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Your Full Marathon Training Plan – 20 Weeks

If you’ve decided this is your year for taking on the challenge of the marathon, you’ll need to make sure you plan your training effectively. This guide is here to help you prepare for this exhilarating event, and includes an example 20 week marathon plan to get your started.


A marathon is a road running race that covers a demanding distance of 26.2 miles (42.2km), usually undertaken in one go. Marathon events take place throughout the year, all across the U.K., as well as in most countries across the globe. The event is technically a race, particularly for the professional runners who take part, but for many runners it’s seen as a personal challenge and a demanding goal to aspire towards. Some participants take part with a goal of simply completing the course, whether that’s by running, walking or by wheelchair, while others focus on finishing in a particular time, perhaps even improving on their last marathon time.

In recent times many marathon events have been cancelled, but that hasn’t stopped enthusiastic runners from continuing their training and running their own marathons. Even without the official events, there are many ways to challenge yourself, and you can still enjoy all the benefits that come from running a marathon.


Running 26.2 miles is no walk in the park, and even some of the fittest runners find it to be an intense challenge. This event will take its toll both physically and mentally, so it’s extremely important to prepare your body and your mind before taking part. Your muscular, cardiovascular and energy systems need to be built up over time so they’re in the best position for running continuously for (on average) four to five hours straight. Proper preparation means you’re less likely to experience injury or exhaustion, and your body will take less time to recover afterwards.


This very much depends on your starting fitness and ability levels – if you’re a complete running newbie, then you’re best starting with training for 5k and 10k events, and even considering a half marathon before you jump straight to the full marathon. For first time marathoners, you should generally expect to spend around five to six months training for the big event. This may seem like a long time, but as mentioned above, it’s vital to take the time to gradually strengthen and prepare your body for such a long-distance run. We’ve set out a 20 week marathon plan below, but you’ll need that running experience before getting started.


There are a host of different types of training plans available to suit different fitness levels, time frames and objectives, so finding the perfect one for you starts with working out what you want from your marathon.

A good rule of thumb for marathon training is to run three times a week, including one long run a week that builds up over the months. You should also include a couple of days set aside for strength or functional training and at least two rest days to recover (which could include some gentle yoga or stretching to work on your flexibility and mobility). This will ensure that while you’re building up your running ability, you’ll also be strengthening your muscles so they’re in the best shape possible to power you forward for the entirety of the run.

Also, when the weather is bad, you might be tempted to do all of your training on a treadmill, but it’s worth factoring in plenty of outdoor runs so you can acclimatise to the different types of conditions you might face on the day. Running inside can be very different to running against the wind, through rain, or in hot sunshine, so ideally you’ll want to have a good idea of what to expect should you face any extreme weather on the day.

Likewise, think about the route your planned marathon will be taking. If, for example, there are hills or different types of terrain on your marathon route – then try to factor these into your training plan, so your body can get used to tackling different gradients and ground types.

Before getting started, make sure to read our ‘what to know about training for a marathon guide’ – it includes tips to ensure your health, preparation and diet are working in your favour.


For those looking to improve speed and beat a previous marathon time, you’ll want to integrate tempo runs (also known as threshold runs). These are runs where you boost your speed or energy output, pushing yourself harder to improve your body’s capabilities. One way to do this is to set your running tempo to around 80-90% of your maximum heart rate – which is where your lactate threshold usually falls. This will be much faster than the pace you run the actual marathon, but is a great way to enhance your fitness levels. It works by helping to boost your lactate threshold and helps your body to become more efficient at clearing the by-products of lactate production which cause fatigue.


Our 20 week marathon training plan is targeted at first time marathon runners but also assumes you are already able to run 10km. If you’re not at that fitness level yet, we suggest checking out our guides to training for a 5k or running a 10k before picking up with this plan. Likewise, a safe starting point could also be our 13 week half marathon training plan, before you immediately start on a full marathon.

