When you are gearing up to take on a marathon, you never want to get stale in your exercises. If you start marathon exercises, what are some of the best and lesser-known ones? Here are some useful exercises to master before you finish your first marathon!
To begin prepping for a marathon, start with introductory intervals, steady-state intervals, and tolerance exercises. Move on to lactate clearance runs and progression runs. Try to implement exercises like fartlek runs, free–form runs, tempo intervals, cruise interval exercises, and more!
What are the pros and cons of these various marathon exercises? In what order should you arrange these into a marathon training plan? Let’s go over what to do for each type of exercise and how to maintain the best marathon prep regimen.
These beginner exercises are key for your eventual success in running competitions. Introductory intervals are perfect for early integration into your workout journey since they will improve your ability to take on larger loads at pace. They will also prime your body’s faculties to buffer lactate.
If you shirk introductory interval training and instead skip to short, fast reps, then you will have negative experiences like early peak or burnout. It is always worthwhile to invest in your introductory intervals! If you don’t build up a foundation of endurance in the right order, you could hurt yourself or compromise your exercise efficiency.
The protocol for introductory intervals is to jog or run 4 to 5 1,200-meter efforts for 3 to 5 minutes long. Take short recovery breaks after performing introductory intervals.
Recover from introductory intervals by executing a light run or by jogging. You could also use a static recovery or just walk to build up your endurance. Make sure to run introductory interval efforts at half marathon to 15-kilometer paces to keep your lactate levels low to moderate. Escalating intervals in this workout are crucial.
If you are performing introductory intervals early in your training cycle, they are key! Starting with them early will prepare you for the later marathon exercises in this article.
These exercises should be performed in sets of 3 to 4 reps. Run at lengths of up to 1 to 1.5 miles. The efforts should take up to 8 to 12 minutes to complete. To recover, use 400-meter recoveries that last up to 2:30 minutes.
Tolerance exercises and workouts are the natural next step in building marathon fitness. Steady-state intervals are noticeably longer and call for a 10-kilometer to half-marathon pace for 8 to 12 minutes. Most beginner marathon athletes will need to work up to these exercises.
If you complete tolerance and steady-state intervals, you will be able to increase your body’s ability to buffer lactate and resist fatigue.
Many people love these exercises since they help build up your early confidence and your ability to hold pace. If you are not ready to take on extensive tempo sessions, start with steady-state and tolerance intervals! All of the recovery and rest that follows these exercises can be modulated to your athletic level. Rest and recover after steady-state intervals by using static rest and steady jogging later in your exercise cycles.
Tolerance and steady-state intervals will make marathon paces feel a lot easier for you. If you take on intense steady-state intervals or a lot at once, they can still feel pretty demanding, so use them sparingly.
The Lactate Clearance Run
Plenty of people will say that lactate clearance run exercises are tough on the body. This is because they are a type of tempo workout but with a twist! When you perform lactate clearance runs, you need to periodically surge to a roughly 5k pace or a bit faster for 30 to 60 seconds before you revert to your previous tempo pace.
This surge puts the pace a lot faster than at temp, meaning a lot more lactate will be introduced into your bloodstream. Lactate is what causes that painful, uncomfortable burning feeling in your body after harder interval exercises and short races.
Whenever you lower back into tempo pace after surging, your body clears the lactate as best as it can while keeping up a challenging running pace. This reaction always helps your body to process lactate even more efficiently.
Doing lactate clearance runs will help to push your lactate threshold pace faster and faster until you reach your desired speed and endurance.
Since the human lactate threshold directly impacts performance and endurance levels, it is important to choose exercises that will improve your marathon finish. Be aware that lactate clearance runs can be extremely hard on the body and mind, so run them once every 2 to 3 weeks during the mid-late phase of your marathon training regimen.
A lot of traditional tempo, goal, and progression pace exercises should make up the rest of your workout schedule.
The Progression Run
Progression runs are fantastic for marathon training! This is an aerobic style exercise that is best for the first half of a marathon training cycle. They’re ideal for foundational working out before more sustained effort, and faster lactate threshold runs are included.
To perform a progression run, you need to gradually speed up during the final miles of your run until the last 3 to 5 minutes are at your tempo or threshold pace. Tougher progression runs are longer but not necessarily faster.
As you progress to harder and harder exercises, try to perform 5 to 7-mile-long progression runs. Remember that faster is not always better. Progression runs are aerobic exercises, so the fastest pace to reach during them is a threshold pace during the last several minutes of the exercise.
If you maintain a pace that can accomplish a 9 to 10-minute mile and a tempo pace of roughly 7:45 per mile, then try to run 6-mile runs with the final 3 miles at a progression to tempo with splits.
