Let’s take it from the top.
You’re currently unfit, you haven’t ran in a while but you’re thinking about starting up the engine again and logging a few miles. The first thing you need is to make sure you’re physically ready for the challenge.
This is the perfect time for a disclaimer. Each individual considering taking up any kind of fitness activity should consult a doctor or health specialist BEFORE starting the training plan. Don’t overlook this part, heading into running without any kind of preparation can and most likely will injure you.
This guide serves as an outline for what you should expect when training for a marathon and is intended for individuals who can already perform some kind of exercise without any serious aches or pains.
As a renowned couch potato, let me start this guide with some good news: no, you don’t have to quit Netflix! Netflix was actually my best friend when I was trying to increase my mileage. More on this later on the recovery section.
NUTRITION AND HYDRATION
This is where the real work starts – you’ll need to start consuming more water and paying more attention to your nutrition. Here are some basic nutrition tips for runners:
Regarding nutrition, your goal is simply to eat a generally healthy and varied diet. Regarding vitamins and nutrients, eating whole foods is the best way to go. Only use supplements if you can’t get those nutrients from another source.
I've dedicated a whole article to this subject - click here to read it.
FINDING A GOOD SHOE
Although overlooked, this step can really make your transition from the couch to the asphalt a whole lot easier. If you’re strapped for cash you can use your old sneakers that you may have lying around the house but try to invest in a good pair of running shoes as soon as possible, the difference it makes is astounding!
If you’re on the market for a good shoe, there are many things to consider, such as:
I’ve written an in-depth guide on how you can choose the right running shoe for you – click here to read it.
TRAINING AND RACING
Training for a race doesn’t have to be complicated, especially when you’re just starting out. You don’t need to worry about speed or any of the fancy running terms like cadence, fartlek or intervals. Training is simple as long as you respect one key principle – the principle of progression.
Google Dictionary defines progression as “the process of developing or moving gradually towards a more advanced state”. This means that you need to start off with a short distance and slowly work your way up, slowly build up your endurance and slowly increase your total mileage.
How do we do this?
By using the 10 percent rule.
The 10% rule is used by many running coaches around the world and it dictates that a runner should only increase his or hers total weekly mileage by a maximum of 10%. A 10% increase per week is safe and ensures you steer clear of injury from increasing your mileage too quickly.
Continuing the driving metaphor, it’s important to press on the brakes every once in a while and allow your body to recover from the constant increase in distance. To do this, I use an ‘adaptation week’ with the runners I coach. An adaptation week is simply repeating the 3rd week of the month on the 4th week of the month.
That means that at least one week per month you will repeat what you did the week before. This allows the body to relax and get used to the current mileage before pushing again.
You should also take a recovery week every 5/6 weeks. A recovery week is where you reduce the total mileage to allow the body to take a step back, fully recover and regain strength to push you further for the next weeks of training.
When you’ve mastered the principle of progression (which requires patience), you’re ready for a lifetime of healthy running and many personal bests. Now you can finally start thinking about racing.
I approach racing the same way I approach training. PROGRESSIVELY.
A 5K race is pretty easy to endure without much preparation but if you’re heading into a marathon without ever having ran a half-marathon (not even in training) you’re in for a world of hurt!
Take the time to do things properly and follow this progression in races:
5K -> 10K -> 21KM -> 42KM
Don’t skip any of these and you’ll be fine. Remember the progression principle, be patient and increase your training AND racing distance progressively.
If you’re looking for training plans, I have published a few:
I have not released a marathon training plan (yet) but I can vouch for this one from Runner’s World:
Side note: In my training plans you will always run the full race distance in training before the actual race day. I believe this is crucial because it’s important to know what you’re going up against and what you will face during the race in order to be fully prepared physically and psychologically.
Remember when I said you didn’t have to quit Netflix? I meant it!
Ask a group of runners if they stretch and most likely only two or three will raise their hand. However, what if we switch up the stretching routine?
Stretching doesn’t HAVE to be done right after running – many athletes I know actually prefer to stretch the day AFTER a race or long run because they say their calves are too tight and rigid on the day they ran.
Stretching can be done at any time and my favorite time to do it is after eating dinner, while watching Netflix! When I was trying to increase my mileage my goal was to stretch for the full duration of a Brooklyn 99 episode (around 20 minutes per episode) every night! If I’m really into it then I might prolong that and do two straight episodes. This is a great way, at least for me, to be entertained while doing one of the most tedious parts of running – stretching.
Once you start collecting beautiful medals as an award for finishing a race, you need a place to keep all your race results organised, upload your images, official finish times and relive your race memories! Say no more, RunPage has your back! Creating a RunPage is as easy as 1, 2, 3 and sharing races to your social media is even easier! Click here to start building your Runner Profile.
I believe I have fully covered everything you should expect on your journey to running a full marathon and you should now be fully equipped to tackle this monstrous feat! Just be sure to remember the keyword for this article – progression. This principle will keep you healthy and running for many years to come.
About the Author