How to Train for a Marathon in the Gym
Crossing the finish line at the end of marathon is one of the greatest things a person can accomplish in long distance running. Sure, there’s plenty of high endurance competitions and brutal obstacle races for the more competitive amongst us, but for the average person completing a marathon marks a huge tick on their bucket list.
Training for a marathon is far from easy and must approached in a proper manner. Today, we’re going to give you all the information you need to train for a marathon in the gym – whether you’re a recreational runner or total beginner!
SET YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Training for a marathon isn’t easy, so it’s important you understand the gravity of the task you’re undertaking. Professional runners train all year round to be in peak condition for these competitions. It’s important you give yourself enough time to prepare.
You wouldn’t hop off the sofa and enter the Olympics for a weightlifting or pole jumping competition that’s taking place in two weeks time would you? The same is true for long distance running – you need months of direct training to progress to a full marathon and taking the time to get in shape is going to be the most important step for your health and progress.
26.2 miles is a huge distance to cover on foot and training for it in the gym is going to be even more difficult. The mental game of endurance running should not be overlooked – you’re going to need to train smart and hard to be in shape for this huge undertaking.
If you want to do this and you want to do this right, here are the basic steps you need to follow to ensure you get the most out of your training and prime yourself for one of the most rewarding challenges you will ever undertake:
- 1. Prepare your body
- 2. Set the foundation
- 3. Develop great technique
- 4. Train smart and progress patiently
SUMMARY: This isn’t going to be easy, so you have to set realistic expectations, be disciplined and train smart. Very smart!
Let’s look at each of these stages individually and discuss how you should approach your marathon training plan.
STEP ONE: PREPARE YOUR BODY
Strength and conditioning in the gym are underutilised amongst many runners despite being a huge part of your health and performance. Strength and movement quality are the basis for any form of exercise – even endurance running!
Developing strength, balance and control in your core and lower body are essential for effective running. Squats and single leg strength training will condition your body to handle the huge volume of long distance running and reduce your chance of injury. This is one of the best ways of preparing while in the gym.
You’ll also need to focus on conditioning for your ankles and ensure you develop your muscular endurance. This means high repetition sets on leg exercises, lots of weighted conditioning work (like kettlebell swings) and increased use of full range ankle exercises like skater squats and short lunges.
SUMMARY: Spend your time developing strength and balance in your core and lower body to improve performance and prevent injury.
STEP TWO: SET THE FOUNDATION
If you’re going to train for a marathon in the gym, you’ll to need to build up a serious cardiovascular engine. This means preparing yourself with lots of exercise and work capacity.
Your sessions need to revolve around a combination of strength training and cardio exercise. Naturally, running is going to take up most of your time (unsurprisingly), but you should focus on developing endurance across all major cardio and resistance exercises.
Setting this foundation will ensure you’re in the best shape for the marathon itself and provide you with the extra reserves of energy that will be crucial in the (literal) long run. Incorporate different running methods: long, steady pace bouts and HIIT are both going to be important.
SUMMARY: Develop great cardiovascular and muscular endurance using a variety of training styles to ensure you have enough “engine”.
STEP THREE: DEVELOP GREAT TECHNIQUE
A pyramid’s height is a function of its base. Your marathon performance is exactly the same. You’ll only ever be as good as your mastery of the basics and running a marathon is going to be easier, safer and faster if you spend some time learning how to run well. Technique is essential to performance and running is no exception.
Developing great running technique will take minutes off your time, reduce your energy wastage and improve your overall performance and experience.
You should also run on an incline in almost every session to simulate the feeling of running on the road. If your treadmill offers varying resistance patterns, it will be useful to work through them as you become more confident. Marathons take place across a wide variety of terrain and you need to prepare yourself for this.
SUMMARY: Train effectively, with good technique, across a range of inclines to simulate the huge variations you’re going to see in the marathon itself.
STEP FOUR: PROGRESS PATIENTLY
Nothing will ruin your training like an injury.
Progressing patiently is absolutely essential to the way you develop and the results you achieve. You need to increase your mileage slowly and develop your capabilities in a patient way, or you’re going to risk injury and overtraining – two of the easiest ways to stagnate.
You shouldn’t increase your mileage more than 10% a week. Additionally, when you’re feeling beat it’s going to be useful to incorporate low impact forms of cardio like rowing or cross trainer to ensure you’re resting your joints while building endurance.
If you’re starting as a total beginner you need to accept the fact a marathon is a long term goal. Begin by progressing towards a good 5k, followed by a half marathon and eventually the full thing. As a rough guide, you can be ready for a 5k in 8 weeks, 12 weeks training for a half-marathon and a 16-week marathon training plan (at least!).
To progress effectively, you’ll also need to de-load and spend time recovering. This means time between these intensive training periods needs to be lighter, allowing you to rest and recuperate.
SUMMARY: The best marathon training plan is broken down into stages and each training plan will require more time than the last. A marathon training plan for beginners will cover each stage, with plenty of rest and focus on strength, technique and endurance, progressing at no more than 10% per week.
Training for a marathon is a huge undertaking, which is part of the reason it is so heavily celebrated. Taking your training seriously means patience, attention to detail and training for the long term.
However, if you train smart and commit to mastering the basics, you’ll find the huge challenges of running a full marathon bring a huge sense of accomplishment and achievement. Believe in yourself, follow these simple steps and you’ll be handling huge distances in no time.