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Each year, we invite a number of runners to take part in the Virgin Money London Marathon on our behalf, helping to raise money which we then use to provide more young people with opportunities to realise their potential and develop their vital skills.
This year’s selection of runners will now be thinking about getting stuck into their training and building up the fitness needed to take on 26.2 miles in April. With that in mind, we’ve put together a few top tips for anyone looking to make a head start on their spring marathon training this winter.
With the best part of four months to go until the big day, there’s plenty of time to get all the training done and feel fully prepared for the race, but it’s really important to start your preparation well so that you can stay ahead of the game all the way through to the big day.
To help get your 2020 training off to a flying start, we’ve put together our top five tips for January and beyond: -
1. Consistency is key
While it is really important to rack up the miles in your training, doing it in a haphazard way will only make it harder in the long run – your body needs time to adjust to the increased load you’ll be putting it under, which means that you need to factor in recovery time for the adaptations to occur.
To achieve this, being consistent is the most important factor when it comes to building up the training – it’s no good going out for a huge run, smashing yourself to bits and then needing a week off to recover. Running shorter distances five days out of seven brings more benefit than one or two big runs a week, as your body absorbs the load and becomes stronger gradually and recovers accordingly.
2. Make a plan for your training
Training for a marathon can seem like a long and daunting process – building up the miles, increasing your tolerance to greater and greater loads and improving your fitness over weeks and months.
To reduce the fear factor, it can help to plan ahead and work out what you need to achieve along the way, working on a month-to-month basis made up of individual training weeks. This effectively breaks up the total load into smaller pieces so you can focus on where you are now in your training rather than where you hope to be further down the line.
3. Start increasing the miles – carefully
It can be tempting to dive straight in and start banking miles in your training, working on the theory that more is more, but that can be a risky approach when it comes to long-distance running. Building up tolerance in your joints and bones can take time and doing too much too soon can lead to injury or force you to take off extended periods of time to recover.
The rule of thumb for building up the miles is to stick to a 10% increase – both in terms of your overall weekly mileage and your long run. This early in your training, your longest run of the week doesn’t need to be more than 90 minutes or 10 miles, depending on whether your training by distance or time, and you have plenty of time to build this up gradually to allow your body sufficient room for adaptation.
4. Set goals for your journey
Watching your fitness grow over time can be extremely rewarding as you become stronger and more efficient in your running. To help you monitor this, it can help to set some benchmarks now and allocate opportunities in your training to test yourself as you go along. For instance, you could visit your nearest parkrun on a Saturday morning and go all-out for 5km now, then repeat this in February and March to see how much you’ve improved.
At the same time, setting targets such as running a half marathon or a 20 mile race in the build-up to the marathon can give you a huge confidence boost as you start to see your endurance grow towards the full distance.
5. Train your stomach
Nutrition and hydration can often be the forgotten elements in a training plan, but it’s really important to make sure that anything you plan to do on race day has been tested beforehand. You’ll definitely need to drink during the marathon and you’ll probably want to take on some calories too (either in the form of energy drink or gels), but you’ll need to know in advance that your digestion can handle this.
The best way to do this is to train as you plan to race – take some gels or solid food and a drink with you on your long runs and, if you plan to stop and walk through the aid stations on the day, then replicate that in your training – slow down to a walk, talk a sip and then off you go again.
Overall, the best advice for any training plan is to make sure you enjoy it – that might seem difficult sometimes when the going gets tough and the effort needed starts to ramp up but staying focused on your reason for running can help hugely. That might be a personal best time for some or completing the race for others, but whatever motivates you to keep putting one foot in front of another, keep it in mind and you’ll be on the right track.
Do you have any advice for our runners in this year’s London Marathon?
What’s your top tip for getting your training off to a great start at the beginning of the year? Send us your ideas and thoughts via Twitter.
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