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First Time Marathon Training Tips

February 13, 2017

First Time Marathon Training Tips


Training for a marathon is an entirely different beast from the 5k or 10k.  There are long runs to schedule, higher mileage to consider, and the phenomenon known as “taper crazies.”  Tips for tackling your first marathon are discussed.

Respect the Hierarchy of Needs
A marathoner has a hierarchy of needs in order to train effectively, and these are sleep, long run, consistent mileage, marathon paced workouts, and faster-than-marathon-pace workouts; in that order.  For instance, never sacrifice sleep for your training.  If something must get cut out of your week, start with the faster-than-marathon-pace workouts and work backwards.  Ultimately, recovery, long runs, and maintaining consistent mileage are the three building blocks of a successful marathon plan.

Train the Way you Will Race
Use in training everything you will require on race day.  This rule includes nutrition and hydration products, as well as shoes, socks, shorts, sunglasses, and running singlet or top.  Do not change a single detail, especially anything food or drink related.  Many a runner has registered a DNF due to trying something new on race day!

Re-Fuel Consciously
When marathon training, your appetite is likely to increase due to the additional mileage.  Be vigilant to refuel with wholesome, whole foods, as opposed to candy and junk food.  In fact, many first time marathoners actually gain weight while training for this very reason.  Keep your appetite under control by eating three square meals per day that contain a wholesome carbohydrate, lean protein, and healthy fat while also having 2 – 3 healthy snacks and plenty of water throughout the day. 

Be Reasonable About Mileage
Many runners mistakenly believe that running a marathon requires a huge jump in weekly mileage.  In fact, this strategy may lead to mental burnout or fatigue.  While it is true that long runs will become longer when training for a marathon, there is no need to make enormous jumps in training volume, particularly if you are a new runner.  Successful marathons can be completed on as little as 30 – 35 miles per week.

Strengthen your Core
During a short race, a weak core will cause minimal damage.  However, when you are on your feet for hours at a time a weak core will become especially noticeable.  Pay attention to areas such as lower back, glutes, hamstrings, shoulders, obliques, and abdominal muscles.  A great guide to core strengthening for runners can be found here.

Consider Hiring a Coach
Whether your goal is to finish the race without walking or to quality for the Boston Marathon, consider hiring a coach.  Training for a marathon is a delicate balance that if not approached properly can lead to injury or mental burnout.  A coach will help you devise the best training plan for your needs while keeping you from second guessing yourself along the way.

Avoid the Taper Crazies
The taper period is the final 2 – 3 weeks before the race where you begin to cut back on mileage in order to rest your tired muscles.  Follow your taper plan closely, and do not panic if you feel irritable or out of shape from decreased running.  Instead, think of this as a time period that you earned with all of your hard work that is necessary for peak performance!

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