Runs are split between:

  • Easy runs (Mondays) – keep at a relaxed pace throughout
  • How you like (Wednesdays) – choose if you’d like to incorporate a few minutes of faster paced running, or make this a tempo run – or just stick to an easy run if that’s working best for you
  • Long runs (Saturdays) – longer distance-based runs that will build up to a maximum of 20 miles, with some ‘shorter’ long runs to allow for recovery

We’ve also recommended two ‘workout’ sessions each week. Use this time to focus on building strength – through activities like functional training or strength training (check out our guide to learn more about strength training for runners) – or for low impact cardio like cross training, that won’t put too much additional pressure on your joints and knees.

As always, don’t forget to warm up before each training session (a brisk 5 – 10 minute walk, or some dynamic stretches can do the trick here) and to cool down afterwards (ideally some static stretches to promote blood flow, reduce stiffness and boost your flexibility).

And finally, we’ve included two rest days each week. These are very important – don’t be tempted to skip these. You need to allow your joints time to recover and your muscles time to heal and strengthen. If you still want to stay active on these days, maybe consider some yoga or light stretching to work on your flexibility or mobility without impacting on your overall recovery. Find out more about rest days with our ‘why rest days are important’ article.

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Marathon Training Guide For (Total) Beginners

Are you considering taking on the challenge of a marathon, but not sure where to start? Are you looking to set yourself a mammoth goal, despite being a total running beginner? Then this guide is for you. We’ll help you with everything you need to know to go from couch(ish) to running a 26.2 mile marathon over the course of several months. Even if you’re not signed up to a marathon event, you could still consider running a virtual marathon with this plan.


This is a big question, with lots of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ to consider. Could someone who has never run before jump straight into running a marathon? Well, they could try, but it’s incredibly unlikely they’d finish without causing themselves major injuries or health issues. Can a total beginner train over time to run a marathon? Absolutely, if they’re prepared to commit to months of dedication and preparation.

Training is the key here – we’d recommend training even if you’re simply looking to walk a marathon, as you’d still need to prepare your body for the long distance and different weather conditions. So it’s even more important if you’re aiming to run the whole thing.

This may sound intimidating, but by creating a month-by-month plan and committing time each week to training, it is totally possible to go from couch to marathon in the space of a year.


A marathon is a huge challenge, and an incredible goal to work towards. As places in marathon events are limited, once you know you’re taking part, you know you’ll be part of something special and exciting, but also difficult and strenuous. So why might beginners want to run a marathon?

  • Personal achievement – knowing you’ve spent time and effort preparing for such a challenge, is an incredible feeling in itself, let alone the fantastic pride when you finally cross the finish line.
  • Motivation – having a set goal to work towards means you might be more likely to stick to your fitness routine. Committing to a big event gives a purpose to your training that can boost your motivation and keep you running, even on days where you’d rather stay home
  • Health – running is a fantastic way to boost your physical and mental wellbeing – in fact, even running for 30 minutes can help to battle health issues, boost your mood, improve your sleep, strengthen your heart and lungs and give you focus. Learn more about some of the incredible benefits of training for a marathon with our guide.
  • To raise money for charity – most people who run in official marathon events tend to be raising money for a specific charity or cause. In some cases, your entry is secured through charities, and you commit to raising a certain amount for them in order to participate. In others, runners might be raising money or awareness for a cause close to their heart.


If you’re thinking about starting your marathon training from total beginner level, then the key is to take it gradually. If you rush your training, you’ll be putting your body under a strain it’s not fully prepared for and you’ll risk injuring yourself, which in turn will prevent you from training. By easing your way through a training plan, you’ll build up your strength, fitness and endurance in a measured way that means you’ll be fully prepared to take on the challenge of a marathon.


As a beginner, we recommend starting with a smaller goal and stepping your way up to a marathon. Give yourself a set amount of time to reach 5K, then 10K, and even a half marathon distance, before pushing on to achieve the full marathon. As such, the best plan is actually a combination of three of our popular training plans:

  • Start with our 5K training plan – it takes 6 weeks and will guide you to running for around 30-40 minutes without stopping.
  • Then pick up with our 10K training plan, which starts focusing on building up distance rather than time, taking you from 5K to 10K over the space of 8 weeks.
  • Finally, move on to our 20 week full marathon training plan, which picks up where the 10K plan finished, guiding you from running 5 miles right through to completing your first 26.2-mile marathon.

