Marathon Training Tips – Beginner Tips on How to Train for a Marathon

PictureYesterday marked the half way point of (hopefully) my next main dream… running the New York Marathon (I say hopefully because I considered doing it last year, but got injured a month before the event – preventing me from running the 2014 event).  Yesterday afternoon, I ran 15 miles and, thus, completed 8 weeks of rigorous training… just 8 weeks to go.

So, to mark this commemorative moment in my training, I wanted to share with you, my readers, some of my Marathon Training Tips – Beginner tips on how to train for a marathon…

Leave Enough Time

Once you’ve decided to run a marathon, make sure you have enough time to complete a full training plan.  Running a marathon isn’t something to enter into lightly – my plan is for a beginners marathon and is 4 months long.  It started, in the first week, with 3 easy 4 milers, followed by an 8 miler at the weekend… if you’re not already a runner, be sure to take a little more time, before your plan starts, to build up to 4 runs per week – and maybe even to the 4mile mark if you aren’t used to that sort of distance.

Download a Running Tracker App

DigiFit iCardio Interface DigiFit iCardio Splits RunKeeper Charts RunKeeper Splits

If you run with a smart phone, I strongly suggest you download a tracking app for your runs… as you can see in the screenshots above (black are iCardio, white are RunKeeper), they have GPS, inbuilt, to map your outdoor runs, and record your time/distance/speed amongst others.  I use RunKeeper and iCardio (these are both free apps, with upgrades available – I haven’t needed the upgrades) but I find RunKeeper to be the better option due to its training plans, which leads me to…

Get a Proper Training Plan

I truly believe this is the sole reason I actually got injured last year – I didn’t have a proper training plan – so, although I was dead on track with the distances of my long weekend runs, I was only doing half of the shorter runs during the week.  These shorter runs are vital for building strength and stamina to help your body cope with the longer weekend runs.  In order to avoid injury, I, therefore, strongly recommend entering into a full training plan that suits your personal lifestyle needs.

The tracker apps, mentioned above, sometimes have training schedules in built into the system… as I mentioned above, RunKeeper is great for this.  These apps are extremely useful for telling you when to finish your run – or, if your training schedule requires you to do any sort of interval training, when to change speeds.  You can always check back at the end of your run, too, to monitor your marathon goals in terms of what sort of speeds/intervals you are achieving.

ALWAYS Warm Up and Cool Down

Stretching SelfieI generally do more dynamic stretches/movements to warm up – this gets my muscles prepared for the run, and my blood flowing… high knees, skipping, arm rotations and some standing yoga stretches are great examples of good warm up exercises.

To cool down, I tend to walk around for a minute or so, followed by some more seated stretches.  If I don’t stretch it out after my longer runs, I tend to find that my muscles seize up and I’m aching for days!!  Avoid this by following a good cool down plan.

Warm ups and cool downs only need to take 5 minutes each – although, I’ve found that, after my long run, getting my feet higher than my body for 5 minutes or so, on top of my cool down routine, feels amazing!!  I like to stay in a headstand for a few minutes… alternatively, you can lie, face up, on the floor with your feet up a wall – this works just as well! :)

One Step at a Time

Take it one step at a time… if you try to think too far ahead, you’re likely to become overwhelmed with the amount that has to be done.  Take each training day as it comes and, likewise, take each mile as it comes – particularly when it comes to the long weekend run.  Pace yourself at the beginning (even if you’re feeling fresh) and speed up in the second half if you’re still feeling great. :)

Keep Hydrated

When it comes to the long runs, in particular, both water and electrolyte/sports drinks are vital.  Water will generally be enough if you’re running for less than an hour – otherwise, a sports drink will help replace the electrolytes lost through sweat and, thus, avoid diluting your blood due to low salt/sodium levels.

If you don’t like carrying water bottles, ensure you plant “recharge stations” on the running routes you plan to use throughout your training before you set off.  Otherwise, there are plenty of hydrationandyou can buy to ensure you always have fluids and keep your hands free. :)

Carb Up

You may have heard of the infamous “carb loading” before particularly long or vigorous workouts – this keeps the muscles working for longer.

