If you’re thinking about training for a marathon, you have plenty of company. An estimated 500,000 Americans go the distance each year.
What makes running 26 miles and 385 yards so popular? Maybe it’s proving that you have ample self-discipline or hearing a crowd cheer for you as you cross the finish line. On the other hand, it’s a major investment of time and effort.
Before you start training, learn how to stay safe and maximize your performance.
Training Tips for Protecting Your Safety
Long distance running puts a great deal of strain on your body. Some studies have found that more than 50% of marathoners experience running injuries each year. It’s also important to stay alert anytime you exercise outdoors.
Use these tips to stay safe and help prevent injuries:
- Assess your readiness. Figure out if you’re ready for a marathon. Many experts suggest that you need to be running for at least a year and try at least one 5K race first.
- Talk with your doctor. Discuss any health concerns with your physician. They may advise against running if you have stress fractures or symptoms like recent chest pain.
- Watch your weight. You may be surprised to learn that most marathoners do not lose weight. You’re likely to eat more while you’re training, so you’ll probably want to diet first if you have excess pounds to shed.
- Stay hydrated. Failing to drink enough water or sports drinks is one of the most common mistakes runners make. Plan on consuming lots of fluids throughout the day of your race.
- Run with others. If you train in parks or other public areas, invite a buddy along. You’ll reduce your risk of becoming a crime victim, and you can help each other receive any necessary medical attention more quickly.
- Face the traffic. Prevent accidents by running in the opposite direction of traffic. You’ll have more time to avoid hazards like distracted drivers.
Training Tips for Boosting Your Performance
Even if you’re racing just for fun or your own satisfaction, this is your opportunity to shine. Knowing how to train effectively will help you finish faster.
Try these strategies to boost your performance:
- Take time off. You probably know that adequate recovery time helps your body to heal, but it also increases your speed. Research shows that many marathoners improve their time when they cut back to 3 or 4 days of training each week instead of 5 or more.
- Engage in active rest. What do you do with those extra hours? Swimming or yoga will give you a workout while your running muscles take a break.
- Do long runs. Practice is the only way to get used to long distances. Ensure you can stay on your feet for 3 hours or more, and alternate your long runs with shorter distances or speed work.
- Warm up and cool down. Begin and end your workouts with less demanding activities to prepare your body for what’s ahead and encourage recovery afterwards. Save your stretches for the final moments when your muscles are relaxed.
- Taper off. Spend the last few weeks running shorter distances and resting more. You’ll feel fresher and stronger on the day of your race.
- Consult a trainer. Whether it’s your first marathon or you’re a veteran runner, a personal trainer or sports medicine specialist can help you design a program that will help you reach your personal goals and stay safe. Let your family and friends know how they can support you too.
Running a marathon can be rewarding, but you’ll need to decide if this is the kind of commitment you want to make.
As long as you stay active and take on meaningful challenges, you can consider yourself a winner whether you race for prize money or prefer a gentler workout.