Whether new to running or a seasoned veteran, anyone can successfully run a marathon. Initially, it is smart to evaluate your personal fitness, planning and goals. With patience and dedication, you can train your body and mind to cross the finish line on the big day. A thorough program will cover many aspects, but consider the following essentials in preparation for running a marathon:
Take a self-assessment and establish your training and race goals. Maintaining and attaining goals along the course of the program can be helpful in keeping you motivated. Also, it is okay to change or alter your goals along the way. Whether previously set goals feel too easy or too extreme, do not be afraid to re-assess as needed.
One of the most important aspects of marathon training is planning. Most training plans range from 12 – 20 weeks. It is important to follow the plan as close as possible, even when difficult, to build your resilience and stamina. Results don’t happen immediately but creating a plan and setting goals will help you attain your ultimate goal of marathon completion.
Choose an Appropriate Training Program
Before you start, it is important to assess your current level of fitness. Take note of your strengths and weaknesses as a runner, what types of runs are more enjoyable and your previous personal running history. Customizing a training plan to match your fitness level will help you develop realistic expectations, avoid injury and achieve optimal results. Keeping a training log recording your daily mileage, run times, distance and how it felt after each run can be a helpful practice. This can show you your progress with training and provide encouragement to keep you going.
Food selection will impact your overall performance as a runner. Not only what is consumed, but when is also important. Regular hydration, choosing smart carbohydrates and eating no less than 30 – 60 minutes before a run are dietary considerations to provide energy needed for success. Do not forget to refuel soon after a run, as this helps the body to recover. Also, be aware of overeating and cravings that running often creates, which can be detrimental to the effort and goal.
When it comes to marathons, it’s not always about speed. Running a marathon requires endurance, both physical and mental. Challenge yourself by pushing your previous limits with new activities such as hills, stairs, tempo runs or trails. This practice can be a helpful boost and make a big difference in the end.
One Step at a Time
When progressing through the program, increasing the weekly distance by 10 percent, is a safe and established practice. Gradually building endurance and distance is critical to successful training. Equally as important, it may reduce your risk of injury.
Each week, it is recommended to include one long run and two shorter runs. Alternating between a hard run day and an easy run day will allow for recovery and adaptations to a new workout routine. The shorter runs can include speed training or lighter effort for recovery. The benefits of speed runs include perfecting running form and teaching the body how to consume and use oxygen throughout your run. Speed runs can be short to intermediate distance and can involve hill repeats or interval training.
Cross-training is a way to build strength, help avoid injury and improve recovery. On non-running days, try other forms of exercise such as yoga, swimming and resistance training. This aids in altering the stresses on the body and improves running performance.
Warm-up and Cool-down
Your muscles can act like frozen rubber bands, stiff and inflexible. However, with a few minutes of pre-run activity to loosen up, your muscles can be ready to go. Equally as important, a good cool down can help expedite recovery and minimize soreness. Build-in a few minutes after running for stretching.
Rest and Recovery
Rest and recovery are almost as important as running when it comes to training for the marathon. Overexertion or progressing too fast are common culprits leading to injury. Be sure to acknowledge your signs and signals such as pain and fatigue. Activities such as yoga and stretching can help to loosen muscles and relieve stress. Getting quality sleep cannot be undervalued as it will provide time for healing, which the body needs for training.
Getting to the finish
As on race day, there will be ups and downs during the training. Be aware that it will not always be easy. It may be surprising that the same run may feel different from day to day or week to week. The preparation for and completion of a marathon is long and challenging, however it is a great accomplishment. Hopefully, some of these ideas will be useful along the way. With the right mindset and customized preparations, goals can be met at every mile.
If you are experiencing aches and pains during exercise or training, call 630−967−2000 to schedule an appointment with one of our physical therapists.