I’ve been asking everyone I know for tips on training for a marathon, trying to find the hidden knowledge that only comes from experience. I have compiled a list of 26.2 suggestions to make training for your marathon (or half) that much smoother and more comfortable.
1) Don’t Procrastinate – This step separates those who want to from those who do. Find an event which gives you adequate time to train and sign-up, TODAY. Check out our race calendar for all local events and ask others what their favorites have been. There are certainly better events for beginners.
2) X Marks the Spot– Make your goals and put together a map of how you are going to reach them. You can’t find a treasure if you don’t know how to get there. Formulating a proper training plan and mapping out a route to success are key to reaching that goal.
3) Share Your Goals– Tell your family and friends about your goals and watch the support and encouragement pour in. This step also makes you feel a little more accountable to not let yourself or these people down.
4) Look Forward– Look forward to your race day is an obvious tip. But I mean look forward and plan your weekends around your long runs. Vacations should be training friendly, if at all possible. When life gets busy and you didn’t pencil in training time to your schedule, running is usually the first to go.
5) Look Down– Are you in “running shoes” or technical running shoes? Running shoes are great shoes to go to the gym and run a mile on the treadmill once or twice a week. Technical running shoes are built very differently. They’re made of a much higher quality and longer lasting EVA (the white cushy stuff) that protects the body from any unnecessary abuse or impact and are meant to carry you through a marathon with comfort. Without a good pair of technical running shoes, you can plan on running into some problems (yes, that pun was intended).
6) Dress the Part– Technical apparel is a must if you are planning on running comfortably. The right apparel is going to decrease chaffing, wick away sweat to cool you down more efficiently and literally save you heart beats. Avoid cotton at all costs! Cotton underwear, cotton tops and most importantly cotton socks can cause horrible chaffing and blisters.
7) Loosen Up– ALWAYS stretch before AND after. Why am I uppercasing those words… because it is VERY important that you follow them. Stretching will help prevent muscle strains during your run and will also help you recover and feel less tense (and painful) after the run. Stretching and foam rolling also help move blood and lactic acid out of the muscles to help reduce the tightness and encourage faster recovery times.
8) RUN!!!– There’s no way around it. In order to complete the distance you set in front of yourself, you’re gonna have to run… a lot! You will rack up 600 miles or more during your training alone. The only way to prepare for a healthy and happy finish is to train your socks off.
9) Run Like the Tortoise– When training for your first distance event, speed is not important. If there is one thing that I am sure of from my childhood, it’s that the tortoise beat the hare. Now how does a slow freakin tortoise beat that fast little rabbit? My guess is that the rabbit was pushing himself hard and going too fast on a down a hill, because he wanted to maintain that 7 minute mile pace, when all of a sudden his IT band flared up. Even though the tortoise was slow with a 12 minute mile pace, he still finished with a smile on his face well before the rabbit was able to hobble across the finish line.
10) Train With Others– Two heads are better than one and four feet are better than two. I’ve found personally that running with a group tends to make it less daunting and more fun. The best motivation to wake up early on a Saturday morning for a 20 mile run is to not let my friends down. Check out our weekly running group every Saturday.
11) Rest Up– One of the most under appreciated training days is the rest day. Resting allows your body to strengthen and heal all the muscles, ligaments and tendons you beat up during training. Just like forging steel, you need to allow it to rest and settle during the cooling process. The body is no different and needs that period of time to recover.
12) Let Pain Be Your Guide– Pain is your body’s way of saying something is wrong. Of course pushing your body to new limits is going to be a little painful but it shouldn’t consistently hurt or last much longer than the cool down phase. If your body is in pain enough to change the way that you run, stop running. The best advice I ever got, “when in doubt, leave it out!”. No run is better than a bad run.
13) Mix It Up– Don’t just run the same boring route. Try new things like trail running for a good change. By adding a hill runs or tempo runs you can really increase your speed. Cross training helps break up the monotony of running so that you don’t get burned out AND gives you the opportunity to show of your new running physique at the pool.
14) Speed Up– On my long runs I like to start off slow and, if I feel good, I work my way up to my race pace for the last four to six miles. This helps train my body to learn how to push the effort while I’m already tired, which is bound to come around mile 20-22.
