How to train for a marathon as a beginner

How to train for a marathon as a beginner, written by Eimear McHugh, Club Vitae Sligo.

Thinking of running your first marathon? Your timing couldn’t be better! Why not take a step out of your comfort zone, pound the pavements and sign up for your first marathon.

  1. Believe

The first step to everything in life is to believe. Believe you can achieve and you will be successful in everything you put your mind to. Don’t forget, the oldest marathon runner in the world only took up running aged 89 and completed his last one aged 102, now that is impressive.

  1. Establish a routine

Life can be chaotic at the best of times. We’re running and racing everywhere, from working a full-time job to being a full-time parent, work colleague or friend. However, it is vital to put time aside for you. Focus on yourself. It is natural to be full of enthusiasm the first week of a new training plan however, this is not always sustainable. Jumping into a new fitness regime that’s a lot more than you’re able to do, is difficult to maintain and can result in an injury. That is why it is VITAL to establish a time that suits your schedule. Make your training sustainable in your everyday life. Set aside an hour a day for your training that suits you. It’s irrelevant if you train at 5am in the morning or 10pm at night, just remember to be safe and be seen.

  1. Grab a buddy

Training with other people makes it easier and more enjoyable. Not only will you have the craic, share experiences and milestones but you’re less likely to skip training. On the days where it’s not so easy to get out of bed, lace your shoes and clock up the miles. Your training buddy will give you that motivational push you need.

  1. Increasing running endurance

For a first-time marathon runner, with little previous running experience, finishing times and speed are irrelevant for now.  The goal is to reach that finish line. Training for a marathon takes time and dedication to complete and you should be sure to assess whether you are truly ready before jumping in. There is no ‘easy’ way to run a marathon. Giving yourself enough training time before the race is vital to crossing the finish line. Beginner programmes range from 16-24 weeks depending on initial level of fitness and running experience.  Increasing running volume each week is key to crossing that finish line. Training programmes should incorporate at least 1 long run and 3 easy runs into your training schedule each week. The distance of your long run should increase over the weeks of training. The easy runs add mileage to your legs increasing your overall volume of training each week. If you need help with regards to your training plan, why not talk to your local Club Vitae instructor who would be more than happy to help you out.

  1. Rest

One massive trap people fall into is overtraining. You need to visualise your rest day as your body’s day to recharge. Rest days are crucial after long run days to rebuild the stressed and torn muscle fibres. Without rest days, you go into another week of training, with an exhausted body leading to ultimately one thing, injury! Your body won’t thank you for pushing through the pain. Train smart, not hard. Listen to your body. Take your day off and start clocking up the miles tomorrow.

  1. Hydration

Water accounts for 60% of your body weight so staying hydrated is essential when training and running a marathon. Drinking water not only helps to regulate body temperature, but it also maximises blood volume to enhance cardiovascular function. Staying hydrated through drinking water and electrolytes will reduce fatigue optimising performance.  The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggest that fluid intake is 3.7 litres for men and 2.7 litres of fluids a day for women. Majority of this fluid intake will be sourced from water. It is also important to remember that when running the body could lose fluids up to 0.5-1.5L per hour through sweat, therefore it is key to replenish this source and rehydrate after training and running.

  1. Fuel your body

Increasing levels of running volume means it is crucial to fuel your body correctly. For endurance training, carbohydrates are the key to success.  A simple yet extremely effective example of a pre-run meal would be something like porridge with some fruit and nuts or wholegrain toast with some peanut butter and banana. Meals with high levels of complex carbohydrates are great because they take longer to digest and produce a longer lasting elevation in energy source to the body more effectively than simple carbohydrates.

  1. Enjoy it.

Make training fun and do it your way. Perhaps you enjoy running solo or running with friends and grabbing a coffee after. As mentioned at the start, it’s irrelevant. The principals of training are all the same. Timing and location are immaterial. Enjoy the process and you will cross that finish line.