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How To Prepare For a Marathon (And Recover After It!)

How To Prepare For a Marathon (And Recover After It!)

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How To Prepare For a Marathon (And Recover After It!)
how to prepare for a marathon

Congratulations, you’ve decided to run a marathon! While it might seem intimidating (or even terrifying!), it can also be one of the most satisfying and rewarding things you’ll ever do. 

Marathons are both a physical and a mental race. The key to successfully preparing for a marathon is developing a plan to take you right to the finish line, and beyond! We’ve put together some tips to help you train for a marathon, and to recover once it’s all over. 

When to start

If you are a first-time marathoner, give yourself plenty of time to build up to the race distance. While you might want to build up to marathon distance quickly, you are more likely to end up with an injury if you don’t do it gradually. Follow a marathon training plan that helps you to gradually increase the distance each week. 

You might have heard the term progressive overload, which is a gradual increase in the intensity of your workouts. When it comes to preparing for a half-marathon or a full marathon, progressive overload is your friend. Aim to gradually build up your endurance, while also allowing for rest to avoid injury. Remember, you are preparing your musculoskeletal system and your cardiovascular system for a big distance. 

Yes, it will take a few months to be race ready, but your body needs time to get stronger. Throughout your training week, swap between long and short runs so you aren’t doing two long runs back-to-back. Don’t forget to taper down the distance of your daily runs as race day gets closer, so your body is fresh. 

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What to eat

Good nutrition is critical for having energy to sustain your body during marathon training. Most marathon runners talk about hitting a wall during a race, which is attributed to the feeling your body gets after running out of glycogen. Your body uses glycogen, stored carbohydrates that are converted to glucose (energy), to fuel your muscles. Carbo-loading can help to increase your stores of glycogen, but try to gradually increase the amount of carbs you are eating a week or two before the race. 

When you start carbo-loading, it might be best to stick to foods which are easy to digest to avoid upsetting your stomach. Foods like oats, quinoa, brown rice and sweet potato provide slow-burning energy to help keep your body going throughout the race. Bananas are a great low-fibre snack with magnesium to help reduce cramping during the race. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water before, during and after your run too. Electrolyte drinks can also help to replace some of the fluid and salts lost during the race, but try to use these in moderation. 

Recovery and rehabilitation 

Just like your training, recovery isn’t a one-size-fits all solution — but that doesn’t mean you should skip it. A recovery program should be part of your overall marathon training plan, particularly as you build up to race distance. All that training placing stress on your body, so sleep and rehabilitation are extremely valuable!

A golden rule of marathon training: warm up and cool down properly for every run. When you warm up, you’re preparing your body for the run, so do some light jogging and dynamic stretches such as leg and arm swings. After the run, cool down with static stretches that are held for at least 30 seconds. 

Spending time on rehabilitation, whether that’s foam rolling, massage or stretching (or a combination of all three) helps to get the blood flowing and can give your body the best chance to recover. You might also find epsom salt baths really helpful for reducing soreness or cramps. The more relaxed your body is leading up to the race, the better!

Once the race is over, make sure you put on something warm and do some static stretching to slowly cool your body down. Some people swear by ice baths and compression gear, but that’s a personal choice based on what works for YOUR body. Heat packs or a foam roller can be just as helpful for managing sore muscles.

The big thing to remember when training for a marathon is to take things slowly. Don’t let yourself get discouraged along the way, even if there are setbacks. Having healthy expectations and allowing lots of time to train and mentally prepare will serve you well on race day. Good luck!

* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.

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