Rick Muhr: How to get marathon-ready

Rick Muhr, a training coach for the Boston Marathon, on the importance of the “Zero-impact” workout and how to prepare for a marathon


Muhr with the Zero Runner at Fitness First in Saket, Delhi.
Muhr with the Zero Runner at Fitness First in Saket, Delhi.

Anyone can run, you just need the drive, says Rick Muhr, a training coach for the Boston Marathon who has himself completed 32 marathons over five decades.

With the marathon season in full swing, we caught up with Muhr, who was in Delhi last month for the launch of the Zero Runner training tool at a Fitness First gym branch, to learn about the importance of the “Zero-impact” workout and get some tips on preparing for a marathon. Edited excerpts:

What is the “Zero-impact” workout?

The Zero Runner is an innovative training tool that allows people to complete a cardiovascular workout with absolutely zero impact to their joints. Unlike a treadmill, the Zero Runner doesn’t have a motor or belt. The user is the engine so he/she provides 100% of the energy necessary to power the Zero Runner. Consequently, the “sweat equity” quotient is extremely high. The user receives a 100% return on their investment of time and effort. Caloric burn is comparable to a treadmill.

Virtually anyone can benefit from Zero-impact running, particularly those experiencing joint pains. Anyone who has had hip or knee surgery or replacement would benefit. The Zero Runner is ideal for supplementing higher impact training, treating or recovering from an injury or recovery from an intense workout.

When should you start preparing for a marathon if you have been irregular with training?

The best time is four-five months prior to the race. This allows for sufficient time to gradually increase training miles without risking injury and avoiding burnout from long training cycles.

What is the ideal diet for a person while preparing for a marathon?

Generally, a diet that is high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein and low in fat is ideal for a runner preparing for a marathon. Experimenting with different foods is an important factor in training for a marathon. A runner will want to identify the foods they can tolerate before, during and after a workout or race.

You have coached a number of people. In your experience, what is the one thing you have noticed that holds runners back from achieving their full potential?

Improper or poor running form is the biggest obstacle that prevents most runners from achieving their potential and best race performances. Poor mental preparation closely rivals poor form. The solution is to spend more time on developing proper form. Relative to mental training, investing time on visualizing the challenges they could possibly encounter in a race, and how they will manage them will properly prepare them for the unexpected.

Any tips on how to tailor one’s training for the Boston Marathon?

The Boston Marathon course is extremely difficult and challenging course because most of the significant downhills are in the beginning…the first 5 miles. This can wreak havoc on the legs as running downhill is more impactful. Then the difficult uphill section arrives late in the race (miles 17-21). One needs to manage their energy levels to navigate these challenges. Starting conservatively and avoiding being carried along during the initial downhill section is imperative. Training on hills in the latter miles of a runner’s long run is another effective training approach.

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