Training for a marathon?

The weather is warming up and we are getting our runners on.  Running a marathon is a goal for many people.  Whether it be running to lose weight, for a charity or perhaps a friend has talked you into it. 

When beginning training for a marathon try to give yourself as much time as possible.  Know your limits and start slow. Try to sign up for a few shorter races, 5km, 10km or a half marathon depending on your starting level.  Be careful of doing too much too quickly as we want to take care and prevent any injuries.

Successful marathon training needs consistent effort. 

5 months before the race you should be running between 3 and 5 times per week, slowly add on the kilometres until you are running about 25-30km per week.  More experienced runners can start at 40km per week. 

At 4 months its time to introduce a longer run into your program. Try lengthening one of your weekly runs to a 15-20km run. If need be in the first two weeks reduce the number of runs to 2-3 rather than the initial 5.  Your body may need a bit longer to recover from the new distance depending on your starting running level.

3 months to go, its time to up the ante! Speed and interval training have a very important role in preventing injury.  Over the coming weeks add some structure to your training;

o   An interval training session. For example, 2 minutes of fast running and 1 minute walking x 10

o   A faster run of 8-10 km

o   2 x 14-16 km runs

o   1 x longer run of 25-30km

2 months left.. keep going, easy does it. Ensure you are getting enough rest and recovery time.  On rest days no running allowed. If you feel like you must do something – try yoga or cross training like cycling, walking or swimming. Continue with speed and endurance training and perhaps adding a few additional km to those longer runs. Scale down the shorter ones if need be.

1 month to go, at 4 and 3 weeks try fitting in a run of 35km +, don’t worry about running the full 42km before the race… you’ll get help from the crowd, the atmosphere and all the excitement on the day for the final few km. At weeks 2 and 1 scale back on the lengths and difficulty of the runs to allow your body to rest and be ready for the race.


Exercises to prevent injuries:

Heel raises – standing with your feet slightly apart, rise up on to your tip toes and then slowly lower down. If you’d like to make this more challenging give it a go on one leg. Be sure to keep your toes long and flat to allow the exercise to isolate your calf muscles more effectively.

Single leg squat – helping to improve glut strength and overall muscle control through your legs.  Start by sitting down in a chair and standing up on one leg without using your hands.  When this becomes too easy do it without the chair and try to keep you hips level.  Use a mirror to make adjustments. Think about pushing through your heel – you should feel your glut contract!

Lunges – this exercise is great for lower limb and pelvic control. It can also help strengthen those gluts and quads improving your power when negotiating those hills. Some tips when lunging include keeping your front knee over your ankle and back knee underneath your hip. Make sure you keep your hips level and push through your front heel to generate power. This will allow your gluts and quads to work together effectively.

Skipping – a great exercise to improve calf endurance and help absorb the impact of your foot while on a run.

Hopping – this can be a progression from skipping and also helps build endurance through your calves and improve ankle control. You can perform this exercise quickly with small hops or slowly which would challenge the muscles around your hip and knee more. A combination of differing speeds and amplitude is encouraged.

Now, it’s very important to remember this information should only be used as a guide. If you get to a point where you just don’t seem to be progressing or that niggling injury doesn’t want to go away, book an appointment with your physiotherapist as they can help identify any underlying issues that might be preventing you from reaching your goals and devise a plan to get you to where you want to be.

Remember, pacing yourself is the most important component of injury prevention when training for endurance events of any nature so start slow and enjoy the journey! Good luck!

Written by Alanna Robinson