So you have made the biggest first step of all and decided to run a marathon! Training for and actually running a marathon sounds uncomfortable; however, there are many things that one can do to make the entire experience more enjoyable and much more comfortable, physically and mentally. Below are five steps to help you properly prepare for your marathon.
1) Time Period—Give yourself the recommended four months to fully train for your marathon. Four-month training schedules are available online or through the New York Road Runners.
2) Train Solo or with a Group?—Both ways can work, but training with a group usually provides more motivation than solo training. Local running groups are available all over the city (some great ones are Niketown’s free training program www.nike.com and NYRR classes www.nyrr.org). Even if the bulk of your training is done on your own, it’s nice to have a knowledgeable group that you can go to with questions or concerns during your training season.
3) Apparel & Accessories—It’s good to wear DriFit clothing (t-shirts, shorts, spandex pants, and socks) because these items quickly wick away sweat and will not chaff your body as much as normal cotton does. DriFit clothing is also much more breathable than cotton. Little things like sunglasses and a visor can vastly improve your comfort level during a run in the heat. Wearing a heart rate monitor is a great way to make sure that you’re maintaining a good pace or can help you identify when you are running at too low an intensity level. A GPS watch is also a wonderful but expensive accessory for marathon training. The GPS watch tells you your exact pace per mile as opposed to feeling your pace per mile by using the heart rate monitor.
4) Treadmill, Track or Road?—All three will still get you to the start and finish of your marathon; however, each surface does different things to your body so it is best to juggle them around and not stick to just one surface. Treadmill and track (and gravel) surfaces put less pressure on your joints so it is always a good idea to do part or all of your longer runs on those surfaces. Treadmills and tracks can get very boring, though, so throw in some gravel surfaces occasionally and that should fight some of the boredom and still keep your hip, knee and ankle joints from flaring up and risking injury. Sidewalks and roads are the most common marathon training surfaces but can also do the most damage because there is very little “give” when your feet hit the ground and the impact can rattle your hip, knee and ankle joints, causing inflammation and pain. Varying your surface is the best way to ensure minimal joint issues. Finally, always use caution when running on any surface (run against traffic when running straight and run with traffic when coming upon sharp curves).
5) Ice baths (Cryotherapy or “Cold Therapy”)-–Yes, they feel as bad as they sound…but only for a quick two minutes and then you can expect your lower body to go numb! Ice baths are recommended after your longer training runs. Ice baths constrict blood vessels and decrease metabolic activity; thus, swelling and tissue breakdown is reduced. Once your 8 to10 minute (but no longer than 10 minutes) ice bath ends, faster blood flow occurs throughout your lower half. Essentially, you are dealing with inflammation and ridding your body of toxins at the same time. Your body will thank you! Ice baths are a marathon runner’s insurance: they keep injury at bay.
George Guerin is a personal trainer whose client list includes some of New York’s best toned bodies. His website is www.pptswellness.com.