In the United States alone, there are 570 marathons held each year (and growing!). As this strenuous physical test becomes more and more popular, it’s important to remember just how serious an endeavor running more than 26 miles is. It puts a huge strain on both the mind and body, so it is vital to prepare, perform and recover properly. Here are a few tips for marathoners, especially any first-timers who are attempting their initial 26.2.
- cross train
- have a plan
- rehydrate and refuel
- take a walk
- hit the spa
- ignore injuries
- contrast and compare
- skimp on sleep
- overdo it
While getting regular runs in to train for a marathon is a given, it’s also important to mix things up, as well. Adding in activities such as yoga, kickboxing or swimming can help avoid injury, bolster your endurance and universally strengthen your body and muscles.
In addition to mapping out distances during training runs, it's just as important to have a plan in place for nutrition and sleep, as well. Training for a marathon can be a little overwhelming, and you want to make sure you prep your body on a few different levels for the demands.
Eating and drinking are two of the most important things to do immediately after your marathon. You need to eat carbohydrates and protein to replenish the glycogen in your muscles. Make sure to drink plenty of water to replace the lost fluids in your body.
On the day after, try to get the blood flowing a little bit. Sure, you'll be stiff and sore, but avoid the temptation to sit around all day. A mere 10-20 minutes of activity should still feel restful; it’s just a way to shake out the legs. Don’t overdo it.
If you can go for a massage after running your marathon, do it. Experienced massage therapists can find muscles you didn’t even know you had and work out any lactic acid build-up to help release some tension and soreness from your body.
After putting in months of practice and training, it can be extremely frustrating to find a stress fracture or feel that nagging pain in your hip. But don’t ignore these aches, regardless of size or level of pain! If not addressed and promptly taken care of, they will only get worse and could lead to serious, more permanent complications if neglected.
While competition with a marathoning buddy can be fun, try not to get too upset if someone runs faster, longer or stronger than you. Everyone is different and moves at their own pace. Do this for yourself, not to prove anything to anyone else.
This is key leading up to the marathon as well as during recovery. Get plenty of rest post-marathon. Your body needs to recover, as not recovering properly can lead to injury. Your body needs sleep to keep your immune system happy and your body feeling healthy.
Post marathon, allow yourself to take a break from running. If you feel the urge, take a brisk shake-out walk or do some kind of cross training to help stretch out the muscles and fight cramping and fatigue. Swimming, cycling and yoga are all great options! One of the most common mistakes runners make after a marathon is not allowing for enough rest. Take time off to let your body recover. Remember, don’t push it!
Make sure to take the time to bask in your amazing accomplishment. Even if you didn’t beat your personal record or if you had a particularly tough day out there, you finished – so celebrate it. There will always be another race, another day. Enjoy it and relax a little. You earned it!
Running a marathon can be fun, rewarding and exhilarating. There’s definitely a lot to keep in mind when tackling the challenge, though, so make sure you research carefully (and consult with your physician, as needed) before deciding if it is something you are ready for. Happy training, and good luck racing!