So you signed up for your first marathon; now what? You are most likely thinking, "What did I get myself into?" A marathon may seem like an intimidating and exhausting endeavor, but with the proper planning and preparation, you can make it through the 26.2 miles and be proud of your amazing accomplishment.
1. Find The Right Training Plan
You can't start running the whole distance right out of the gate so it's important to find a plan that helps you gradually build up your mileage and endurance while incorporating enough rest to prevent overuse injuries. John Loftus, an RRCA certified running coach from Laugna Beach, California who works with performance-oriented adult runners, recommends a training plan that takes a runner's background and experience into account. This type of plan builds a runner up slowly and carefully to meet the demands he or she will face on race day.
"Ideally [after completing the training plan] the runner will be prepared both physically and mentally for what to expect during the marathon," he says. "Overall, I prefer plans that build slowly and allow enough recovery time so the runner will get to the starting line in excellent shape, not sore and beat up."
Loftus suggests looking for a plan that coincides with your current running level and advises against a plan with a significant increase in mileage or frequency. It's also important to consider the suggested number of running days and specified mileage in order to determine if the plan is feasible.
2. Fueling and Recovery:
You're undoubtedly going to be hungry after all of that running, but eating the right foods at the right times can help you fuel and recover during training. There is a small window of time up to 30-minutes after a hard training run when the body is best able to replenish and utilize the carbohydrates and protein that were used during exercise. Experts recommend consuming foods with a 3 to 1 protein to carbohydrate ratio. You can also refuel using protein shakes or chocolate milk.
Make sure to do some post-run stretching, and use ice or cold water dips to alleviate inflammation, and ease sore and damaged muscles. Using heat and/or a foam roller is a good way to sooth sore muscles.