Finishing a marathon is a goal that can only be achieved through diligent training. If you do not respect the distance, then you are likely to suffer on race day. You need to put in the miles on your legs day in and day out. Some people may find this a bit monotonous and seek out other activities to do during the build-up. This is a strategy that a lot of runners employ, especially the ones who are not used to high mileage weeks. A few easy days can be dedicated to cross-training with sports such as cycling, swimming or crossfit. Do be careful when pursuing this path to avoid injuries.
Set Your Priorities
Before embarking on your marathon training cycle, ask yourself what your exact goals are. Is it to simply finish the race? Is it to achieve a new personal record? Is it to go under a certain time? Or are you committed to another sport and just using running to enhance your fitness? Your answers will determine how your training will be structured. If you are taking the race seriously, then it should be the top priority with other activities playing a supporting role. If not, then you can add more cross-training sessions into your schedule.
Plan Your Workouts Ahead of Time
You should have at least a general idea of how the next few months will look like on a piece of paper. Most marathon training plans are between eight to sixteen weeks in length. If you already have a strong aerobic base, then you can opt for a shorter cycle. If you are new to the sport, then you can add a base-building phase before the actual focused training. The initial plan can and will probably change due to unforeseen circumstances, but having the framework penciled in makes it easier to move things around without getting off the rails. It also ensures that enough time is allotted to different types of training stimuli.
Avoid Overworking Your Legs
When cross-training, make sure that you don’t tire out your legs to the point that you can’t run the following day. Exert just enough effort to sweat it out and feel like you’ve accomplished something but don’t crush yourself in the process. Always hold back, especially if you are scheduled to do a long run afterward or some other demanding session. You are probably not going to complete the miles if you’re too tired. You won’t have enough leg turnover for speedwork either. If you are going to the gym, focus on the upper body instead.
Rest When You Need To
You don’t have to train every single day. You can run three days a week, cross-train for another three days, and have a rest day at the end of the week to recover. You will feel fresher for the next round if you do so. More advanced runners will be able to run more frequently and depend on other sports much less, but even they will have to rest from time to time to prevent fatigue.