Marathon Training Prep 101

Marathon Training Prep 101

Preparing to start training for a marathon will help you meet your goals and stay in the race. Keep these tips in mind to help ward off common running afflictions and get ready for your next PR.

1. Sleep

The link between adequate sleep and performance is well documented, but how you sleep is just as important as the number of hours you get per night. You need a certain amount of hours in a block of time without interruption…usually it’s six hours or more. The best scenario is to sleep through the block of time so you get to the deeper, and more restful, sleep cycles.

When you allocate dedicated extended time to get some shuteye rather than breaking it up over the course of the day and night, you reap more of the recovery benefits of sleep.
2. Be ready to commit… but don’t check the box

Training for a distance race takes a serious toll on your body, and the best way to stay on track for race day is to give yourself a break. I caution against feeling beholden to every day of a race training plan, which doesn’t take into account things like your soreness, illness or fatigue level.

So if you’re feeling under the weather or if you had a bad run the day before, or are in pain or aren’t feeling your current run…stop. Don’t do what’s on your schedule just because it’s on your schedule. If your body is telling you to rest don’t feel obligated to stick to the plan. Taking a day off instead of suffering through a painful run will put you in a better position for a better and more effective run the next day.

3. Eat better

With running you really are what you eat. Remember that food equals energy. So they kind of food you are eating is going to help or hinder your energy supplies. Decreasing your intake of dairy, sugar, flour-based carbohydrates and high-gluten products and increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins will help. The so called “carb-loading” is a bit of a myth. Eating bagels and pasta will not supply you with any minerals or nutrients at all helpful for optimal function.
4. Get up at work

Sitting still all day will diminish so many crucial scientific functions of your body, including circulation and energy production. Try to get up once in awhile and walk around, especially if you have a lunch break. You can even do an easy body weight oriented work out of some squats and lunges followed by some stretches to help boost circulation and keep you from tightening up from lack of movement.
5. Hydrate and salt

Most of us understand the importance of hydration, but we neglect to realize the importance of electrolytes. Salt, one of the bodies most needed electrolytes, usually gets a bad rap, but is incredibly necessary, especially through warmer days of summer when we sweat so much. Since we sweat out salt, if we don’t replace it we will not have this necessary electrolyte. Muscles must transport salt across their membranes to cause muscle contraction. So when our salt stores are low, contractions are poor. Recent scientific evidence suggests that this may actually be the reason many of us hit the dreaded “wall” during a marathon. Be sure to add a little extra to your meals, and as your runs get longer, choosing a during-run gel packet with sodium or slamming a salt packet from a local fast food joint will do wonders for your energy.

6. Recovery days are just as important as training days.

There is a scientific reasoning behind rest and recovery for athletes. Muscles need to manufacture the energy to be used during running. If we don’t allow proper rest and recovery, the body is unable to recooperate and add to depleted muscle energy stores, so not enough energy is available for use. This means we won’t get the muscle contractions we want for optimal performance, and the endurance we have will also be diminished.

6. Get the right sneaks

Finding a health care professional such as a physical therapist who specializes in runners can help you find the right shoe for your individual foot.  A thorough analysis of your foot and weight bearing patters will help you avoid common lower extremity problems in your training. Don’t trust your local running store even if they put you on a treadmill. The associates at these stores don’t have health or medical or biomechanical degrees. They were taught a limited amount of information about what to look for. Don’t rely on someone without a degree to tell you what’s best.
7. Cr0sstrain

Runners tend to stay healthier and fitter if they do other physical activities in addition to running, such as strength training, yoga, swimming or cycling.Incorporating a mix of fitness activities allows your body to recover because it gives you a break from your body weight pounding the pavement. This is especially important for people running a long distance for the first time. Most training plans only dictate the number of miles and days but don’t specify time to mix up your running routine.

It gets first time marathoners every single time… your schedule has crazy amount of training on it, and if you only run you’ll get worn out. Replace a recovery run with a less pounding activity and you will last longer into training without fatigue.


8. Learn how to love the cold

Sometimes simplest is best: when you’re in pain, turn to the freezer. While people disagree on whether heat or cold is most appropriate to treat acute sports-related pain, fall on the side of ice.

For sports-related injury, heat is almost never appropriate. Heat is generally for stiffness and circulation, and ice is for pain because it’s an anti-inflammatory. Most of the time you’re in pain it’s an inflammatory problem.

9. Invest in some tools

There are two pretty cheap tools that will help you avoid the most common running injuries. A foam roller to roll out your Iliotibial Band, the band of tissue that runs down the side of your thigh, will help prevent ITB tendonitis and runner’s knee.

A calf stretcher called ‘pro-stretch’ when used can help prevent shin splints, stress fractures, plantar fascitis and posterior tibial tendonitis.

10. Have fun

It can be all too easy to get so into the training that you forget it should be fun. Try to remember it should not take over your life and your friendships, family and social life should not be put off. If you are starting to feel like its not fun, try to incorporate time recovering with family and friends to refuel for brunch or movie night.


Runners think about training holistically (recovery, strength training, etc.) as opposed to just running. This process of replacing energy stores depends on several factors: The most important of these are time and what you are feeding your body. It is also why rest, good nutrition and electrolytes such as salt are so crucial to optimal running performance. A holistic approach helps us factor in all those elements.