It’s easy to promise yourself that you’ll run at least one marathon in your lifetime. But following through on that promise? That’s a different story. Why: figuring out how to start training can be the biggest hurdle (no pun intended) in the process.
To help out the rookies, we went to the Bahamas Marathon to consult with Bahamian marathon winner and fitness trainer Sidney Collie to find out what novice runners can do to get a head start on training for their first marathon.
Take your time
If you’re a regular runner with a few marathons under your belt, you can probably get away with a three or four-month training program, but newbies should carve out more training time. When Collie trains someone who has never set foot on a track, he starts six months before the marathon. “This way the runner’s body has plenty of time to get used to the change. The first month of training is the most difficult. It takes two to three months for your body to adjust, and in the third and fourth months you will get the hang of it.” This is if you train six days a week, which Collie advises.
Walk, don’t run
Spend the first two weeks of training building up endurance. Each day, walk for one hour, and then do one hour of any type of cross-training cardio, suggests Collie.
Sprinkle in some surging
When you hit training weeks three and four, introduce real running into your workouts. Run for one mile, then walk or jog for one mile, and continue to alternate between the two for a total of six miles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday of those weeks. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, walk or jog on hills/stairs for a total of six miles over the course of those two days, and then hit the gym for some cardio. On Saturdays, jog at a steady pace for six miles.
Pile up the miles
After the first month, start to add on a few miles each week. Collie advises new runners hit 26.2 miles after four months of training (that’s if you are training for six months) and then going back down steadily (no lower than 16 miles) to avoid overtraining.
Pick up the pace
In the last month of training, focus more on speed so that by the time the race comes around, you are ready to not just finish a marathon, but finish it strong.
Don’t be a stranger to the gym
Don’t cancel your gym membership just because you’ve taken the majority of your workouts to the road or track. Collie suggests continuing to go to the gym during your training months, as building strength will make you a better runner. Plus, you’ll leave yourself plenty of options when it comes to cross-training.