Boost Your Running Routine for Fall Marathons
Autumn is typically a hectic period for marathon runners. Whether you’re tackling 26.2 miles for the first time or a seasoned racer, it’s always a wise idea to reevaluate your running regimen and infuse it with intelligent training strategies and fresh ways to ignite your motivation.
In the following sections, you’ll discover expert advice and tactics to invigorate your running routine, enhance speed, and build endurance in preparation for the fall marathon season. Armed with these upgraded skills, you’ll be well-equipped to achieve your running objectives and excel in upcoming marathon events.
Evaluate Your Fitness Level
When embarking on your marathon training journey, it can be beneficial to evaluate your current level of fitness, which encompasses endurance, speed, and overall running performance.
“Marathon” Matt Forsman, CEO, Head Coach, and Director of “Runspiration” at San Francisco’s Run Club SF, suggests participating in a race prior to the marathon, particularly a half marathon or 10K, as they provide greater insights than a 5K. Alternatively, familiarize yourself with your heart rate zones, as suggested by Mechelle Lewis Freeman, an Olympian, Olympic Coach, and Life Time Master Trainer. This way, you can tailor your fitness efforts to your unique needs and strive for the desired fitness goal by working at the appropriate intensity level and tapping into the right fuel sources at the right time.
If you want to monitor your progress throughout your training, consider using running watches from brands like Garmin, Polar, Suunto, and others. These watches measure various metrics such as pace, distance, and heart rate, making them invaluable tools for improving your fitness, running faster, achieving personal bests, or even qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
Establish Clear Objectives
Setting clear objectives begins with acknowledging your current state as a runner at this moment. Embrace where you are on your fitness journey, advises Lewis Freeman. As you prepare for the fall marathon season, it’s crucial to set goals that promote healthy and gradual progress, enabling your body to adapt to the challenges that lead to growth, rather than breaking down and risking performance setbacks or injuries.
When aiming for a significant achievement like completing a marathon, it’s essential to set realistic and measurable goals. These goals may include achieving a personal record time, finishing a full marathon, or enhancing overall performance. Forsman emphasizes that unrealistic or immeasurable goals can result in disappointment and potential injury.
With that being said, setting goals can have benefits in terms of maintaining motivation and focus during training. Just ensure that you bring those goals back down to reality if they start to feel unachievable.
Establish an Efficient Training Plan
There are *very few* runners who can wake up and run a marathon without any training, and we strongly discourage this. Most of us need to develop a well-organized training plan that is tailored to our goals and personal fitness levels. While there are various generic “free” plans available online, as Forsman emphasizes, these plans may or may not be suitable for you.
“I believe it’s generally worthwhile to invest some time and money and collaborate with a coach to create a plan that specifically suits your lifestyle, current level of running fitness, and present, as well as potentially future, running goals,” he says. “Most coaches, including myself, aim to fully understand an individual’s lifestyle, level of motivation, current fitness level, injury history, and more when developing a training plan.”
It is also crucial to incorporate different types of runs into your training, such as long runs, tempo runs, intervals (a combination of fast and slow-paced running), and recovery runs. All of these runs work together to enhance speed and endurance.
According to Forsman, all of these runs prepare you for the marathon in different ways. Long runs improve endurance and allow you to run for longer durations. Faster runs like tempo or interval runs can enhance your form, running efficiency, and mental resilience. Recovery runs are necessary for your body to recover, adapt, and become stronger. Cross-training is also important to prevent injuries and engage in non-running exercises.
Freeman states that this variety of runs will help you handle various environments and situations that may arise during the marathon (e.g., hills, the need to run faster to stay on pace, etc.).
When it comes to increasing mileage, Forsman advises against exceeding a 10 to 15 percent increase at a time. He suggests, “This means that if you’re running 30 miles this week, you probably shouldn’t increase your mileage to much more than 34 miles the following week.”
Give Priority to Strength and Conditioning
Your training should not only revolve around running on the road, track, or treadmill. Incorporating strength training and conditioning exercises specifically designed for runners can enhance overall performance and prevent injuries.
“Strength training, stabilizing, core, and balancing drills are essential for maintaining proper running form,” says Forsman.
Freeman adds that when you repeatedly perform a specific movement pattern, like running, your body needs to become more efficient at executing that movement in order for the muscles to grow stronger and more capable.