If you’re not sure about aiming for a full marathon, our half marathon training plan is a good follow up to the 5K plan and includes a blend of focusing on time and pace for some runs and distances for others. You build up to running the 13.1 miles or 21 kilometres of a half marathon over 13 weeks. This could be a good starting point and, from there, you can see if you’d like to continue to the full marathon or not.


Our plans above will take you around 8 months, from complete novice runner right through to crossing the finish line of your first marathon. This might seem like a long time, but you have a long way to go, and it’s important to pace your training carefully.

We also recommend factoring a little extra time into your training for any times you may be ill or have other commitments that might interrupt your plans. So we’d recommend planning around 8 ½ – 9 months to train for your first ever marathon.

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Bicep Exercises for Women

Not only do all gym-goers have different goals, needs and objectives, but so too do they come in a variety of shapes, sizes and background – women included. What we do know, is that it’s typically women that can be more intimidated by lifting weights at the gym, whether that’s from fear of judgement or concerns of gaining too much ‘bulk’ in their upper body.

However, there’s no reason for women to miss out on all the incredible benefits that come with a full body workout, including weights. Working out your biceps can boost your strength and confidence, and help you reach your fitness and wellbeing goals. It’s also a great way to start trialling the free-weights area in the gym, building confidence and learning that you have just as much right to be there as everyone else.

Here’s our guide to some of the best bicep exercises you can try yourself.


Bicep anatomy

The biceps brachii (more commonly referred to as just the biceps) is a two-headed muscle that’s particularly prominent on the front of the upper arm. It helps to control the motion of the shoulder and, more vitally, the elbow. It helps to flex and turn the forearm.


Biceps are essential for lifting, pulling and pushing, so are a key feature when it comes to stronger arms. If you’re a tennis player, for example, you’ll know how important they are, but they’re also key for everyday tasks such as carrying your shopping bags, lifting a pulling heavy items from a shelf or bending down to pick something up.

When it comes to building strength at the gym, you’ll invariably be using your biceps for most upper body-focused exercises. They’re also the key to toned, shapely arms. However, it’s worth noting that it can be really hard to see progress in your biceps, even if you’re seeing big improvements in your strength, so don’t be disheartened if you’re not seeing major changes to your appearance straight away, you’ll be enjoying a wealth of benefits that might not be visible to the naked eye.

You’ll also enjoy the benefits of increased stamina, a reduction in potential injuries and the development of strong bones.

You’ll also enjoy the benefits of increased stamina, a reduction in potential injuries and the development of strong bones.

Find out more about the benefits of arm and shoulder exercises with our guide.


As you’ll see from the exercises below, curls are key for strengthening your biceps. But you’ll also find a wide variety of options, even if you can’t make it into the gym for your workout.

  • Concentration curl

Great for definition, this movement isolates the bicep muscle. Sit on a bench or seat, with your knees spread apart in a V shape. Hold a dumbbell in your hand, resting your elbow on the inner thigh of the same side leg and with your palm facing upwards. Slowly lower your forearm towards your knee while inhaling and ease it back to starting position while exhaling.

These can also be done in a standing position. Keep feet shoulder-width apart and bend at your waist so your elbow is level with your knee. Holding a dumbbell with your palm facing up, bring your forearm slowly towards your chest before lowering to starting position.

Whichever version you choose, make sure to really focus on your biceps as you move the dumbbell. By slowly controlling the movement, you’ll be sure to see bigger benefits.

A simple exercise that helps to tone your arms. Take a dumbbell in each hand and stand with feet hip-width apart. Keep your elbows close to your body down at your sides and the palms of your hands facing forward. Keeping your upper arms pinned in place next to your body, bend your elbows and bring your palms up towards your shoulders before slowly lowering back to starting position. 

  • Hammer Curls

As well as helping to tone your arms, hammer curls are also great for your wrists, helping to boost your wrist stability and improve your grip strength too.

