Commentary by Christa Robertson
How to begin.
Regardless of your current level of physical activity, the idea of running a marathon shouldn’t scare you. But it’s a process. The key is to start small and work your way toward endurance very gradually — and by gradually, I mean at least a year or more.
For those who are not so active, it’s a good idea to consult your primary care provider before beginning any new exercise program. Having said that, a good starting point would be to walk 10 to 15 minutes, three days a week. This may take several weeks, but when you do feel energized enough to up your routine, try brisk walking for 30 minutes, five days a week.
The next step is to incorporate running. Combine a walking/running routine for a few more weeks before you increase distance and endurance. Then gradually build up to a weekly long run, from 10 to 15 miles per week at a slower pace that lets your body adjust. On rest days, keep moving, whether it’s a casual walk, swim, or bike ride. Endurance is about building distance rather than speed, and eventually you could be running 20 or so miles per week.
The right shoes.
Yes, you really need to invest in proper running shoes. Consultants at a specialty running store, such as BlueMile, will put you on a treadmill to analyze your gait and stride to recommend the best shoe for you. No matter where you shop, expect to invest at least $100 in a pair of shoes, and replace them as soon as the tread shows signs of wear.
One more note: don’t buy brand new shoes for race day. Wear the type and brand of shoes you trained in, and break them in a few weeks beforehand.
Train for the marathon you’ll be running.
An important part of preparation is deciding on what marathon you’ll run. Consider the course: is it smooth and even or hilly and rough terrain? Will you be traveling to a location that is a change in altitude? Whatever your choice, you should work these factors into your training program.
Also consider starting out with smaller races, such as 5k or 10k. You may find they can be a fun way of building up endurance for a full marathon.
Don’t forget to replenish.
Refueling and hydration are essential to any endurance workout. Make sure that you drink plenty of water and eat carbs and protein leading up to race day. However, don’t do anything you wouldn’t normally do; for instance, don’t have three cups of coffee on race day when you would typically have only one.
For full marathons, you should take a water bottle with you (you can find carrying belts at athletic stores) that’s filled with an electrolyte supplement, such as Gatorade. After your race, make sure to rehydrate and replenish with fluids, bananas, proteins, and a granola bar.
The finish line.
With the proper preparation, including wellness advice from a primary care provider, almost anyone can participate in a marathon. It takes persistence and commitment, but it is an achievable goal. And you’ll find that the sense of accomplishment is well worth the effort.
Christa Robertson, family nurse practitioner with IU Health Family Medicine – Fishers, explains the importance of proper preparation.