During non-running exercises, make certain to incorporate squats, lunges, planks, and core exercises to focus on those crucial muscle groups. She recommends commencing with a lively warm-up prior to your runs since it “is indispensable in preparing the body to execute its utmost potential before running.
Utilize Restoration and Trauma Avoidance Approaches
Even though you might be eager to venture out there and record more miles, it is essential to incorporate restoration into your routine. These restoration methods comprise of days of rest, foam rolling, stretching, and sufficient sleep, all of which assist you in avoiding excessive training and reducing the possibility of injuries.
If you are pushing yourself too intensely and have not been employing enough of these restoration techniques, your body will inform you. “There are a few ‘yellow flags’ based on my experience,” states Forsman. “It is normal for the occasional run or two to feel subpar. However, if every run feels off for approximately a week, this can signify that you are exerting yourself excessively.”
He further adds that if your sleep patterns are disturbed or inadequate, this can be indicative of overtraining. “If you encounter night sweats… if you feel devoid of energy or fatigued despite obtaining sufficient sleep, this could suggest that you are overtraining as well.”
Moreover, Lewis Freeman asserts that mental exhaustion or burnout, muscle tenderness, dehydration, and restlessness can indicate the necessity for deceleration. “Certain individuals may sense a lack of motivation to continue training,” she remarks. If this resonates with you, take a step back in your training, include an additional day of rest, or even temporarily suspend your training until you feel better.
Optimize Your Nutrition for Running
Another crucial element of training that does not entail running? A well-rounded diet will support your training and amplify your performance.
Forsman states that nutritional requirements can differ depending on the distance and duration of each run. If a run lasts longer than two hours, he typically suggests fueling up about an hour to an hour and a half before the run, which comprises of carbohydrates, a small amount of protein, and some fat. His preferred choice for this is half a bagel with a spread of peanut or almond butter, or a banana and a small portion of Greek yogurt.
When it pertains to pre-run fueling, “It is crucial to experiment with a few alternatives and determine what works most effectively for you,” notes Forsman. Assess whether your pre-run snack elevates your overall performance and does not cause discomfort while running.
Since marathon training runs are lengthier than most everyday runs, nutrition should accompany you during your runs, particularly the longer ones. Forsman recommends consuming some form of fuel every 45 to 60 minutes, such as an energy bar or gel.
Focus On Mental Preparation and Motivation
Following the run, Forsman suggests consuming something with a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. “This ‘magical equation’ has been scientifically proven by sports experts to accelerate the recovery process,” he states, adding that chocolate milk possesses this ratio, making it an ideal beverage to have after a run.
When it comes to maintaining proper hydration, Forsman typically advises taking in fluids (ideally, a combination of water and electrolytes) every 15 to 20 minutes during a run or drinking based on thirst.
Concentrate On Mental Readiness and Inspiration
As you probably are aware, running isn’t solely about physical fitness. It also involves overcoming mental obstacles along the way. Forsman notes that training for a marathon can be arduous. Participating in a couple of “shorter” races during training can be beneficial in order to achieve smaller goals and stay motivated.
Forsman also strongly believes in the power of visualization. He explains, “My top strategy for ‘envisioning success’ is to precisely do that—envision. During some of my challenging training runs when I am fatigued, I actively visualize myself nearing the finish line, pushing through fatigue. I visualize myself maintaining proper form and staying resilient despite adversity. I visualize myself executing my pacing strategy flawlessly and achieving my target time with each passing mile.”
Forsman also employs a technique of breaking down mentally and/or physically demanding situations into smaller components. Instead of focusing on all the remaining miles, he narrows his attention to just the next mile ahead. However, if even a mile feels like too much, he shifts his focus to reaching the next landmark, such as a bush, a stop sign, or a gas station, in order to keep moving forward.
Another tactic that Forsman finds effective is using mantras. He shares, “When I am tired and negative self-talk begins to occupy my thoughts, I turn to a mantra that has always resonated with me: ‘Concentrate and Unwind.’ Simply repeating this phrase in my mind frequently helps me concentrate, relax, and maintain my current path.”
Touching on this concept, Lewis Freeman advises having uplifting words ready so that when you find yourself in a difficult position, you have the means to motivate yourself. It is recommended to identify a mantra that works for you prior to your race.
While these suggestions may initially feel overwhelming, it is important to gradually implement these techniques, seeking professional guidance if necessary.
Regardless of what the fall marathon season has in store for you, take comfort in knowing that incorporating some, or even all, of these tips into your routine can enhance your running abilities.