Three Key Aspects of Marathon Training You Probably Didn’t Factor Into Your Plan

With just over twelve weeks to go until the London marathon, and with many more marathons across the globe approaching fast, getting the miles in is obviously going to be your priority, but there are other aspects of training for a marathon that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Training for a marathon is about much more than racking up the miles. 

Today we’re going to take a look at three key areas of marathon training that you may not have factored in to your overall training plan.

Here we go…

1. Keep Up Your Strength

Bodyweight exercise

Strength training is a vital and often overlooked part of marathon training.

As far as your lower body goes, strength training helps to overcome and prevent muscle imbalances; stronger legs may also help you to run faster as you’ll fatigue later and will have more power, and there’s also a strong link between strength training and a lower rate of injury: stronger, trained muscles will mind a high impact, high mileage routine far less than weak muscles.

Upper body and core training is not to be forgotten either: having a strong upper body helps to drive you forward as you run and helps to delay fatigue in the lower body too.

4 body weight exercises for marathon training

These are my top equipment-free, body weight moves to compliment your marathon training. Try including them in your routine 2-3 times a week and you should see a difference within the first few weeks.

Plank with arm extension.

This move targets the core muscles around the lower abdomen, as well as upper body and glutes too. If you feel it in your lower back at any point, stop and try again after a short rest. Here’s how it goes:

  • Lie face down on the floor resting on your forearms. Slowly push off the floor rising up onto your toes and resting on your elbows. Make sure that your back remains flat, in a straight line from head to heels, and contract your abdominals to prevent your bottom from sticking up in the air.
  • Raise and straighten your right arm, and hold it so that it’s parallel to the rest of your body.
  • Lower to your starting position before raising your other arm and repeat. Start with a total of 10 reps and slowly increase to 20.

Skipping lunge

This dynamic version of the lunge adds a little bit of an explosion to your regular lunge, which helps with increasing power.

  • Start in a lunge position with right leg bent at the front, left leg bent behind and arms bent by sides.
  • Propel yourself into the air by pushing off the balls of both feet and driving your left knee forward and up before landing back to your starting position.
  • Do 20 reps, switch sides and then repeat.

Spiderman push up

This is a fantastic version of the push up! The spiderman twist really works your obliques (your waist muscles) and hip flexors, which do a lot of work when you’re running.

  • Assume your usual pushup position on toes with palms face down on the floor.
  • As you bend elbows and lower your body towards the floor, lift your right foot off the floor, bringing your right knee towards your right elbow.
  • Reverse the movement, before returning push to the starting position.
  • Repeat on your left side. Continue to alternate back and forth for 30 seconds gradually increasing to a minute.

Single leg bridge

One of the best ways to target your glutes, a very important muscle group for runners, the single leg bridge can also help you determine how well your other core muscles are working.

  • Lie faceup with your right knee bent, foot flat on the floor with your left leg extended over your hip.
  • With arms resting by sides, push through your right heel and lift hips and back until your body is aligned from your shoulders to your right knee.
  • Pushing through your heel, lower your hips until they brush the floor and repeat. Do 25 reps, then switch sides.

2. Eat well to run well

eat well

Quality is key

When it comes to quality carbohydrates, think rice, potatoes and sweet potatoes, pasta and good quality bread. You don’t need to ban any foods, but always bear in mind, variety is best. The odd slice of white buttered toast is fine; you may find breakfast cereal is way easier to digest for your Sunday run but on the whole, unrefined carbs with a decent fiber content are better for your body.

Don’t be afraid to experiment (although maybe reserve some of your higher fiber choices for your shorter mid-week runs). Keep protein sources varied too: protein helps to rebuild and repair muscle tissue, worth considering when planning your post-long run meal. Good protein foods include cheese, yogurt, fish, chicken and eggs.

Remember to rehydrate

Rehydration shouldn’t just be a post-run afterthought or reserved for a warm day. Rehydration, especially for those longer runs, should start the day before.

Carb replenishment

For runs of 90 minutes or more you’ll need to find a carb replenishment that works for you. Faster releasing carbs such as jelly beans, isotonic drinks and gels are all effective. Some people find they can get away with a banana mid-run while others find them cumbersome and not so easy on the digestion.

You can shop around and see what works for you: speak to other runners, check out online reviews and make sure you’ve got a tried-and-tested strategy before you head out on those longer training runs.

3. Track, track track

Health trackers

One US survey found 74% of marathon runners use some form of wearable for their training, a whopping 88% rely on their wearables for motivation while a staggering 78% feel their wearable gives them a competitive edge.

What’s useful about wearables is that they help you distinguish between fact and perception: if you’re having a bad day, what may feel like a really tough, fast run may actually just be your usual easy run pace – tracking speed, distance and heart rate will provide you with hard facts.

You can look for patterns too: you may find you run faster the day after you eat carbs (Addapp can help you identify patterns such as this, and provide you with an action point, too) or you may find that your sleep is interrupted more than you thought. Whether you’re a marathon newbie or a seasoned marathoner, jumping on the data bandwagon may prove more useful than you realize.

Addapp is now available for free from the App Store.
Download now to start receiving personalized insights into your well-being!

Image credits: Asgeir, Ted McGraph, Jason Howie

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Laura Williams is Addapp’s in-house fitness expert. Laura is a fully qualified Level 3 Personal Trainer and holds additional qualifications in both Sports Conditioning and Pilates.

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