10 Principles of Marathon Training

A marathon training program can survive any challenge — as long as your determination remains strong. Here are 10 principles to carry you through your training.

1. Alternate hard days with easy days

If you need to adjust the training schedule because of travel, time conflicts at home or work, or weather problems, remember to follow an easy day/hard day pattern. (Run easy today, hard tomorrow, easy the next day, hard the day after, etc.) Don’t run hard two days consecutively to compensate for lost training. And be sure to view Long Slow Distance (“LSD”), as well as any speedwork, as a hard day – and thus never do speedwork and a long run on successive days.

2. Ain’t no mountain high enough

Regular runs on hilly terrain are an important component in building strength and stamina. If hills are available where you live, make sure to include them in your running routes – especially if your marathon has hills.

3. Don’t skimp on the sleep

Don’t skimp on sleep during your marathon build-up. Consistent quality sleep (7 hours minimum a night for most people) is vital to recovery from the wear-and-tear of workouts.

4. If you’re hurting, take it easy

Don’t run with an injury. If you sense the onset of one, rest or cross train for 1-3 days to see if the injury symptoms subside. If they do, resume gentle running. If they don’t, seek professional medical opinion as to the nature of your injury and continue to lay off of running until cleared to resume by the professional.

5. Step lively

Never train in broken-down shoes. Quality running shoes last for a maximum of 500 miles or less before their support systems break down. Carefully gauge the condition of your shoes against the number of miles you’ve run in them. When you begin to feel regular flare ups of knee, shin, foot, or hip discomfort, it’s probably time for new shoes. Continuing to run in broken-down shoes often results in injuries. To read more about selecting the best running shoes click here

6. Shop wisely

The best place to shop for shoes (and running clothing and accessories) is a retail store that specializes in running shoes – not soccer cleats, basketball shoes, or pro team jerseys. In a specialty running store you will be waited on by runners (no doubt more experienced than you) who’ve been trained in running mechanics and schooled in running-shoe technologies. They’ll guide through the maze of choices to shoes that are most compatible with your running mechanics and training practices. To read more about selecting the best running shoes click here

7. Follow the path

Follow our marathon training schedules as best you can. They work, but listen to your body and be smart and flexible in making training decisions. If you’re exhausted, skip your scheduled 7 A.M. Sunday 20-miler and sleep in; do the long run another time. If you’re running track repeats at 5 P.M. and it’s 95 degrees, wait for a cooler day to do this workout. To read more about runners burnout click here

8. Get social

Marathon training can be either a solitary or social experience; we recommend making it social. Why? Training with a compatible partner, or as part of a group of runners with compatible goals, can provide support, motivation, humor, structure, information exchange, and sometimes professional coaching.

9. Dress accordingly

Keep abreast of local weather forecasts and dress for running accordingly. Generally, wear less clothing than you think you’ll need for the expected temperatures. The body generates plenty of heat during running, and by overdressing, you significantly increase your risk for dehydration and may inhibit your body’s natural cooling abilities.

10. Eat to perform

Gone are the days when marathoners wouldn’t drink or eat during training runs. Now it’s essential that you plan to drink water or sports drinks for runs exceeding an hour, and plan to eat (energy bars, energy gels, fruit, bagels, or sugary snacks) during training runs 90 minutes or longer. Just as important is to be well-hydrated and fed before you start any run. Of course, you’ll also want to keep well-fueled during your marathon itself. The bottom line on hydration and eating: Find out through experimentation what quantity and mix of beverages and foods works best for you during longer training runs, then follow through with it during your marathon. For all you need to know about sports nutrition click here