What should I do before training for my fall marathon?

We’re well into spring (almost summer) and one of the most common questions we’ve been asked lately by clients is “what should I do before I start my marathon training plan?” Whether you are running a major (Berlin, Chicago, New York) or another fall marathon, what you do in June and early July can make or break your success on race day. We’ve compiled a few previous blog posts to further assist you in your planning process, as well. Read on to hear our (research-backed) advice on what to consider before starting your marathon training plan. 

 

 

Reflect:

First and foremost take a bit of time to reflect: Why are you racing? Have you ever raced a marathon before? If so, what went right? What could have gone better? 

Knowing your “why” ahead of this journey will keep you grounded when the training will (inevitably) get hard. Drawing from previous experiences (whether a marathon or a half marathon) will help you get ahead of any obstacles that affected your performance in the past, whether they be injury, fatigue, burnout or fueling issues. Write these answers down somewhere you can refer to them throughout training. I often recommend clients read their notes during race week to calm race anxiety. 

If you have goals, write these down too. They don’t have to be a time goal, either. We often hear ones related to having a healthy training cycle, learning to fuel in a way that helps you avoid hitting a wall at the end of your race, etc. These will help you structure your marathon training plan with intention.

 

 

Plan:

What’s your actual marathon training plan going into the summer? Are you preparing for 12 weeks, 14 or 16? What will your longest long run be? What kind of cross training will you mix in? Do you have strength and off days programmed in? How will you balance life plans (work schedule, travel, etc.) alongside long runs and workouts?

The world of marathon training plans is complicated and vast. A simple internet search will yield a wide array of options (some free, some paid). We are all RRCA-certified run coaches at Perfect Stride and can tell you first-hand how critical it is to have an individualized marathon training plan. Just because your friend who is also training for the NYC Marathon plans to do 2 speed workouts a week and peak at a 23 mile long run does not mean you should, too. Characteristics we consider when writing plans for clients include mileage per week, speed workouts, long run distance, how many days off, cross training…the list goes on and on. Same goes for the race course itself. If you are running Chicago, you will not need to incorporate as many hills as someone training for New York.

Whatever marathon training plan you choose will inform your exact mileage and the distribution of miles in the month prior (i.e. how long is your long run, are you incorporating speed, what is your easy run, etc.). Long runs generally do not need to exceed 13 miles ahead of training and you’ll want your weekly mileage relatively low to allow for generally fresh legs (but not zero!)

If you have a history of injury, it is critical that you chat with a professional ahead of your training block. They can help tease out why irks popped up in the past and hopefully create a plan that allows you to avoid the same mistakes this time around.  Recent research suggests that up to 70% of runners sustain an overuse injury every year (1). Don’t assume you’re immune! 

 If you’re confused, get professional help. If you’re curious about our run coaching services, you can reach out to us for a free 15-minute discovery call to learn more.

 

 

Nutrition:

Curious about how to train your gut for race day? Many runners are not used to tolerating gels, electrolytes and food pre-run (especially when training for their first marathon). Experimenting early and often with different products and brands can help you determine what works well for you, even if it’s on a shorter run. Most sporting good stores sell samples and variety packs so you can determine your favorites before investing in a whole supply. We also like The Feed. If you want to dive into the specifics, we covered fueling and nutrition tips for endurance competitions and training in a previous blog post: FUELING FOR ENDURANCE SPORTS AND COMPETITION

It’s also worth noting that you will need to modify your current diet to support the increase in training volume. Getting enough quality calories tends to be challenging for most runners, especially in summer months where hydration and heat training can alter appetite. Overuse injuries and burnout can pop up quickly in marathon training and nutrition is one of the easiest areas to “prehab” yourself. Plus, you’ll notice a massive difference in performance when you’re eating enough.

Another blog post with extensive nutrition (and hydration) advice we recommend is our  interview with Claire Shorenstein (Board-Certified Sports Dietician and founder of Eat for Endurance). In it, we discuss common questions from runners and patients or Perfect Stride in relation to summer and marathon training. Nutrition for Endurance Athletes: Q&A with Claire Shorenstein (MS RD CSSD CDN)

 

Prepare yourself for summer weather:

If you live on the east coast (or honestly anywhere that gets hot in the summer), it’s wise to have an awareness of how to manage the change in conditions during your marathon training plan. Whether that means planning to run earlier or later in the day, restocking your sunscreen supply, investing in a handheld water bottle or starting to incorporate electrolytes into your daily routine, it’s helpful to have a game plan going into the summer months. We break down suggestions for before, during and after your run below:

Everything you need to know about summer running

 

What should your training look like pre-marathon training block?

Before you undergo high mileage, we highly recommend emphasizing strength and mobility training. Running can certainly be a feature leading up to a true base-building block, but your focus should be on building muscle, power and mobility ahead of all of the running you will do. Regular strength training, active mobility work and cross training should make up the bulk of your week. If you love to cycle, swim, play tennis or play other sports, it’s not a bad idea to lean into those forms of exercise before your life revolves around running for the better part of 3-4 months. The switch in focus away from running can help ward off burnout a few months into your training cycle.

Having a solid understanding of the recovery tools and techniques you respond well to can also help prepare you for summer training, whether it be cold plunges, massage guns or compression sleeves. Regular check-ins with a physical therapist to identify areas of weakness ahead of this process can be invaluable, too. We have several run-specific strength and mobility tests we like to take runners through to get ahead of any deficits before they cause pain or injury under more load.

 

If you’re injured…

Seek professional help! Generally, if you get in to see a PT early enough, you can make excellent progress on a nagging or acute injury before starting a marathon training plan. If you come see us, we also recommend a gait analysis to see if there are underlying biomechanical tendencies causing you pain. Usually we can identify areas of inefficiency, leading to improved performance once we make the necessary adjustments to your form with  you in the clinic.

 

There’s a lot to consider when training for a marathon and we like to take a holistic, individualized approach to preparing runners at Perfect Stride.  If you’re interested in working with us (gait analysis, run coaching, PT, strength training), reach out to us today for a free 15-minute discovery call.

 

Sources:

  1. Ferber R, Hreljac A, Kendall KD. Suspected mechanisms in the cause of overuse running injuries: a clinical review. Sports Health. 2009 May;1(3):242-6. doi: 10.1177/1941738109334272. PMID: 23015879; PMCID: PMC3445255.

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