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Gearing Up for the London Marathon: Your Winter Training Plan

December 05 2023 6 min read

Winter has arrived, but that doesn’t mean that you have to put your training regime on hold until the weather warms up. 

Whether you’re a novice hoping to conquer your first marathon or an experienced runner striving for a personal best, the London Marathon is no easy feat. 

In this Fitness First guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about keeping up with your training regime in the winter so you can take on the London Marathon like a breeze!

When is the London Marathon?

The London Marathon will take place on Sunday, 21 April 2024, so you still have plenty of time to finetune your fitness regime!

Read our guide on how to train for the London Marathon for more information.

Where does the London Marathon take place?

The London Marathon is the second-largest annual road race in the UK. 

The route takes place in London and lets you take in some of the capital's greatest landmarks, including Buckingham Palace, The Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf.

Why should you train in the gym during the winter months?

When you’re training for an event, it’s so important that you keep up with your routine, even during the colder months. 

Training during the winter can be quite challenging due to the cold and wet weather. The gym offers a controlled environment where you can stick to your training schedule without worrying about the elements — plus, you’ll have access to all the equipment you need to work on your strength, flexibility and endurance.

But it’s also important to ask yourself some serious questions: are you running the London Marathon with the aim of finishing strong? Or are you looking to achieve a specific time? Maybe your goal is simply to finish your first marathon. Understanding your objectives can help you tailor your training plan effectively. 

Learn more about how to boost your energy in the winter months.

Your winter gym training plan

Let’s break down the expert work you’ll have to do in the gym for your London Marathon training. This can be split into three essential components: cardiovascular conditioning, strength training and recovery. 

1. Cardiovascular conditioning

Cardiovascular training is crucial when training for the London Marathon as it helps to enhance your endurance, transport oxygen to your muscles and improve your overall heart health, reducing the risk of fatigue and injuries while you train and during the race. 

  • Treadmill work. Utilising a treadmill is an effective way to simulate outdoor running conditions when you can't train outdoors due to the weather. It allows you to maintain a controlled and consistent pace while offering various training options, so it’s a great place to get your routine going. Start your treadmill workouts with steady-state runs at a comfortable pace to build a solid aerobic base. As your fitness improves, progressively introduce interval training —- where you alternate between higher-intensity segments — and recovery periods. This type of training helps boost your cardiovascular endurance, improves your ability to handle pace changes, and enhances your overall running performance.
  • Indoor cycling. Indoor cycling, often done on stationary bikes, is an excellent cross-training option to get you ready to take on the London Marathon. Cycling can complement your running training by targeting similar muscle groups as well as help reduce stress on your muscles. It's particularly useful for recovery days or when you need a break from the repetitive impact of running. Indoor spin classes or using a stationary bike at one of our Fitness First can add variety to your training routine!
  • Rowing machine. Opting to use a rowing machine in your training routine offers a full-body workout that you can do anytime. Rowing not only engages your legs but also your back, arms, and core muscles. It's an excellent way to build endurance while reducing the risk of overuse injuries that can happen when you overexert yourself when you’re running. Rowing workouts can also vary in intensity, allowing you to customise your training to match your fitness level and the specific goals that you want to hit for your training.

2. Strength training

Strength training is like your marathon's safety net. It helps to prevent injuries, ensuring that your muscles are working in unison with one another instead of against each other. When you build muscle strength, it’ll help you maintain proper running form, especially during those long, gruelling marathon stretches where you’re really put to the test. 

