The Perfect Marathon Training Schedule For Beginners

By:    Published: October 12, 2011

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If you are thinking about running your first marathon, it's important to remember just how intensive the training can be. Check out this handy, week-by-week schedule along with tips and tricks about making the most out of your marathon training.

Where and When to Start

Running a marathon is no easy task, which means that your training should be taken seriously in order to avoid injury and exhaustion. For a beginner, that means your marathon training should begin a full six months before the date of your race. Even if you are a natural athlete or have some running experience in the past, it's best to spread out your training over at least six months in order to give your body time to adjust to running long distances and to build up the necessary stamina for running over 26 miles.

Before you kick off your training, make sure that you have a few handy items on hand. Obviously, you'll want a great pair of running shoes that provide cushioned support for your feet. Next, you may want to invest in a pedometer. This is a simple device used to track how far you've gone on each run. Heart monitoring devices are also good if you have any worries about pushing yourself too hard or if you have had heart problems in the past.

Although training can be completed on your own, you may want to look for clubs or groups that are focused on marathon training. This can be a great motivator when you don't feel like running. Plus, you can get great tips and advice from other runners with previous marathon experience.

Week-By-Week Schedule

There are a few key rules that come into place when setting a marathon training schedule:

  • Start slow. This relates back to the principle of starting about six months before your race date. Beginners need to have time to work up from just a few miles a day to a 26.2-mile race, which takes time.
  • Progress at a moderate pace. You'll want to increase your mileage as the weeks go on, but it's important to not do this too quickly. As a general rule, your total weekly mileage should increase by about 10 percent per week during your training.
  • Taper off near the end. Just before your race, you should begin cutting back on your mileage so that you'll have plenty of energy for the actual marathon. That means you should hit your peak mileage about two to three weeks before race day.

Marathon training schedules vary slightly depending on where you get them from. A quick internet search will produce dozens of different training schedules. To make sure that yours is appropriate for a beginner, make sure it follows the rules listed above. Ideally, it will also follow the standard weekly marathon training schedule with certain days of the week marking different activities:

  • Monday: This is generally reserved for a rest day.
  • Tuesday: Do a warm up followed by a shorter run at a moderate pace. Cool down and stretch afterwards. These runs should be around 3-to-5 miles throughout training.
  • Wednesday: Do some kind of cross-training activity, whether it's swimming, biking or using an elliptical machine, for about 30-to-45 minutes.
  • Thursday: Do a warm up followed by a shorter run at a moderate pace. Cool down and stretch afterwards. These runs should be around 3-to-6 miles throughout training.
  • Friday: Do a cross-training activity for 30-to-45 minutes. If you are especially tired on a particular week, rest on Friday instead.
  • Saturday: Do a warm up followed by a longer run at a slower pace. Cool down and stretch afterwards. These runs will start at 4-6 miles and work up to about 20-to-22 miles as training progresses. In the two or three weeks before the race, start cutting back to around 8-to-12 miles for these runs.
  • Sunday: Do a warm up followed by a shorter run (about three miles) at a very comfortable, easy pace. Cool down and stretch afterwards.

Diet and Lifestyle Tips

While changes to your workout routine will be the biggest part of your training, don't forget that you may also need to make changes to your lifestyle as well. Use these tips to maximize your marathon training:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Runner's World suggests a 50-25-25 eating plan, where 50 percent of your calories come from carbohydrates, 25 percent from protein and 25 percent from fat. If you make healthy food choices and stick to this ratio, you'll have more energy to complete your workouts.
  • Get plenty of rest. Get yourself on a regular sleep schedule where you'll get at least eight hours of rest each night. Having a regular schedule is also helpful if you plan to do your workouts at the same time each day. Also, remember to take an extra rest day here and there when you feel especially tired or if you get sick.
  • Kick unhealthy habits. Smoking, drinking, eating junk food and staying up late will all become a hindrance to your training regimen. Cut back on or kick these habits to get the best results from your training and to feel better while you run.

Finally, consider talking to your doctor before you decide to run a marathon. If you have had any joint or heart problems, running a marathon may not be a good choice for you.

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