This spring I finished my first half marathon, it was tough but exhilarating. Then even before that race started I had signed up for my first marathon. I had become addicted to the runners high and proving myself wrong with every new milestone.
While talking to friends about my training I realized everyone falls into three categories. The first is people who hate running and think people who like to run are a little crazy and masochistic. Then there are people that love running and have always done it, somehow avoiding injury. Lastly there are those who love to run but there bodies fight them at almost every step. I fall into the later category, never been athletic.
However I have persevered through aches and doubts because I knew I had to run a marathon before I died, it's one of the top 5 things on my bucket list. A lot of wonderful things have happened during my training, I've watched my body become stronger than it ever has and amazed myself with my diligence to the training schedule. But there's been hardship that i've overcome as well. I'm sharing the top tips I've learned through training, hoping it will help any other runners-without-runner's-bodies people acheive their dreams.
- Stretch every freakin' day. This will make a huge different, I always focus on my hips, calves, and hamstrings but as you start to train you will know your problem areas more.
- Strengthen these problem areas, stretching alone won't fight future aches. For most people this is hips, knees and ankles. There's lot of exercises you can find online but if you have the means, a physical therapist is the best source of exercise.
- Don't exert yourself too much during cross training days. I once took a spin class and it depleted all my energy for the next run. These should almost be looked at as "rest days"
- Find ways to create the idea running conditions. For instance I will scout out exciting new running routes to take all week. I'm also constantly looking for new podcasts to binge on my long rungs and I've poured a little bit of money into the cloths I wear. I've found a good jog bra, socks and shoes are the most important to me (Brooks, Brooks and Brooks).
- CARBS are your friend. For any run over 1 hour I carbo load at least a day in advance. I read you shouldn't be taking in that many more calories on these carbo loading days but your meals should consist of about 80-90% carbs. For runs longer than a half marathon I'm carbo loading two days before. Additionally I wake up early on my "long" run days and eat some toast and a banana at least two hours before I start my run. Everyone is different but this has changed my energy levels while I run.
- Refueling during long runs was also a learning curb. I wish there was a healthier snack to have but the only food I've found works for me (digestion wise) is Gu Energy Gels. I also bring a running water bottle and refill every time I see a water fountain.
- Avoiding injury becomes intuitive mostly. It sucks to take a day off and feel like you're halting your training but its so much better to rest a sore ankle then exasperate the injury on a run. I've also found if I'm just feeling over all achy I will cross train instead of going on a planned run, I'm still getting my aerobic exercise but I might avoid fatigue. To avoid any blisters I suggest good socks, perfectly laced shoes and, for women, use Petroleum Jelly under your sports bra (every where your bra touches your body) for long runs.
- Epsum salt baths are essential to recover from a long run. Mostly with the training program I'm using (here) I'm not typically that sore. But every once in a while I will just need a good bath to ease any muscle tension. Soaking in Epsum salts for 20 minutes will change everything
These tips have helped me through one half marathon and halfway through my marathon training (the race is still a month and a half away). I was so nervous to start this training but now that I'm in the thick of it I don't find any length of a run intimidating, all it takes is diligence, intuition and trust in yourself.