15) Play Around– Long runs should be more than a mile marker. Use your long runs to try new gear, a new supplement and even a new strategy. That way you aren’t running into surprises on race day. For every race I do a long run in my exact gear for race day a week or two before the event. Everything from clothes, socks, shoes and even my nutrition supplements. This way I can determine if a need to change anything before it’s too late.
16) Carb Load, Don’t Overload– One major mistake most new runners make is thinking that they need to eat everything in their path the week before race day. This will lead to nothing more than uncomfortable bloating and emergency bathroom breaks during the race. Our nutritionist has the perfect recipe for carb loading on our website.
17) Lube Up– No one ever finished a marathon with chaffed nipples and liked it. I had one bad experience and trust you me it will never happen again. TriSlide or BodyGlide are lubricants to put wherever you might need them. The most common areas are nipples, bra straps, thighs and feet. I use it everywhere I can think of cause I’d rather be safe than sorry and chaffing can make the last 5 miles literally unbearable.
18) Rock Out– Everybody runs differently but I have to have my tunes and nothing is a mood killer worse than running at a good pace around mile 22 with “My Humps” by The Black Eyed Peas blaring in your ears and then getting “Have I Told You Lately” by Rod Stewart. Avoid this mess by putting together your own list of tunes for race day so you can have hassle free listening.
19) Have a Backup– Everybody is entitled to a great race day and also a bad race day. Set up a backup plan, or worst case scenario, to help you mentally conquer the unexpected. I always have two time goals in place, one for if I’m having the perfect race day and one for if something comes up like cramps or nutrition problems.
20) Collect Yourself- About an hour before the gun goes of, find a place where you can relax and collect your thoughts. Review your game plan and double check your gear. Remind yourself why you are there and take confidence in your training. Envision yourself crossing the finish line with a smile and loved ones waiting. Take the last 15 minutes to stretch and loosen up. Use the restroom early to avoid the lines and a late start.
21) Steady As She Goes– A marathon is about putting 26.2 miles behind you. It’s an amazing feet no matter what your time is. The idea of “banking time” by getting several minutes ahead of goal pace so you can draw on that time later if needed, is bankrupt. The opposite usually occurs due to fatiguing out early. A steady pace you’ve trained at is always best.
22) Fuel Yourself– You wouldn’t get yourself a Ferrari and expect to last all the way to Vegas on one tank of gas would you? Fueling your body properly during training runs lasting longer than an hour is going to help you attain those distances much easier. In fact, nutrition is the reason most people hit the proverbial wall. There are many options for you to try the most common being gels, chews, powder mixes and even jelly beans.
23) Drink Early and Drink Often– Hydration is another part of nutrition that is often pushed aside. The process of moving your muscles breaks down H2O to utilize the hydrogen and oxygen separately. The body has a delay from when it actually needs more water and when you feel thirsty, so if you are waiting until you feel like you need it then it is already too late. Hydration systems are always good for long runs. I prefer to stop at every aid station to hydrate and this really helps keep me going.
24) Play Games– Make the run something more than just running. Try to play games with yourself to keep your mind occupied for the 4 hours it will take to finish this thing. One of the best ideas I ever heard was to put 26 gummy bears in your pocket and eat just one every mile and as you eat them, try to guess what the flavor is. This occupies the mind and helps keep you mentally focused.
25) Step by Step– Don’t get ahead of yourself after 6 miles into the race and say, “Holy crap! I’m going to be out here for 4 hours! I’ve got 20 more miles to go!!!”. Although it may be true, 26.2 miles is a lot to bite off all at once. I like to look at it as 12 aid stations or two half marathons, anything to break it up. Just keep pushing and don’t think about anything further than your next step otherwise you’ll risk breaking mentally.
26) HAVE FUN!!!– Last but not least…ENJOY YOURSELF! Most marathons take place in larger cities with great scenery and crowd support. Take time to talk with other runners during the race and have fun with the crowd. Relax and enjoy, you’ll be more likely to do another.
Remember, these are just tips. Always do what works best for you. Now go out there, do your best and reap the rewards of earning your first marathon finisher’s medal!!