3 Keys to Successfully Train for a Marathon

By Anna Rose Johnson
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There is nothing more thrilling than crossing the finish line of a long distance race that you’ve been training hard for. Endorphins are pumping, muscles are burning and that “runner’s high” you hear so much about kicks in. But it is a long time coming to this point. You need to properly train to finish a long distance race without seriously injuring yourself. Staying motivated, training safely and maintaining good nutrition are three key steps you must take before crossing that finish line.

Stay Motivated
Running is a mind game. Staying motivated is the key to keep your training consistent and actually completing your race. Whether motivation comes internally or through being accountable to others, do what works best for you.

Set a Goal – To stay motivated, set a goal and stick with it. If you’re new to running, set a mileage goal, slowly increasing in distance. Not only will slowly increasing your mileage give you the coveted “runner’s high,” you will notice a difference in your overall well-being – the best motivation in our opinion.
Heart Rate Monitor Watch – Proper tools like a heart rate monitor watch will keep you on track and motivate you day to day. Most heart rate monitor watches record and track improvement whether on the watch itself or by transferring data to your computer.
Pre-Register – Another great way to stay focused is to register for a marathon or half-marathon three to four months in the future. By financially committing to a race, you are more likely to actually complete it. Having a deadline is always good motivation.
Support System – Support, either from your family or friends lends to encouragement and a return-and-report mentality. This feeling of accountability will help you get out of bed and complete your long training runs. If you aren’t the self-motivated type, train with a friend. Having a training partner will be a second tier of support and motivation.

Safe Training
Running may be one of the best ways to lose weight and get in shape, but it is also hard on your body. By slowly increasing your distance and adding strength training to your routine, you will safely improve and avoid injury.

Training Program – Pick a training program and stick with it. By choosing a training program you will have a calendar-like map of how much to run each day. With each consecutive week your body will become stronger and faster, allowing you to run farther. Our favorite training plan comes from renowned athlete and runner Hal Higdon. His website has training programs for all ability levels for 5K races to marathons.
Overdoing It – It is really easy to burn out if you push yourself too hard while training. Implement a heart rate monitor watch into your routine to track your heart rate during different parts of your run. Each heart rate zone means something different for your body. A heart rate monitor watch will help ensure you stay in the appropriate zone.
Road Running – Training safely also means watching out for your physical well-being. Don’t run in areas where you are putting yourself in danger. If running on the road, run on the side facing traffic so you can see oncoming traffic and avoid being side swiped from behind.
Safety in Numbers – Run defensively whether male or female. Ideally one should be able to run whenever and wherever without worry of harm, but this is not the case. Choose a friend to train with or be sure to tell someone where you will be running and for how long. If possible, avoid running alone at night.

Proper Nutrition
Even if weight loss is an intentional reason for marathon training, proper nutrition is still important. The best heart rate monitor watches on the market will track calories burned during your run so you can stop when you’ve reached your goal amount for the day.

Hydration – It is no surprise that water is a necessary element in any athletic training regimen. The human body is composed of more than 60 percent water with the lungs measuring at 90 percent water. Dehydration is a real and dangerous thing. When running, measure how much water weight you lose. A 1-pound drop means you’ve lost 16 ounces of sweat. Each person’s dehydration rate is different, so to prevent excessive loss, drink according to what your body needs.
Carbohydrates and Proteins – Lately fad diets have deemed carbohydrates “bad” and suggest eliminating them from your diet. For a runner, eliminating carbs is unrealistic and, frankly, not smart. Carbohydrates equal energy – energy you need while running. There is a difference between good and bad carbs, so choose wisely. Examples of good carbohydrates and proteins can be found on the USDA’s website. An appropriate balance of each is crucial to proper nutrition while training and in everyday life.

Training for a marathon or any long distance race is difficult yet rewarding. Crossing that finish line means you have accomplished a goal that was a long time in the making. Train safely by using proper tools like a heart rate monitor watch to track your heart rate, pace and calories burned.

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