5 Starting Steps for a First-Time Marathoner

But keep that rest day option throughout your marathon cycle. It's not about who's logged the most miles, but rather who is the most prepared to run 26.2 miles that does the best—and rest is a critical component of this success factor. 

Track Minutes Not Miles

One of the best ways to challenge yourself is to track your progress. You can see how many workouts you've done in a year, or how many times you've run around the town lake. But the one thing you want to do is be careful about tracking how many miles you've run. 

You can keep a log so you know how much you've run; such a log is a great tool for knowing when it's a good idea to change out your shoes (usually every 300 to 500 miles). But don't track miles as a daily benchmark to try and surpass regularly. This can lead to overtraining your miles in an endless game of one-upsmanship. 

Think about it—while you initially felt good about your 25 miles run last week, you suddenly found out that Jimmy ran 30 miles...so now you feel like a chump. But it's quite possible that Jimmy's a faster runner, putting in his 35 miles in less time it took you to do 25....trying to keep up with Jimmy will mean logging even more training time and increasing your odds of fatigue or injury.

Instead, track how many minutes you run. Add them up by week and month, and eventually year. You'll be able to see how you progress and you'll avoid getting competitive to the point of a setback.

Stretch Five Minutes Every Day You Run

Running is great...until it's suddenly not. Something's wrong with your foot or your hip and the best short-term solution is to stop running just when you had gotten on a roll. 

It's a bummer, but you aren't alone. Thousands of runners each year are forced into some type of downtime because they didn't take care of their bodies. While you can't always injury-proof yourself, you can make sure that you are staying aware of how your body is handling the stress of training and remain on the right track. 

Take five minutes each night to stretch as you relax or watch TV. You can do the same stretches or get creative with different routines for each night. Regardless of which one you choose, make sure to include something for your hips, calves and hamstrings in each session. Five minutes a day might not seem like much, but it's over half an hour each week...and that adds up across a year.

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