As you execute progression run after progression run, aim to run miles in shorter and shorter amounts of time. Try to run the first mile in 9 minutes and 45 seconds or less, then run the second mile in 9 minutes and 30 seconds or less, and run the third mile in 9 minutes. For the second half of miles, run the fourth mile in 8 minutes and 45 seconds, run the fifth in 8 minutes and 15 seconds, and the final sixth mile in 8 minutes or less.
The separate pieces of these progression runs may not be very tough for most people. You will get the value out of progression runs from the total of the exercises. When put all together, this work can end up being pretty fatiguing.
Progression run exercises will prepare you for a marathon by increasing your mental resilience and endurance. These helpful exercises also prepare you to transition to more challenging marathon exercises that will follow in your later training sessions.
Fartlek Runs or Free-Form Runs
Fartlek runs, also called free-form runs by some, are another form of invaluable exercise to add to your marathon training.
Aim to perform 8 to 10 sets of 2-minute sprints, paired with 1-minute long recovery jogs when needed. Sometimes the protocol for running free-form runs is to run 3 to 5 miles of free-form intervals of up to 30 seconds to 2 minutes. It all depends on your preferences and abilities.
Running fartlek or free-form runs will get you ready for hardcore marathon paces.
A speed reserve is the difference between the pace that you feel is fast and your marathon pace. Practice fartlek runs and free-form runs to build up your speed reserve. This will help you to run at an easy effort in the early stages of your first marathon.
Begin these exercises at 8k or 10k paces. Then run the largest part of the repeats at a 5k effort. End the last one to two repeats at a slightly faster pace than your 5k pace.
Targeted running and regimented protocols like these can lead to mental and physical fatigue. If you ever struggle to reach a fast pace or feel extreme fatigue, change your exercise goal to completing the timed intervals instead.
Free-form runs or fartlek runs are great exercises to implement after a race build-up since they take the pressure off hitting specific paces. Do your best to structure your marathon exercises to be of effort of 30 seconds to 2 minutes long with recovery exercises as needed.
Training for marathons in the morning while listening to some of your favorite, energizing music will help you stay hardworking and invested in marathon training while having fun!
To do tempo intervals, complete 4 to 5 reps of about 2,000-meter long runs. Use roughly 400-meter-long jogs to recover when fatigue becomes too much. You can also attempt 2 to 5-mile efforts at your tempo or lactate threshold pace. These exercises can even be executed without any recovery breaks if you can manage it.
The best approach for tempo interval exercises is to run at a strong and steady pace. Make sure to focus on the volume of running, not your speed. Aim to make your final two repetitions your strongest reps possible.
If it feels difficult to start implementing tempo intervals, try to start these intervals at half marathon pace and then progress down to near 10k race pace.
Tempo interval exercises are key for marathon workouts and for athletes training to be distance runners since they are best for increasing your ability to run fast before you need to slow down. These exercises should feel like a comfortably hard pace, a pace that a well-trained runner can maintain for around an hour, and they should keep you at 85 to 90% of your maximum heart rate.
If you don’t want to keep track of your heart rate by feeling your pulse manually, consider investing in devices that can make your marathon training easier! There are affordable heart rate devices that can be bought online to update you on your oxygen intake, burnt calories, and heart rate. They vary in price and capability, but fitness watches and tech like this will help you accomplish your marathon training at a faster rate.
At tempo interval pacing, your body will make a lot of lactate. However, your body should also be able to clear the lactate as fast as you are making it. If you run too slow you won’t make enough lactate to practice buffering it, but if you run too fast then the tempo interval exercise will become anaerobic and you will need to slow down.
Exercises for tempo intervals can be performed at essentially any point in your marathon training, but it is best to put less focus on them during the very early and very late stages of marathon training. Do your best to keep tempo interval exercises in the middle of your marathon training regimen.
Marathon Variety Runs
This type of exercise can be performed in many locations, from the local roads to the professional running track.
Begin your marathon variety run exercise by running 2 miles on the road at your goal marathon pace. After that, hit the track for 1 mile at a 10k pace. Then sprint on the road for 2 more miles at the goal marathon pace. Get back to the track for another mile at a 10k pace.
Next, you should run 2 miles at a marathon pace on the road and then use the track for 800 meters of running. End with 400 meters at 5k pace, running the final 400 meters as quickly as you can manage it.
Finally, there are cruise intervals. Cruise interval exercises work best when done in reps of 6 to 8. Run at lengths of 1,000 meters and jog at 200-meter lengths as recovery after running.
Cruise interval exercises were first popularized in Jack Daniels’ book, Daniels’ Running Formula. Cruise interval exercises are ideal for starting your more hardcore marathon training portions. Do your best to begin them at a 15k pace and then move on to a 10k pace for the last repeats if you can manage it.
If you feel like you’ll need additional marathon training exercises, consider investing in some marathon prep books sold online. If the lactic acid buildup becomes too painful for you, you can also purchase athletic massage guns to help relax and destress after some difficult reps.