Running a marathon isn’t an easy feat to accomplish. It takes a lot of training, effort, and determination to make it to the marathon, let alone compete. While running in a marathon is a personal challenge that many people aspire to, many people make common errors that cause injury or slow down their training in some other way. We have provided five helpful tips below to prepare you for your first marathon.
Consult Your Doctor
Before training and participating in the marathon, it’s best to consult your doctor. This helps ensure that your health and condition are stable enough to participate in a marathon and train for one. If you have any preexisting health conditions, or your doctor discovers any during the consultation, they can provide guidance on how to work around the health conditions or if it’s safe to train or participate. Your doctor can also give you valuable advice on what your body needs in terms of exercise and nutrition.
If your doctor knows you plan to train for a physically strenuous event that puts a lot of stress on the body, they will ask questions that will determine if you need tests, as there are health risks that often go undetected until part of the way through the marathon. There have been instances of people collapsing and dying from conditions they didn’t even know they had. One example is two men under the age of 40 suddenly collapsing at the Cardiff half marathon in 2018 and later dying; one was 25, and the other was 32.
Give Yourself Adequate Recovery Time
It takes about three to four months to prepare for a marathon, and you want to make sure you train yourself properly. To adapt your body to the marathon distance of 26 miles, it’s a good idea to build up to run a longer distance than the marathon itself. After intense sessions that include intervals, hills, or longer marathon training runs, it’s good to leave enough space for a recovery period.
Before and after your training sessions, make sure you do warm-up and cool-down stretches. Stretching before running prepares your body for working out and helps you maintain your joints’ full range of motion. After a run or other exercise, stretching helps relax muscles and helps blood flow remove lactic acid build-up.
Hydration Is Key
As water makes up about 60% of the human body, it goes without saying that hydration is essential when you’re training for a marathon. Our bodies cool down by sweating, which leads to the loss of water and electrolytes, including potassium and sodium. This loss can lead to dehydration, but sometimes people don’t realize they’re dehydrated. Proper water intake leading up to the marathon helps you avoid burning out, keeps your muscles fluid, ensures that you have the electrolytes and energy you need for the task, and minimizes injuries.
Signs of dehydration include cramping, increased heart rate, headaches, confusion, dark urine, strong-smelling urine, fatigue, sugar cravings, or even loss of appetite. Those aren’t the only signs of dehydration, so it’s up to runners to check in with themselves to see how they’re feeling and bring a double wall insulated water bottle with them.
Plenty Of Protein
Your body needs plenty of protein and energy-boosting meals to give you the fuel you need to train for the marathon and during the marathon. It’s important to eat clean with food rich in carbs and proteins that fuel your body longer than refined sugars. You experience an instant boost with refined sugars followed by an energy crash. Not only does protein provide energy, but it also helps to build and repair muscles and bones.
When you choose a marathon to participate in, you need to train for that marathon and its elements. If the route of that marathon you select will have elevation changes, you need to train with that in mind and find areas with similar elevation. It’s also essential to run at different speeds while training to create an adaptive cardio capacity. If you’ve never run a marathon before, or at all, it’s also better to start off with a shorter run.
Committing to training for a marathon takes physical endurance and will also test you emotionally and mentally. When you take care of the physical, emotional, and mental components, you’ll have a far better experience when training and participating in the marathon.