Now, although I’m not sure how I, personally, feel about dietary supplements of any kind… some research has shown that there is only a certain amount of glycogen your body can hold, and this will quickly disappear throughout your run – making your muscles feel heavy and tired.  Many sources advise runners to consume about 30-60g of carbs each hour if your run happens to take longer than 2 hours.

Great sources of carbs include; (which should be taken with a few gulps of water – not sports drink), raisins, or(or regular jelly beans/babies, as a substitute – they just don’t contain the extra electrolytes, but if you already have a sports drink this is generally fine).

The best way is, probably, to experiment with these products during your training runs and figure out which (if any) work best for you so your not trying something new on the race day.

Keep Rest Days for Rest!!

You’re rest days are needed to help you rejuvenate your body… allow it, for just that!!  One or two days for a different kind of training, such as HIIT, can be good to change up the muscles you’re working… strength training is good for endurance, balance and, of course, strength… and swimming is great if you want something lower impact.  Always leave at least one or two days per week for complete rest though.

 

 

Have you ever, or are you planning to, run a marathon?  Any extra tips or advice for a first marathon runner?  Please feel free to join the discussion in the comments below!! :)

 

 

Love, Magic and Fairy Dust 😉

 

 

(N.B. I should probably let you all know here, I haven’t actually signed up yet… I’m waiting until the last minute so I don’t get disappointed like last year!! :) )

22 thoughts on “Marathon Training Tips – Beginner Tips on How to Train for a Marathon

  1. How to train for a marathon? Well i can honestly say i don’t come across posts like this very much, how exciting and interesting :)

    You’ve provided all the information necessary on training up for a marathon, so thumbs up for that!
    It is also simple to digest, I love reading posts which give out a process on how to do things which involves images and pointers – Awesome :)

    I wish you all the best with your dream. ( Running the New York marathon)
    Good luck
    Lawrence

    • Thank you Lawrence!! 😀 I’m glad you like all the pictures and information… I really hope it’s useful to some people!!
      Thank you for your comment!! :)
      Zoe

  2. These are really great tips, I’m a runner too but have participated in only 7 miles marathon- for beginners 😉 You have really placed some important Infos, I’m the one who forgets to stretch out and then feel the disaster the next days… Nice work, I would be happy to read the next steps from you, how you prepare yourself for the big day every week, maybe for motivation. Thank you! 😀

    • Thank you Jasmin!! :) Good work – 7 miles is still a great distance… well done you!!
      Haha – I’ve forgotten to stretch only once during my training program this time… and I most certainly felt it over the next couple of days!! 😛
      I’ll see what I can do for an upcoming post!! 😉
      Thank you for commenting!!
      Zoe

  3. I am a workout enthusiast but I haven’t quite gotten into running. For some reason it scares me. However, I have started thinking maybe it is time to give it a try.

    I have been researching online about running and marathons so I can be prepared with the best tips and advice.

    Thank you for sharing your tips on how to train for a marathon. I know that I need to start slowly and that it may take me longer than someone how has been running. I have always wondered about “carb loading” as well. There seem to be very mixed views on this. I can see that it would be necessary though, especially for long runs.

    You have given me a lot to think about. Thanks!

    • Simone!! I can see why it can be scary as it’s quite a high impact sport – but if I’m honest, it’s something I find really enjoyable… especially on a nice Summer day!! :) Going for a long run through the countryside is the best!

      Another bonus of running is, as long as you have a good pair of running shoes, it’s a completely free workout!! No paying for gym memberships etc!!

      I haven’t yet tried any of the supplements (apart from the sports drinks) and I’ve managed up to 15miles without – I have actually purchased some this week though, after doing some research, to try out on my 16miler on Saturday!!

      Good luck with your training if you decide to take up the challenge!! :)

      Zoe

  4. Dear Zoë. It took me time to understand where the name of your website came from or meant. It was only until I read the About Me page, I had a glance of the meaning. I enjoyed the review you did to Think and Grow Rich, because I have been following this book for over 2 decades. The information you provide I think is valuable for athletes, but sports is not my personal interest. Although I think is helpful for developing endurance in life. In my personal opinion, I’d provide a little more of coherence to the variety of subjects posted on your website, but explaining that they have to do with your interests, personal experiences, and your mindset. Great job!

