Monday, December 19, 2016

Marathon Training: The Long and Short of It

I will have officially been a runner for 5 years as of the beginning of January, 2017... on almost the exact day of my first full marathon!!  While I struggled to run a single mile without feeling like I was going to die when I started, somewhere along the line I decided that running a marathon was a good idea.  I actually tried to train for my first full last year but unfortunately, life got in the way and I only made it halfway before I had to drop out.  As disappointing as that experience was, I know that finishing my first marathon this year will be that much sweeter.  Kind of like when a circus performer falls during a trick and then gets back up and succeeds the second time and the audience goes completely wild... yeah, I think it's gonna feel just like that. :)

I started training for my full this year in July and I have stuck religiously to my training plan.  This past weekend, I ran 22 miles on my long run... my longest run ever!  And by some miracle, I actually felt pretty good afterwards instead of being sore, tired, and lethargic for a couple of days like I did during training last year.  Now it's taper time and with my 26.2 coming up in less than 3 weeks, I thought I'd share a few of the most important points I figured out along the way for full marathon training.  Hopefully they'll help you land your circus trick the first time!

Motivation, Motivation, Motivation:
The first and most important tip I can think of is to find motivation for your training!  If you don't have a reason to train, you may end up quitting or giving it less than your best effort.  The motivation for my first full was two-fold.  First, it was to sign up for the Disney World Marathon.  I've always been a huge Disney fan so the idea of running through all four Disney parks was all the motivation I needed to get started.  Second, I am running in a charity spot for Kellsie's Hope Foundation.  Raising money for kids with cancer and promising friends and family that I would run in honor of those who can't has helped me through my fair share of tough training runs, especially when the temperatures dipped well below freezing and all I wanted to do was hide under my covers until Spring!

Fueling and Hydration:
What you eat and drink can be almost as important as how you run each week.  Don't believe me?  Try eating lemon-herb chicken with mashed potatoes and cherry cheesecake with a Coke during girl's night at the Cheesecake Factory and then run a 10 miler the next morning and see how you feel.  Trust me... it's rough!  I haven't followed any particular diet or nutrition plan during my training other than to eat mostly clean and limit junk food, but the following system seems to work well for me:

-The day before longer runs or races, I always eat plenty of carbs with some protein (like pasta with tomato sauce and chicken) and drink lots of water.  I also drink nuun All Day each morning for vitamins and hydration.

-About an hour before my run, I like to eat plain oatmeal with a pinch of brown sugar, raisins, walnuts, and a sprinkle of cinnamon plus half a banana.  If I'm planning to run longer than 13 miles, I also eat half a bagel with peanut butter.  I sip water and nuun All Day throughout the morning before my run.

-During my run, I eat 2-3 ShotBlox (my stomach can't handle gels!) about every 5 miles.  After 15 miles, I also eat a few bites of a banana and maybe some gummy bears or a couple of dates or pretzels every few miles.  I sip water and nuun Active throughout the entire run.  I absolutely love nuun!  It's like Gatorade but with only the good stuff and none of the junk.

-After my run/race, I drink more water and nuun and eat half a banana.  If I feel like I need it, I also eat the other half of my bagel at this point.  If you're like me, you're basically a ravenous animal the rest of the day after a super-long run so go ahead and replenish those calories, but try not to over-do it!

Long Runs vs Short Runs:
I learned the hard way that while your long runs are certainly the most important, your shorter runs in between are necessary and important too.  Last year, I hardly ever ran during the week thanks to a hectic work schedule and shorter amounts of daylight as my marathon drew nearer.  My long runs on weekends got tougher and tougher without those other runs in between.  This year, I ran every single run each week no matter how short or insignificant it seemed at the time.  It made a huge difference in my long-run endurance and ease.  Every run is important... make sure you give your short runs some love too and enjoy them!  Some of my late afternoon/early evening short runs after work have provided some major stress relief and crazy beautiful views!

The 'Other' Days:
While your running days are essential, the other days of the week are paramount as well.  Here's how the breakdown works for me:

Running- I typically run 4 days per week.  Saturdays are my longest run, Sunday is a short recovery run, Tuesday is a working run day (Fartleks, speed intervals, hills, etc), and Thursday is a shorter, steady run.

Cross training- I try to cross train (swimming, biking, or walking) at least once per week on Wednesdays or Sundays but if I'm being completely honest, this doesn't always happen for me.  Swimming is my favorite since it's so low impact and completely different from running.  

Rest Days- I'll admit, Mondays and Fridays are sometimes tough for me since they are rest days.  I know it seems counter-intuitive, but I don't like sitting very much and I sometimes feel like I'm being lazy on these days.  However, I also know my body well enough to accept that it needs to rest a couple of days per week in order to perform its best.

Recovery- At least once per week, usually Sundays, I do a recovery routine.  I warm up with a quick jog or walk, do yoga stretches for 20 minutes, foam roll for at least 20 minutes, and then finish up with a hot Epsom salt and baking soda bath.  My foam roller and I have a love-hate relationship but dang, it really helps and my body is basically jelly after that bath!

Well that'll about do it for my top marathon training tips.  Keep in mind that these are based on my own personal experience and that every body is different and what works for me may not work for you, or anyone else for that matter.  Good luck landing your perfect circus trick and happy running!!

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