Marathon training season is upon us, my friends! New kicks, new goals, and new courses are just around the corner. There are very few things I love more than crossing a finish line and realizing goals after months of preparation, training, mental focus and hard work. Last year I ran my first marathon and it was one of the more rewarding journeys I’ve taken so far in my life. I learned so much about myself and made some great friends. Shout out to my CREW! I’ve been getting a lot of requests for a pre-season marathon post for first timers and I hope what follows gets your adrenaline pumping and eases your nerves a bit!
1. Training schedule, plan, and group
Select a training plan that is realistic for your schedule and your level of ability. If you’re a first time marathoner but have been working out forever and think you’re in great shape, think again. Endurance running is a whole new ball game. If you’re a first timer, you’re a beginner (or maybe an intermediate if you’re just strong like whoa). You gotta earn your way to the top with a few races under your belt to get to that “advance” or “elite” status, so start where you are and be honest with yourself. Accountability with your training is another big thing. Find a group training with the same race as you. You’ll make new friends and hold each other to your plan. It’s also better to have a pal or two when your mileage starts going way up. Strength in numbers!
2. Adapting to your schedule
The rest of your schedule will most likely have to change to accommodate your training plan. Maybe not at first, but once you hit that first long run, those 10, 12 miles it starts adding up really fast. Most groups will do their long runs on Saturday morning. That Friday night happy hour might not be the best choice. Try to hang with your friends on Saturday night so you don’t feel pressured to stay out, over indulge at restaurants and are able to get a good night’s sleep so you wake up fresh and ready to go.
3. Fuel (on and off the course)
Race nutrition is very personal, what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. Whether you’re into GU, Chomps, or in my case Fig Newtons, you need to replace the calories your body is burning during your longer runs. In general, runners should consume 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates each hour that they are running longer than 75 minutes. Personally, my stomach cannot handle a lot of running supplements. It’s really important to experiment early with your choices. DO NOT wait until race day to start a nutrition strategy and DO NOT do anything new as you approach your final training runs. Listen to your body. When you start to feel hungry or weak your energy sources are already depleted. You should be re-fueling before hunger sets in. When you run out of energy or “bonk” you’ll know it, and you’ll know you need to structure your nutrition a bit differently. Plan to have a solid strategy for pre, during and post run nutrition. Below is what I have found works best for ME (read this is not what YOU should do, you have to figure out your own shiz, people).
Pre: 1 Van’s Protein Waffles with a tablespoon of almond butter
During: 2 Fig Newtons every five/six miles-ish
Post: Protein shake 30-60 minutes after run is complete
Post meal: Lean protein, healthy fat source and fibrous veggies.
My endurance career started in the sport of triathlon, so marathon training is a really welcomed change – no schlepping, no worries of flat tires, no 40lb transition bag, no nothing! Just your person! But that doesn’t mean you still don’t need to be prepared. Make sure you are prepared for your runs with the following checklist:
- Proper training shoes. Shoes are really personal so have your gait analyzed to determine the type of stability (or lack there of) you need.
- Technical clothing. Moisture wicking clothing will help keep your body from overheating. Use body glide around areas that are prone to chafing and make sure you are running in moisture wicking socks to avoid hot spots and blisters.
- Sunglasses. Squinting causes wrinkles. Ew.
- Sunscreen. Your racerback will leave one atrocious tan line
- Chapstick. Always.
5. Cross Training
Your focus may be running but you have to balance your training to avoid injury. Your running plan should account for off days and cross training days. Use this to lift weights, build your strength, or stretch with yoga or Pilates. If you are prone to lower-body injuries from running long distances you may consider doing low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling. However, anyone can suffer overuse injuries due to inadequate muscle rest, an unbalanced workout schedule, or both. So take it easy and LISTEN to your body.
6. Recovery and Sleep
Piggy backing of off the previous talking point, you need to realize the importance of recovery in your training. When rest is built in to your plan take advantage of it. Sleep is so important too, and you’ll most likely need more of it. Be sure to take your off days, stay hydrated, sleep well and use a foam roller. New to rolling? See this post here for the dets.
7. Mental Attitude
Training for a marathon is like dating. At first it is SO FUN and you’re on your best behavior, and you have an optimistic outlook on EVERYTHING! You follow your plan to a tee, you’re excited about it, and you can’t wait for the next workout. Fast forward 2 months and all the butterflies have gone away and cold hard reality has hit. That 16 mile run isn’t as glamorous as it sounded when you first started. I’ll be honest and say that there are points where it straight up sucks – like it is so bad. Those days you have to dig deep to get out bed, you have to dig deep to get out the door and you have to find the drive from within to keep going when all you want to do is stop. The thing about dedication is that you have to persevere even when you don’t want to. Keep the big picture in mind and remember what you’re fighting for. Why you started in the first place. It’s really hard, but it’s worth it, so be stronger than your excuses.
The unknown is something we all fear, and there will be 26.2 miles full of it on race day, and the many miles you will run leading up to your big day. My best advice is to have a long-term plan, but take your training one day at a time. Be thoughtful about your workouts. Move with a purpose. Listen to your body, and enjoy getting to know yourself on a whole new level. It’s really incredible.
If you’re doing the Chicago marathon this year and are looking for a (free!) training group, please let me know! Looking forward to seeing you on the pavement and on the course!