Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Common marathon training mistakes

The marathon is an event which has been challenging men and women for decades.

Participants are drawn to it for a number of reasons, improved fitness and health, the challenge of running 42.2km or perhaps the camaraderie of participating with hundreds of other like minded individuals.

Whatever the reason, no matter who you are or what your athletic training background, training and preparation are the common denominators amongst all participants. With the volume of training and time commitment to race preparation it is clear that mistakes will be made along the road to race day.

Many of these of these "training mistakes" are not only made by the novice runner - we all make them at one time or another in our running career.

MISTAKE 1: Carrying out excessively long runs during the final weeks leading up to the event

This time (2- 4 weeks) before the race should be dedicated to allowing the body to recovery and for the training adaptation to take effect.

Cut the total volume of your training (quantity) by 30% - 50% per week leading up to race day, while keep the intensity (quality) high.

MISTAKE 2: Not training beyond race pace

It has been shown that maximal running speed is a good predictor of marathon potential, and for nearly all runners, developing max running speed leads to improvements in marathon running times.

Keep in mind we are not talking about Tempo running - tempo running is pretty much race pace and we are striving to work an intensity above race pace.

For example, include 2 faster-than-marathon-pace training sessions into your weekly training program. This could take the form of an interval session (speed work - 800m track repeats) and a time trial (10km, 5km).

MISTAKE 3: Incorporating non-specific resistance training into your program

Remember the concept of Specificity of training? Well it is still as relevant as ever.

Aim to develop movement patterns and muscle recruitment patterns that mimic running. In other words: stay away from exercises which have you in the seated or lying position or which isolate muscles.

Here are a few general guidelines:

Start the program with whole body strengthening exercises which involve a large percentage of the bodies musculature such as Squats, lunges, Pull ups, skipping, mobility and flexibility work. This might last 6 - 8 weeks.

Follow this with hill work and exercises that mimic the gait cycle. Step ups, 1 leg squats, 1 leg hops on the spot, A-B-C running drills. Also 6 - 8 weeks.

Finish with 6 - 8 weeks of explosive training activities such as speed work, hops, bounds, lateral work.

MISTAKE 4: Making training boring

Keep yourself mentally and physically fresh by changing things up regularly.

Hit the trails for your long run instead of running on the pavement. How about running your favorite 10km time trial course, backwards?

Heard of Fartlek training? Use it! Vary your pace through the course of a run - go hard for 30 seconds and then bring the pace right down for 2 minutes.

MISTAKE 5: Not training yourself to eat and drink

Re-hydrating and re-fueling is an extremely important part of the marathon program and far to many participants start rehydrating and fueling during the race.

Use your months of training to try out different products available. Use bars, gels and gummies to see which sits the best with you.

Drink fluids with and without electrolytes. And do not forget to drink plain water regularly.

Bottom line:

It is your overall level of conditioning which will determine your performance on race day - not how many miles you have racked up in the 6 months leading up to the race.

Lose the junk miles - focus on the quality - not the quantity.

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