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10 Training Exercises to Prepare For a Marathon

Create your aerobic Marathon base means that you have to see it as a project where you create a frame and fill it out with the most important elements and the aim toward a goal in the future, which is How to train for a marathon. You develop a marathon program, and then you can establish a plan to meet this goal. 10 Training Exercises to Prepare For a Marathon follows logical steps, but the programs can develops from different basic principles.

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Develop a Personal Training Program

It is crucial for a training program that it is personal developed and adapted. Then you can move forward from your current running level and pattern. It is not a good idea if you make a training program, where you have to run many km every week and have previous experience with injuries when the kilometre volume increases too much. In such cases, it is a benefit to include cross training activities. You can e.g. use the elliptical trainer/cross trainer, which performs standing with leg and arm movements similar to running, and the machine is very gentle for your legs.

Training types, goes from volume training (quantity) – like with the running legend Arthur Lydiard, who really developed the LSD concept – to quality training, which often is intervals and tempo run.

Marathon training programs should have the purpose to optimize the training in relation to both your physical shape and capacity, as well as in relation to the marathon race. The progress happens through systematic and flexible training, where training types uses and prioritizes structured in relation to where you are in the training course.

Maybe you just want to complete one marathon and then “retire”, and that is absolutely okay, you can use a program to reach that goal. However, if you are a long distance runner who wants long term results and improvements, then you have to train regularly throughout the year and add shape peaks related to the distances, you have chosen to run and when to run them.

A training program helps to ensure your shape progress. In this way, you can always see where you are in the course. You can use check marks or milestones; add notes to the program and other things that may support you. You will also feel more certainty even excitement, when you have created an overview of the training, where you can see all the way to the goal(s) and what kind of training, you have to perform on the way.

If you are member of an athletic club, you probably know what season planning / frame plans means. Often, they hang on the wall by the changing room.

Let me give an example from my own running career:

Periodisation

Particular experienced long distance runner’s use Periodisation, since they run all year round. Periodisation means that we organize the training into phases during a chosen time frame, with focus on specific training types. When we start up in January, we have a time frame forward to the season start at the end of April. We call this period “winter training”. The period splits up in 4, 6 – 8 weeks phases where each phase builds on the previous one.

The phases allow us to combine the benefits of different training types that collectively aims to reach a shape peak on a chosen goal. First phase is always with most focus on basic training, which means endurance training, the long easy runs LSD. Then we add other training types in the following phases. In this way, we increase the chances to reach a higher performance level.

Our coach uses a Gantt diagram, since a Gantt project chart graphically can display all training phases in relation to one another along a timeline. Milestones illustrates shift from one phase to the next. Key races /test runs and combination of training types fills out the diagram with details. Hereby we get an illustrative and structured overview of the process as we print and hang on the wall by the changing room.

As you see, you can build up a marathon training program by using time frames and combining the benefits from different training types to optimize your performance, depending on the number of shape peaks you want to achieve and what distances you choose in the season. Many people who sign up for their first City marathon and completes, does not return to their next marathon because they don’t understand the pre-planning and just follow a program from the internet and probably chose one that is too ambitious to their level.

However, I just want you to know your running opportunities. The frame plans uses to ensure structure in the training and provide an overview of the development you want, from the Marathon goal you have set up. First time frame is about the basic training, where a training volume (kilometre volume) gradually increases, so that your base is sufficient in relation to your goal. Next frame plan aims to create a shape peak to the desired race.

In other words, the first frame is about creating a base, which predominantly is about quantity training, and the second frame builds further on this base, with focus on the specialization, quality training to your chosen race.

Frame Plan

The time frame describes the forthcoming training sessions and provides information about core concepts in the training such as the number of weeks forward to the race day (competition), or if you want, number of weeks down to the race day, training types, expected training actions and training volume in kilometres per week.

A frame plan may look like this:

Week LSD 1 LSD 2 LT Intervals VO2
max.
Fartlek Km/week
1
2
4
5
14

Depending on your current running level, the weeks shortens or extends. The training program fills out the frame plan with details; it specifies what to do and when to do it, like when 
 you run Fartlek or LSD.

