Get ready to run

Want to run a marathon? Follow this day-by-day plan that will prepare you to reach the finish line

Marathon is an intense race. And without adequate preparation, it’s not possible to finish the race because of the kind of stress it places on the cardio-vascular system, the respiratory system and the neuro-muscular system. The heart, lungs, and muscles have to be ready for the intense load that they will be subjected to.

If you try to run a race without any preparation, you may not be able to complete the race because your body will refuse to move, as it won’t be able to take the sudden stress. The sudden intense pressure can also lead to injuries such as muscle tear and blisters on the feet. In extreme cases, it could also lead to cardiac arrest. Those planning to participate in a long race such as a marathon should ideally train for 12 – 16 weeks before the event. However, if you haven’t had the time, train for 30 days at least.

We bring you a detailed plan for 30 days that will make your body ready to run!

1-month training plan to run a full marathon

WEEK 1

Ready, steady, start

Day 1

3.2km warm-up, a speed-strength circuit that includes…

  1. 400m run at an average 5km pace [Eg. If you take 30 minutes to complete 5km, you should run 400m in 2 minutes 40 seconds]
  2. 12 squat thrusts aka burpees [stand, squat, push-up, squat, jump in sequence]
  3. 3 chin-ups
  4. 12 press-ups
  5. 30 ab crunches
  6. 24 body-weight squats
  7. 400m run at 5km pace
  8. 10 squats and dumbbell presses with 10-pound dumbbells
  9. 8 feet-elevated press-ups
  10. 12 bench dips
  11. 30 low-back extensions
  12. 15 lunges with each leg
  13. 400m run at 5km pace.

Repeat steps 2 – 13 [two circuits in all], then cool down with 3.2km of light jogging [that completes 8.4km of running for the day].

Day 2

6.4km of easy running to recover from the previous day’s circuit.

Day 3

A 19.2km run—11.2km of easy running, followed by 4.8km at goal pace [your race pace] and then a 3.2km easy run.

Day 4

6.4km easy run to recover from the previous day’s session.

Day 5

Speed-strength circuit, which is a repeat of the day 1 workout. Repeating this workout fairly frequently is necessary to expand strength and bolster LT [Lactic threshold]—the point when you start feeling more pain than you should be feeling.

Day 6

9.6km of easy running.

Day 7

22.4km of running—11.2km easy run, then 6.4km at goal pace, and again 4.8km easy. The idea is to boost confidence and manage pace. After completing this workout, you should feel strong to maintain goal pace even after running a significant distance.

WEEK 2

The going gets tough

Day 8

No training, just rest to recover from running 22.4km.

Day 9

8km easy run to continue recovery from running 22.4km.

Day 10

A progressed day 1 speed-strength circuit workout. With circuit workouts, progression means increasing the total number of circuits, doing more number of repetitions, and/or lengthening the runs.

For this session, advance the running intervals from 400m – 600m, which forces to run further at good speed in the face of mounting fatigue and also increases the VO2max [a measure of the volume of oxygen consumed while exercising] benefits accruing from the session. You can continue the same number of reps and circuits from day 1. Shifting to 600m intervals increase the total distance covered during the workout from 8.4km to 9.4km maintaining 5km pace.

Day 11

9.6km of easy running.

Day 12

9.6km of easy running, plus two sets of the entire array of exercises included within the circuit session [day 1 plan]. The idea is to develop strength, that’s why there are no running intervals.

Day 13

An LT session, comprising 3.2km easy run, 3km tempo run [race pace], then 2km of light running.

Day 14

22.4km of running—14.4km at easy pace, 4.8km at your race pace, and 3.2km easy running.

WEEK 3

The focus is on quality

Day 15

No training, only rest.

Day 16

Speed-strength circuit—just like day 11, with 600m repeats and two circuits in all, but with a 10 per cent increase in the number of reps.

Day 17

9.6km of very easy running.

Day 18

Speed-strength circuit, but with 800m rather than 600m runs at 5km pace, and slightly increased number of exercise reps. The total number of circuits remains two. This is to improve strength, VO2max, and LT simultaneously—and quickly. The circuits are great for that, and post-circuit recovery is quick because there isn’t a voluminous amount of running involved.

Day 19

9.6km of easy running.

Day 20

12.2km of running—6.4km of easy running, 4.8km at your race pace, and 1km of
cooling down. The total
quantity of training is decreasing; this is simply a ‘reminder’
workout.

Day 21

Speed-strength circuit again—the same session as on day 18, with 800m intervals.

Day 22

Rest.

Day 23

14.4km run— 3.2km warm-up, then 8km at goal-marathon pace, followed by a 3.2km cool-down. Intake of optimal sports-drink pattern [300ml 10 minutes before running, 150ml to 180ml every 15 minutes while running] during this workout.

WEEK 4

Lowering mileage, increasing intensity

Day 24

9.6km of easy run, practising the optimal sports-drink pattern.

Day 25

1 hour of easy bicycling to further promote recovery, again using the sports-drink pattern.

Day 26

Speed-strength circuit [back to two circuits using 400m running intervals rather than 800m ones, to promote recovery].

Day 27

8km of easy running while practising sports-drink intake.

Day 28

8.8km run—3.2km warm-up, just 3 x 800m, with just 2-minute jog recoveries after the first two 800m runs and a 1.6km cool-down at the end. The purpose of this workout is to use intensity to spike fitness, while keeping the overall workout abbreviated to further maximise recovery.

Day 29

Rest.

Day 30

This is the day before the marathon. 3.2km warm-up run, 1km ‘reminder’ run at your race pace, and another km to cool-down.

Don’t forget to…

Stretch

Gently stretch the muscles you will be using for running—thigh muscles and tendons, calf muscles and muscles of the lower leg. This is good for any day, particularly after the run, but spend a bit more time stretching on rest days.

Hydrate

How much fluids you drink depends on climate/conditions. However, here are some general guidelines.

  • Drink 100ml – 200ml every 15 minutes – 20 minutes.
  • Going forward, you can drink a maximum of 500ml in an hour.
  • Drink and consume calories within 45 minutes to one hour after starting, to avoid dehydration.
  • Don’t drink too much water before the race.
  • Drink 250ml – 500ml before the race, but nothing before one hour.
  • Eat foods high in carbohydrates to ensure that your glycogen stores [form of stored energy] are packed fully before race.
  • Refuel after the race; it’s a must. Consuming about 300 calories of carbs and protein will help refuel and repair muscles.
  • Slowly sip fluids after the race. You can have a full meal once the recovery process is started.
  • Balance the electrolyte/mineral loss.

Nutrition needs

  • Total calorie needs: about 42kcal – 57kcal per kg of body weight
  • Carbohydrate needs: 7g – 10g per kg of body weight
  • Protein needs: 1.2g – 1.4g per kg of body weight
  • Fat needs: 20 per cent – 35 per cent of total calories.

What do you mean by Race Pace?

Race pace is the pace you plan to run in the race you’re training for. If you’re training for a 42km marathon, your average pace per km is 5.45 minutes. So you would run that same pace when asked to run race pace.

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Adithya Shetty
Adithya Shetty has a fellowship in Sports Sciences and a post graduate diploma in SPSN [Sports Physiotherapy & Sports Nutrition]. He is the co-founder and head of Exercise and Sports Medicine at Zela Luxury Health Clubs. Apart from being in the team doctor for several sports team, he has provided all the sports medicine support including fitness assessments, training plans, nutritional guidance, injury assessment and general medical management for the blockbuster movie, Chak De India.

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