Take exactly the same stance as you would for bicep curls (stood with feet hip-width apart, arms tight at your sides, dumbbell in each hand) but instead of your palms facing forwards, instead have them facing inwards. Lift both arms keeping your thumbs on the top of your palms. Pull upwards towards your chest, before lowering in a controlled way back to starting position.

  • Resistance band hammer curl

No dumbbells? No problem! You can also complete sets of hammer curls using a resistance band instead, meaning you can still focus on your biceps, even if you can’t make it to the gym.

The stance is exactly the same, but instead of holding a dumbbell in each hand, you’ll be holding the ends of the resistance band, which is looped under your feet. Complete the hammer curls in the same way listed above.

  • Preacher Curls

If you can find a Preacher Pad at your gym then you can try preacher curls. This supportive bench will have a seat in front of padded arm rest that slopes away from your body at around chest height. Hook your arms over so you can lean your upper arms on the pad and take either a dumbbell in each hand, or a barbell in both hands and straighten both arms. As with a standard bicep curl, you will raise your forearms to around chest height, before gently lowering back to starting point, keeping your upper arms on the pad at all times. This means you focus just on your arm movements, without any momentum from leg drive.

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Ab Workouts For Beginners

If you search for “ab exercises” on the internet you’ll probably come across hundreds of ab exercises to choose from, so it can be a little overwhelming and difficult to figure out which ab workouts are best suited for beginners. 

We’ve created this guide to help inform you about this incredible muscle group, as well as providing some advice about how to strengthen your abs (and even strive for a visible six pack). Read on to the end for an example beginners ab workout to get you started.


The abs are made up of four major muscle groups:

  • Rectus abdominis: These are probably the main muscles you’ll think of when considering abs – these two bands of muscle run from the sternum down to the pelvis over the front of the stomach. They have a distinctive ‘six pack’ or ‘eight pack’ look thanks to bands of connective tissue and these muscles help to flex you forwards.
  • External obliques: Positioned on either side of the upper stomach, these muscles help to support your torso as it performs twisting motions. 
  • Internal obliques: Work with the external obliques to support turning and twisting movements. They’re positioned on the lower, outer part of the stomach. 
  • Transverse abdominis: These muscles sit deep below the obliques, wrapped around the spine and help to stabilise and strengthen the torso. 

When working together, these muscles help to move your torso and support upper body motion. 


For many people, the goal for ab training is to either achieve a flatter-looking stomach or a muscular ‘six pack’ physique. If that’s your objective then great, but there are so many other benefits to strengthening and working out your abs than just how it physically shapes your body. These muscles support your entire upper body. If you play other sports, or enjoy running or weight training for example, building up your core strength will be sure to boost your stability and performance. You’ll feel both stronger, and more powerful. 


If ‘getting abs’ means seeing a visible six pack, then there’s no getting around the fact that this look takes a lot of work and perseverance, but if you’re willing to put in the time, then you’ll both look and feel stronger and more muscular. Incorporating exercises into your workout that focus on the rectus abdominis is the best place to start, and that means movements that flex your pelvis and lower ribs towards and away from each other, like crunches and sit ups. It’s also important to include total core strengthening exercises as well, as this will enable you to build a stable, strong foundation for your abs, so make sure to include movements like planks and twists as well. 

If you carry weight around your waist then you may not be able to see the effect of your ab training reflected in your physique, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have strong abs, they might just be hidden from view. To overcome this, you’ll need to combine your workouts with a sustainable, healthy diet and aim to reduce your body fat percentage so the sculpted muscles are more visible. For men, this will most likely be between 6-13% and for women, you’ll need to lower your body fat to around 14-20%. 


As with any kind of training, rest days are essential to building strength and fitness in a healthy way. Your muscles will undergo tension that causes tiny, microscopic tears – it’s the process of repair and recovery from these that helps you to become stronger.  If you don’t allow time for rejuvenation, you could increase the risk of muscle injuries that could set back your training. So make sure to rest your abs for at least 24 hours after giving them a full workout, perhaps instead focusing on gentle stretches or yoga to ease any sore muscles. Check out our ‘Why Rest Days Are Important’ guide for more information.


