You’ve Got This
We all make resolutions each year; some of these resolutions are kept and some are put off to the side because we don’t know how to accomplish and conquer them. I often hear, “This year, my resolution is training to run my first marathon,” however not everyone accomplishes this goal because most people just don’t know how to begin.
As a Bootcamp owner, certified trainer and health expert who has helped many people achieve a range of fitness goals, I can help you. Whether overcoming weight-loss challenges, running their first marathons, or improving their overall health, I have coached clients through their most difficult fitness endeavors. Along the way, I have taught them to live by the credo that taking on a personal fitness milestone is just as much a physical feat as it is a mental one. As a 34-time marathoner and mom of four, I am here to guide you to make your resolution goal into a reality!
If your goal is to run your first marathon, here are 10 progressive steps to attaining that goal.
Step 1: Find a Marathon
Find a marathon online to train for that is 10-12 months away. Visit a website that reviews marathons and find one that you would like to run. There are thousands of marathons annually of the full 26.2 miles. Pick a race that interests you most. For a first marathon, try to choose one with mid-level elevation, as this will make the race more attainable.
Step 2: List out your Motivation to your Marathon Goal
List out the reasons you have decided to run your first marathon. Whether you are running your first marathon for your personal accomplishment, running it for a friend or loved one or for any other reason, make a list. Display this list in a visible area so it will be a continuous reminder of your motivation behind running.
Step 3: Plan your Marathon Training Schedule
The most important thing about training for a marathon is to start early. Race day is the culmination of months of training and preparation. However, don’t be scared or hesitant by the commitment you are about to make, a marathon is one of the greatest personal accomplishments.
This is one of the reasons I have run so many. Hire an experienced marathoner and ask for a customized marathon training schedule. This is not a “one size fits all” goal, as everyone is at a different fitness level so a training schedule should be curtailed to this. This professional will set you on a plan so you will be prepared and injury-free for race day. By consulting a professional, this will also help you with any training or race day questions you may have. A professional will also know how the importance of rest days and ensure you do not over train.
Step 4: Make Sure you are Fueling your Body Properly
Make sure you are eating properly, with nutrient-dense food to fuel your training and race day runs. You can look online for nutrition plans to help you to ensure you are eating nutrient-dense marathon training food with complex carbohydrates, protein and fiber. It is also beneficial to meet with a nutritionist. This is most helpful if you have special nutrition needs due to any medical issues. Try to meet with a nutritionist that has worked with athletes and even better if they are an athlete themselves—in which case they know firsthand the amount of quality calories your body requires to efficiently and effectively train for your first marathon!
Step 5: Track your Progress Daily
To understand, attain and remember your marathon training, it is important to keep track of your progress. Make sure to include both on and off-days. The worst thing you can do before race day is to burn yourself out or cause an injury through overtraining.
When monitoring my clients’ progress, I have found that first time marathoners do best by taking two rest days per week. This will allow for more effective running days and help in reducing the likelihood of an injury. Rest days are just as important as running days, as your muscle fiber needs time to heal and rebuild.
Step 6: Practice Race Day with Races Prior to Marathon Day
Practice makes perfect—so practice your marathon race day by running lower distance races. Running a marathon efficiently is accomplished best through progressive training. Through this training, you should aim to build your mileage and run lower distance races. In doing so, it would be optimal for physical and mental strength if you ran a 5K, 10K and half marathon prior to your race day marathon run of 26.2 miles. This progressive race training will help you to be prepared both physically and mentally. You will also have an opportunity to gage the approximate time you will finish your marathon.
Step 7: Seek Support
If you have not done so already, tell your friends and family of your marathon goal. Let your support network into your training steps and invite them to race day. The more support you have the better. Inspire your friends and family that they too can embark on accomplishing a marathon to better their health and happiness.
Step 8: Cross Training is Key in Injury Prevention
When people ask, “what makes your training so different?” you can simply answer, cross training is the key to success. I recommend working out differently than you are used to. Fitness boot camps can be great alternatives to just running, for example. By enrolling in a fitness bootcamp you will build the strength that will help you for your marathon day. A well-rounded bootcamp will help to build your endurance and core strength which will reduce your risk of an injury. Additionally, a boot camp program will not only force you to start slow, but will help keep your body sturdy when you decide to return to your normal workout. This will also help to eliminate boredom of your training workouts and help keep you motivated as you work towards your marathon goal.
Step 9: Stay Mentally Strong
So much of training and running a marathon is about embodying mental strength. This is something that not everybody discusses but mental strength is about 30% of your training. Think of a few mantras to repeat in your head when you are running long runs. One mantra that works for most of my clients is, “I deserve this.” I remind my clients that they are running this marathon with their health in mind. On long runs when your legs start to feel tired, repeat this mantra or any mantra that works for you and keep your head up.
Remember: you can accomplish anything in life, all you need to do is to work hard and believe in yourself.
Step 10: Run your First Marathon with a Smile
Stay positive in your training and on race day and don’t forget to smile! As you are running, your body secretes endorphins (produced by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus) which are happy chemicals. This is also known as the “runner’s high.” There are times when you will feel so incredible on a run you just want to smile so go for it. Whether you are in a training run or on race day: smile.
This will also give you a psychological benefit by tricking your mind into feeling even happier whether you are doing a 10-mile training run or the full 26.2 mile run. In every marathon, I have been known to relax and enjoy the day. But in the 2010 New York City Marathon, I ran with a bigger smile as I ran for Team for Kids to fight children’s obesity. As a mother of 4, this charity is near and dear to my heart. I could not help but smile throughout the race and at the finish line I crossed feeling happier than ever. By staying positive and keeping a smile on your face you will find race day that much easier. By showing your pearly whites, you may even motivate bystanders on the street to train for their first marathon!
Think about joy and fulfillment running your first marathon will bring. By accomplishing this goal, you will be stronger in body and mind. When training for your first marathon, keep these expert tips in mind and before you know it, you’ll be running an annual marathon. Good luck!