In order to start training for a marathon, you need to evaluate where you stand in regard to your health, your fitness level, and your goals. You do not need to be able to run the full marathon when you first start out in a training program. You don’t even need to be able to run two miles without breathing hard. You can start training at any fitness level. But, you do need to know where you are starting to be able to create a plan that works for you.
First of all, everyone recommends that you visit your doctor before starting an exercise program. I definitely can not say anything against that. Your doctor will probably ask questions about your current activity level, see if you have any current health issues, and ask about your diet. Everything that follows will assume that your doctor gives you the go-ahead on your exercise plan. Do you have any health issues that would cause concern when you think about elevated heart and breathing rates, or hours of pounding on the road or trail? Address those issues first. There are not many health issues that improve when you first start a marathon training program. Think about your weight. The forces on your joints are multiplied when you run in comparison to walking. Every extra pound you have is extra force on your feet, ankles, knees and hips. Now this is not to say you should not start running until you achieve your ideal weight! By all means get out and start exercising. But try to implement a healthy diet simultaneously, and look into a weight loss program in the beginning if you need it. I started out 40lbs overweight, lost 20 by dieting and then started running and lost 20 more. I will go into diet and weight loss in more detail in a later post, but for now remember that every pound you loose helps a lot in your training and in running your marathon.
Think about your activity level. Do you sit at a desk all day, drive home, and sit on the couch in the evening? Do you have any exercise built in to your daily schedule like walking, running, biking, or weight lifting? It can help to think of it in terms of hours per week. Every bit of activity helps your basic fitness level. If you are just getting started, you will need to plan on starting at the very beginning, and slowly work your way up to marathon distances. If you are reasonably fit, you will be able to start a little further along on the training plan.
Why do you want to train for a marathon and run a marathon? Think about it. Training for a marathon is not easy. Hours of running every week, miles and miles and miles passing underneath your feet. You need to have a clear goal and strong motivation to push through the difficult miles, the days where you think ‘I just want to sleep two extra hours instead of going running. I can run tomorrow…’, the days where you step out of bed and your leg cramps, or you limp your way around work all morning because you went on a long run the day before. Yes, training for a marathon can be that hard, but it can also be so much more rewarding. With a marathon training plan in place, every training day, every week end, every distance increase, every speed increase is a personal achievement that you accomplished under your own strength and will power! It is a very rewarding feeling to reflect back on your progress as you train (this is one reason why it is a great idea to keep a training log). So, why do you want to run a marathon?
- Pick a run date
It is very important to have selected a race date when you begin your training. This is connected with the points in the goals section. Nothing helps you stay on track like a firm deadline. There are quite literally a bazillion organized marathon events at all times of the year (and day), in all places, all types of terrain, and all types of weather. Pick one. They are all the same length. Hills change things a little, but that only means that you need to incorporate extra hill training. If you like running in cooler weather, pick an event late or early in the year. You may have noticed I said ‘run date’ instead of ‘race’. Maybe you like running by yourself and have the motivation to run a marathon on your own. It is certainly possible. In later posts I’ll go into more detail on selecting a marathon to run, but you really don’t need to wait for me in order to get started.
- Write a plan
Any project manager will tell you that you cant successfully complete a project without a plan. People’s whole careers are based on planning. This site will help you with that critical step, and in later posts I will go into more detail. For now, you can expect to spend an increasing amount of time running: from just a couple hours per week in the beginning, to several hours per week at the end.
- Go running
Now that I have covered the general aspects of starting your own marathon training program, you hopefully have an idea of what you need to do to get started training for your marathon: get your health check from the doctor, evaluate your own health, fitness and goals, pick a run date, and think about a plan. All that remains is to get out and run! So go get started and join me again soon at How to Begin Training for a Marathon as I go into more details on training and running your first, or hundred-and-first, marathon.
Katie Smith is the enthusiastic woman. She loves writing about health and lifestyle on Reviewmoon.