The Do’s and Don’ts of Training for a Marathon

Training for a marathon can be overwhelming, especially for a first timer. Many runners train on their own and do not have the luxury of running coaches to guide them through the process. Deciding when and how to start training can be confusing, and each person is completely different, but here are some tips to help get you started.


Plan ahead. Give yourself adequate time to train—roughly 16 weeks—and pick a race that works for your schedule. Figure out which days are best for long runs and build your training schedule around that.

Have a foundation. Training for a marathon is a big feat. You should have some form of running background. Most professionals recommend having at least 2 years of running experience before training for 26.2.

Individualize. Each runner is completely different, and your training program should be individualized to fit your specific needs. Also, if you have pre-existing injuries, you should consult with a physical therapist on adjustments you should make to your program.

Continue cross-training. Marathon training is extremely time consuming, but cross training is critical to injury reduction and should not be skipped. This is just as important as your long runs.


Skip the taper. Many runners will skip their taper period, which is generally around two weeks long. Unfortunately, some runners will use this time to make up long runs that they may have skipped during their training. Squeezing in an extra long run in the two weeks leading up to the race will not result in training adaptations. Your body needs that time to rest and recover before the big day.

Force it. No one is perfect. We all miss long runs or have bad days. Understand that forcing extra mileage can lead to injury. That’s why it’s so important to plan ahead and make sure there is room built into your program as a buffer. Your buffer should not be your taper period, as discussed above.

Over train. So your friend is doing a fancy 12-week program they found online that has them running five or six days a week; that doesn’t mean the plan is right for you. Many coaches, myself included, recommend running only three to four times a week depending on the athlete. Advanced runners may run more, but just because you’re training to run 26.2 does not mean you have to run seven days a week.

HSS Expert Michelle CilentiMichelle Cilenti PT, DPT, SCS, OCS, CSCS, USATF-L1 is a board certified clinical specialist in sports and orthopedic physical therapy through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. She has also completed an APTA accredited sports residency program at HSS and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. Michelle enjoys working with runners and holds coaching certifications in both USA track and field level 1, as well as Road Runners Club of America. She has experience working in the orthopedic and sports settings and enjoys treating a wide variety of sports related injuries.


Michelle Cilenti

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