A healthy diet is an important part of achieving any fitness goal, so it’s vital to fuel your body in the best way possible. To strengthen your abs and work towards a six pack, you’ll need to supply your muscles and core with the nutrients and energy they need to strengthen and sculpt. If you’re aiming for a six pack, you’ll also need to make sure your diet focuses on controlling your body fat percentage so your toned muscles are more visible. 

In general, we recommend focusing on a nutritionally balanced, well rounded diet plan that includes plenty of fibre, protein and healthy fats. Types of food to consider including as you build up your ab strength include:

  • lean protein such as chicken, fish, lentils or chickpeas to help build and maintain muscle growth
  • high fibre whole grains like quinoa, oats and barley – they’re packed full of vitamins and minerals, can aid in digestion and are filling, helping with your body composition
  • heart-healthy fats like salmon, nuts and avocado
  • Low calorie, nutrient rich fruit and vegetables such as broccoli, apples and sweet potatoes

Our Nutrition and Diet hub is packed full of advice pieces and healthy recipes that are the perfect accompaniment to a beginners ab training plan. 


We recommend starting your ab training by integrating ab-focused exercises into your regular workouts, starting with 10 to 15 reps and increasing the intensity over time either by including more sets or by adding additional weights. As your body improves, you can begin to devote entire sessions to focusing solely on your abs, so you can give them your full energy and see greater, faster results. 

Crunches are not just a good way to start ab training, but they’re also one of the best exercises for building up these muscles. The most effective approach is to focus on slow, controlled movements, rather than solely on increasing your reps, as muscles grow best after spending time under tension. Regular crunches will focus on the upper section of your abs, and reverse crunches will focus on the hard-to-target lower abs. You can find out more about each of these movements in our guide to sit ups

Other exercises to include are core-strengthening movements such as planks, Russian twists and mountain climbers (as featured in our Functional Ab Workout guide). These will help to strengthen your abs, and also improve your balance and stability.


To help you get started, we’ve come up with a five move ab workout that’s both effective and beginner-friendly in building a solid foundation to a strong core.

All you need for this ab workout is a mat so you can try this out at home or in the gym. This workout roughly takes 10-15 minutes.

Watch the video below to see PureGym Insider @peterpuregym perform all the ab exercises in this workout so you can see how to do them and give the workout a go!

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How to lose belly fat: the top calorie-burning exercises

When it comes to fitness goals, losing belly fat is probably one the most popular goals people have when they join the gym. Whilst doing endless crunches may help to make your core stronger, it’s not the most effective way to lose belly fat. A whole-body approach will be more optimal, combined with proper nutrition, along with other elements. 

We’ve combined two high-energy workouts consisting of full body movements to help strengthen and shape your body and help you achieve your fat loss goals. Watch them below and give them a go in the gym!

Also, make sure to check out our top calorie burning exercise list below for some exercise ideas.


  1. Burpee 8-10 reps
  2. Walkout into a push up  8-10 reps
  3. Mountain climbers 30 reps (15 per side)
  4. Bear crawl with resistance band 8-10 reps

Complete each exercise, back-to-back. Complete 3-4 rounds.


  1. Deadlifts. 5 reps
  2. Dumbbell thrusters 8-10 reps.
  3. Kettlebell swings8-12 reps.
  4. Jumping lunges 6-12 reps each leg.
  5. Mountain climbers 1-20 reps.

Make sure to warm up and cool down when performing these workouts.


We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 exercises personal trainers recommend when it comes to burning fat:

  1. Barbell or dumbbell thrusters
  2. Burpees
  3. Kettlebell swings
  4. Squats (and its variations – for example, jump squats).
  5. Deadlifts
  6. Lunges (and its variations – for example, jumping lunges).
  7. Pull ups
  8. Bent over rows
  9. Press ups
  10. Mountain climbers
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Home Workouts to Lose Weight and Build Muscle

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10 benefits of a group training at a gym

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