Getting started can be the most difficult part of any new race challenge, but remember we all have to start somewhere! Some of the most common mistakes are starting off too enthusiastically, trying to do too much too soon, or conversely thinking you’ve got loads of time and putting off starting your training and cramming it in over a few weeks or months. Another common misconception when training for an endurance race is thinking that because you play football, netball, rugby or hockey that you’re fit, you probably are but not endurance running fit, which is a totally different thing!
Marathon training takes time, there are no shortcuts, you need to be patient and consistent with your training over many weeks and months to allow you to gradually improve your fitness but without the risk of injury. To train smart you need to have an effective plan that’s realistic to your current level of fitness and experience, a plan that progresses gradually and patiently and you’ll then need to find time each week to be consistent with your exercise. It’s also important to have some fun as this will help keep you motivated and able to maintain a good training routine.
The danger of training for an endurance race is the repetitive impact that’s involved - each step you run produces 3-4 times your body weight and this force affects your lower body, hips, pelvis and back. If the level of training load is too much, then it can very easily result in an injury so, it’s essential to get the training load right from the very start. Another area that can cause a problem is if you miss training and then think that you can play catchup – the body loves consistency so if you try to do this then you’re definitely opening yourself up to picking up an injury or niggle.
The key points to remember are:
· Training for a marathon takes planning, patience, focus, commitment and mental resilience.
· The body likes a sensible training load, gradual progress and smart training.
· It’s important to be realistic about your training – it needs to be manageable for your current fitness, has to fit into your life and not be another stress.
· Avoiding illness or injury means being consistent and patient with your training.
· It’s important to listen to your body and take action if you feel a niggle or pain coming on – don’t try to train through it and don’t carry on training even when over-fatigued; this will just cause further problems down the line, which will generally take longer to resolve.
· Marathon training and running the race itself requires mental resilience. It’s important to realise from the start that this wonderful experience will be demanding and will challenge you both physically and mentally, but with smart training it will improve your mental resilience and enrich your life.
· Preparing for and running a successful marathon is a result of the sum of the parts. There are a number of elements that make a good endurance runner and whilst the long run is important, it is just one element of your training week. You also need to have good speed endurance, strength endurance, good general body condition and mobility; all of these elements will be essential to achieve your marathon goals.
· It’s important to understand what you’re trying to achieve every time you put on your running shoes. Training is just training. Harder training isn’t better. The aim is effective and consistent training that your body can cope with and adapt to become better.
· Your training needs to be balanced with non-impact activities such as swimming, cycling, rowing or Yoga/Pilates to help you avoid injury. Aim to work a variety of muscle groups, not just your legs. Cross training and body conditioning is absolutely essential for any marathon challenge so don’t think that more running is necessarily better.
· Injury prevention is much better than Injury rehabilitation! Take time to work on your conditioning, core strength, mobility and stretching and using your foam roller.
· If you start to feel run down or under the weather during training, take a day off. It’s better to miss one day now than a week or more later down the line. One day off will not affect your end goal.
Running a marathon is a real challenge that requires commitment, determination, focus and resilience. It’s a wonderful challenge but if you give it the respect it deserves and make time to train correctly and diligently, then you’ll have a wonderful experience, one that will you’ll remember forever.