Now that you have your sights set on an upcoming race, the next step is to have a training plan. You wouldn’t go into a job interview without preparing first and running a race has the same principle. A plan ensures that you have more success at whatever goal you have in mind. It will help you build strength and speed while minimizing injury – and ensure you meet that goal.
Setting a base
It’s a good idea to have a baseline level of fitness before training for a longer race. If you are a non-runner, this will involve building up from walking to walk-run intervals. A goal time of 30 minutes of exercise is a good place to start. Once you can walk at a brisk pace for this amount of time add in walk-run intervals. You would start your 30 minute session walking and after five minutes of walking, run for one minute. Alternate walking and running this way until you reach 30 minute of exercise. Each week, add one minute of running and take away one minute of walking. Eventually, you will be running a continuous 30 minutes over a six week period.
As for the frequency of your running, start out at two to three days per week. Add one day of running every two weeks to get up to your desired goal. Anywhere from four to six days per week is ideal. This allows you to have at least one day off per week to recover and add some other types of exercise or stretching into your routine. These off days from running could include stretching, swimming, cycling, yoga, weightlifting, or other activities.
Your goal for running should be 30 continuous minutes three days a week. Once you can do this for two to four weeks you should be set to start formal running training program. (You may want to work up to a mix of walking and running, not continuous running. This is fine and can be your goal to start training for a longer race. Some people can achieve more alternating these than continuous running.)
Marathon training plans
There are a variety of training plans out there and I suggest you research these and find one that fits your abilities, schedule, and goals. Some are available for free and others involve paying for a customized plan with coaching along the way.
There are three major components to any training plan: Easy runs, workouts, and long runs. These should be mixed in each week with running at a variety of easy, medium, and hard paces. You will get used to these more as you practice them.
I have my plan set and am about one fourth of the way into it. After you train for a few races you will learn which workout works well for you, how much rest you need between runs, and how often you can run based on your schedule and running goals.
Resources for training plans