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Healthy Running and Training for a Race

Whether you strive to race in a marathon or you just want to love a quick run to get your cardio in a few times a week, there is a proper way to train and a healthy way to run to ensure you are taking care of your body. When it comes to running, taking the right training approach from the beginning is always ideal. If you are looking to live a healthier lifestyle and see running as a great way of getting fit and losing some weight, consider the guide below on how to work your way up to running longer distances without straining your body. Your legs will get tired, and you might feel you want to give up at times, but trust us it will all pay off once you cross that finish line, even if it is your own personal finish line goal. Whether you run 1 mile or 26, this guide will help you learn healthy habits to keep yourself motivated. 

Getting Started

Be aware of your limits. Your daily jogs are far different than training for a marathon. Training for a race, especially the longer distance races like a marathon makes you more prone to injuries and burnout. This is why you should consult your physical therapist before you begin your training. Give us a call to book your appointment. 

Start small: Try and run a few short races, before you decide to take on a 20-mile marathon. Do a 5k or a 10k, see what works for you and it’s a great way to prepare physically and mentally. 

Start early (if training for a marathon): Depending on your current health and endurance level, the earlier you start training, the better. More advanced runners can start about 3-4 months before the marathon, while runners new to long distances should ideally start training more than 6 months out. Try and run 20-30miles on a weekly basis and commit to training for your marathon. Running consistent mileage for at least a year will help you be even more prepared. One of the most common injuries is building up this mileage too soon, so try and take your time. Patience and practice are key. 

Choosing your Race

There are many different races, some are quiet and low-key, others are a great manifestation for both the spectators and runners. You can run a race with a small group of people or you can run a marathon with thousands and thousands of people. Our recommendation is that you do what you feel fits you most, figure out what your preferences are, run a few shorter races before you decide what you like, or cheer on a friend, maybe even volunteer at a marathon. 

The Building Blocks of your Marathon Training

Some of the primary elements of training for a marathon are as follows:

Base mileage. You must build up your mileage over time, this is why you should be running 3 to five times a week and make sure to be disciplined.

The long run. Make sure to do a long run every week and a half, this will help your body adjust to long distances. 

Speed work. In order to increase your cardio capacity, practice through intervals and tempo runs. 

Rest and recovery. Take time to rest, this prevents you from getting injured and having burnout.

Base Mileage

You should be planning to run a marathon about 12-20 weeks before. Building up weekly milage is important over the course of four months leading up to the marathon. A good 3 to 5 runs per week should help create this base mileage. Don’t rush make sure this is at a relaxed pace. You should be running slow enough to be able to have a conversation. Don’t be out of breath. When you are building good base mileage, don’t force yourself too much, try and increase it by 10% at most week by week. 

The Long Run

Once you build up your base mileage, extend it to a weekly long run. This should be done every seven to ten days make sure you try and extend your long run by a mile every week. Here comes the most important part, don’t overdo it, scale it back a few miles every three weeks, this will help prevent you from getting an injury. For example, if you are going on a 13-mile run, then a 14-mile run, scale it back to 12 before moving up to a 15-mile run. By doing this you build up confidence and make sure to run slow pace. This will let your body adjust to longer distances and will teach you to burn fuel and fat. During these long runs, you will figure out whether or not you are wearing the right sneakers. Try finding the right sneakers and get used to them before the Raceday.

Max distance: When you train long enough your body takes advantage of your peak shape, a long run of 20 miles is usually where every marathoner peaks when training. The last 6 miles are all about how you train your body, make sure to get some rest before the race and stay healthy.

Speed Work

This is optional, you can incorporate this into your training program. This can help increase your aerobic capabilities and make your running feel easy. The most popular forms of speed work are intervals and tempo runs. 

Intervals. This means you run at a faster pace with some recovery jogs in between. It’s a set of repetitions. You can run 1 mile, 4 times at a hard pace with some 5 minutes of jogging slowly in between. 

Tempo runs. These are longer than intervals, usually 4-10 miles. Tempo runs require you to run at a challenging but sustainable pace. By doing these runs you are teaching your body to sustain some challenging work over a longer distance and time. Allow your body to warm up and cool down, don’t force anything. 

Rest and Recovery

Rest days are just as important as training days. Resting helps your muscles to recover and it also prevents burnout. Injuries can often happen when training. If you push yourself too hard you can easily get injured, so make sure to rest. Sometimes you get into a pattern of still needing to be active in some way, go for a walk or do some cross-training. Hiking, cycling, swimming and yoga are all great ways to stay active and in shape, just don’t do anything high impact such as running. 

Tapering: Here is a great tip, make sure to scale back your mileage by a lot a few weeks before the marathon, you might think you won’t be in shape but muscle memory will surprise you. Let your body rest up and gain some more energy.

Hydration and fuelling when on the run

How to hydrate your body

Of course, you know you must drink lots of water and stay hydrated. You have probably seen water and aid stations if you’ve even been to a marathon or have seen it on television. If you plan on bringing some water with you to a marathon, don’t bring a water bottle. Buy a hydration pack or a belt. Make sure to get used to it and figure out what works best for you when running. When training you will be doing long runs without any aid stations along the way, so try not to rely on that factor. Carry your own water or plot a long circle run, so you can stash water and refill in the same spot all the time. You can also plan a route to pass water fountains or just stash your water on the route as you please the day before training.

How to fuel your body

Here is something important you should know, your body can only store so much glycogen (the primary source of energy used during a marathon). As you run longer, the level of glycogen depletes and your muscles start to feel tired and heavy. You have probably heard of this phenomenon. Many marathoners experience this when hitting the 20-mile mark. This is called “bonking” or “hitting a wall” You must be able to push through it. This can be done by consuming small amounts of carbohydrates. Chews and energy gels are the easiest to carry around as well as to digest. Don’t worry if you are not a fan of there you can always eat some fruit or an energy bar. Aim to take about 60 grams of carbohydrates for every 2 hours you spend running. Before you go do your marathon, try out various types of fuel, see what works best for you and what your stomach tolerates the most. 

Tips for the day of the race

Try to have a positive mindset on race day. Don’t try anything new, especially shoes. Make sure not to drink too much coffee, hydrate. All those training runs have prepared you for this moment, make sure you are comfortable and confident. 

Before the Race

During the Race

How to recover from a race?

Race day: 

On the day of the race, after you cross that finish line makes sure to drink several cups of water or a sports drink, this will nourish your muscles. Let the muscles cool down by walking around a bit, gently stretching. Make sure to eat some carbohydrates even if you are not hungry. 

After race day

Don’t be in a rush to return to your regular running schedule, give your body some time to recover and rest. Feel free to take at least a week off. Eat balanced meals, drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep, this will help nourish your immune system. When easing back into your running schedule, take time to build up your distance and frequency again, your immune system is very vulnerable after a marathon. Make sure to come and schedule a visit with a physical therapist, they can help you in this recovery period. 

published on Sunday, April 10th, 2022