    • Thank you Eve – I appreciate your feedback… I guess you’re right, I’m still trying to find my feet and figure out where I want the website to go – I think as the website builds, though, it’ll start to glue together a little more, and the links between posts will start to become a little more obvious…

      Thank you for checking out some of my other pages… I’m glad you enjoyed the book review! :) …and thank you for sharing your thoughts too! 😀

      Zoe

  5. Hi Zoe!

    Great post! You can really feel your energy and love for running. I’ve never run a marathon…to be quite honest I have trouble doing my cardio without getting short of breathe! BUT, despite that, I’ve always been interested in running. Everyone I know who runs says it’s very peaceful and that there’s something euphoric about it. Do you find that as well?
    The only ‘running’ I ever did was at The Color Run. That was a great experience. Thanks for the great info!

    • Hey Tonya!! Thanks… I’m glad that comes across in the post!! :)

      Haha!! I’ve always enjoyed running… I think it helps that I live in a pretty rural area, so it’s really nice to be around nature… with curious animals etc watching you!! …as opposed to running through busy, uninterested people and buildings!! I think that’s why I find it kinda euphoric :) Although for the actual marathon I’ll be running through one of the biggest concrete jungles in the world, I imagine it’ll have a very different atmosphere on race day – surrounded by lots of people with a similar mindset to myself :)

      My friend did the colour run and loved it!! I’m definitely gonna have to try that one day!!

      Thank you for commenting! :)

  6. Great post and very relevant to my life right now. I recently learned about the importance of carbs when exercising is involved as I usually follow a paleo esqe kind of diet, which I’ve now modified a little to prepare for the extra workload. The information here on training and prep is also Great

    • Thanks Chris!! Yer, I think a lot of people hear dietary advice and assume carbs are terrible for us… I guess the advice is probably aimed more at less active people though – if you consider yourself more of an athlete, I think its important to “eat and train” as opposed to “diet and exercise”

      Thank you for your comment – I’m glad the post has been relevant to you!! :)

  7. Hi Zoe,

    I’ve run three and when I say “run” I mean struggled through..but I somehow keep coming back.
    They are really tough to get right, at least for me.
    Also, all 3 of mine were run in Phuket, Thailand so it’s over 30 degrees celcius and extremely humid, 80plus so it’s not easy there.
    My problems always come down to injury (overtraining/poor training I guess) but also fueling issues. I always seem to panicin the last fewdays and give in to other peoples ideas as to what I should be eating.
    Any tips on avoiding injury and practicing fueling? I would like to run a marathon a bit more successfully next time, not just dragging myself over the line.
    Great blog!
    Alison

    • Hey Alison!!

      Wow, good on you… Especially in that heat – It must be ridiculously tough!!

      I think sticking to an appropriate training plan is the best advice to avoid poor/overtraining – but also really listening to your body to avoid injury… It’s difficult as there’s so much conflicting advice out there with regards to dealing with injury during training, but my honest opinion is rest up if you feel you need to, but get back into training ASAP once your body feels strong enough again!! :)

      With regards to fueling, I think the best way is to practice different techniques throughout your training runs (especially the longer weekend ones) to see what works best for you – some people advise 2-3 energy gel packs each hour throughout the race to keep you feeling strong, others suggest taking one at about 17-18miles in – to push you through that “wall”… I think it’s good to test out a variety of methods, in between these 2 extremes, and to do whatever feels comfortable for you and your body – once you’ve found a method your comfortable with, stick with it and ignore other peoples advice on race day!! Change it for the next marathon if you wish, but trust that you’ve made the right decision for yourself for this one. :)

      Good luck with your next marathon!! 😀

      Zoe

  8. I think the longest distance I have been running is 2kilometers but that was back when I was in school and it was a competition so the last 100meters I was going all out! :o) It would be intresting to see how a maraton would turn out haha probably not good, especially like you say if you are not prepared! I like to work out and I also do hiit cardio but never long distance “slow cardio”… What is considered the “shortes” marathon distance?

