Embarking on the journey of training for a marathon is an exciting yet challenging endeavor, and a critical component of this preparation is selecting the right training plan. With an abundance of options available, each tailored to diverse goals and experience levels, choosing the proper training plan is a pivotal decision that significantly influences your marathon journey.
In this article, we delve into the key considerations and strategies for picking a training plan that aligns with your aspirations, accommodates your schedule, and maximizes your chances of success on race day.
Whether you're a first-time marathoner or a seasoned runner aiming to improve your performance, the insights provided here will guide you in navigating the maze of training plans and finding the one that suits your unique needs, ensuring a purposeful and effective marathon training experience.
Here are some key considerations to help you pick a proper training plan:
Assess Your Fitness Level
This one may sound obvious but be brutally honest about your current fitness level and running experience. Choose a plan that aligns with your abilities and considers your running background. A good rule of thumb is if the first two weeks of a training plan seem difficult, the plan is most likely to difficult.
Another thing you’ll need to be brutally honest about is considering your experience level as a runner since most training plans are labeled for beginners, intermediates, or advanced runners. It can be a difficult task to decipher between them because of the variance in definitions between what a beginner, intermediate, and advanced runner means. Most training plans will have a description of the training that includes weekly mileage, how many running days, etc. Select a plan that matches your experience and comfort with training intensity.
Set Realistic Goals
Establish clear and realistic goals for your marathon. Different training plans cater to various goals, such as finishing the race, improving your time, or tackling a specific challenge. I highly suggest using a running calculator that can predict your marathon finishing time off shorter distances. Use this as a guide to determine what a realistic goal is.
Consider Your Schedule
Evaluate your daily and weekly schedule, including work, family, and other commitments, and choose a training plan that fits into your life without causing excessive stress. You’ll be training for months, so having a schedule that won’t burn you out is important. It’s better to underestimate your available time than overestimate. You can always add a running day when time permits.
Look at the weekly mileage of the training plan. Ensure that it progressively increases at a manageable rate, such as 10% per week, allowing your body to adapt to the demands of long-distance running. Again, if the first two weeks seem hard, then the training plan is most likely too difficult.
Long Run Progression
Pay attention to the progression of long run distances. A well-designed plan gradually increases the length of long runs to build endurance without causing excessive fatigue or risk of injury. Generally speaking, look for a training plan that does not increase a long run by more than two miles weekly. You should feel stable at a particular distance before increasing.
Incorporate Rest Days
A good training plan may include rest days to allow for recovery. Ensure that the plan has a balance between running days and rest days to prevent overtraining. No matter how experienced you are, rest days are crucial. They build back the body to return stronger. Look for a training plan that comes close to the amount of rest days you’re currently taking.
Choose a plan incorporating a variety of workouts, such as tempo runs, speed work, and cross-training. This helps improve different aspects of your running performance.