By Brandon Michael
Dear beginning runner,
First of all, know that you are not alone! Running a marathon can seem like an impossible feat, but half a million people do it every year. With the right advice, training and preparation… you can do it too!
Second of all remember the old saying, “Slow and steady wins the race.” Many beginners think they need to conquer the race within the first day, week or month of training. However, training takes time and that attitude will usually lead to injury, quitting or having a negative experience all together.
I have read, researched and practiced many different training methods to prepare for running races, running for fun and running for exercise. While trying to maximize my training methods, I have found that the key ingredient to all of these is consistency. For instance, it’s better to run a little bit each or every other day than it is to continuously run long distances and then take three or four days off. A lot of people may be intimidated by the total time, distance and effort it may take to endure a long distance race. However, the best advice I will give you is to take one stride at a time and progress conservatively. This allows your body to adapt physiologically as you tick off each running goal and makes for a rewarding experience.
Now let’s get down to the good stuff…training! Let’s break down training for a long distance race into three cycles of 4 to 6 weeks of preparation:
First 4 to 6 weeks: To begin, I advise slowly progressing your continuous running time one training period at a time for the first 4 to 6 weeks. Increasing time running, rather than distance, is a critical aspect of beginning your training because each individual is going to be more or less capable than another. My suggestion is to increase periods of time by 3 to 5 minutes per week, 3 to 4 times per week for this 4- to 6-week training cycle. For instance, during your first week of training you may start running continuously for 5 to 10 minutes, 3 times per week and the following week you can increase your time to 10 to 15 minutes, 3 to 4 times per week.
This is a general training regimen that focuses on developing the physiological adaptations that need to occur slowly over a long period of time in order to set the foundation for more focused training.
Second 4 to 6 weeks: After a foundation is developed, you can now focus on counting mileage for the next 4 to 6 weeks as well as including one long run per week and two or three shorter recovery runs. The details of a program are going to cater exactly to you and can be adjusted depending your own performance levels and capabilities. I see too many people try run or keep up with mileage charts made by a coach or trainer that do not take into account that their body may be over trained, malnourished or showing signs of injury that could become more than just nagging aches and pains. My advice to remember when achieving your long runs from week to week: Do NOT add more than two miles to the long run each week!
Last 4 to 6 weeks: A common misconception is that you need to run a mock marathon or half marathon before your race, but this is not the case. Why is this you ask? The reason we don’t want to add too many miles each week is because it creates stress that our body is not conditioned to handle and may cause damage to your body.
Try to start your long runs at 6 to 8 miles then increase them a mile each week as your last weeks of training progress, ending at 18 to 20 miles for your last long run for a marathon and 11 to 12 miles for your last long run for a half marathon. Whether you run or walk run these distances is entirely up to you as this is your race, your life and your goal so do your best!
Lastly, don’t forget that nutrition, strength, and flexibility/recovery training are very important aspects to performance-based activities and your marathon training. Take the time to seek out help with all three of these aspects to aid in your training and you will be on your way to the finish line in no time!
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