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Avoid the pitfalls: common mistakes to avoid during marathon training

As we enter the late summer, many runners are well into their fall marathon training plans. However, even the most experienced runners can fall victim to common mistakes during their preparation. While some of the information in this article may seem obvious to seasoned marathon runners, it is always worth revisiting. We'll explore some of the most prevalent errors made during marathon training and how to avoid them to ensure a successful race day.

  1. Ignoring Proper Planning

One of the most common mistakes runners make is diving into marathon training without a well-thought-out plan. Following a structured training program is vital to gradually build your endurance and prevent injuries. Ignoring proper planning or significantly deviating from a plan can lead to overtraining, lack of progress, and injury. Seek advice from experienced runners or hire a coach to create a personalized training schedule that suits your fitness level, lifestyle and goals.

2. Neglecting Rest and Recovery

Training hard is essential, but so is giving your body ample time to recover. Overtraining can lead to injuries, fatigue, and decreased performance. Incorporate rest days and recovery runs into your training schedule to allow your muscles to repair and rejuvenate. Make sure your recovery runs are true "recovery" runs. Keeping your heart rate in Zone 2 (60-70% of your max heart rate) is a good way to make sure you're not pushing too hard on easy running days. In addition, prioritize sleep (7-8 hours) and utilize stress management techniques such as mindfulness and meditation (10 minutes a day) to help your body truly maximize its ability to recover.

3. Skipping Cross-Training and Strength Work

Focusing solely on running without incorporating cross-training and strength exercises is another common pitfall. Cross-training helps balance muscle development and reduces the risk of overuse injuries. Activities like swimming, cycling, or even walking can provide a break from the impact of running while maintaining your fitness level.

Additionally, strength training is crucial for building the core and supporting muscles, enhancing overall running performance and posture. If you are already on a consistent weight training plan reduce the total frequency of workouts from 3-4 x per week to 2-3 x per week as well as an overall reduction in volume while keeping the intensity of the workout the same has been shown to been beneficial in maintaining strength while allowing the body to recover in time for the demands of running.

If you are not already strength training, beginning with body weight and light/moderate weights or resistance bands is a good start. We strongly encourage someone who has not weight trained before or has not in several years to seek professional guidance from a PT or personal trainer to avoid injury.

4. Ignoring Nutrition and Hydration

Proper nutrition and hydration are fundamental components of successful marathon training. Neglecting these aspects can hinder your progress and lead to poor performance on race day.

Fuel your body with a balanced diet that includes complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Additionally, starting a new diet in the middle of marathon training would not be encouraged. Healthy eating is necessary to refuel your body but if you have a generally healthy diet save any major dietary changes until after the training cycle.

Adequate hydration is equally important, so drink water regularly throughout the day, especially after workouts. A general rule of thumb is to drink about 40-50% of your body weight in oz per day. A 175lb runner should aim for 70-88oz in a day which can seem like a lot. Make sure on hotter days or longer runs to incorporate electrolytes to avoid hyponatremia.

5. Neglecting Mental Preparation

Endurance sports like marathons not only test your physical capabilities but also challenge your mental stamina. Neglecting mental preparation can lead to self-doubt and anxiety during the race. Practice visualization techniques and positive self-talk to boost your confidence. Surround yourself with supportive people who believe in your abilities and remind yourself of the hard work you've put in during training.


Marathon training is a journey that demands dedication, consistency, and a willingness to learn from mistakes. By avoiding these common pitfalls, you'll enhance your chances of a successful marathon experience.

Remember to create a well-structured training plan, prioritize rest and recovery, incorporate cross-training and strength work, fuel your body with proper nutrition and hydration, avoid trying new things on race day, and prepare yourself mentally for the challenge ahead.

With the right approach, you'll be ready to conquer the marathon and savor the satisfaction of achieving your running goals.

Happy Running!


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