Marathons. 26.2 miles of taxing, painful hell. Many people see these races as a right of passage that offers membership into the elusive club of running elite. With the 2015 Boston Marathon quickly approaching, a large number of people may be putting finishing touches on their preparations for it.
Whether you’re a veteran runner with 10+ marathons under your belt, or are thinking about jumping into your first one, there are ways to make your training phase easier, beneficial, and even enjoyable.
While I’ve always been a runner, I never saw myself as a marathon runner when I was younger. In fact, I always wondered why people would want to run that far if they weren’t being forced to.
But then I ran my first marathon when I was 20 and I figured it all out. Now, marathons aren’t for the faint of heart. They’re 26.2 miles of constant movement, leg cramps, side aches, insane thirst, and buckets of sweat. It probably doesn’t sound fun, but while it’s certainly taxing on your entire body, it’s also a really great high and can be great for your health. I’ve come across very few things that are better than the feeling of accomplishment after crossing the finish line at a marathon.
However, before that high always comes the low—the training period that even the most experienced runner dreads sometimes.
The Marathon Training Journey
From what I’ve seen and experienced, very few people actually enjoy and look forward to marathon training. I hated it when I was 20. I don’t like it much more now that I’m almost 31, but I’ve learned over the years that it doesn’t have to be horrible.
One of the best things you can do when getting ready for a marathon is to enjoy your training. You’re probably thinking it’s impossible. I always thought the same thing, but last fall when I was getting ready for the Chicago Marathon, I made some simple mental changes in my approach.
According to Take the Magic Step, “It is essential and beneficial to experience joy while running … the joy of training will help lift you up at a time when you might face some harder training runs, or when you might have to adjust your training. Running with joy will enable you to free some energy as well, and learning how to maintain that energy is one of the great secrets of marathon preparation” (Source).
Something as little as a shift in your mental state can do a lot for your training, your body, and your marathon performance. Rather than focusing on how much you hate training, remember how much you like running. That subtle difference is hard to put into words, but give it a try, and you’ll experience it.
Tips for Better Training & Preparation
While the change mentioned above it always an important one for runners to make, there are plenty of other adjustments that can be made as well. After all, you may not be an elite runner just yet, but you can definitely get yourself to that point with hard work and dedication. Take a look below for some tips for better training, better performance, and better health.
- Do everything you can to stay healthy—within reason. It’s always important to talk with your healthcare provider before starting any running routine. Maintaining a healthy daily diet is one of the best things you can do for your body if you’re a runner. Proper nutrition supports optimal health, maximized energy levels, and less of a toxic load.
- Increase your distance each week. This will always vary depending on the individual, but nonetheless, it’s a good idea to increase your running distance every week. Depending on your fitness level, this can be from as little as half a mile to two or three. Listen to your body when deciding on how much farther you’ll go. It’s good to remember that reaching 20 to 25 miles a week for about a month before you race is ideal.
- Never train too hard. One of the worst things you can do for your body is to over train. Running too far too early in your training period is never a good idea. The most important thing you can do is listen to your body. If it’s telling you that you’ve done enough for the day, you’ve done enough. Stop and rest up so you’re ready for the next run.
- Maintain a strong and healthy core. Your core muscles play an important role in your running posture. Strong muscles help keep your pelvis in a neutral position, especially when you start feeling fatigued. They also help keep you upright while running.
- Stretch dynamically before running. You’ve always been told to stretch before you run, but it’s important to perform dynamic stretches. Complete movements and stretches that follow the natural movement of your body. Yanking on random muscles may lead to injury.
- Remember to set goals for yourself. You’ll find it easier to stay on track if you set goals for yourself. Make them attainable, but keep them flexible as well. Keep them in mind as you run and reward yourself when you reach your milestones.
- Don’t forget about recovery time. Training is likely the first thing on your mind, but make sure you’re investing enough time in proper recovery. Be sure to get enough sleep, eat as healthy as possible, and take days off when your body tells you to. Pushing through pain or fatigue is almost never a good idea, and may lead to further injury.
- Get over any mental blocks. While this may be easier said than done for a lot of people (myself included sometimes), it’s still very important. When you believe you can run and do well, your form will be better and you’ll run more efficiently. A healthy, positive mood can do wonders for any runner.
- Wear comfortable, supportive running shoes. There are a number of brands out there to choose from (my personal favorite lately has been Brooks). Maybe you’ve fallen in love with the brightly colored, flashy shoes, but it’s important to make sure they fit your feet well. Your running shoes should be an extension of your body, not something you have to fight with as you run. It’s always a good idea to replace your shoes as the middle of the sole begins to flatten. For regular runners, this is usually around every 6 months or so.
- Practice and maintain a hydration strategy for races. It’s no secret that running dehydrates your body. When you’re tackling 26.2 miles, you get thirsty (duh!). It’s a great idea to remember to drink enough water to keep your thirst under control. Don’t forget the carbs, either. Around 60 grams per hour is normal for most people, but talk it over with your healthcare provider, too.
Don’t Forget Post-Race Protein
After you’ve crossed the finish line, there’s a feeling of euphoria and accomplishment. You just finished a marathon. You’ll also feel dog tired, exhausted, and ready to drop. That’s normal. However, you don’t want to forget to hydrate and give your body some protein to aid in recovery.
Below are some of my favorite post-race supplements:
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Vega Sport Protein Bars from Vega
- Electrolyte Stamina Tabs by Trace Minerals
- French Vanilla Vega One All-In-One Nutritional Shake from Vega
- Orange Blender Bottle Prostack by BlenderBottle
Are you getting ready for a big race? We’d love to hear your training tips! Please leave us a comment below!