ACTIVE RECOVERY: How To Train For A Marathon

By Ciara Lucas


Whether it’s a 5k, 10k, half marathon, or full marathon, the process of training for a road race takes commitment and serious grit. The good news is, that anyone can do it once you decide to put one foot in front of the other, and have a solid training plan. When it comes to training for an endurance sport, there are layers of elements to consider and practice. From warming up, ramping up workouts, cross-training, and cooling down, every step is essential to becoming and maintaining a healthy athlete.


The Warm Up


It’s one of the most neglected phases in the sport of running, but warming up is critical. A warm up routine prepares your joints and muscles for activity. It doesn’t have to be long, even a minimum of five minutes will suffice. Allowing yourself five minutes to warm up with dynamic stretches will set you up for success and prevent risk of injury. A dynamic warm up routine increases range of motion and activates your muscles. Some easy exercises you can do before heading out for your run include: 

-Standing marches 


-Skater jumps 

-Lateral lunges

-Alternate reverse lunges

-Alternate quad stretch 

-Alternate hamstring stretch 

Watch here for a demonstration of each movement. 


The Build Up 


A training buildup involves cultivating base mileage. Beginner runners should focus on running consistently, running 2-3 times per week for 1-4 miles. A solid base should be established before adding mileage to your workout plan. The typical marathon training plan lasts between 12-20 weeks, depending on your starting point. This gives athletes time to slowly and safely increase their weekly mileage without overtraining and resulting in injury. As the weeks go by, your distance will increase in small increments. For runners with more experience, long runs will increase no more than 10% each week to build endurance. In the build up phase it’s important for runners to listen to their body. Training is an intense level of exertion and puts a lot of stress on the body. If at any point you are feeling pain or abnormal discomfort (besides feeling challenged), it’s important to pull back and re-evaluate before moving forward. 

Watch here for more.


Cross Training 


There’s more to marathon training than just running. Cross training leads to improved fitness, promotes recovery, and prevents injury. There are plenty of activities that can benefit runners including cycling, swimming, yoga/pilates, and strength training. This stage of training should not be neglected. The most common cause for injury for runners is due to overuse and stress on the body. This can be avoided by strengthening muscles and joints via different forms of movement and planes of motion. Here are some exercises that can improve running: 

Standing lat pulldown 

-Bent over row + tricep extension 

-Squat jumps 

-Hip bridges 


-Shoulder taps

Watch here for a demonstration of each movement. 


Taper Time & Cooling Down


After all of the training miles, workouts, and hard effort, it’s time to taper. This is the final phase before race day, allowing your body to recover. Runners should drastically pull back on their efforts in the 2-3 weeks leading up to the race. During this time it’s a good idea to focus on mobility and stretching to maintain healthy joints. The hardest part of tapering is the feeling of not enough movement. You’ve spent weeks completing long runs and strenuous workouts, it may feel hard to sit still and relax. But remember it’s an essential part of the process! Cooldown exercises include static stretches that target muscle tightness and potential soreness. Try these movements the next time you’re in need of a good stretch:

-Cross body reach

-Lunge & twist 

-Downward dog w/ calf marches 


-Pigeon pose 

Watch here for a demonstration of each movement. 


You have Trained, Now it is Time!


Once you reach race day, it’s time to celebrate! You’ve put in the work to make it to this point and you are fully prepared to cross the finish line. Soak in the full experience; the crowd, your surroundings, and all of the people who are running with you to the same destination. Be proud of yourself for how far you have come. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and remember that you’ve trained for this. Trust your training and trust yourself. Happy running!


About the Author:

Ciara Lucas is a journalist, on-air talent, media professional, and fitness/wellness coach. Her multifaceted career brings a unique perspective and expertise to the Vionic Innovation Lab team. 

Ciara’s professional career has encompassed contributing to local and national newsrooms including NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, NBC Sports for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, and NBC News coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march. When she’s not on screen, she’s building connections strengthened through sweat as a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, helping clients find their meaning of sustainable health and happiness. 

Ciara has created a personal brand and platform titled “Fit For A Queen” where she aims to empower, motivate, and inspire women from all walks of life to nurture their health and live their best lives by treating their bodies well. She is also an active member of the nonprofit Girls on the Run where she serves as a run coach for elementary school girls. 

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