Life isn't a sprint; it's a marathon! And a marathon is, well, a really long race, usually about 26 miles long! Participating in one can take a lot of skill, dedication, energy, and endurance, not just in action but in preparation.
You want to start marathon training plans at least 3 to 6 months in advance because you need to build up your body to prepare for the race. Your heart, muscles, and even your mental status need to adapt and condition for the marathon.
Even though most marathons are taken at a relaxed pace, your body will need to condition for the exertion ahead. Fitness and stamina are crucial in setting the perfect pace for the race.
Understand the 4 Key Building Blocks of Marathon Training
There are four main building blocks of marathon training; base mileage, long run, speed, and rest.
- Base mileage. Base mileage is the number of miles you usually run in an average non-marathon week. The average weekly miles you can run without experiencing too much soreness or excessive fatigue. Build up your weekly mileage average slowly.
- The long run. Try a long run every 7–10 days so your body can adjust gradually to longer distances. Prepare your last long run 3 to 4 weeks before the big day. If necessary, you want to make sure you have recovery time and avoid injuring yourself too close to the race date.
- Speed work. Practice intervals and tempo run to increase your cardio capacity. Not only is running healthy for the heart, but you'll also need your cardio health at its peak performance for the miles ahead.
- Rest and recovery. Lots of rest helps prevent mental fatigue and physical injuries. Overtraining can cause fatigue, soreness, and psychological and physical burnout. When it comes to the day you are standing at the starting line, you want to make sure you are well-rested and your body ready to go.
Choosing Your Ideal Marathon
Marathons can be held on quiet backcountry roads, or they can take place circling spectated busy city streets downtown. Choose your first marathon by the environment it will be held in, and choosing one close to home may offer you a slight advantage. Running on similar familiar roads can assist you and motivate you leading up to race day.
Try and choose a marathon that also fits your fitness level and prior experience. You might want to volunteer at a marathon to get a feel for it first. Or even attempt running in a few shorter races like 5ks or even a half marathon before attempting the entire 26 miles.
Develop an Effective Training Plan
So you have finally signed up for your first marathon? Now it is time to train and prepare!
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Leverage The Right Fuel
You know how hungry you can get after a long run or swim! Some days it feels like you could eat the whole kitchen. But eating the right foods at the correct times is optimal to build up your strength and immunity for the race.
There is a short time crunch, about 30-minutes after a hard training session, when the body can best replenish and utilize the carbohydrates and protein used during exercise. Experts recommend consuming foods with a 3 to 1 protein to carbohydrate ratio, and often people refuel with protein shakes and sometimes chocolate milk.
A marathon training diet should be well-balanced as well. Including whole grains, produce lean proteins, and even healthy fats. Nutrients are fuel for our bodies, and they give you energy and keep your brain and body active.
Don't Neglect Rest and Recovery.
I know it's hard to stop and take a break sometimes, but rest days are critical to improve your training and keep you healthy. Give your mind a break and a chance for your body to recover from the intense weekly training. Rest days strengthen your muscles and make you come back stronger.
If suffering from mental exhaustion and muscle fatigue, take a day or two off of training. Rest. Ice those sore muscles. Use a topical gel or cream in case of extreme muscle aches and exhaustion. Try and get some sleep. Don't neglect yourself, trying to reach that finish line.
Prep Your Essentials The Day Before The Marathon
You want to choose a comfortable but durable running shoe, a previously worn pair that is light, flexible, and high-quality. Let's not forget the importance of the correctly sized, ultra-comfortable pair of socks to go with them. Applying a thin layer of any type of petroleum jelly on the feet to prevent blistering is a good tip.
Related: Emu Oil for the Foot Benefits
Stay hydrated with adequate water and pre-workout drinks. Bring along healthy snacks or protein bars to fuel up too. Remember to bring along the right equipment for the race and do some stretching pre-race. If sore the night before, use ice or cold water dips to alleviate inflammation and help ease sore and damaged muscles. Using topicals, heat, or a foam roller is an excellent way to soothe sore muscles. Things like first aid kits, extra clothes, and towels can be convenient to have on hand.
Related: Avoid Alcohol Based Products for Muscle Relief
Final Race-Day Preparations
Good rest is best. Wear comfortable running clothes and proper athletic shoes. Eating a light breakfast, carbohydrates such as rice or pasta at lunch, and having a smaller dinner can give you the advantage of lightening the load on your digestive tract and making it easier to sleep the night before.
It's important to eat your food at the right time on race day to allow your body enough time to digest. Never race on a full stomach. However, you want to eat something, and if you don't, this can make you weak or slow you down.
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