3 expert tips to shave minutes off your marathon time

If you're a marathoner, you know that once you catch the bug there's no turning back. There's nothing quite like the exhilaration of crossing the finish line and the anticipation of waiting for the results to see if you beat your old best time. Read on for three tips to help you shave minutes off your time.

3 expert tips to shave minutes off your marathon time

1. Don't only pound the pavement

If you're a marathoner, running is your exercise of choice.

But, if you want to be a faster marathoner, shake up your fitness regimen with cross-training.

The expert consensus seems to be that you can safely sub about 25 percent of your running with intense (sweat-inducing) cross-training options, including swimming, stationary biking, elliptical workouts, and strength training. All of which is helpful since the stronger your body is, the faster you'll be.

Cross-training can help increase your speed because this training method strengthens muscles that aren't fully engaged when you run. But if you strengthen those muscles, you'll be that much faster come marathon day.

2. Play mind games

Monotony is the enemy of every distance runner. In fact, marathon training is one instance when "getting into the groove" can be counterproductive.

So, if your training involves running the same courses at the same general pace, you're not challenging yourself. Training like this will help you maintain your speed, but you probably won't gain speed.

Instead, shake up your training runs.

When you're on a trail, look ahead, identify an object (tree, mailbox, etc.), and tell yourself that you'll sprint at full speed until you reach it. Once you arrive, slow your pace until you recover, and repeat. Running in intervals like this will keep you alert and give your muscles an extra workout.

And, when you're on the treadmill you can a challenging "game."

Start at a relatively low speed like 6.6 (just shy of a 9-minute mile). Run for 30 seconds at 6.6, then increase speed every 30 seconds until you're above 7.5 (an 8-minute mile).

Once you reach your personal max speed, run for 60 seconds at each speed setting on the way down. This treadmill "game" will build endurance and keep your mind fully engaged.

3. Drop pounds to drop minutes

If you're a marathoner, you're probably not overweight. Still, if you want to log a better time, consider losing a few pounds. The more you weigh, the more strenuous it is to run a mile. Over the course of a marathon, each pound over your ideal weight will slow you down.

Of course, taking weight loss to the extreme is counterproductive. If you lose too much weight, you lose muscle, and muscle is what propels you on runs.

The best kind of training

Running a marathon is, well, a marathon rather than a sprint. If you train regularly and are committed to upping your game, there's no reason you can't beat your personal best by minutes. And putting these three expert tips into practice can help you do so.

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