While running a marathon is a difficult feat in itself, knowing how to train well for such a long race is often where many runners encounter the biggest challenges.
First, there's getting the balance right between training enough and not over-training. Then there's pace, dehydration, carb-loading and the worry of becoming hyponatremic to consider.
But, that doesn't stop millions of people running the biggest marathons in the world every year. And it shouldn't stop you either. You just need to know what not to do when it comes to fine-tuning your marathon training schedule.
So, whether it's your first time running a marathon or you're a seasoned pro, read on to learn the marathon training mistakes you need to avoid.
You're preparing for a marathon so it makes sense that you can't sprint through your training schedule and expect a good result.
It takes time for your body to adjust and adapt to the demands of long-distance running. So, attempting to cram 20 weeks of training into a couple of months is risky.
If you're new to running, give yourself time to build up your speed, distance and stamina. As you see improvement, you'll be motivated to continue training. It takes around six to eight weeks to be ready for a 5K or 10K, 12 to 14 weeks to prepare for a half-marathon, and 16 to 22 weeks for a marathon.
Trying to build up your distances too quickly doesn't give your body time to adjust to the high-impact of running. As a result, aches and pains are more likely and can to injuries if you don't pace yourself.
If you've given yourself enough time ahead of a race, you should find a slow and steady increase in distance achievable within your marathon running schedule.
A general rule is to aim to increase your running distance by no more than 10 percent each week. For example, if you're running around 10 miles over the course of the week, you shouldn't increase your total to more than 11 miles the following week.
And, since this increase is a percentage, as you build up your mileage you'll be able to increase at a quicker rate.
Your marathon training plan has you down to complete five miles in 45 minutes today. But your body has other ideas.
As any marathon runner will tell you, listening to your body is the key to efficient training. A running pace that feels easy on a cool and cloudy day may feel hard-going when you're running in intense heat. Other variables such as your health, mindset and the terrain can all affect your performance on any given day.
Having objectives is great, but misjudging what you can achieve may result in pushing yourself too hard, and has the potential to cause injury. Instead, let effort be your guide. This way you'll always know that you've trained in the optimal zone.
As you become faster and build up your stamina to cover longer distances, you'll start to get an idea of how long it should take you to complete a marathon.
Basing your goal time on your current abilities and fitness level is realistic, helpful and motivating. But all too often, runners select a goal time based on the advice of others or even just an arbitrary number.
Your goal time is individual to you. By picking a goal time out of thin air, you run the risk of pushing yourself beyond your capabilities.
Running is a great way to lose weight. But, training for a marathon means you'll rack up a lot of miles and complete harder workouts. And all that exercise makes recovery even more important.
But, if you don't account for all the extra calories you're burning, your body won't have the fuel and nutrients necessary for optimal recovery. You'll feel tired as a result, training will become harder and you'll struggle to get over each workout.
To avoid this, adjust your calorific intake and ensure you're getting enough calories from lean proteins and nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.
Completing marathon-length runs every weekend might sound like good practice.
But, heading out every Sunday for a long run means that your leg muscles are constantly trying to recover. All while being forced to complete further training throughout the week.
A more effective strategy is to go for a long run every other weekend, or every three weeks. This way, you'll still practice running long distances, but you'll also benefit from better quality training sessions throughout the week.
Active recovery workouts are an essential part of your training schedule. But, many marathon trainees neglect active recovery in favor of back-to-back heavy sessions and excessive weekly mileage targets.
After a hard workout or a long run, follow it up with an easy run or a cross-training workout such as hiking, swimming or cycling. This kind of active recovery will give your body time to adapt, heal and improve.
Avoid watching the clock and go by feel. It should be easy enough to talk while you're exercising and shouldn't put too much pressure on any part of your body.
If you're sick or injured, switching to active recovery for a couple of days will help you heal better than pushing through regardless would. With enough time in your schedule to prepare properly, this time off shouldn't derail your training schedule either.
If you're side-lined with something more serious, such as a sprained ankle, put your training on hold. And don't get back to training until your doctor to gives you the okay to continue.
But, coming back after an injury or a short break means you will have to reassess your level and progression plan. You can't just assume that you can continue from where you left off. So, start slow and build up from where you are now, not from where you plan says you should be.
Cramming in 70 miles of running a week might make sense if you plan to copy British comedian Eddie Izzard and run 27 marathons in as many days.
But, the average marathon runner would be far better prepared with a 35-mile weekly total. That's because keeping your running distances down to a more manageable amount allows you to complete higher-quality training.
It's what happens on the day that really matters. And it's far more conducive to good marathon running to build up to a well-paced 20-mile run than complete hundreds of miles at a lower speed.
Something that many runners fail to factor into their marathon training schedule is that it takes around four weeks to recover from a long run of around 18-20 miles. This obviously means that you shouldn't run that kind of distance in one go during the month leading up to the marathon.
But, whether it's because they think they know better, or they want to squeeze in more long-distance practice, a lot of runners don't follow this advice.
During the month before a marathon, the emphasis should be on recovery. And, the best way to recover is to taper down your training. For example, four weeks before a marathon you should drop down to 80 percent of your previous weekly mileage. Then 60 percent, 40 percent and, finally, 25 percent a week before the race.
Fatigue and the risk of dehydration are real concerns for marathon runners. And drinking too much water while running can cause you to become hyponatremic.
As such, sports drinks are ideal for runners to provide a necessary boost of carbohydrates while hydrating you at the same time. But, one mistake that many runners make is 'saving' their sports drinks for the late stages of a race. By then, it's often too late to benefit from the sports drink.
Instead, you should drink around eight to 10 regular-sized mouthfuls of sports drink 10 minutes before the race begins. Once you set off, take in five to six mouthfuls every two minutes or so. And, to get into the good habit of continuously taking in sports drink as you run, use this intake pattern during long training runs too.
The key to fueling your best performance is consuming a tried and tested pre-race breakfast before the marathon.
Whatever you go for, make sure it's not greasy and contains enough carbs to get you through the race. It's also crucial that it's something your body can digest easily.
To make sure this pre-race breakfast works for you, eat it before your long training runs too. And, wait the same amount of time to head off for your run as you'd have on marathon day. This way, you'll know how your body reacts to your pre-race routine. And, if it's too much or not enough, you can adjust accordingly before the big day.
By avoiding these common marathon training mistakes, you're sure to have a much better experience preparing for your marathon than many runners. Not to mention, you'll also have more chance of finishing with a great time!
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