So, you really did it. You let your friends peer pressure you into signing up for a marathon. That’s how it goes for many first-time runners. Or maybe you’ve been telling yourself you could do it for years, and finally got the nerve to make it a reality. But now you’ve committed, paid the entry fee, and there are people that know about it. There is a lot that goes into making it across the finish line on race day, and you’re going to need help figuring out how to train for a marathon from scratch.
Here are five important things you need to consider when you are training for your first marathon.
Get yourself the gear that you need. Runners, even new runners, don’t have to invest in a ton of equipment. But there are a few things you need to have in your closet when you begin your training. Most importantly, you need a great pair of running shoes. Training for your first marathon is not the same as running a few miles on the treadmill. Not just any pair of shoes will work. You are going to put a lot of miles on these shoes. Go to a running store and have someone fit you. Spend a bit more if you have to, because your feet will need the support. Also make sure you have a pair of quality running socks.
Set a training schedule. Marathon training for beginners is a different than it is for those that have ran in races for years. You need to do your research and find a training plan that works for you. Base it on your current fitness level, and be realistic. How many miles per week are you currently running? Zero? Then plan to build up your mileage slowly. Most training plans will mix in long runs, hills, and tempo runs. If you choose the right plan, it will all be laid out in front of you. Put the runs into your calendar and schedule when you will do them so you can’t cancel on yourself.
Do more than run. When you are learning how to train for a marathon from scratch, it could be tempting to stop doing any other exercise and only run. Especially considering the time those runs may take.However, adding exercise other than running into your routine is really important. Choose something that is low impact and can help increase your core strength. A few good options include strength training, swimming, biking, Pilates or yoga.
Eat a balanced diet. If you already eat a pretty good diet, you don’t need to make any major changes. Marathon training for beginners isn’t about carb loading or cutting out specific food groups. But you should eat a good mix of healthy foods and be aware of what you eat before and after your runs. A couple hours before you train, make sure you eat a light snack that is high in carbs and will give you energy to get through. Post-run, aim to refuel quickly and opt for a mix of carbs and protein.
Spend time on your recovery. Get enough sleep and understand that you are putting a lot of pressure on your body. Listen to what it is telling you. If you are tired, rest. If you are injured, rest. Learn to be smart about your training. Treat yourself to a massage and spend some time stretching as often as you can. If you over train and your body is fatigued, it’s more likely that you’ll lose motivation and that is when quitting becomes a real possibility. Give your body the time and rest it needs to make it through your training and the race.