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The Hidden Marathon Training Hurdle: Cumulative Fatigue

Today, let's chat about something that's not always in the spotlight but plays a crucial role in your marathon training journey – cumulative fatigue. Yep, it's that sneaky, often underestimated factor that can make or break your race day experience. I am going through it as I write this. Like, can I take a nap? And then eat some more carbs? Pretty please?

All joking aside…

So, what exactly is cumulative fatigue, you ask? Think of it as the relentless accumulation of wear and tear on your body as you pile on the miles week after week in preparation for that epic marathon. (It’s also what makes the taper slightly magical…but more on that later).

As you persevere through the ups and downs of cumulative fatigue during your marathon training, remember this: it's all leading up to that glorious race day.
Tips for managing cumulative fatigue

The Early Stages of Training: Deceptively Fresh

When you kick off your marathon training plan, you're full of energy and motivation. You're excited about the journey ahead, hitting the pavement with a sense of purpose. It's all sunshine and rainbows in those initial weeks. You're feeling good, and why wouldn't you? You've just started!

The Midway Point: Reality Sets In

Fast forward to the middle of your training cycle. You're logging more miles, tackling longer runs, and maybe even throwing in some speed workouts. This is where cumulative fatigue begins to rear its head. It's a bit like slowly turning up the heat on a simmering pot – you might not notice it right away, but it's there.

You might start feeling a bit more tired than usual, your legs a tad heavier. Perhaps that motivation isn't quite as automatic as it was at the beginning. It's normal to experience some ups and downs during your training, but this is when it's crucial to recognize that you're dealing with cumulative fatigue. This is where we start to question why we thought we could do this thing. And maybe want to start cutting miles or skipping workouts (especially those important strength workouts!).

The Final Stretch: The Tug of War

As you approach the final weeks of your marathon training, cumulative fatigue can really start to play tricks on your mind and body. This is the moment where you have to dig deep, push through the mental and physical fatigue, and stay the course. This is what makes you able to push through that final 6.2 miles even though you never trained more than 20 miles.

Your long runs now feel longer, and your rest days feel shorter. You might even begin to wonder if all this effort is worth it. Doubt creeps in, but this is precisely when your commitment to your goal is tested. Trust your training plan and your body.

Managing Cumulative Fatigue: The Secret Sauce

Here's the deal – cumulative fatigue is inevitable in marathon training (or even half marathon training depending on your level and training plan), but it's manageable. Here are some tips to help you stay on top of it:

1. Prioritize Recovery: Rest and proper sleep are your best friends. Make sure to build recovery days into your training schedule.

2. Listen to Your Body: If you're feeling unusually fatigued or are dealing with niggling injuries, don't push it. Adjust your training as needed.

Tips for dealing with training fatigue
Tips for dealing with training fatigue

3. Fuel Wisely: Eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated. Proper nutrition can make a world of difference. Make sure you’re eating enough fuel. Marathon training is no joke and you need to fuel it!

4. Cross-Train: Incorporate activities like swimming, weight lifting, yoga, or cycling to reduce the impact on your body and add variety to your training. (I just wrote a post about how you can include cycling in your training, check it out here)

5. Stay Positive: Keep the end goal in mind and focus on the progress you've made. Trust the process. Check out some of my favorite mindset tips here.

The Payoff: Race Day Glory

As you persevere through the ups and downs of cumulative fatigue during your marathon training, remember this: it's all leading up to that glorious race day (and you get the taper before now and then). All those hard miles, the early mornings, and the moments when you questioned yourself will culminate in a moment of triumph.

So, when you cross that finish line, whether it's your first marathon or your tenth, you'll know that you conquered cumulative fatigue, proved your resilience, and achieved something truly extraordinary. Embrace the journey, enjoy the process, and let cumulative fatigue become the silent partner in your marathon success story. Happy running! 🏃‍♀️🏃‍♂️💪

Want more resources? Check out my free private podcast on fueling your run -- in less than 45 minutes, learn all about the right way to fuel your run to prevent GI distress, feel good, and achieve your run goals!

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