Pick Your Plan: 5 Marathon Training Methods

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Fall is officially full-on marathon season, and it might already seem like everyone you know is already talking about (or training for) those infamous 26.2 miles. As the cornerstone of distance running and a bucket list accomplishment for athletes of all ages and abilities, training methods for the modern marathon are relentlessly debated (and everyone is certain that their regimen is the very best). Whether you’re contemplating your first run or hoping to qualify for Boston, we’ve rounded up the most popular and effective methods to get you off on the right foot.

1. Periodized High Mileage Training
If you Google “marathon training plan,” chances are that the first 10 options you’ll see are based on these tried-and-true principles of distance running. Hal Higdon—a mainstay in the world of online running plans—offers no less than 14 marathon training plans, and all are based on increasing mileage up to 20 miles in the weeks leading up to race day. His advanced plans call for as many as three 20-mile runs throughout the course of the training plan! These no-funny-business methods are likely to be used by most running groups and are essentially a rite of passage for a distance runner.

2. More Intensity, Less Miles
Both the FIRST method and the Cross Fit Endurance method rely on relatively low mileage mixed with high intensity cross-training to get time-strapped runners marathon ready. Expect about three days of running and three days of strength training or HIIT training on either of these plans. It’s a setup that requires fewer hours per week devoted to training and far fewer cumulative miles throughout the process. These are benefits for runners who need to squeeze their training into an already busy schedule or who are interested in limiting their overall mileage due to concerns about overuse injuries. Critics of these methods argue that they lack sufficient mileage to prepare the body for the rigors of the 26.2 mile race, but anecdotal evidence suggests that many runners do just fine.

3. Yoga + Running = Success
While most marathon plans will call for some sort of cross-training to increase strength and avoid the potential overuse injuries associated with lack of movement variation, this plan calls specifically for two to three days per week of yoga interspersed with three days of running. The plan’s author even specifies what type of yoga class to attend each day, calling for Power/Vinyasa, Hatha, and Yin practice for varied benefits.

4. The Run/Walk Method
Former Olympian and longtime running coach/celebrity Jeff Galloway is generally recognized as the authority on the run/walk method of training for finishing a marathon. His “Marathon To Finish” plan—designed for first-timers not concerned with a specific finish time—is one of the most chill plans you’ll find, calling for two 30-minute runs, one easy walk and one long run per week. Galloway asserts that pre-planned walk breaks using an individualized run/walk ratio decrease fatigue and yield faster overall times for many runners. Bonus: It’s so much easier to obsessively mess with your playlist.

5. All Running All The Time
The Hansons Marathon Method, created by the coaches of the Hanson-Brooks Distance project, intentionally omits a few components that you’d expect to see in a standard marathon training plan. The first? The quintessential 20-mile-long run that usually sits at the peak of traditional race plans. Instead, you can expect to tap out after just 16 miles, although you’ll have to do it more than once in the weeks and months leading up to race day. The other omission? Anything that isn’t running. For runners who just want to run, the Hanson method lets them do just that. No yoga or strength training requirements in sight.

Whether you’re an experienced runner or an aspiring first-timer, it’s important to remember that no two bodies are the same, no two runners are the same and no two marathon dreams are exactly alike! So, don’t be persuaded by anyone else’s plan, pick one that works for you and simply put one foot in front of the other.

Before you get going, find your Fabletics running essentials right here.

Anna Quinlan

Photo: Morningstar Photography

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2 comments
TerryWright
TerryWright

Really, i like reading your articles that are useful for a runner as mine. I love your workouts.

NordicMoxie
NordicMoxie

For newbie marathoners, I recommend Hal Higdon's beginner plan. It's simplified and you are not logging the extreme amount of miles that the Hanson program sets (high mileage for a beginner w/ a low base can quickly get injured).