Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How to train for a Marathon

So you think you want to Run a Marathon?  Or maybe you want to run a marathon without a lot of pain, injury or bonking?  Well here is a summary of what I have learned over the years and maybe this will help you!
Much of what I have learned comes from my experience with the Jeff Galloway Training Programs.  Jeff is a great inspiration and his programs have helped thousands of people run their first long distance race and runners use his program year after year.  I have added some of my own experience to help the first timer.

First, you do not have to run a lot of crazy miles or distances to train your body to run long distances races.  It really just takes a slow and steady approach to adding weekly mileage as you ramp up to your race.  I am of the belief that you should run the full 26 miles as a training run before your race.  How else are you going to train your body to go the distance if you have never experienced it first-hand.  Secondly you do not have to run fast, in fact my recommendations is to run slower than you think on your long runs so that your body can adapt to the distances. This is called Zone 2 training and I have already covered this topic in previous blogs along with fat adapted training.
The key to staying injury free is managing your distances and pace.  You should never add more than 10-15% to your weekly runs as you ramp up on your overall weekly mileage.  This slow steady approach is critical to your overall success.

The overall program takes 5-6 months so keep this in mind as you plan your next race.   There are formal guidelines that the Galloway provides so this is just an overview.

Weekday runs should consist of 30-60 minutes of running twice a week.
Weekday workouts should also include 2-3 days of aerobic cross training, 30-60 minutes a day

Long runs usually occur on weekends
1-2 Rest Days, no activity

So how do you calculate your long run distances: 
Long runs are broken down in to two groups.  “Short” long runs are usually half the distance of your long runs.  For me, after I get to 12-14 mile long runs, the short long runs average 10-12 miles.

Your long runs are runs that start at 5-6 miles and ramp up 2 miles every other week until you hit mile 20, then they spread out to 3-week intervals until you reach 26 miles.  After this, you should have 3 weeks to taper before the actual race.  For weekend runs that are not the long run, use the short long run distances.

One other thing Galloway advocates and I personally use is the run/walk method.  This means to take a walk break after 1 mile or 4-5 minutes of running (you can experiment here with what works best for you).  This may seem counter intuitive but it really works.  My overall pace has improved because you can run faster as you get stronger and the walk breaks average out your overall pace.  You do not have to use the Run/Walk method except for training runs, but I have had such positive success that I even run/walk during a race.  For me, I take a 1-minute walk break for every mile that I run.  This also helps the body recover a bit in-between miles.
Jeff also has a lot of information about “magic mile” and race pace.  These articles can be found in his books and training programs if you want to learn more.

I hope this helps and best of luck as you take on new challenges this season.

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