Training for a marathon requires focus and consistency. You will put the body thru' a series of physiological changes by providing stimuli and eventually reach a different level of fitness by a process called 'adaptation'. The beginner needs to note that the entire process involves addressing the following aspects;
Dynamic warm up / Aerobic runs / Strength training / Core training / Nutrition / Hydration / Static Stretching
Training plans range from 12 to 20 weeks depending on the goal of doing a 10K or Half Marathon. Attempting the full marathon requires that you have at least 3 – 4 half marathons under your belt.
The first thing you need to do is start out with runs that are 'time based' ie go for a 30 min or 45 min run etc. Make sure you increase your weekly mileage progressively. If you have been running about 10km per week, increase it by 10% every third week. Do a long run every third week so your body can adjust gradually to long distances. In the intervening weeks scale back your long runs so as not to overtax your body and risk injury. All of these runs should be done at a relaxed or ‘conversational’ Pace. What to eat, and what to avoid?
Nutrition is vital for good performance. Any training needs to be accompanied by a balanced diet comprising carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats for it to show effective results. Foods like whole grains, eggs, chicken, yoghurt, almonds, bananas, sweet potatoes; salmon, leafy greens, cottage cheese, soya, etc. are beneficial for runners. Avoid extra consumption of sugar or fatty foods. It is a good idea to eat a small and easily digestible snack about an hour before your workout. On completion of the workout, it is essential to hydrate immediately and eat a small carbohydrate protein snack within one hour of finishing the workout to ensure rapid recovery of muscles.
Ensure that you hydrate adequately with plain water as well as electrolytes so as to replace the loss of salt from sweat. Hydration is essential before, during and after workouts. The best way to check your status of hydration is to ensure that the colour of urine is lemon yellow instead of apple.
Runners should get used to the food they plan to eat or drink on the race day during their training itself. If you are drinking an energy drink during your training then stick to it and do not try anything new on the race day. Rest and recovery
Adequate rest helps prevent injuries and mental burnout. Do not run on your rest day, let your muscles recover from workouts and help prevent mental burnout. An injury is the greatest enemy of any aspiring marathoners, and the best shield against injury is rest.
One can opt for cross-training on rest days. Cross-training can include walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, yoga, lifting weights, or any other active pursuit that isn't as high-impact as running.
Having the right running gear is crucial for every individual, as it can significantly impact one's performance. Good choices are Dri-Fit Tee and a pair of shoes from a well-known brand. Ensure you replace shoes once you have logged a year of running in them.
A day or two before your race include more of carbohydrates in your diet. In the immediate moments after your finish, drink several cups of water or sports drink to nourish your tired muscles. Walk a little, if you can, to cool down. Do gentle stretching after about 30 mins. Eat some simple carbohydrates so that the sugar is rapidly absorbed by the digestive system. Take at least a week off after your race before resuming any kind of regular running schedule, and even then take your time easing back into distance and frequency.