The weather warming up and the skies getting clearer is a tell-tale sign that marathon season is beginning to ramp up. Just because thousands of people are participating in marathons every year doesn’t mean that they’re easily finished. Even for trained runners, marathons push bodies to the absolute limits and more. In order to prepare yourself both physically and mentally, we’ve prepared a few tips and pointers that you should keep in mind.
- Find your motivation
When you’re on your last legs and feel like you’ve hit the wall, your motivation for taking on this marathon is what will push you to the finish line. There are dozens of reasons why people partake in marathons. Some do it because they want to take it as a personal challenge to test their limits and gauge their fitness capacities. Many also run for a great cause, such as raising money for charity or trying to inspire others. There’s also the ever popular option of doing it to lose weight, which is very effective because you’ll shed a large amount of weight during the entire training process and the marathon itself. Whatever your motivation is, make sure that it’s solid because it is absolutely vital in pushing you toward your goal.
- Find your starting limits
Whether you’re an experienced runner or a novice to the art of moving your feet quickly, you have to establish a baseline and see how much you can run at your current state. There are many fitness trackers that can measure distance or you can go to your local track and run until you can run no more. Once you’ve seen what you can do, formulate a plan on how to gradually build up to the 26.2 miles, emphasis on gradually.
- Create a training schedule
If you are not an experienced runner, it is recommended that you train at least a year in advance before a marathon. To be successful, you have to consistently run at least 20-30 miles a week comfortably before you should consider committing to a training program for a marathon run. Also if you’re not an experienced runner, you should strongly consider training for and running a few shorter races such as a 5K, 10K or a half marathon.
The key is to not get too anxious and start adding mileage too soon. Gradual progression makes you feel like you’re not even running that much more each time. It also reduces the risk of overtraining and injuries which can be major setbacks and harmful to the progress you’ve already made. You should be able to run at least 40 miles a week for a little over a month before you are in prime marathon shape.
You need to build your weekly base mileage over time, but you also need adequate rest. It is a delicate balance but a good rule of thumb is that you should only be running three to five times a week in order to allow enough time for recovery.
Between your regular runs, plan for one long distance run every 7-10 days that gradually increase by a mile or two every week. After every third week or so, scale back the long run by a few miles in order to let your body adequately recover. Your long runs should be done at a slower comfortable pace in order to build confidence and let your body adjust.
Additional Cardio Training:
Although long distance runs are great, you can further increase your capabilities by mixing in other cardio exercises. Many treadmills offer interval training options that will increase your stamina and train your body to take in oxygen more efficiently. You can also do interval running yourself by mixing in sprints with jogging.
- Prepare for race day
The couple of weeks before your marathon you should begin to taper down your training regime. Let your body fully recover and be in prime shape for the upcoming marathon. Although there are hydration stations all along your marathon route, many runners opt to take their own water. It can get tiring running with a bottle in your hand so we suggest a hydration belt. Make sure to train with this belt on in order to get used to the feeling.
Along with liquids, you will also need other substances for nutrition during the race itself. Carbohydrates are the key to refueling and different manufacturers create gels or energy bars that can be easily consumed and digested during a race.
You should have fined tuned your strategies during the lengthy training process so don’t do anything drastically different on the day of the race. Put Vaseline on spots prone to chafing, eat a high carbohydrate breakfast a few hours before, dress appropriately and believe in yourself.