As a First Time Marathoner How Many Times a Week Should I Be Running?

by Croucher
(Kent, United Kingdom)

how often should i jog
I first did a half marathon last year - I think it was in September. I have not run since then, I have now got a charity marathon place for the London Marathon. I started running straight away, I was very slow but now have got even slower.

When I did the half marathon last year my time was 2hrs and 20 minutes and the training had been very haphazard. I decided that I was going to train properly this time round, but wondering whether I am putting in a lot of junk miles.

I run 5 times a week. My time is even slower I ran 14 miles on Sunday which took me 2 hours and 48 something minutes. Should I cut this down to 4 days?

Answer by Dominique:
Hi there,
Thanks for your question about your upcoming marathon.

Running five days a week, as you're doing now, is not extreme, especially as you train for a marathon. However, for us to determine whether you're putting in "junk miles", we need to look beyond just the frequency of your runs. Are your sessions varied, how do you recover from your runs?

Let me break down some key components of your question and address them individually to provide you with an in-depth answer.

1. Tiredness During Marathon Training
2. Important Marathon Training Ingredients
3. General Guidelines for Marathon Training Frequency
4. Balancing Running and Cross-Training

Tiredness During Marathon Training

how often should i jog
Firstly, it's completely normal to feel slower or more fatigued during intense training periods, especially as you're increasing your running volume.

It's crucial not to mistake this slower pace for the lack of progress.

Remember, as you're running more, your body is adapting to handle the increased workload and needs more time to recover.

Marathon training isn't a walk in the park - it's challenging, and it's supposed to be. If it were easy, everyone would do it! Aim to prioritize recovery. Sleep well, rest well, eat well.

Important Marathon Training Ingredients

how often should i jog
You can approach your marathon training in a myriad of ways. A key input into that is what your goal is. Do you want to finish the marathon? Or do you want to achieve a certain time? And how challenging is that time for you?

Whatever the answers to those questions are, a few things will pretty much remain the same, and these are:

The Power of Consistency
More important than anything is to be consistent with your training. Getting out there four, five times per week is brilliant. Try to keep that up every week. It's ok, if at times you feel you need a rest day and you end up doing four runs per week rather than five. But keep on getting out there, week after week, month after month.

The Importance of the Long Run
Long runs form the backbone of any marathon training plan. The 14-mile run you mentioned is a great testament to your progress! It might take you longer now, but that's okay.

In the lead-up to the race, your training runs will usually be slower than the actual race as your focus should be on gradually increasing your mileage, not beating personal records.

Remember, it's about building stamina and endurance, not speed. You have made it up to 14 miles. Just keep on building and get to the 20 miles, that's often advised for first-time marathoners as the level to get to.

Alternating Hard and Easy Days
A mistake I can see creep into beginners marathon schedules is that every day is semi-hard.

You might run 8 miles on Tuesday, then 7 on Wednesday, then 9 on Thursday. What I prefer to see is a clearer break between harder days and easier days, e.g. 9 miles on Tuesday, 5 on Wednesday, 10 on Thursday. Same total mileage, but with a clear easier day in the middle.

This allows you to use the Wednesday as a recovery day and feel strong and fresh on Thursday for a longer run.

General Guidelines for Marathon Training Frequency

how often should i jog
I get really uncomfortable when runners only run three days per week in preparation for their marathon. I am not saying it is impossible. But it is not optimal. You can compensate for the less running by ramping up your cross-training. It needs to be an extensive amount though.

It's much better when you run five times per week in the lead-up to a marathon. When you really feel like it is all too much, drop down to four times per week, but hold on to the three parts previously discussed: consistency, the long run and alternating hard and easy days.

And consider cross-training as a useful alternative.

Balancing Running and Cross-Training

how often should i jog
It sounds like the marathon training is bringing you down. To avoid physical burnout, it could be beneficial to switch one of your running days for a cross-training session. Cross-training - activities like cycling, swimming, or yoga - aids in recovery, injury prevention, and the development of muscles that running might not stimulate. It's also a fantastic way to keep your training balanced and exciting.

Additionally, strength training is good to do when you are training for a marathon. It will help make you stronger and more injury resilient.

Be careful with removing too much running from your training schedule. At the same time, there are many possible paths to the starting line of a marathon. I hope the combination of prioritising recovery, holding on to key marathon training fundamentals and using cross-training and strength-training to stay energised and injury-free, help you chart a path forward.

The road to marathon running is an exciting challenge, full of ups and downs. Listen to your body, mix up your training routine, and enjoy the journey. Do what works for you, maintaining a balance between running, cross-training, and rest.

I hope this helps. Good luck with your marathon training!

Best wishes,

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