The first reaction when you tell people that you’re training for a marathon is typically amazement followed by, “you had to run how many miles yesterday?” Telling anyone that you’re training to run 26.2 miles will basically tell them that you’re crazy.
But crazy in the best way possible.
Training for a full marathon is time consuming, takes some planning, and can be exhausting at times. There are good days and there are bad days.
On the good days, you’ll hit a new PR or you’ll feel amazing (aka have a “runner’s high”) after your run. The bad days will consist of having heavy feet, feeling one step away from injury, or overwhelmed with tiredness.
Even though the last thing you’d want to do on a Saturday morning is run 17 miles, it has to be done because it’s part of building your endurance and breathing techniques for race day. Not only is it important to make sure you’re getting all your runs in, it’s vital to take care of yourself and dress accordingly.
Since I’m near the end of my scheduled runs, I’m sharing three tips for training for your first marathon:
1. Follow a Schedule
Whether you’ve ran a marathon before or not, it’s vital to follow a schedule for training. Following a particular schedule prepares your body mentally and physically for the longest run at the time of the race.
There are lots of routines to choose from to reach your goal of 26.2 miles. If you’re already used to running pretty significant distances (think 6-10 miles), a 16-week schedule will probably be just fine for you. If you’re starting from zero or generally run around three miles, a 32-week schedule with longer training will likely be a beneficial prep for you.
How do you create a schedule? What goes on this schedule? These were my exact questions. After asking around and looking up training programs online, I decided to combine a couple that I found would fit best for me personally.
I found a 16-week program that included three to four short runs during the week with a longer mileage run on the weekend. On top of that, I sprinkled in an off day (and even more when my body was telling me to rest) as well as some strength and cross training in between.
Tip: Try a yoga class or yoga poses on your off day or even after a short run to help relax and stretch out the muscles.
2. Eat Right and Sleep Right
Is butter a carb? The joys of training for a marathon are that you can eat a lot to keep your energy up. So sorry Regina, we’re not too worried about that.
Carbs are our best friends before, and sometimes even after, a run. Carbs will help fuel your body for those longer runs and help keep you moving when you’re on the verge of slowing down.
Eating a well-balanced snack is the key to a good run. My go-to pre-run snack is half a bagel with peanut butter and banana on top. It provides just the amount of carbohydrates, protein and potassium. Potassium is another game changer when you’re running a lot because it helps prevent cramping in your muscles. I would be lying if I said I didn’t consume three bananas on most days.
Now that you know what to eat before hand, what is best to eat afterwards? Honestly, I’m going to say anything from carbs to protein and everything in between. Your body will need nutrients and calories after sweating and burning over 1,000 calories. It’s not a good idea to down a gallon of ice cream, but rather get in the good fats, carbohydrates, salts, sugars, etc. in order to replenish what just fueled your run.
Tip: Try to have healthy and ready-made options at all times in your home when training because you’ll constantly be hungry.
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3. Wear the Right Gear
Sporting the proper running attire will allow you to run your best, while looking good and feeling good at the same time.
You definitely don’t want to be that person running and fidgeting with their sports bra or stopping every couple minutes to fix your laces. When you’re running, you won’t want to mess with your gear because you have one thing on your mind and that is to finish your miles.
First off, if you’ve had your running sneakers for longer than a year it’s time to buy new ones. It’s okay to train in your old sneakers, but ultimately you want the best support and tread for your race. Second, your clothing shouldn’t be baggy or loose fitting for the most part because that will only slow you down. Third, buy the nice sports bra and be done with it!
When you’re purchasing pants, tank tops or light-weight jackets it’s always good to think ‘sweat resistant’ or ‘sweat wicking’ because it’ll keep you dry and cooled off during your runs.
Tip: It’s best to get your feet fitted in a store because running high mileage requires support in different areas in the foot such as arch support.
Training for a marathon isn’t easy, but it’s definitely rewarding to see how far you can come from day one.
If you’re considering signing up for a race and not committed to 26.2, I suggest the half marathon (13.1) or even a 5K or 10K. It’s not about being a better runner than everyone else in the race; It’s about becoming a better runner for yourself and knowing that you can do anything you imagine. So, just get out there and do it!