In this way, we create a program that describes the week’s training days in a structured way. The training program will include some core elements such as training volume, variation, quality training, rest and recovery.

The core elements composes in a way, where the body gets time to adapt to the training, which means it’s not a good idea with several hard training days in a row. It is also important that the training spreads evenly over the weekdays, and that you do not compress them to a few days after each other.

So, to target and manage your training and keep you committed and focused in the best way, it is a benefit with a frame plan and thus a training program with a time horizon, which means a goal or milestone at the end. When training to a marathon, it is not just your physical shape, which is crucial. Particular the body’s tendon tissue has to adapt the training load through a sufficient large training volume, before it is justifiable to accomplish.

The basic training

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A precondition to achieve a good result on the race day, is the good preparation – the basic training – your base. That you have created a good base and later sharpen your shape by more intensive and targeted training. Many months of training will be tested in a relative short time, when you are at the start line to the marathon race and in relation to the many hours, you have completed during training.

Without the basics, there is often a tendency to speed up the training and make it to intensive too early, which makes it hard to complete races both mentally and physically. In addition, you increase the risk of injuries and it contributes to destroy some of the motivation and the joy of running and hereby the training in the future.

The whole idea of the basic training is that you slowly build up a training volume, which is sufficient to create a good shape peak for the race you move towards. Many experienced runners uses the late autumn and winter months to basic training and create hereby a good base. The core element of the basic training consists of long slow distances – LSD. In this way, the body slowly adapts to the load that characterize long distance running.

To avoid being too one-sided and slow by the basic training, you can run some strides, where you increase the pace more and more to 100 – 150 m or where you keep a high pace of about 50 –  100 meters, just to maintain the speed in the legs and to vary the training. You can include them in Fartlek later in the progress. It is also something that really makes you feel energized.

In the latter half of the basic training, you should gradually accustom the body to the more intensive training that characterizes the training against a shape peak. The basic training period, therefore also contains some long 1500 meter – 2000 meter intervals with intensity around the LT- threshold.

Basic training takes place at all levels, and is just as important for the experienced runner, who will provide a good basis for his marathon training as for the beginner, which starts up with jogging just a few minutes. We all have to practice the fundamentals.

How the content in your marathon-training program composes, depends on your current running experience but remember this:

As long as you do something on a consistent basis, whether it is just walking a few kilometres in the beginning, you will have progress. You begin to obtain the physiological improvements and benefits we talked about earlier.

Basic Training for beginners and runners with very little experience in long distance running takes longer time than basic training for the more experienced runners, since it is not a good idea to speed up the training volume to fast. Experienced runners, still have much of the basic shape from last season. They are also adapted to a greater training volume.

Intermediate experienced runners only need about 10-12 weeks with basic training. However, many beginners will “suffer” if they only train in 12 weeks before their training intensifies. As beginner, you should train for at least 18 to 20 weeks before the training intensifies, and before you begin to think about participating in races, if you want to run with maximum performance. If you have experience from another sport, you can eventually shorten the weeks.

Basic Training programs for Marathon runners can be designed as below:

Beginner

Week LSD 1 LSD 2 LT – Intervals Fartlek Km/week
1 3 2 8
2 3 3 10
4 4 3 12
6 4 4 14
8 6 4 17
10 7 5 20
11 7 5 20
12 7 6 22
14 8 6 30 min. 24
15 8 6 30 min. 24
16 9 7 2*2000 m 26
17 9 7 26
18 9 7 30 min. 28
19 9 7 30 min. 28
20 10 8 2*3000 m 30

Intermediate

Week LSD 1 LSD 2 LT – Intervals Fartlek Km/week
1 8 6 26
2 10 7 28
3 11 9 30 min. 32
4 12 10 30 min. 35
5 12 9 3*2000 m 35
6 14 11 30 min. 40
7 15 12 4*2000 m 44
8 15 12 30 min. 45
9 17 13 4*2000 m 48
10 18 13 30 min. 48
11 18 13 30 min. 48
12 20 12 2*3000 m 50

Elaboration of the programs

The basic training at this level is focused around 4 key days with 2 LSD, LT – Training, and Fartlek. As you see the 4 key days throughout the week does not cover the complete training volume. The remaining amount of training, accomplishes in other days in easy pace as recovery runs. It will also give you some flexibility and make it easier fitting in the training to your daily life.

