We've Got Your Ultimate Marathon Training Guide Right Here
With twenty six miles standing between you and the finish line, just how do you prepare for one of the biggest running challenges there is? We’ve covered all bases, from training to nutrition, to get you ready for the London Marathon.
It’s no surprise that you need to do a lot of runs in order to get in shape for the marathon, but it doesn’t all have to be endless cardio. You should change up your routine in order to make real gains in terms of stamina. Personal trainer Luke Hughes recommends these training techniques.
Focus on length and tempo: A lot of runners focus on miles and miles alone. While gradually increasing your mileage is a great way to build up to marathon distance, you should also throw in some runs over shorter distances and at harder paces. Such techniques use different muscles, and will have a clear impact on both your stamina and pace.
Scale your intensity: As a beginner, running longer and slower is fine. In fact, this is a good way of building your stamina from the outset. However, as you progress you should try running at a harder pace, for more miles. As mentioned above, alternating your workouts between mileage and pace is a great way to improve overall stamina. Using a scaling method will mean you can safely avoid injury (many runners go too hard, too early) and you’ll also be able to see clear improvements in your stamina.
Core strength: Cardio is all well and good, but running 26 miles requires a certain amount of strength, as well as cardiovascular fitness. Increasing your core strength through body weight exercises like planks, squats, and bridges, is going to drastically improve your ability to run long distances. A strong core allows to extremities (arms and legs) to function at optimal capacity, therefore you should integrate these exercises into your daily workout.
Leg Day: Similar to the above, a degree of muscle and strength is going to help you last. You don’t want to tire your legs too much (running as it is, a high impact exercise on knee joints), but maintaining a useful degree of strength is going to be particularly beneficial for you.
What you fuel your body with also plays a huge part in performance, so what should you be chowing down in the weeks before? “You need to load up on good carbs – low GI slow digesting ones”, says James Davis owner of 38 Degrees North fitness retreat.
“Oats and sweet potato are great examples. Also during your runs you need to add BCAAs to your water to help protein synthesis and build and protect your muscles. Finally take on lots of water and Omega 3 and Glucosamine supplements after a meal to maintain healthy bone and muscle tissue.”
Of course, your body needs to be in good shape to run a marathon but your mind too needs to be equally as strong. “Whilst we can ensure we are physically fit for an event and even look the part by buying the best gear, making sure we are in the right mind-frame to succeed is often forgotten, despite studies showing that mental practice not only enhances performance but can also be even more effective than physical practice,” says psychologist, Dr Richard Sherry. In fact, as much as 50 – 90% of athletic performance is entirely down to state of mind. To combat this, Richard outlines a range of mental workouts.
Pre-performance routines: “Ensure you are in a positive headspace by thinking about your goal and imagine yourself achieving it. Then focus on preparing your body with a dynamic warm up incorporating a product like Deep Heat Muscle Massage Roll-on Lotion to help prepare tight, tense muscles. Once you return, take time to rehabilitate your muscles with a cool down and debrief (with your running partner or by yourself) about what you could have done better. Then put steps in place to achieve this next time to optimise your performance.”
Imagery techniques: “Visualising each step of the way can improve performance. Put as much detail into your visualisation as possible – thinking about what you will see, hear and smell. It’s also important to visualise the parts you will find hard, and what steps you will take to overcome them. Think about how you will prepare and what you will do when you begin to feel tired.”
Self-talk: “Create powerful marathon mantras you can say to yourself during training, before, during and after the race. Make sure they are positive and concise so you won’t forget them.”
When the big day finally arrives the pressure of everything you have been preparing for can be immense. So how do you handle it? Owner of F45 Training Camden Jake Lawrance has these tips:
- Find your happy place: “Some people are happy enough thinking away to themselves about life’s great questions, but others need a little help to see them through. Find something you love to listen to – music, audio books, lectures, anything to keep you going.”
- Don’t change a thing: “Many people, for whatever reason, decide to do things differently on race day. Perhaps it’s the nerves, adrenaline or seeing other people do different things, but it’s a big, big mistake. One of the best tips I can offer you is to keep everything you do on race day the same as what you’ve done throughout your training. Same footwear, same clothes, same pre-run meal, same drinks, same everything, doing things even slightly differently can drastically affect your performance.”