Summer is here, and training for fall marathons is in full swing. Half, quarter, and full marathons are all options for people looking for a challenge to meet. Training is vital for a safe and satisfying experience. Here are six tips on how to train safely.

1. Add Distance Gradually

Marathons are a sport unto themselves, with specific training requirements. The four parts of marathon training are Base Mileage, The Long Run, Speed Work, Rest, and Recovery. 

Training for a marathon can take anywhere from 12-20 weeks. It’s a process that should never be rushed. Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need, and consult with a trainer if this is your first race.

 To work on your base mileage:

  1. Run three to five times weekly at an easy pace that allows you to talk.
  2. Calculate your mileage based on what you run weekly, not your mileage per run. You should build up to 50 miles per week over the four months before the race if you’re competing in a full marathon.
  3. Increase your mileage gradually week over week. Add no more than 10 percent to your distance.

For instance, if you ran 10 miles last week, you should run no more than 10.5 miles this week (half a mile is 10% of 10 miles). Building up gradually like this prevents injuries that could set you back or make you miss your race. 

The long run is the day of training every week where you run more miles than you typically do. Plan a long run day every 7 to 10 days and step it up gradually for a few weeks, and then back down to avoid overstraining yourself. This might look like a 10-mile long run this week, an 11-mile next week, a 12-mile the week after, and back to 10 the following week. Most training plans max out at 20-mile-long runs.

2. Work on Your Speed with Interval Training

Speed work is what helps you come in first on race day. There are a couple of things runners can do to build speed. Interval training involves running faster than usual for a short distance, then slowing down for several minutes before picking up speed again. You can work up to tempo runs– longer intervals of fast running. This type of training teaches your body endurance. 

3. Don’t Skip Recovery

Your recovery day (s) are a vital part of your training plan that should never be skipped. On recovery day, you can sit on the couch or do low-impact activities like swimming or yoga. Sometimes runners think they will reach their goals faster if they train instead of rest. The truth is that an overworked body won’t function optimally on race day. You’ll also expose yourself to a higher risk of injury. 

Part of recovery is tapering down before the race. Starting two to three weeks before race day, you should significantly reduce your weekly and long-run mileage and lower the difficulty of your speed training. This allows your body to recover from the rigorous training you’ve put it through to be in peak condition at the starting line. 

4. Choose Your First Marathon Carefully

It’s important to keep your expectations realistic and select a first marathon that will lead to a positive experience. Choosing one that takes place on roads or trails you are familiar with can give you an advantage. You should keep tabs on how your training is going and be honest with yourself and your trainer. There’s no shame in aiming for a half marathon if you feel you won’t be properly trained for the full one you originally planned. It’s better to make adjustments and start small than to overextend yourself and risk injury. You’ll be more likely to run a second marathon if your first is a positive experience. 

5. Gear Up

Contrary to popular thought, studies have shown that marathon runners tend to have better knee health than the overall population. This only applies to runners who train properly and take excellent care of themselves. Marathon training and running can improve your health if done correctly or cause injury and health problems if it’s not. Giving yourself enough time to train and following the tips above are vital for preventing injury and other health concerns. 

As with any sport, the right gear can also prevent injury. Consider having your gait evaluated so you can buy shoes or inserts that correct any gait and foot problems. Look for moisture-wicking socks to prevent blisters, and be sure to compete in the same gear you’ve used to train. These tips will not only keep you comfortable and prevent injury but also improve your performance. 

6. Practice Smart Hydration and Nutrition

Your body will use glycogen as its primary fuel source during your marathon. The body can only store so much glycogen, so you’ll need to replenish your carbohydrates during your run. Doing this properly can keep you from hitting the dreaded “wall” many runners encounter around the 20-mile mark. Energy gels and chews are easy to eat and digest while running, but other quick carbs like energy bars can work too. You’ll need about 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour during your race. Start fueling before the race by eating 300 calories per hour, and have your last snack half an hour before start time. 

Without proper hydration, you won’t be able to keep up your momentum, and you could become dangerously ill. This is true on race day and during your long runs while you train. Every runner has their way of keeping water available while they run. You can try a hydration belt or hide some water bottles in a spot along the route you take for your long run. You should stay hydrated for a few days before the race, hydrate  the morning of your race, and drink while you run. It’s difficult to drink enough water during the run, so hydration before it will help your body last. Use your long runs to learn how much water your body needs. Weigh yourself before and after your run. You need to drink more water if you’ve lost 2% or more of your body weight during your run. 

As with everything else, you should practice using your hydration and fueling strategies before the race and not introduce anything new on race day. 

Sports Medicine for Runners in Houston

At Vanguard Spine & Sport, we provide chiropractic care, injections, and physical therapy for athletes who’ve been injured. We also provide preventative chiropractic care and advice for a healthy, active lifestyle. Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you meet your training goals.