by Kathleen Leninger, DPT, from NY CUSTOM PERFORMANCE
Congratulations, you’ve registered for a marathon! Now what? Mileage is certainly an important part of training but there are other important factors to consider when running a marathon.
Here are 10 important factors to consider when running a marathon other than just getting in the miles:
Find the Strength: Runners love to say “I don’t need to strengthen, I run,” but this couldn’t be further from the truth. When training for a marathon, a strong core and hip muscles are vital in maintaining your form throughout your miles. Early on, find out what your weaknesses are, then create a simple and effective strengthening program that will improve your form and endurance.
Quality over Quantity: When picking a training program, sit down and look at your life. You need to consider how much time you have to dedicate to training. A lot of people think more miles is better but that is not necessarily true. You are better off choosing a training program that you will stick to. There are people that train 6 days a week and people that train 3 days a week. It is inevitable that you are going to have to skip a day here or there, but you want to be able to complete the majority of your training. Throwing in a few miles when you don’t have time to stretch or you aren’t feeling good usually ends in an injury. Make your miles count.
Do the Work: Training for a longer race (half-marathon, marathon, ultra etc.) takes more than just a few hours a week. It has to be a lifestyle change. There are many great resources that can be helpful. Books by Jay Dicharry, Jack Daniels, Hal Higdon are considered to be the traditional bibles to running. Learn the difference between a tempo run and speed workouts. You’ll hear a lot of lingo (heart rate zones, VO2 Max), and that is important to understand during training. Podcasts are a great way to learn while you are actually running. Learning about running and training will keep you motivated and pick you up when you reach a training lull (it happens to everyone).
Running Diet: In order improve your performance you have to consider how you are fueling your body. There are plenty of runners in the world that run well and eat whatever they want, but this usually catches up with them one way or another, so take a hard look at your diet and clean it up. Cut out the junk! You may also want to consider consulting with a sports nutritionist who can help you fuel your body properly. Hydration, protein, and carbs are all important factors. If you are planning on running a marathon, you will also need to fuel during the race. You need to practice race fueling before you get to the starting line. Make sure you try variety of foods and times so that you don’t spend your whole race searching for a bathroom.
Sleep: Sleep is the when our muscles do the most recovery and repair. Every day (whether we are running or not) we beat up on our bodies and do not give them enough time to heal. If you are not a good sleeper, work on it. While you are training a good night's sleep is vital. Make sure you put your phone away and turn off the TV before bed, and if you have the opportunity to take a nap, use it!
Mark your calendar: Plan out your year of races. It is best if you are able to make a calendar that you can hang on the fridge or on your mirror. Make it a visual part of your daily routine. Life events and races should all be on display. It is important to incorporate smaller road races into your training for bigger races, especially if you are new to the racing world. Practicing your race day breakfast, getting to the starting line, bathroom runs, and outfits beforehand will help your race day to run more smoothly.
Support: You’re doing something amazing, so brag about yourself! Running is something to be proud of, especially if you are going to be running a marathon. Sharing these experiences with family and friends is a great way to stay accountable and motivated, and you may even inspire people to start running. Another great way to stay motivated is to join a team. NYC is full of big teams and little teams that have great coaches. Most teams have training plans designed around the common races in NYC. Having friends that run keeps the motivation going.
Gear up: Good gear is so important. When you look good, you feel good. Having a good watch, winter gear, and especially shoes makes running more comfortable and can keep you going longer. We recommend switching your shoes every 300-500 miles, and having at least 2 pairs for training. There is also a lot of cool recovery gear, and compression gear that can make you feel better. Having a stretching strap and a good foam roller is very important for recovery. If you are gadget type of person, there are plenty of toys to test out. Try out apps and different programs before you pick which is best for you.
Listen to your body: Your body is your temple. There are going to be weeks when you don't feel like running at all. There are also going to be weeks when you are under the weather but mentally you want to run. When these days happen, it's important to be honest with yourself. If you feel a muscle isn't right, make sure you get it checked out sooner than later. At Custom Performance, we work with runners to get through training season healthily. Running increases the stress on your body and when your immune system is already compromised, this puts your body at risk for more injury. Do not try to "run through" an injury.
Mindset: The power of positive thinking is real. Visualizing success is a great exercise to actually achieving it. There are some great resources in articles, podcasts, and apps to help keep you positive. Visualization is also a great way to manage the stress and anxiety of a big race. Be proud, be humble, and be prepared!
Running is a privilege and being a part of such a historic event such as the NYC Marathon should not be taken lightly.