Okay, so you’ve decided to run a marathon. You even took the extra step to sign up for one and really lock yourself in… Now what? Obviously, running your first 26.2 is a pretty big project and will require a significant amount of training and preparation. To get you started, though, here are just a few tips.
Schedule Wisely – Exactly how much you train really depends on a lot of very personal factors but many experts say that you should expect to spend around 10 hours each week working out. And we’re assuming that the rest of your life is willing to take a break while you tighten up your pace. So, significant planning is in order. Generally, you’ll want to run three days each week – an easy run, a fast run and a long run – with some crosstraining in there.
Crosstrain – Although running will logically get the bulk of your time and attention while preparing for your race, other training modes can be extremely useful and effective. For example, cycling or swimming will allow you to continue building your endurance without overworking your running muscles. Weight lifting would help you build strength and balance, which could make a huge difference when it comes to injury prevention.
Watch Your Hydration – As you sweat, you lose water and electrolytes – vital minerals that aid in nerve conduction, muscle contraction and tons of other important functions. And, when you’re running 26.2 miles, you will likely sweat. Make sure that you’re well hydrated before you even head out by drinking plenty of water even when you aren’t running. Then, of course, you’ll need to stay hydrated while you’re out. Despite what many people believe, water is usually enough for runs that are shorter than about an hour. Marathon training, though, will usually go much longer than that. In that situation, you’ll want a natural sports drinks like Gnarly Boost that contains all the electrolytes you need without any artificial dyes, sweeteners or other additives.
Fuel Up – Of course, you’ll also need food. And, for marathoners, carbohydrates are key. This oft-maligned macronutrient is your body’s primary source of fuel for short, intense activities and is generally the focus for runners in the days leading up to the race – a practice called carb-loading. Unfortunately, your body can only store enough glycogen (the form carbs take when they’re stored) to last about 60 to 90 minutes, depending on your levels of fitness and the intensity of your exercise. Once your carbs are all gone, your body will turn to fat but that doesn’t mean carbohydrates are no longer needed. Fat is a slower fuel and has to go through a number of processes to make it useable, which is pretty inconvenient when your running over 20 miles. In addition to loading up before the race, then, have some carbs on hand during the event to refuel.
Stretch… Correctly – You doubtlessly know that you should be stretching. Whether you actually do it or not is a totally different issue. The truth, though, is that many runners stretch incorrectly and for the wrong reasons. Most runners, for example, will start with some ol’ fashioned static stretches, grabbing there toes or contorting their legs into all manner of distorted shapes. When done before the muscles and joints are properly warmed up, though, this approach has been shown to reduce power and even increase the risk of injury – rather than reducing it as many believe. Instead, use dynamic stretches like high kicks and only strike static stretching poses after you’ve warmed up.
Stay Healthy – It’s important to take care of your body while you’re pushing it’s limits. Along with proper diet and hydration, be mindful of your overall health. If you feel like you’re starting to get sick, see your doctor and don’t force yourself to workout despite the illness. The same principle applies if you experience any kind of injury.
Know When To Rest – Very closely related to staying healthy is that fact that you have to get adequate rest. This not only means sleeping about 8 hours each night, but it also requires that you take at least two days off from your training each week.
Find Your Rituals – Keep a careful record of your runs, including the weather, your mood, your diet and any other details surrounding the workout. You’d be surprised what can impact your performance. Once you find what works for you, do not change it. Especially not on race day.
Think Positive – Athletes have used positive self-talk for countless years to improve performance and the method – even if it sounds hokey – has been proven time and again. Psyche yourself up, encourage yourself and make plans for how you will celebrate your completion of your first marathon.
Taper – Once you get into a routine and learn to really love your runs, the idea of backing off can seem absolutely dreadful. But you need to do it. In the three weeks leading up to your race, you’re going to gradually reduce the overall volume of your training, including any crosstraining. In fact, most experts recommend cutting out your crosstraining altogether so that you can focus your time and energy on your upcoming race. During the taper, you’re going to reduce your total weekly mileage by 20 to 30 percent and make absolutely no changes to your goal pace.