Marathon Training Tips

General Tips:

  • Start Slow: Many people get carried away and try to push themselves on their marathon training program from the very start. Avoid this -- it will lead to injuries.
  • Add 10 Percent Weekly: As a general rule, aim to increase your total running distance by a maximum of 10 percent per week.
  • Follow A Marathon Training Schedule: Track your goals, progress, and achievements by following a marathon training schedule. This will help motivate you and help you steer clear of injury.
  • Rest and Recover: Do not run every day. Your body needs time to adapt to your marathon training program and your body will need rest to recover and rebuild.

Training Components:

Long Rides

The key to the program is the long rides on weekends, which builds from two miles in Week 1 to 20 miles in the climatic Week 19. After that, you taper to get ready for the marathon. You can skip an occasional workout, or juggle the schedule depending on other commitments, but do NOT cheat on the long rides. Notice that, although the weekly long rides get progressively longer, every third week is a "step back" week, where we reduce mileage to allow you to gather strength for the next push upward. Rest is an important component of any training program. Long rides are meant to be performed at a steady, comfortable pace. The goal is to get the distance, NOT focus on speed. Speed work is done during your weekday rides. Be sure you stay hydrated and bring appropriate nutrition with you on long rides. Always remember to do your pressure reliefs every 15 minutes for at least 30-45 seconds.

Cross Training

Any other form of aerobic exercise that allows you to use slightly different muscles while resting after your long ride is considered cross training. In this program, we ride long on Saturdays and cross-train on Sundays, although it certainly is possible to reverse that order. That best cross-training exercises are swimming, lower extremity cycling (FES included), or even walking if appropriate.

Strength Training

In order to improve performance in wheelchair racing and prevent injury/overuse syndromes, strength training will be an integral component to your training. Your goal is to gain/maintain muscular balance at the shoulder complex and distal upper extremities. Also, postural and stabilizing muscles play a key role in maintaining balance. Choose seven or eight muscle groups to focus on each week. Strengthen the remaining seven or eight muscle groups the following week and rotate. Start with three sets of 15 repetitions for each with little weight. Progress each week by adding 10-20 percent more weight. Here is a list of exercises to perform for each of the important shoulder muscles (modifications can be made based on your abilities):

  • Anterior Deltoid: Incline shoulder press
  • Pectoralis Major: Bench press
  • Trapezius: Shoulder shrug
  • Serratus Anterior: Overhead shrugs (supine holding weight over head with arms extended, bring toward belly, keeping arms extended)
  • Rhomboids: Scapular retractions
  • Latissimus Dorsi: Pull-downs
  • Posterior Deltoid: Bent-over dumbbell raise (head resting on stable surface, extend arms laterally with back of hand reaching up toward ceiling)
  • Triceps: Overhead elbow extension, tricep dips, supine tricep extensions, tricep push-down
  • Rotator Cuff: Internal rotation with resistance band, external rotation with resistance band, abduction with theraband
  • Forearm: Wrist curls with palms up and down; supination/pronation
  • Abdominals: Planks, sit-ups
  • Paraspinals: Trunk extensions


Rest is an important component of any training program. Scientists will tell you that it is during the rest period (the 24-72 hours between hard bouts of exercise) that the muscles actually regenerate and get stronger. Coaches will also tell you that you cannot ride hard unless you are well rested. It is hard riding, such as the long rides, that allows you to improve. If you are constantly fatigued, you will fail to reach your potential. This is why we include two days of rest each week for novice racers. If you need to take more rest days because of a cold or late night at the office or sick child, do so. The secret to success in any training program is consistency, so as long as you are consistent with your trainng during the full 22 weeks of the program, you can afford -- and may benefit from -- extra rest.

Training Programs: