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training for marathon walkers, marathon walking program, walk a marathon

There are many different marathon training plans available. Most start with a base of approximately 15 - 20 miles a week. This means that you have already been walking about 20 miles a week and are capable of walking 4 miles several times a week with a longer walk once a week.

If you are a beginner walker you will need to do less mileage until you have built a good base. The longer you have to build this base the better. It is usually recommended that one have a minimum of six to twelve months walking experience prior to beginning a marathon training program. Your mucles, bones, and joints need sufficient time to adapt to walking prior to the stress of adding mileage.

A good training program usually consist of 4 to 6 days of walking each week. Regardless of the schedule, it should provide variety and a gradual increase in mileage.
If possible include the following in your weekly schedule:

One day of speed intervals - One day a week practice speed by doing short intervals at a fast pace, resting (walk at a comfortable pace) between intervals. If you have never incorporated speed intervals into your routine you should start out by doing fartleks. These are untimed intervals of faster paced and comfortable paced walking. Once you are more experienced you can move on to one minute fast, 2 minutes slow, and gradually build to 2 minutes fast, one minute slow, etc.. ALWAYS warm up well before doing any speed work.

One day at a faster pace (Tempo Walk) - A Tempo is a steady state fast workout. Push yourself a little this day, but don't push so hard you can not complete the scheduled distance. Be sure to warm well at the beginning of your workout.

One long distance day (LSD) - These distance building walks should be done at a comfortable pace...faster than easy, but slow enough to finish the distance. Some schedules call for alternating your weekly long distance walk with a slightly shorter distance every other week. The alternating weeks are not as long, but a little faster. As you get closer to the marathon these walks should be done at your marathon goal pace.

Technique day - The three walks above are the basic training walks. If possible add one to two technique days. These are walks done at a comfortable pace focusing on walking with perfect form.

Crosstraining - Keep your body moving with aerobic crosstraining. This will rest your walking muscles, while strengthening muscles not used during walking. Crosstraining once or twice each week will improve your overall fitness level, endurance, and strength.

One day off each week - You are stressing your body, take a day of rest each week

Listen to your body. If you need an extra day off take it. It is better to miss a day of training than a week.

Every workout should begin with a 10 to 15 minute warm up, and end with 5 to 10 minute cool down. A good warm up is critical on speed training days.

Stretching - After you workout you must also spend time stretching. The harder or longer you workout the more time you should spend on your stretching routine.

Taper - A marathon training plan should also include a taper period. This is a time prior to the marathon when mileage decreases allowing your body to rest and rebuild. Most marathon schedules will have the last and longest walk three weeks prior to the marathon and decrease mileage each week until marathon day.

Strength Training - I also encourage all walkers to include strength training in their training programs. If you are new to strength training take it easy in the beginning. A few easy strength training exercises twice a week is a good start.