With the London Marathon, just over 6 months away, now is a great time to start training. We recommend that you give yourself 3-12 months to prepare for a Marathon. Whether you are a beginner to an experienced runner, our guide to marathon training will help you to understand what type of workouts, nutrition and preparation is needed for your next marathon. MotivatePT’s qualified personal trainers can guide you through your journey, offering that much needed motivation, education and support, to enable everyone of all levels to achieve and exceed their personal running goals.

How to prepare for the marathon?

Firstly, being prepared both physically and mentally is really important. The first step is to get the go ahead from your doctor; running 26.2 miles is a lot longer than your daily neighbourhood jog. Next, ensure that you have the gear or at least some idea before you start! Invest in running shoes that offer support and are comfortable to avoid injury and limit the blisters! It is also a good idea to have running clothes which you do not mind throwing away on the day of the race – we will explain below why this is necessary.

Now onto the training element. In order to complete the marathon, you will need to build up stamina and speed; we therefore recommend that you train at least 3-6 times a week. These sessions should include a range of techniques and training styles. We advise a mixture of long runs, cardiovascular training, resistance training, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and core strength training. Contrary to popular belief, marathon training is not just about how far you can run but more about how well you can run.

Throughout your training, it is very important to adapt your programme gradually. Although you might be running consistently, you must also increase the intensity, to ensure progression occurs. One way you can this is by adding inclines into your running route. If you avoid increasing the intensity your body will begin to plateau. But, remember to be patient with your progress.

MotivatePT recommends you to adopt this running pattern for maximal results: Each week, increase your distance by no more than 10%. On week 4, taper your distance back, for a week of recovery and then begin again. Continue this pattern throughout your training. Recovery is almost just as important as the training itself. We also propose that you try running a few shorter races beforehand, such as a 5k or 10k to help you to prepare.

Great Workout Routines

A great workout routine starts by taking accountability. Once you have your goal, it is very important to write this down and to give yourself a timeframe, in which you would like to achieve this by. This will give you something to work towards, and will help you to stay motivated. You need to take responsibility and accountability. We all make time in the mornings to either do our make-up, or to shave our beards, so why isn’t fitness and our health a priority? Make time; an hour workout is just 4% of your day, you have no excuses. Start making you and your body your priority. Schedule in your calendar when and where you are going to workout and stick to it!

Ideal Exercise Routine

Now that you have your goal, and your schedule planned, it is important to think about what type of training is best for you. If you want to build muscle you do not want to be doing lots of cardio as this will not help you to reach your goal. It is important that your training is specific to your individual needs.

At MotivatePT we have a whole team of Personal Trainers (PTs), who all have different teaching methods, different skill sets. Some love yoga, some love bodybuilding, they’re all different. This is what makes us unique. No matter what your goals are or what types of training you love to do, we have got the perfect Personal Trainer for you.

You will firstly go through a matching process so we can match you to a PT, who we think will connect with you and will really help you to achieve what you are looking for. You will then have a consultation with the trainer for you both to see if this pairing will work. You will sit down for around 20-25mins to talk through the process I have written above. Your assigned personal trainer will then guide you through a 20-25min workout in relation to your goals. This is the perfect way for you to meet and connect with your trainer but it will also ease you into your workout programme.

Can you run?

It may sound like a silly question, but a lot of our clients do not have the best running technique, after all, who taught you to run? – No one! By working with one of our Personal Trainers, they will be able to focus on teaching you the correct and most efficient running technique. This is the most important step (excuse the pun) because if you are running with the wrong technique, you could be putting strain on your muscles and joints, this could lead to multiple injuries.

Many people assume that aching legs and tiredness will limit the distance you can run. However, this is simply not true, it is mostly your cardiovascular system. The stronger your heart is, the more oxygen is pumped around your body. This in turn helps prevent lactic acid building up, which will stop muscle soreness.

When training with one of our expert PT’s, it’s important to know that they will not just be running with you for an hour as this isn’t the most effective use of their expertise and time. Our trainer will introduce you to a programme which will focus on your individual needs to ensure that your goals are met.

They may ask you to participate in 2 long runs a week solo and then to train with them 3 times a week. They will focus on perfecting technique, and training other aspects of the body to help ensure that you are ready for the marathon. This may be in the form of cross-training, as this is a great way to improve your Cardiovascular system, but it also adds variety to your training to ensure boredom does not hit.

How to warm-up & stretch for marathon training?

Whilst training, MotivatePT recommends to warm up in the form of a pulse raiser for at least 3-12 minutes as this will help to prevent injury. On the day of the event it is very important not to waste too much energy warming up. We advise you to go for a 20-minute shakeout walk/jog, with the main goal being to get an increase in blood and oxygen flowing to the muscles. After, you should head home for you pre-run breakfast. Keep reading to find some examples below.

We also recommend that you wear clothing which you do not mind throwing away, because the warmer you are, the less energy you will use up trying to get warm. As your body temperature rises throughout the race, you will then be able to take off and throw a layer of clothing to the side.   

Besides raising your heart rate it is also important to stretch. This should be incorporated throughout your entire training programme to maintain optimal flexibility. This area of training is key to maintaining and lengthening your stride. It is important to hold each stretch for 30 seconds; this is known as a development stretch and will increase your range of movement (ROM) to help prevent an injury. You should be stretching all the major muscle groups whilst they remain warm.

It is important that you stretch after each warm up, however, if you do not have time, it is crucial that you ALWAYS stretch after a workout. Stretching helps to prevent muscular cramps, aches and pains and it will also reduce the chance of DOMS, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Stretching will reduce muscular fatigue/soreness over the next few days. One of our trainers will be able to assist you with the correct stretching technique.

Do I need muscle strength when training for the marathon?

You do! Long “distance running breaks down the muscles in the body and can result in a loss of strength, which in the end can slow you down,” says Justin Klein, C.S.C.S., of HumanFitProject. “With a proper strength-training program, this muscle breakdown can be assisted, and strength can be maintained through long-distance and endurance training,” he adds.

Our trainers will add body weight and interval training to help improve muscular strength and endurance. Not only does this add variety and new challenges to your workouts, it will also help to strengthen your legs. This will improve your running technique and stamina dramatically.

Core Strength

Core stability is often neglected throughout marathon training; however, this is an extremely important component. Your core supports the way your pelvis, abs, hips and lower back all work together. It also supports and absorbs shock throughout your vertebrae column. When you are at your top fitness level, well-toned core muscles all work together in sync whilst running. This prevents your torso from wiggling and from being out of alignment. Having a strong core will save you a lot of energy, and will enable you to be able to run faster. Our Personal Trainers each have a whole bank of core stability and strengthening exercises to enhance your running technique.

What should you eat & drink before, during and after a marathon?

  • Prior to the event – You should focus on increasing carbs and protein in the days leading up to the event. Also be sure to prioritise your hydration by drinking lots of fluids.
  • Dinner; 12 hours before – You should aim to get 60-70% of your calories from carbs, and also include lean protein within those meals, but remember not to overdo it.
    • Example: Try fish or chicken with brown rice, tofu and baked potato, sweet potatoes and whole wheat pasta.
  • Breakfast; 3-4 hours before –  We recommend that you consume around 15-20g of protein to help aid muscle repair, also eat around 5g of carbohydrate per pound of body weight for energy, and then to drink 20 oz of fluid (preferably water) to ensure you are hydrated. Isotonic drinks also are extremely good as they contain similar concentrations of sure and salt as our blood. Therefore, it quickly replaces fluids lost through sweating and supplies a boost of carbohydrate. 
    • Example: Try oatmeal, berries, bagels & peanut butter and low-fat yogurt for optimum energy.
  • Snack; 60-90 mins before – You should consume around 20-30g of carbohydrates
    • Example: A banana, energy bar etc.
  • At about the 20-mile mark, it’s common for runners to ‘hit a wall’ in energy levels. Throughout the marathon carry your own water with a hydration pack or belt.
  • During consume 4-6 oz of fluid every 2-3 minutes. Also try to eat 20-30g of carbohydrates per hour; dried fruit, energy gels, raisins.
  • Post-Race: hydrate immediately, refuel within 3 hours with protein and carbohydrates; try protein pancakes, chicken and veggie omelette, fruit smoothies etc.

Most importantly have fun and enjoy the race! If you would like our support and guidance throughout your training click here for more information on how we can help.