Marathon Training – What’s Working and What’s Not

When I woke up this morning, I realized my first marathon is a little over 6 months away – yikes! I’ve been training for about two and a half months now and completed an 11 mile run last week. Over the last few months I’ve discovered some aspects of training that have worked really well for me and a few that didn’t …. I wanted to share what I’ve learned along the way and hope that it may be helpful!


After finishing last week’s 11 mile run!

What’s worked well:

1. Yoga! I’ve started attending a yoga class at least twice a month. The class is advertised as “gentle yoga” and it’s EXACTLY what I need to stretch out my sore spots, practice breathing deeply and learn to listen to my body. I’ve learned about hip opening poses (yay for pigeon!) as well as a few tricks for working out my hip flexors. I love the class and really want to incorporate some extra yoga into my schedule.

2. Strength training: As I mentioned in a previous post, strength training has proven so helpful in strengthening my body for my long runs as well as provide variety in my training schedule. It’s a great break physically and mentally to know that my training program incorporates running, strength training and yoga – it’s tough for me to stay excited and interested in a program that is strictly running.

3. Foam rolling: Have you ever used a foam roller? Foam rolling and using a lacrosse ball/tennis ball to work out tight spots in my muscles has really helped with post run soreness. If you’ve never tried, here’s a great post by the Fitnessista to help get you started.

What hasn’t worked:
1. My training schedule: In the beginning I found a great marathon training program that fit well with my schedule. Once I added strength training and yoga however, I discovered that I needed to do a better job making sure that I am smart about the order and frequency of my workouts. For example, I learned the hard way that doing a leg workout one day and then a speed training run the next day is NOT a good idea…

2. Nutrition: In all fairness, nutrition should be in “what’s worked well” AND “what hasn’t worked”. As I mentioned in another post, I’ve done well incorporating protein into my post-workout recovery program and usually follow my running and strength training sessions with a quick protein shake. The protein helps me recover faster and helps prevents the dreaded DOMS. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/south127.htm However, there’s lots of room for improvement in the area of long run nutrition. I find that I don’t take in enough calories (gels, chews, etc.) during the first half of my run and then crash during the second half. I’m getting better about timing my intakes and am exploring electrolyte replacements. I’ll report back with a few product reviews soon!

What’s worked well for you (and not so well) in your race training? I’d LOVE to know!!

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8 Responses to Marathon Training – What’s Working and What’s Not

  1. Nutrition has got to be the hardest thing to figure out when it comes to marathon training. There is so much to consider, plus not everyone’s body is the same in response to certain foods!

    I second all 3 things for what works! Doing yoga, strength work, and foam rolling all are great ways to prevent injury and stay fresh for training!

    • Em says:

      Thanks, Lauren! I agree, nutrition is hard anyway but especially tricky because it is so personal. I’m glad to know that yoga, strength work and foam rolling work for you too!

  2. That is awesome your training for your first marathon!!!!
    I think reading your post you are totally on the right track, I really don’t have much to add. You asked what works for us, well truthfully when it comes to marathon training it’s just getting in the mileage, the 18-20 mile long runs you’ll eventually get to are important, but so is the daily weekly mileage. So many training plans these days promote less is more, to entice more readers to their plans, but I disagree with those and with 39 marathons under my belt, I am going to say less is not more with marathon training:) I prefer to train 6 days a week, but I always give myself one rest day a week:)
    I think when you mentioned above about you realized you needed more frequency, you are right on track! Good luck with your training!!!

    • Em says:

      Thanks for the help, Kristy! Wow, 39 marathons is incredible!! I’d been contemplating checking out one of the “less is more” running plans so I’m glad to hear that the daily mileage is really important. I guess there’s no shortcut to training. 🙂

  3. Annmarie says:

    Although I am not training for a marathon, I find that strength training and rest days are really important when it comes to running regularly. I also do conditioning work which has helped me to improve my speed significantly!

    • Em says:

      Thanks, Annmarie! I’d LOVE to hear more about your conditioning work – speed is something I need help with. 🙂

  4. Found your blog via TX bloggers. Congrats on marathon training! I just had knee surgery but want to get back into running. Of course, I don’t know if I can commit to a full marathon. I’ve done a few 1/2s but that is where I’ve kept it 🙂

    • Em says:

      Thanks for reading, Kristen! It’s awesome to meet another Texas runner. I hope that your knee is healing well.

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