A marathon is a significant commitment that thousands of ambitious people undertake each year. As a marathon can be a grueling experience, making the decision to prepare for one is a milestone – whether it’s your first one or your 20th. For newbies, here are some valuable recommendations on how to get ready for your first marathon.
Follow a Training Plan
When it comes to marathon preparation, there is a ton of information in books, magazines and online. It is best for first-time marathoners to train at least 5-6 months before the race, and to follow a professionally developed training plan. Training programs are developed based on level (beginning runner, experienced or elite) and the amount of time before the race. All programs should incorporate shorter mileage days, long runs, cross training, flexibility work and rest days. Specifics may vary somewhat among programs according to the coach’s philosophy and approach.
For recommendations, check leading running resources such as Runner’s World and Competitor, talk to other marathoners, ask local running clubs or running store staff and consult reviews online. Or try this 21-week marathon preparation regimen here, prepared by Coach Rick Muhr. Completing 35 marathons over five decades, qualifying for the Boston Marathon each time, with a personal best of 2:33:10, Muhr co-founded the Marathon Coalition, a Boston Marathon charity coaching organization, and has prepared thousands of runners for their first marathon.
In this plan, Muhr recommends using the Zero Runner, a new machine that replicates natural running motion but eliminates the repetitive impact that can lead to fatigue, poor form and overuse injuries. According to Muhr, “The Zero Runner is the perfect complement to outdoor running. No other products engage the glutes and hamstrings more effectively, improve running form and manage injury risk better.”
|1||Rest Day ***||2 Miles||3 Miles||30 minutes on ZR ****||4 Miles||Rest Day||4 Miles. 10-minute warm-up on ZR.|
|2||Rest Day||2 Miles||3 Miles||30 minutes on ZR||4 Miles||Rest Day||5 Miles. 10-minute warm-up on ZR.|
|3||Rest Day||3 Miles||4 Miles||30 minutes on ZR||5 Miles||Rest Day||6 Miles. 10-minute warm-up on ZR.|
|4||Rest Day||3 Miles||4 Miles||35 minutes on ZR||5 Miles||Rest Day||7 miles. 10-minute warm-up on ZR.|
|5||Rest Day||3 Miles||4 Miles||35 minutes on ZR||6 Miles||Rest Day||8 Miles. 10-minute warm-up on ZR.|
|6||Rest Day||3 Miles||4Miles||35 minutes on ZR||6 Miles||Rest Day||9 Miles. 10-minute warm-up on ZR.|
|7||Rest Day||3 Miles||5 Miles||40 minutes on ZR||7 Miles||Rest Day||11 Miles. 15-minute warm-up on ZR. 10-minute cool-down on the ZR.|
|8||Rest Day||3 Miles||5 Miles||40 minutes on ZR||7 Miles||Rest Day||13 Miles. 15-minute warm-up on ZR. 15-minute cool-down on ZR.|
|9||Rest Day||3 Miles||5 Miles||40 minutes on ZR||8 Miles||Rest Day||14 Miles. 20-minute warm-up on ZR. 20-minute cool-down on the ZR.|
|10||Rest Day||4 Miles||5Miles||45 minutes on ZR||8 Miles||Rest Day||15 Miles. 20-minute warm-up on ZR. 20-minute cool-down on ZR.|
|11||Rest Day||4 Miles||6 Miles||45 minutes on ZR||9 Miles||Rest Day||16 Miles. 20-minute warm-up on ZR. 20-minute cool-down on ZR.|
|12||Rest Day||4 Miles||6 Miles||45 minutes on ZR||9 Miles||Rest Day||17 Miles. 20-minute warm-up on ZR. 20-minute cool-down on Zero Runner.|
|13||Rest Day||5 Miles||7 Miles||50 minutes on ZR||10 Miles||Rest Day||18 Miles. 20-minute warm-up on ZR. 20-minute cool-down on ZR.|
|14||Rest Day||5 Miles||7 Miles||50 minutes on ZR||8 Miles||Rest Day||12 Miles. 15-minute warm-up on the ZR. 15-minute cool-down on the ZR.|
|15||Rest Day||5 Miles||8 Miles||50 minutes on ZR||12 Miles||Rest Day||19 Miles. 20-minute warm-up on ZR. 20-minute cool-down on ZR.|
|16||Rest Day||5 Miles||8 Miles||50 minutes on ZR||9 Miles||Rest Day||13 Miles. 15-minute warm-up on ZR. 15-minute cool-down on ZR.|
|17||Rest Day||5 Miles||7 Miles||60 minutes on ZR||8 Miles||Rest Day||20 Miles. 20-minute warm-up on ZR. 20-minute cool-down on ZR.|
|18||Rest Day||5 Miles||4 Miles||60 minutes on ZR||4 Miles||Rest Day||12 Miles. 15-minute warm-up on ZR. 15-minute cool-down on ZR.|
|19||Rest Day||4 Miles||3 Miles||30 minutes on ZR||5 Miles||Rest Day||8 Miles. 10-minute warm-up on ZR. 10-minute cool down on ZR.|
|20||Rest Day||3 Miles||4 Miles||30 minutes on ZR||5Miles||Rest Day||2 Miles. 5-minute warm-up on ZR. 5-minute cool-down on ZR.|
|21||Race Day-15 minutes on ZR to begin the day.||Active Recovery Day. 30 minutes on ZR at an easy effort.||Active Recovery day. 45 minutes on ZR at a moderate effort.||Active Recovery Day. 60 minutes on ZR at a moderate effort.||Active Recovery Day. 15 minutes on ZR. 3 miles of running. 15 minutes on ZR.||Rest Day||15 minutes on ZR. 5 miles of running. Conclude with 15 minutes on ZR.|
Regarding this plan, Muhr notes:
- This training program is to be used as a guide and is NOT etched in stone. Your goal should be to achieve the weekly totals. Adjusting your training is acceptable.
- ***Rest days do not have to be complete days off. An active recovery (low intensity) workout of 20-30 minutes at an easy, comfortable effort on the Zero Runner can be extremely beneficial in flushing out remnants of lactic acid in your muscles without impact and risk of injury.
- The Zero Runner Is an ideal form of cross training, but other good options are the elliptical, water running, cycling, weight training and yoga. Runners tend to have weak upper bodies, so incorporating push-ups and pull-ups will help to climb hills more efficiently and maintain form when fatigued.
- Incorporating regular brief walk breaks (1-minute maximum) is an effective approach that will help maintain your form, provide a reprieve for your muscles and allow your heart to pump more blood and oxygen to your muscles. This can reduce the risk of injury by staving off fatigue. Ensure smooth transitions into and out of a walk break.
Running is the bulk of every marathon training plan, but cross training benefits runners to address weak links and improve strength and flexibility. Cross training also provides valuable variety, which can help maintain motivation throughout long seasons of race preparation.