Whether you've been jogging your whole life and you're finally ready to train for a marathon or you've suddenly decided to get off the couch and prove to yourself that you can get in shape for a marathon, you're going to have to approach the challenge with a plan for success.
Training for a marathon requires more than just strapping on your running shoes and hitting the road. Here are just a few pointers to help you train for your first marathon.
Create a Schedule
Training for a marathon isn't exactly a zero-to-sixty kind of undertaking. In other words, it's going to take time to prepare and you need to ramp up to your goal gradually.
You can't start out from a sedentary state or even running just a few miles a week and jump immediately into 26+ miles in a single session. The good news is that you're not the first person to train for a marathon, and there are plenty of examples for you to follow.
If you're a seasoned runner, you obviously won't need as long to ramp up for a marathon as someone who has only just started jogging. At any fitness level, you need to be realistic about how quickly you can reasonably prepare for a marathon.
Some runners can do it in as little as a couple of weeks. Others will need several months of preparation to get in shape, both physically and mentally. Try to select a training schedule that reflects your fitness level before you sign up for a marathon.
There's nothing wrong with being gung-ho about getting ready for a race, but if you push yourself too hard you'll significantly increase the risk of injury. This can derail your preparations and set you back by weeks or even months, depending on the extent of the injury.
Don't forget, you also need this time to figure out how to hydrate and even consume calories to compensate for all the water and energy you burn when you run. A proper training schedule helps to get ready for your first marathon in a variety of ways.
Start with Shorter Races
As a way to gauge your progress when training for a marathon, it's not a bad idea to schedule shorter races leading up to the big one. There are a few reasons to do this.
For one thing, starting with 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons gives you the opportunity to get comfortable with the environment and particulars of running races. Believe it or not, there is some etiquette involved and things you need to know.
It also helps you to assess your level of readiness to advance to the next stage, i.e. a longer run. In addition, however, doing well in shorter races leading up to a marathon could help you to qualify for your event of choice.
Not every marathon requires that you qualify to participate, but in some cases it could guarantee you a spot or even improve your placement. If you're running for time, this can be extremely helpful.
Consider Cross Training
Just getting out and running is a good place to start when you're training for a marathon, and your schedule will have you increasing your distance incrementally until you're ready for the big race. You'll find, however, that cross training is often just as important as gradually running longer distances.
Cross training could include other types of cardio, weight training, yoga, or a variety of other activities designed to give your body a break from running while also increasing strength, flexibility, and other types of physical fitness that can serve to make you a better overall athlete. Did you know, for example, that there is yoga designed specifically for runners?
Don't forget that you also need to incorporate rest days. You can try jogging daily if you want as a way to reach your distance goals more quickly, but what's more likely to happen is fatigue and injury that end up slowing you down.
If you're having trouble figuring out how to incorporate cross training routines that are going to be most beneficial, or how to schedule the proper amount of rest days, consider speaking with a trainer, asking questions on running forums, or simply looking for sample schedules online. There are many resources to help runners prepare for a marathon and, as a newbie, you should definitely take advantage.