The A-Z of Marathon Training

Spring marathon training can very quickly take over your life. Once the plan is stuck to the fridge, and the routine has been established we find that the first thought of every day is not “what have I got to do today at work?” but rather “how many miles am I running today?” To keep us sane here at the WarmUp, we’ve decided to compile our A-Z of marathon training. Thanks to the good people at #UkRunChat for their kind contributions too!

A is for…Aaaarrgh as a hot shower hits those chafed areas, or you attempt the previously uncomplicated job of trying to walk downstairs after a long run

B is for…Beer (or other alcoholic beverages) well-earned after those long miles, there’s a certain satisfaction on the evening of a long run knowing it’s another wedge of miles in the bag. Plus it’s carb loading qualities can’t be sniffed at right??

C is for…Consistency. In many ways it’s a crucial part of any training plan. Be consistent in how regularly you run, don’t look to over-do it in the first few weeks only to exhaust yourself and render yourself useless by week 3. Also look to tackle those long runs at a consistent pace. Keep it steady, no rush, it’s time on your feet that are as useful as miles run.

D is for…Dark. Fitting in those miles around work and family can be challenging and it often means running early and late. Whether you’re an early riser or a night owl dress appropriately for the temperature and also so you can be seen!

E is for…Energy gels. Like a combination of liquid skittles/a jelly version of Robinsons squash, energy gels are an acquired taste but can give that extra boost of energy on the long runs. Worth experimenting with when your route is relatively close to a public convenience though as not everyone’s tummy likes them…

F is for…Fuel. Get ready to eat yourself and your family out of house and home. Constant hunger develops as a side effect of serious training, so make those snacks in the house relatively healthy and warn children to finish meals quickly when in your presence…

G is for…Glutes. Don’t neglect those core muscle groups in your training, aim for a strong core and don’t overlook your butt. Strong glutes help avoid lower back pain, IT band issues and even issues with your ACL. And you just thought it was for sitting on!

H is for…Health. As you flog that body through all those weeks you get tired, run down and susceptible to all sorts of bugs and viruses you would usually avoid. Take those preventative measures, eat well, and make sure you add vitamins to your daily routine. Avoiding ill people is always a good one too…

I is for…Irrational. What the tapering athlete becomes. After all those weeks of heavy training and long miles you’re suddenly resting? It feels hard to ease off and not get those extra miles in. Make sure you do it properly though, reduce mileage for the last 2 weeks and ease off on those long ones significantly so you can do your body justice on race day.

J is for Jogging. “Veronica and I trying this new fad called, uh, jogging. I believe it’s ‘jogging’ or ‘yogging.’ it might be a soft j. I’m not sure but apparently you just run for an extended period of time! It’s supposed to be wild”. You can’t beat an anchorman quote, and Jogging seems to be an underused word but certainly it’s one you’ll hear of when you tell your colleagues you’re training for a marathon. Expect to hear “Oh yes, I go jogging sometimes”. And then expect amazement when you tell them your “jog” on Sunday was for 17 miles…

K is for…keeping up the motivation. The first few weeks can often feel really easy to tackle, and the runs are easy to cross off. But as the niggles start to develop, on those cold nights when you can’t face putting your trainers on and going back out, that can be really tough. Keep the end goal in mind, but also set little targets too. If that’s a mileage thing great, but it might be a date to aim for, or another local race. Try daft things- keep a countdown of how many days, change your email password to “London 2018”. Whatever helps keep that motivation high…

L is for… Long run – There’s a saying that when it comes to marathon training “the long run puts the tiger in the cat”. We think this sums it up perfectly, it builds stamina, mental durability and also means that the shorter effort runs become more focused on technique than stamina.

M is for… Mind Games. The physical demands of a marathon are well documented, and the need for proper preparation is key to enable your body to cope. But the mental side shouldn’t be overlooked either. Running 26.2 miles is a significant mental challenge, there are going to be times when it hurts, when you want to give up, when it’s really difficult and you question what you’re doing. Rehearsing those scenarios, having “go-to” thoughts help some people but staying positive and focused is key.

N is for…Nutrition. There is an old adage that you can eat what you want when you’re marathon training as you’re burning so many calories you can put whatever you like in. The principle is in one sense true, someone running 40 miles a week is hardly likely to gain weight, but it’s worth considering the quality of the fuel you’re putting in too. Stodgy rubbish and sugary sweets aren’t the best basis of a good training diet and won’t aid recovery so keep those protein levels high and head instead for high energy low sugar foods like nuts.

O is for…other half. It’s probably best to leave any significant other party in your life a signed picture or a cardboard cut-out of yourself as for 16 weeks they may see very little of you, and when they do see you they’ll probably see a more tired, hungry, good for little, version of you than they previously recognise. It’s worth making sure others in your life are on-board with the commitment training for a marathon brings so they fully appreciate the work that’s going in and the impact it will have.

P is for…playlist. Some runners can’t bear the sound of music as they run. There’s also a safety element to consider, and headphones certainly aren’t appropriate for those quiet country roads. However, for some music is a must, so keep those playlists fresh – upbeat, inspirational tunes are definitely needed but just be careful of not trying to run to the beat if the song’s too fast!

Q is for…Quite Honestly this is the hardest thing I’ve ever committed to. Marathon training can seem endless, and there’ll be days when you dread the long run looming on the horizon. However, the feeling of completing a marathon, something that only 0.5% of the population will ever do is a truly special one, and the race will feel a release after all those weeks of hard work.

R is for… Rungry. Verb to describe the immediate feeling of need for food after a long run. If not addressed likely to lead to “Rangry” – term to denote mood of runner who isn’t fed quickly enough…

S is for…Sports Massage. You’re going to put your body through hell for the next few months, so at least make sure you’re looking after it a little more than you usually do too. Good food, sleep and the more than occasional sports massage to relief those aches and pains and give some well-earned TLC is definitely needed.

T is for…Training plan. Whether it’s laminated, colour coded or stuck to the fridge/toilet door make sure you have a plan to get you through the weeks. It needs to be realistic too, make it bespoke to your lifestyle, family and work commitments and also adapt it as you go along.

U is for…Undercooked. The feeling that you haven’t banked those long miles as regularly as you wanted to and the fear of what therefore happens in the race once you get to about 18 miles. Take our word for it, it’s a state to be avoided, for it plays mental havoc with your mindset and can lead to some serious anxiety. Get those long runs in regularly to swerve it…

V is for…Vaseline. Look, we’ll level with you, when you’re running things that don’t usually rub together start to rub together, or things bleed. And no one likes that. Chafing hurts (see A is for…).Take appropriate preventative measures – we recommend generous measures of Vaseline and waterproof plasters…

W is for… Weather . if you’re training for a Spring Marathon be prepared that actually only a very small time of your running will be spent running in Spring. Get ready for wind, rain, snow and maybe hail and dress accordingly.

X is for X train. The thing about marathon training is to find other ways to build that strength and conditioning. Cross training really helps, as does any other form of exercise like swimming, yoga or a not too excessive gym workout. The aim is to use other methods to help aid recovery and avoid injury.

Y is for…Y am I doing this?? Ok, we cheated but several people contributed this as a suggestion via twitter so we felt we should use it! The question will crop up a lot, but that sense of achievement when you cross that finish line and know you’ve completed something that’s been your dream for so, right there – that’s why you’re doing it

Z is for… Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. The night after long runs. And speed sessions. And recovery runs. Sleep rules. Get as much as you can to help you recover.

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