Closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics are upon us. Medals have been awarded, records have been broken, and all who have competed leave Rio victorious. The games may be over, but your medals have yet to be won. Take a little inspiration from the world's top fitness all-stars and go for the gold in a marathon!
Nothing could be more satisfying than crossing the finish line in your very first race. In order to do so, training is key. Every athlete must put into practice their skills before game day, and runners are no exception. A training plan for marathon runners will help you glean your personal gold.
Here are a few of the top tips in formulating your perfect program.
Vary the Length of Your Runs
Start with a schedule, often 16 to 30 weeks prior to the big race. In order to properly train your muscles and your mind for a marathon, you must develop a balanced weekly routine. Days of short runs, longer runs, and days off to rest are all critical.
Each week should contain all three types of runs. General guidelines suggest one long run per week, four short runs, and two days off. The long run should start at around 8 miles and eventually work up to a maximum of 20 miles.
The four shorter runs can vary in length, but should bring your total weekly mileage to no more than 40 miles. Generally, the early stages of training start off at around 20 miles per week.
Each week must include days off to rest and recover. This is as much an act to prevent physical overtraining as it is to save your sanity. Two days off works wonders for your physical and mental well-being.
On days of rest, you have a few options. You can take a complete break and do nothing at all, go for a leisurely 30-minute walk, or practice a little cross-training. Cross-training works alternate muscle groups so you don't run the risk of overworking the muscles that fuel your runs. Some cross-training exercises include swimming, bicycling, strength training, or yoga.
Here is a sample schedule to get you started. Adjust it accordingly and work your way up in speed and mileage slowly. This is not a one-size-fits-all plan and every runner must listen to his or her personal needs.
Eat Well and Get Adequate Sleep
A well-formulated training plan is as much about what you do on the track as it is off. Nutrition and adequate sleep are just as vital. Focus on shifting towards a diet of high-quality foods, primarily consisting of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, lean meats, and dairy.
Carbohydrates, including whole grains like brown rice, buckwheat, and quinoa, are the key to sustaining energy during a race. It's especially important to consume these foods before and after your runs to replenish your energy and give your muscles the fuel they need to recover.
Ensure quality sleep and plenty of hydration during your training program. Not only does enough rest keep your energy levels at their best for each workout, but it is also an act of injury prevention. You're less likely to strain or pull a muscle when your body has had a full night's sleep.
You'll also need to increase your fluid intake as higher hydration levels are essential to counter the fluids lost during exercise. Start each morning off with an 8 oz. glass of water and consistently aim for 10 glasses a day.
Whether it's always been a goal of yours to run a marathon or the recent Rio Olympics stirred a spontaneous spark of intrigue, there's no better time than now to push your limits.
Every marathon runner, however, needs to put in practice and follow a solid schedule to ensure peak performance. With adequate training, balanced rest, proper nutrition, and plenty of hydration, you'll be crossing the finish line in no time.