Instead of recovery run, you can sometimes practice cross training as alternative. Cross training can include low-impact sports such as bicycling, swimming, exercise machines like the elliptical trainer / cross trainer and weight training that provide cardiovascular benefits, while it also gives you a physical and mental break from running.

You can do most of that in a fitness center, or maybe you have an exercise machine under your bed. These types of endurance training can occasionally replace running, so you also avoid over training or other overload injuries. You may eventually note in your training diary, what kind of cross training you have accomplished.

First long run (LSD 1) increases slowly in volume through the program. Toward the end of the program, you will be able to run the expected number of kilometres without breaks.

Second-long run (LSD 2) the pace here may be a little higher, but not more than “talk pace”. It will also be a good idea if you can find one or more hilly running routes to this LSD 2, both to create variation in the training but also to increase the training effect a little from LSD 1.

LT – training at this level is also about variation to keep the motivation. The pace should be nearby the lactate threshold, which means you should run faster than the LSD runs. This type of training helps to harden the body. You start getting used to a harsher and a more direct way to train. The pace should be near your half-marathon pace. If you have not ran so far before, the LT corresponds roughly to the pace you can maintain for an hour with maximum effort. You can also use a heart rate monitor as a sports watch to find your LT zone.

Fartlek becomes a good alternative to the intervals. It is especially good for runners who are not accustomed to train in high pace. By using fartlek, you decide how hard it should be from how you feel. This will make it easier for your body to get used to harder training from your own feeling. It is therefore also easier to adapt the training to how hard the previous days of training has been. You get little by little a good sense of pace shift and your increased strength. However, it may be beneficial with a set of rules before you start.

Strides

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It will also be a good idea to include speed training also called strides in your Fartlek. Strides are 100 – 150m accelerations where you start by low pace and accelerates to about 90% of your max speed, and then gradually slow down to jogging again. One stride should take you about 20-30 seconds. Later in the program, you can include 5 – 10 strides in your 3 km race pace. Maybe it sounds unusual, that you as coming marathon runner may have benefit of speed training.

The purpose of strides at this level is that you avoid becoming too slow and one-sided by the training at all. In addition, it will make the marathon race considerably easier, if you include strides in the training, because many beginners/intermediate runs with a slow cadence, quick short steps are actually more effective than longer slow steps. The shorter steps, the less you “jump up and down” when you run. Thereby is less energy needless wasted (better running economy).

With this kind of speed training, you will often discover that the other runs will be more effortless and comfortable. You program your legs to move faster, by activating and increasing the reactivity of your nervous system, that match your running movements. You will often experience the effect of speed training after a couple of weeks. Suddenly you run more easily because of the increased cadence.

When you have completed the basic training here you are ready for the specialization.

Conclusion

The intention with this blog is to give you knowledge, purpose, direction and motivation to why and how we move toward our running goals. Otherwise, it would be like in the movie Forrest Gump where Tom Hanks just run and run without knowing why? It don’t make sense. You can also find a ton of training programs on the internet who just show you what to do, when to do it and how long it takes to accomplish but not why you do it and what it gives you from where you are in the starting point and during the program.

I hope you like this blog and if you have any questions about this topic or want to leave your own Personal review, please leave a comment below.

 

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4 thoughts on “10 Training Exercises to Prepare For a Marathon”

  1. Nice article – makes total sense to build your body up to the level needed to run a marathon… otherwise you’ll end up injuring yourself. I love fitness but I’ve never run a marathon before… unfortunately I won’t get to do it now as I ruptured my ACL playing football and it’s not been the same since.

    Reply
  2. awesome review on how to train for a marathon, I have indeed been looking for such an article that could give me insight on how to go about building myself for a marathon training luckily I just don’t pull up on yours so grateful for all the tips will giving I can’t wait to start utilising them…
    thanks for sharing, have a great day and stay safe

    Reply

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