Preparing for a marathon is not something done in a day. It requires several weeks or months of planning and diligence to complete. After all, it's not every day that most people head out the door to run over 26 miles.
Of course, there's a right way to go about training for a marathon and prepping for the big day. You need to follow a few important guidelines if you want to avoid injury and reach the day of the race ready to do your best. Here are several dos and don'ts to follow.
The biggest part of training for any race is running. You may start small with just a few miles a week and work your way up to your goal distance over the course of several weeks or months, but it's important that you set a schedule and stick to it.
By conditioning your body, you can gain the strength and endurance needed to run a marathon, as well as develop the mental fortitude to get through such a long race. You'll also avoid injury by gradually stepping up your distance instead of going straight from a 10K to a marathon, for example.
DON'T: Get Stuck in a Rut
Running is both a physical and a mental game. In terms of preparing for a marathon, this means making changes of scenery part of the plan.
If you're running the same course day in and day out, naturally, you may get bored. Changing up your routine by finding new routes to run can be mentally stimulating.
It's also great for your body. When you add hills to a normally flat routine you change the way your body has to work, increasing strength along the way. By adding trail runs when you normally jog on city streets, you can help to make your body more responsive to different types of terrain.
All of these changes can not only help your mind to remain engaged in the process, but also aid in overall body conditioning.
DO: Cross Train
Adding dance classes, spinning, swimming, cycling, yoga, Pilates, weight training, or other types of cross training can have major advantages when you're prepping for a marathon. For one thing, they give your body a bit of a rest from the rigors of running.
Cross training can also help to strengthen your body in ways that running can't, as well as increase flexibility, improving your conditioning and performance when you do run.
DON'T: Forget to Rest
Rest days are just as important to training as the days you spend running and cross training. Without appropriate rest, your risk for injury increases.
DO: Learn When to Hydrate and Fuel Up
The further you run, the more you'll need to replenish fluids and energy. It can take a while to dial in the appropriate sources and amounts of fuel and hydration needed to keep you feeling good when you run long distances, so don't forget to make this part of the training process.
DON'T: Overload on Sugar
Sport drinks, gels, power bars, and other fuel sources have their place in the running world to be sure, but you should be aware of the amount of sugar some of these items contain. Be careful not to load up on too many during runs or you could end up with a stomach ache and nausea.
DO: Find Running Buddies
It's your choice whether you want to go it alone or run with others. Once you start running marathon distances, though, you may find a buddy to be a great distraction from the monotony of running, as well as good motivation to push yourself harder.
DON'T: Let Music Dictate Your Pace
Pacing is an important part of endurance running, so let your body dictate the pace. Music can keep you going on a long run, but allowing it to speed or slow your gait could be a mistake you pay for if you start too fast and run out of gas before the race is complete.
DO: Plan for the Big Day
If possible, study the course to learn the terrain and the location of water stations and porta potties. This can help you to pace yourself accordingly.
In addition, prep the night before by laying out everything you'll need for the big day. This added preparation will help you be less stressed the morning of the marathon.
DON'T: Push Yourself Too Hard
It can be tempting to squeeze in extra practice runs leading up to your scheduled marathon, but you're better off sticking to your plan. You might even want to throw in an extra rest day leading up to the race to give your body time to recover and recoup energy.