How to Train for a Marathon

by Dan Shaffer

Courtesy: rafe747 @ deviantART

Many people long to do many different things in their lifetime. Among athletic people, a common goal is to run a marathon. You’ve often seen the 26.2 sticker on the back of a marathoner’s car, and thought to yourself that maybe someday you can put one on your car too. However, many people have no idea where to begin to get in shape to run even half of a marathon. After reading this, you will hopefully be ready to start training for your very first one.

There are several steps to complete in order to be fully prepared for a marathon. This includes getting yourself in shape for running in general, running long and slow distances, and recovering from your runs.
Step 1: Get in shape
You obviously want to make sure you are in shape enough to run a long race. This is done by constantly running more and more to get your body used to going the distance. Typically, a beginner marathon runner should be able to run 40-50 miles per week before attempting the first marathon. This is the base for being able to run that marathon. Now, this might take you anywhere from 12 to 20 weeks to accomplish, but you want to gradually increase your weekly mileage rate while allowing your body to adjust to the new training. Try increasing your mileage each week, but never increase it by more than 10% per week. You should also try to run at least 3-5 times per week allowing your body to sufficiently rest all while getting the mileage in to properly prepare yourself.
Step 2: Longer Runs
Next on your list for training goals is to be able to go on increasingly long runs once a week or so. This long run should increase by a mile or two every week and then cut back again on the third week. This allows your body to regain its strength again and prevent injury. This long, slow run should be done and increased until it peaks at around 20 miles. This is your ultimate training goal, to reach that 20 mile slow, long run at the end of the week. Getting up to this number is extremely important as an entire marathon is 26.2 miles. Your slow, long run will only be a few miles less than the actual marathon.
Step 3: Recovery
Rest and recovery is extremely important to training for a marathon. Take a rest day or two each week. This lets your body recover and it will prevent injuries since your legs can’t handle the constant running. Your muscles need to recover on these days so no running at all. With this strict training schedule, you can’t afford an injury. Cross training is wise as it keeps you in shape but takes the focus off of running. You could even try some pool workouts to change it up a little bit. Rest before the actual marathon by cutting back your weekly mileage significantly so your body is fully rested for the race.
These steps will definitely put your right foot forward when it comes to training for your first marathon. If it helps, you could even sign up for some smaller races or half marathons along the way to keep you training and accountable to that ultimate goal of 26.2 miles. Gradual increases and rest are the keys to this massive accomplishment. Many people have done it, but it isn’t easy. Take your time if you need to, but you should strive to reach that goal within a reasonable amount of time.
Guest Blogger:  Dan Shaffer

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