  • Leg day. When you’re training for a marathon, your legs are your most important component and leg workouts are all about building strength and stability in your lower body. You want exercises that engage your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Squats are an important move here, targeting your entire lower body while also working your core. Lunges are fantastic for targeting individual leg strength and balance, and leg presses are excellent for building quadriceps strength. Regularly incorporating these exercises into your routine will help you power through those long runs and hills with greater ease.
  • Core strength. Your core is like the anchor for your entire body when you're running a marathon. It provides stability and helps you maintain proper running form, preventing any injuries or suffering from fatigue. Planks are a go-to exercise for building a strong core; they engage your abdominal muscles, lower back, and even your shoulders and glutes. Russian twists, where you twist your torso from side to side, are fantastic for building oblique strength. A strong core not only improves your running efficiency but also helps you stay upright and balanced during those final miles of the marathon.
  • Upper body. While marathon running may seem like it’s all about your legs, it’s important not to neglect your upper body. A balanced, strong upper body can help your body stability and balance during long runs. Push-ups are excellent for building chest, shoulder, and triceps strength, but pull-ups engage your back and biceps, which can help maintain good posture. Dumbbell exercises, like shoulder presses and bent-over rows, are great for upper body strength and muscle balance. A well-rounded upper body can prevent imbalances and fatigue, ensuring you're not over-relying on your legs during the race.

3. Recovery and flexibility

Recovery and flexibility play pivotal roles in training for the London Marathon. Recovery gives your body a chance to bounce back from those tiring training sessions, helping to keep you in the game. Flexibility can help against muscle tightness and awkward running form — it keeps your muscles supple and your joints strong, making sure you’re running at your best. 

  • Stretching. To keep your muscles limber and prevent tightness, you’ll need to make sure that you’re stretching — post-work-out stretching is especially important. Yoga is a fantastic choice because it combines stretching with strength and balance exercises and helps your muscles relax. Incorporating mobility exercises, such as hip circles and shoulder rotations, can also target specific areas where runners often experience tightness.
  • Foam rolling. Foam rolling is like a deep-tissue massage you can give yourself, as it’s a fantastic way to release muscle tension and improve blood circulation. When you roll over your muscles, the pressure helps break down knots and adhesions, which can accumulate from repetitive strain from training. It's particularly beneficial for those hard-to-reach areas where tightness builds up, like the calves. Including foam rolling into your routine can alleviate soreness, enhance muscle recovery, and keep your body in top shape for your next training session.

Rest days — It’s important to remember that rest days are not a sign of weakness; it's a crucial part of the training process. Regularly scheduling rest days allows your body to recover and repair itself. During these days, your muscles rebuild and adapt to the stress of training, becoming stronger. Without adequate rest, you risk overtraining, which can lead to injuries and performance plateaus, meaning you won’t push yourself to your best every time. Use your rest days to relax, both mentally and physically. Light activities like walking or gentle stretching can be part of your rest routine, but the key is to give your body a break from intense workouts.


Why are nutrition and hydration important when training for the London Marathon in the winter? 

When you're gearing up for the London Marathon in the winter, nutrition and hydration are still essentials. They give you the energy to keep going, help your muscles recover, and strengthen your immune system to fend off winter bugs. 

Even in the cold, you can lose fluids through sweating and breathing, so staying hydrated is essential. And don't forget about those long training runs – they need the right fuel and fluids to keep you going strong. So, remember, even in the chilly weather, good nutrition and hydration are your marathon must-haves!

Why do you need to mentally prepare yourself for the London Marathon? 

Mental preparation is essential when training for the London Marathon because it helps you build the mental resilience required for the physical and emotional challenges of long-distance running and what you’ll go through on the day. 

It involves setting clear goals, establishing a training routine, and developing coping strategies for fatigue and discomfort. This mental fortitude enables you to stay motivated, overcome setbacks, and maintain focus during demanding training sessions, ultimately increasing your chances of successfully completing the marathon and achieving your performance goals.

Find out more about mental wellbeing and exercise with our guide.

Train for the London Marathon with Fitness First

The London Marathon is a remarkable challenge, but with the right winter gym training plan, you'll be fully prepared to tackle it. Remember, consistency is the key to success, and remember to enjoy the journey!

At Fitness First, we have a wide range of fitness classes, personal training sessions and more to help you increase your fitness and endurance. 

For more helpful tips and advice on fitness and nutrition, check out our blog.