    • The generic marathon distance is 26.2miles (which is what mine will be)… but there are also “ultra marathons” where people run up to, and sometimes over, 100miles!!! I’m struggling with blisters etc on 16miles – so I’ve NO idea how those guys manage it!! haha

      Good on you for keeping up a good HIIT cardio workout – I try to do this at least once a week, when I can, to keep up my general strength/fitness levels too – but I think I’ll aim to get into it a little more once I’ve completed the marathon… potentially some future posts relating to that too…!! :)

      Thank you for commenting!! :)

  9. Hey Zoe!

    Thank you for your perspective on marathon training. You seem to be enthusiastic about running & just about everything else you’d like to put your effort into. It gets me fired up as well in a positive way 😀 I consider myself as recreational powerlifter & love to push myself both mentally & physically. Meanwhile running & weightlifting seem like polar opposites – aerobic vs anaerobic – a lot of folks have no idea how beneficial the combination of the two can be: Balance! In my regular exercise routine, periods when i’m focused on peaking out max, I’m used to deadlift over double of my own body weight for high repetitions & this is where it gets interesting: Your body is a machine & your muscles are the engine. What does engine require? Fuel – Oxygen. Power might be still all in there, but if a bear gets out of breath.. 😀 This is where my marathon begins & cardio-work takes it over. I love to run, although I’m around body fat level which is threshold for six pack abs, running a full mile for me can be considered a feat of strength. So, I’m more like a natural sprinter & my hats off to you for going 8 to 15 or more in a session – You’re mighty in someones eyes! I like the part you mention about warm up & cool down. It’s like mini-meditation & preparation for your current & also for your next training. At some point it becomes almost inseparable & a second nature – if you skip one, you’ll feel like somethings missing. It’s wonderful that you’re telling beginners to take it slowly. Longevity is the name of the game. Is there any better slogan for marathon? But one things for sure: It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or a gazelle..when the sun comes up, you better start running.

    Regards,
    Henry

    • Wow Henry… thank you so much for such a well thought out response with lots of additional useful information!! :) Much appreciated…

      Totally agree that a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic exercises can be ridiculously beneficial – I generally try to fit in plenty of yoga and HIIT workouts to keep a healthy balance. That sounds like a pretty incredible feat though to be lifting twice your own body weight… I struggle to do my own in a few press-ups!!! haha

      …and warm ups, cool downs, and keeping your exercise routine sustainable over a long time-period – these things are all absolute essentials when it comes to ANY kind of fitness!! :)

      Thank you, again, for sharing your own wisdom on my page too!! 😀

      Zoe

  10. Hi Zoe,
    That was such an excellent article that you wrote, designed to help people in learning how to train for a marathon.

    You essentially covered everything that one needs to incorporate into his/her daily regimen in order to prepare for this tremendous athletic feat starting with the fact that you introduced the available technology designed to help people in marathon training running track app.

    I used to run years ago before one of my Achilles tendon kept telling me to stop before it finally snapped. I actually was a sprinter in h.s/college and in my 20’s gravitated towards long distance running. The longest I ever ran actually occurred one day in high school when our coach surprised us one day by telling us to run to a state park just outside of town and back again. The whole trip was around 15 miles. I was with some buddies of mine and admittedly we did walk part of the route.

    I have as one of my websites a niche having to do with bicycling, a hobby that I have had for around 40 years or ever since I was a teenager. As part of some of my tips on fitness having to do with cycling, I have included the same very important components dealing with training as you included in your great article Zoe – stretching, creating a regimen to strengthen one’s ability to gradually increase the miles run each day, stretching, hydration, eating the right foods and so on.

    The information that you included in your article is GREAT advice and tips to help a person be prepared for his/her first marathon.

    A fabulous article Zoe and I wish you the best of luck in your quest to run the N.Y. Marathon. As this article was posted last September, (2015) and the race is run every Nov. did you in fact run in the marathon a few months ago? How did you do?

    Jeff

    • Hi Jeff!!

      Thank you so much for the feedback… it’s good to see another fitness fanatic to back me up!! 😛

      Good to hear you found cycling to keep you active after such a tragedy… it must’ve been horribly painful and upsetting to know that you’d never run the same again! I’ll be sure to check out your site too if you leave your URL?

      I did!! 😀 It was such an incredible experience, I think I’ll just HAVE to run another at some point… I’m enjoying a bit of a rest period at the moment though (albeit still running around 10-20miles/week!!) My blog post on the marathon itself can be found here. I was aiming for a sub 4hr finish, and managed 3:49:18, so I was super happy!! 😀

      Thank you so much for joining the discussion!! :)

      Zoe

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