We’ve all heard about people running marathons with little or no preparation, but most had an active life or previous fitness or running experience, giving them good cardiovascular fitness. Most health issues during marathons are caused by cardiac problems, so look after your heart by preparing properly.
Don’t kid yourself you can prepare properly in the month before if you’re usually a couch potato. You need to start building fitness levels and distance running experience months beforehand.
Hydrate Yourself BEFORE Running Exercise
Most of us only reach for our water bottle once we’ve begun to work up a sweat. But you’ll perform better if you’re well hydrated before exercise. Top up little and often when doing a long run, as over-hydration can cause problems too, and choose isotonic sports drinks to replace minerals and carbohydrates lost when you sweat.
Don’t Neglect Your Muscles And Tendons
Your heart isn’t the only muscle that works hard during a marathon. Ensure other muscles get a work-out too, otherwise you risk injury. Always warm-up before exercise by performing simple stretches, followed by exercises to raise your heart rate e.g. star jumps. Lunges and squats will tone leg muscle while planks will tone your core.
Combine speed runs, steady runs and hill runs to increase flexibility, lung capacity, muscle tone and stamina.
Build Up Gradually
Plan to gradually increase the frequency, length and intensity of your runs and always factor in at least one rest day a week, and easy days, to allow your body recovery time. It’s not necessary to do a test-run of 26 miles, but ensure you’ve done a few runs of more than 18 miles.
Good Nutrition Is Key
Eat plenty of lean protein to keep muscles in top shape, and complex carbohydrates for fuel. Eating a healthy meal shortly after a run will replace lost nutrients and help you resist refuelling on unhealthy snacks.
Don’t Ignore Injury
Ice any injury as soon as possible and ensure you take at least one rest day to recover – more if you’re still in pain.
Taper Off Your Training Before The Big Day
To ensure you’re fresh for the race, reduce the length and intensity of your runs in the fortnight before the marathon. Follow a fitness routine that will maintain your flexibility and muscle tone. Avoid any new forms of exercise (and new running shoes) at this stage, as you don’t want to risk injuries or strains.