathon or any road race, use a training plan. Not only are plans designed to help you improve your fitness and help you reach your running goals but the plans keep you scheduled so that quality workouts are not replaced with junk mileage. If you have minimal running experience or you are coming from a background in another athletic sport, give yourself 2 months to build a running base before specifically training for your marathon. During those 2 months, focus on running skills, drills and economy and fall in love with running. Even if you are a vetran in the sport and you are planning on running 1 or more marathons a year, give yourself a chance to enjoy the art of running and exercise for fun without actually training. For newbies, run for time (not distance) for a 4-6 weeks and once you feel comfortable running between 45 min and 75 min, start increasing the speed through intervals and try to cover more distance in that designated amount of time. After your aerobic base building, plan on spending another 8-12 weeks (around 2-3 months) to increase mileage while continuing on working on speed. for newbie and veteran runners, the longer you spend in your base period, the better prepared you are when you enter into your marathon training plan.
Before you start a new sport or new training plan, consider your health status and fitness. It is easy to get caught up in the hype of the endurance world (specifically ironmans and marathons) so it is very important that you are well enough to start a new challenge. There is nothing worse that starting a training program injured or even worse, racing injured. If you are sick, injured or suffer from medical conditions, reassess your training plan and goals in order to truly enjoy your running experience.
Your running performance is made up of your vo2 (max oxygen used during exercise), anaerobic threshold (lactate production exceeds removal) and running economy (movement velocity for a given energy consumption). Even if you aren’t an elite runner, your performance during a marathon (or any race) depends on how well each of those variables have been trained and how they will perform during the given task. As for marathoners, nothing is more important than the efficiency of the lungs, heart and blood to deliver oxygen around the body. The best runners (from people who are fast to those who truely enjoy running regardless of finishing time) show a high running economy which means that they have trained themselves to run a given speed with less oxygen demand. In part of improving your running economy, combine intervals, threshold runs and speed work into your long, slow sessions. For lactate training, in addition to fartleks and intervals, add in a weekly hill sessions. Drills, proper running form and proper breathing all contribute to good economy. . Just because two people have the same VO2 or max HR doesn’t mean that they will perform the same. The person with the best running economy will use less oxygen during the race and will be the most efficient runner come race day.
In addition to proper training and proper fueling, the greatest challenge of running is getting to the start line uninjured and rested. Why do injuries occur when you are training for an event? Why not in the off-season? People think more is better and mileage increases too rapidly. If the body isn't ready, you will spend more time on the couch recoverying from an injury rather than recoverying from training. Another cause for injury is inconsistent training or pushing too hard with training. Building mileage too rapidly (more than 10% mileage per week), training hard for more than 2 days in a row and skipping key workouts (long runs to recovery day) are some of the most common factors contributing to injuries. Listen to your body. If you feel extremely tired and fatigued or you feel life is getting a bit busy or stressful, take a day off, get some extra sleep or just walk and enjoy exercising. One or two skipped workouts may save you from being severely injured and possibly missing your event. Other tips for injury prevention are staying hydrated, stretching after your workout regularly, lifting weights to train opposing muscle groups, getting massages, take ice baths and replace your shoes every 3-4 months. Cross training should be an important component of your training plan. Not only to keep you sane with your running routine but you will help prevent overuse injuries. Active recovery, through cycling, swimming or walking are great ways to rest your torn-down legs, maintain your fitness and decrease your level of fatigue. Spinning your legs before and after your long run, swimming a few laps after a speed session or walking 10-15 min. after a hill workout will work wonders for your legs! Good luck!! Nutrition tips will be up shortly.