PureGym launches free 20-week marathon training program

To help anyone who is currently training or planning to train for a marathon, PureGym has launched a completely free 20 week marathon training plan. Aimed at marathon novices as well as more experienced distance runners, the plan spans 26 pages of tips, advice, and week-by-week planning that will get anyone up to race day ready to hit. a new PB.

Compiled by Ian Scarrott, personal trainer, running coach and former Team GB member, the full plan plus other marathon-focused advice can be found here.

Training for a marathon can be a long and intense process – and without the right support it can also feel very lonely. Many people spend months training, which can lead to many questions about progress and whether or not you’re ready for race day.

If you’re unsure of your training progress, or feel ready but haven’t yet planned what race day will look like for you, Ian Scarott, a physiotherapist from PureGym Loughboroughhas put together a set of practical tips and a free 20-week training plan, plus answers some of the most common questions asked by beginner marathon runners.

“Undertaking something like a marathon may seem like a mountain to climb, but know this, anything is definitely possible. Be prepared to take responsibility for your own training and provide the constant work required.

“If you manage to complete at least 80% of the races in the plan, I would say that you have given yourself every chance of success; whether your goal is simply to complete the course (running, walking or in a wheelchair) or finish in a particular time, perhaps even bettering a previous personal best. A marathon is technically a race, especially for the professional runners who participate in it, but for many it is seen as a personal challenge and a demanding goal to which aspire.

“Remember first and foremost this is just a race, so relax and enjoy the process,” he said.

Why is it important to train for a marathon?

Running 26.2 miles is no picnic, and even some of the fittest runners find it an intense challenge. It is extremely important to prepare your body and mind before participating. Proper preparation means you’re less likely to sustain injury or burnout, and your body will take less time to recover afterwards.

How long does it take to train for a marathon?

If you’re a complete newbie to running, it’s best to start by training for 5k and 10k events, and even consider a half marathon before moving straight into a full marathon. For starters, you should generally expect to spend around five to six months training for the big event.

What is the best training plan for a marathon?

A good rule of thumb for marathon training is to run three times a week, including one long run per week that builds up over months. You should also include a few days set aside for strength training or functional training; and at least two days of rest to recover to ensure that while strengthening your muscles, they are also in the best possible shape to propel you forward throughout the race.

Ian’s top workout tips:

Enjoy the process

Running a marathon is 20 weeks of training, for 1 day of victory. This means that running represents less than 1% of the total time spent! Training for a marathon is challenging, but be sure to take the time to appreciate the process and the progress you are making on this journey.

Prioritize rest

Rest is your number one priority during these 20 weeks. Training for a marathon puts a lot of strain on your body, and rest is essential for your body to repair and strengthen. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night and keep the same bedtime and wake-up times whenever possible.

It’s normal to miss a race

Running is part of your daily life. There may be times during your training when other aspects of your life need to take priority, and that’s okay. Take a break and move on to the next session as soon as you can. If you miss more than a week or two, you may need to adjust your plan to reach your goal within 20 weeks.

Optimize your diet

A healthy diet can maximize your physical performance. Make sure you have enough calories and carbs to fuel your workout, protein to help repair and recover, and vitamins and minerals to support your overall health.

Adaptation is key

This plan is designed to get you ready for the marathon in 20 weeks, but it can be adjusted based on your current running level. You may want to modify the plan to complete it in less time, or do it over a longer period of time.

Ian’s most frequently asked questions about marathon training

I’m so tired and/or everything hurts me! Should I continue?
Nope. A day of rest, or two or three calls you! Sometimes less is more and I would say just take the time if needed. Consider adjusting your training plan in the future and possibly think about your individual set of circumstances to think about the added load that comes from things like work, family life, enjoying friendships and having other hobbies. -time (if there is such a thing!)

Why does my pace sometimes change for the same types of runs? Sometimes I feel good in a speedwork or tempo session and hit the required RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) but sometimes I just can’t get going – and the pace is never exactly right. ?
It’s common, and it’s important to remember that, quite simply, you’re human! The pace and feel of a session may not always add up and be consistent due to factors such as hydration levels, hormonal cycles, recovery levels, sleep, nutrition variations during and in outside of training, weather, temperature – the list goes on… This is where RPE, in my opinion, is superior to things like keeping an eye on heart rate and pace; although it’s good to keep an eye on it to monitor general trends, especially if you’re a more advanced athlete. If you’re new to running, my advice is don’t worry and do your best with what you have, when you are! It’s quite good.

I missed a week because of (insert reason here), should I skip to next week?
It’s really an individual thing, and you’ll have to be the judge of whether you think you’re capable of doing it without overworking yourself!

I missed a session, should I make sure to do it before the end of the week?
Maybe… I would say it’s important not to overload your muscles, and if you’re inexperienced, not to do intense or multiple sessions in a row. Your body needs to recover, and you’re better off missing a session and moving on to the next one, which means you’re able to run another day, rather than overdo it and injure yourself. Otherwise, you could potentially be out longer and even miss the race.

I have a small problem in my (insert muscle, tendon or joint here), should I continue to train?
From my experience running and training without medical training, my first response to any athlete is, is it a sharp pain or a pain that slowly sets in? If it is a sharp pain, stop immediately and see a qualified physiotherapist. The NHS now allows self-referral, which means you can access free support. We love the NHS! If it’s a gradual soreness that comes on slowly, you may be able to train, but that would suggest an imbalance, overtraining, or the start of a more serious injury. Consult a physical therapist for a qualified medical evaluation and use your own judgment here.

I yo-yo with motivation, is there anything you can advise me to help me stay on track?
Absolutely, there are so many ways to stay on track with training – from joining a local running club club to join online social media communities on channels such as Facebook and Strava. You might consider having a friend or group of friends hold you accountable or even putting your workout plan on the fridge for your family to cheer you on. Maybe they could even join you to run or ride a bike alongside you if they’re not fans! You can also consider hiring a coach to help you stay motivated. One of the things I’m proud of is speaking with my athletes on a regular basis, whether that’s in person, via Zoom, WhatsApp or a carrier pigeon (just kidding). A trainer can really be a big help and have the technical knowledge to help you adjust a comprehensive generic workout plan like this to suit your individual circumstances.

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