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Virgin Active: How to mix up your marathon training

Improve your marathon fitness and avoid common injuries

From gait analysis to their top five trainers for marathon runners

We asked our friends at Virgin Active to share their top marathon training tips to help you prepare for the big day and mix up your training. From how to vary your runs, exercises to avoid common injuries and other ways to make sure you’re race-ready, PT Richard Kellett shares his top tips.

How to vary the types of run you do

"Depending on your goal, there are a number of different ways to program your week. If you are purely looking to finish the race, you want to focus on increasing your weekly distance, you can vary the week with long easy runs (used to feel comfortable and for enjoying the run) and high intensity short 30-45min runs (used to increase the impact on the feet, strengthen joints and increase cardiovascular fitness).

If the goal is time dependant, then you need to focus on one or two long runs or week, plus two or three short sessions to focus on speed work. For example: 5x800m or 10x800m (each 800m needs to be above race pace to improve leg stride and cardiovascular function), another alternative is to run at race pace and every 1km sprint for 30 secs, then return back to race pace again.

The most important rule for any marathon goal is to accumulate the distance per week and to practice a 20 miles run or more 4 weeks before race day, this will give you a good feeling for what is in store. The latest point to start running is 4 months before race day (6 months is ideal for any runner), complete mini targets early as lack of training causes injuries, we can all run long distance at any time, but not pain free."

Exercises to help improve your running or avoid common injuries

What to do on rest days

"Reduce stress levels to promote immune system recovery, eat protein to promote muscular recovery and sleep to help the body fully repair and prepare for next training day. The best athletes are those that focus on their recovery phase and recharging the body. You can drive your sports car every day, but if you do not add fuel, you cannot drive it again and if you do not spend time upgrading parts (recovering), the car will not go faster for longer."

Other ways to improve your fitness ready for the marathon

"Cross training (non-running specific exercise) is another option to complete to help improve your marathon abilities. Taking part in group exercise classes can increase your cardiovascular function or joint mobility, without the foot ache from all of the miles. Try switching one of your short intense runs for a Punch/Boxing class, Group cycle class or Grid class to increase your fitness and try Reformer Pilates or Yoga to increase mobility and core stability."

Any other recommendations

"Don’t go your whole training plan alone, every week or two take someone fitter than you for a run, they will help you add extra miles or increase your pace. You will even share alternative running practices. As long as you clock the miles required, everything else is a bonus.

Fuelling before the event is more important than during, many inexperienced runners rely on fuel found at an event or take packaged fuel with them, focus on the running and not the fuelling, rely on your previous training and your nutrition prep work."

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