HOW DO YOU TRAIN FOR A MARATHON? – ONE LIFE CHANGE AT A TIME
We all know the old saying: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
And when it comes to marathon preparation, this proverb has never been more apropos. You realize that you aren’t going to simply wake up one day, throw on a pair of old gym shoes and run 42.2 km or 26.2 Miles. You of course realize you will need months of training and consistent weekly running mileage increases - to the point where you can traverse by foot anywhere from 3 to 5 hours without many breaks. And then, and only then, will you have the courage to entertain the notion of completing a marathon.
But these are not the “bites” I’m alluding to. I’m speaking about all these other morsels of life that will need to be bitten into for the next 4 to 5 months, if you wish to have a successful marathon experience. I wish completing a marathon were simply putting in more kilometers each week, because then that wouldn’t be so terrible to swallow. But things like: schedules, sleep patterns, household duties and family buy-in – to name a few – will all need to be changed by a certain degree to help in your marathon success.
I’m not trying to scare you away from running a marathon, but simply opening your eyes to what it takes to finish a marathon as mentally and physically healthy as possible. And while running is of course the main meal in this journey, there are many other parts of this marathon elephant, which will need to be digested as well.
Right at this moment, you feel like a superhero. You are excited to start this momentous trial. You may be scared a little, but more scared not to throw yourself into this running unknown. You’ve researched what to eat, drink, how to train, what bra to wear, how often to run, where to run, what surface to run on, what not to run on, when to lift weights, how yoga will help your running, how to breathe effectively, what shoes to wear, etc., etc….
I love your enthusiasm, but you cannot and should not do all of these changes simultaneously. You need to start taking one bite at a time. If you shock your body with this completely different routine, something is going to give, and it won’t be pretty, trust me. Here are some tips on how to alter your life, little-by-little, so training for your marathon isn’t overwhelming.
We will start here. Mileage is at the core of all you will be changing in your life over the next few months. The rule of thumb is not to increase your mileage by more than 10% each week
. And while there are reasons when you should or shouldn’t increase your mileage by that much, this is a safe place to start if you’re new to running. For example, if you are running zero miles now per week, start with running 2 km a day (4-5 times per week) and see how that goes. If you feel good, then maybe the next week add one run that is 3 km, instead of 2 km. Do not worry yet about how long these runs are taking you, just focus on how far you are going. The goal here is to slowly increase how far you can run. And please, don’t try to make up for kilometers you didn’t run the week before. An example of this misguided training idea would be to run 30 kilometers one week because you didn’t run your regular 15 kilometers the previous week. Bad idea. This will usually lead to some sort of injury.
Lifting / Weight Training
If you can find time to lift in your schedule, I would try to incorporate it in there. But running trumps lifting. If you’re new to lifting and running, then I wouldn’t even think about incorporating lifting until 4-5 weeks into my marathon training program. Get acclimated to the stress of running and then add one day of lifting. If you can get up to 3 days of lifting a week, that would be ideal, but again, if your schedule can’t handle that load, then no sweat. There are many exercise routines
you can do at home, if you’re tight on time.
If you’re single or live alone, this probably is not an issue for you. But if you are married or living with family or your partner then please heed my words: Don’t assume your goals are your family’s or loved-one’s goals
. While your husband says he will support you in this marathon journey, does he truly understand that you will need more of his support with the kids, cleaning the house, foot massages (for you) and quiet time? Will your kids understand why mommy needs an hour to herself to rest after a long Sunday run? Make sure you sit down with your household and explain why training for this marathon is important to you, but that really you will need all of their support. Explain to them that this is only temporary and that everyone will celebrate when mommy crosses the finish line!
Right now, I’m going to assume you don’t wake up at 4 a.m. on Saturday to go for a 3-4 hour run. But this may be your life in the not too distant future. Going to bed and waking up earlier, less time going out with friends on the weekend, and sneaking in a run during your lunch break are all things you may have to change regarding your weekly schedule. The good news is that you won’t be doing 3-4 hour runs in the beginning of your training cycle, so that 4 a.m. alarm isn’t starting tomorrow. And because runs won’t be as long right away, you still will be able to go out with friends, but as the weeks go by (and mileage goes up) you may need to end the night at 9 pm instead of midnight, so you’re ready for the long run the next morning.
Rest is a key part of your training. If you’re going to get up to running 40-90 km/week, then you will be needing more rest. That means getting to bed at an earlier hour and even sneaking in a mid-afternoon nap (if possible) on the weekends. To think you won’t need (or want) to change your sleeping patterns as your marathon training progresses is a foolish thought. If you can start embracing the idea of rest/sleep early in your training cycle, I promise you that your body will appreciate this thoughtful gesture on your part.
I’m not a nutritionist, so I’m not going to venture into the realm of carbs vs. protein nor how many calories you should or shouldn’t be taking in. But what I will say is this: Your body won’t work well if your feeding it crap and processed food all day long. If today, you don’t have the best eating habits, then time to change. But you don’t need to go from voracious carnivore to vegan overnight (if ever). But if you’re going to be out there on the roads then you need to give your body the proper fuel. Every week, try introducing one healthy food item into your diet and taking one processed food item away. Don’t try to go cold turkey with your eating – you are doomed to fail then. I honestly find the harder I work out, the better I eat because my body yearns for better food.
Good luck on taking these bites. Just remember the more you ease into the training on all sides, the more and more you will be able to handle…
And that marathon elephant will be eaten.
If you would like any help with training and running your marathon please check out my Marathon Girl Training Club
- designed by me specifically for the busy marathon girl!
Love Kerry x