There are a lot of training schedules out there, and finding the right one is tricky. Look for a four-day training schedule. Quality running is what counts. You can work in a couple days of yoga or weight training but my favorite off day is to jump on the trampoline with the kids or play Dance Central Three on my XBox. When you incorporate your kids into the training it just doesn't seem like training anymore—it's more like playtime.
Here's an example of a four-day schedule:
- Mon: Kid workout day
- Tues: Speed workout (1-mile repeats at tempo with 2:1 work rest ratio, 3 to 4 times)
- Wed: Easy run (i.e. 5 to 10 miles aerobic)
- Thurs: Kid workout day
- Fri: Intervals or hill workout (5 to 10 steep 1 to 2 minute hill repeats with a walk or jog down)
- Sat: Rest
- Sun: Long run (10 to 20 miles that includes race pace intervals and fast finishes)
Concentrate on your long run. The most common mistake is not getting up to 20 miles. The long run is crucial to increasing the storage of glycogen in your muscles and conditioning the body to the pounding of running, according to Robert Chapman, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Indiana.
The problem people encounter with the long run is the time. Pick one day a week where you have someone who can watch the kids. Remember, you will be building up to 20 miles, which could take four hours or longer. A tip I was told about is if possible, try and keep that long run starting time around the same time as the start of the race.
For example the Rock n' Roll Las Vegas race starts in the evening, so make sure some of those training runs are at night so that your body is adjusted. If you are only running at night, and your race is in the morning, you need those morning runs so that your body can function.
Finally, you need to work on your core. A strong core will get you through the final miles when you hit the wall. I try to work on planks several days a week. I drop to the floor during commercials to do sit-ups and planks—not only does it seem to make the commercials fly by, but it also discourages me from going to the kitchen to get a snack.
Whether this is your first marathon or umpteenth, make sure you check the race route. If your race route has lots of hills, highways or any condition that is different than what you're currently running, then make sure to incorporate those into your training. Running on cement is a lot different than the black top—the pounding is much harder on the body. Likewise if you only practice on a few hills and your race is very hilly then you will struggle, as the miles get higher.
Remember, marathon training should be fun. Life is busy and if training is not fun, you won't complete it and you will not be ready. Enjoy it, and celebrate crossing the line.
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