You have made the monumental decision to run a marathon—arguably one of the most grueling tests of mental and physical strength. The question is, how do you start training for it?
People decide to run a marathon for various reasons: to improve fitness, overcome mental barriers or to raise money for a good cause. Regardless of your motivations or experience level, finding a realistic plan you can stick to is incredibly important.
Before you begin training for a marathon you should have already built up a foundation of general fitness through steady running—ideally running for at least eight weeks to nine months. This time frame will really depend on you and your ability to gain strength and stamina. Running is a personal journey; some people adapt quickly and others take a little longer. Once you have reached a general level of fitness you are happy with, you can begin planning to reach your goal.
A marathon is approximately 26 miles—even for the most experienced runners, this distance presents a trial of willpower. Follow these useful tips on training for a marathon:
Make a weekly plan
This should be one of your first steps; some people are comfortable drawing up their own training schedule while others like to follow another’s regimen. Either way, it is crucial to make a timetable and stick to it. Having your runs written down in your diary solidifies them and makes them concrete plans that can’t be ignored. Most plans recommend running at least four times a week combining ‘easy’ runs with long and high intensity runs, so make this your goal. During your timetable write-up you may start to realise that socialising may need to take a back seat—this is a sad but accurate notion. While you can still let your hair down from time-to-time, your social life will certainly be affected by your new routine.
Book a gait analysis
A gait analysis is a test that gages how your feet land when you run; they may lean inwards, outwards or land neutrally. Your feet’s landing position will determine the type of trainers you need, helping improve your posture and the comfort you experience when you run. While this test may seem unnecessary to begin with, it can really pay off once you begin to run more. Uneven landing (overpronation) can be corrected with trainers with extra inner support on the relevant side. Gait analysis services are often available for free in various major footwear stores like Runners Need.
Find your groove
Running techniques can be very personal; it may take some time to find your groove. Some people like to listen to music, some need a buddy to chat with, some prefer a treadmill, some opt for cross-country and others want somebody more experienced to lead them—choose a method that helps you to focus and reach your goals.
See also: How To Get Fit and Stay Fit
Consult a running coach
Whether you wish to train alone or with others, it is a good idea to consult a running coach. Even if it is just for a single session, a professional can advise you with specific training methods to suit your needs. You may find yourself struggling to reach a certain milestone and this is where a coach can be beneficial.
Try a running club
Training for a marathon can actually be quite lonely. Unless you have a group of personal friends joining you, it can be hard to stay on track. With other people who understand your struggles and sacrifices, the long slog feels all the more accomplishable. Join a running club with people of a similar fitness level. There might even be one for the specific marathon you are taking part in. You may be surprised at your progress when you have a group of people to spur you on and push you.
Mix up the cardio
It’s undeniable that training for a marathon will mostly consist of cardio, cardio and a lot more cardio. Even running junkies can find this a little monotonous—don’t be afraid to switch things up occasionally. You want to build your endurance but it is also important to build muscle. The stronger your muscles, the more equipped you’ll be for the 26-mile journey. Do a little weight training or even consider swimming. Improve your flexibility with yoga between runs to stay nimble and help ward off potential injuries.
Keep your diet in check
Many people are misinformed about the dietary changes they need to make to prepare for a marathon. While nutritious food is the height of the agenda, the changes you will need to make are slightly more complex. What you eat before, during and after your workouts can make or break your training. Lasting the distance is your top priority so you should be eating high amounts of carbohydrate and low amounts of protein before your run. During your run, you will need to keep your energy levels high—this can be achieved with carbohydrate-packed sports drinks or energy gels. Eating between 30 to 60 minutes after you finish running is essential because it helps to speed up recovery. This post-workout meal can be a mixture of carbohydrate and protein.
Treat your feet
Your feet go through a lot of wear and tear when you are training for a marathon. Even the comfiest trainers may start to rub. To steer away from calluses, corns and blisters you should give yourself regular foot treatments. Soaking them in warm water, scrubbing them with a pumice stone, clipping nails and moisturising the skin is effective in keeping your feet in check. Your feet will be carrying you to your end destination; they must be treated with the utmost respect.
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