Thanks to Jason Lewis for being a guest on my Strength & Health blog and sharing this article he wrote for first-time marathon runners. Enjoy!
First-Time Marathon Runner? Tips to Make It to the Finish Line.
Over half a million Americans run marathons each year, and that number is steadily rising. With time and preparation, you can put your first marathon under your belt and join the ranks of even the most seasoned marathoner. Check out these tips to put you off to a good start come race day.
Find the Right Plan
The first step on your journey is to find a training plan that meets your needs. A quick Google search of beginner training plans will leave your mind spinning with all the possibilities, variations, and recommendations. One says to always wear a red headband while the other says wear blue. Rather than get lost in all the information, think of training in terms of how it will fit into your current schedule. For example, maybe the kids have soccer practice Thursday afternoon and date night is Tuesday. The best training plan will fall in line with your routine.
Take a look at your current running experience too. If the word run isn’t even in your vocabulary, opt for a program that starts out with walking and gradually builds to running. If you are an experienced runner, look for a plan that is similar to your current runs. For example, if you’re already running three times a week for three to four miles, find a training plan that starts out similar to that to avoid injury and burnout. The key for any runner is to gradually increase your mileage.
It’s Not Just Running
You’ve found the perfect spot for your run, but as crazy as it sounds, preparing for a marathon requires more than just running. Your joints need a break, and increasing your balance, strength, and endurance will be beneficial to you in the long run. Cross-training is a great way to rest between strenuous runs, and according to marathon coach Patrick McCrann, sometimes running is the worst thing for both your body and your running goals, especially if you are nursing an injury.
“Most athletes identify problems simply as hurdles to be overcome, [but] the smart runner recognizes his or her limitations and finds a better way,” McCrann said. Replacing running days with cross-training will not only allow your injuries to heal, but prevent them by giving your muscles and joints time to recover. So, what can you do on your cross-training days? Biking, swimming, rowing, and yoga are just a few of the options. As long as it doesn’t involve actual running, you are golden.
Make a Fashion Statement
The most fashionable runner is a comfortable runner. You might be tempted to wear a brand new pair of shoes on race day, but one of the biggest mistakes you can make is wearing new shoes or clothes. You’ve worked hard to break in your shoes, and you know from experience they don’t pinch or rub. You’d hate to be sidelined halfway through the race because of a raw blister. Wear the same shoes and clothes you trained in so that you know without a doubt there is no risk of chafing or rubbing. If it helps, think of your practice runs as rehearsals. Adjust what doesn’t work and keep what shines.
As you decide which outfit to make your go-to, avoid cotton, as it is the least breathable. Cotton holds sweat in, leaving you feeling damp and bogged down. Opt for lightweight clothing with moisture wicking technology. Don’t forget that you’ll heat up as you run, so although the morning may be a little chilly, your body temperature will rise in no time. A good rule of thumb is to dress 20 degrees warmer than the weather.
By remembering these tips, you’ll pass your first marathon with flying colors. Remember, marathons aren’t all about winning. The best part is knowing that you did it. Even if you finish dead last or have to walk the last few miles, you won’t be able to stop the smile from spreading across your face when you pass through that finish line.
Jason Lewis is passionate about helping seniors stay healthy and injury-free. He created strongwell.org to share his tips on senior fitness.