Troy Hoehn, L.A.T., A.T.C.
Orthopedic Surgery, Orthopedics, Sports Medicine
You've thought about it for years. You've dreamed of crossing the finish line. It's on your bucket list or it's become a tradition. You have registered for a marathon or other long-distance race.
Now is the time to pick a training plan to prepare you for your big day. This important first step will depend on your experience and fitness level. It's time to get real and be honest with yourself.
For first-time marathon runners, here are a few things to keep in mind as you evaluate training plans:
First, consider if your body can manage the stress of training for a long-distance race. If you're just getting off the couch and getting involved in a running program, you should meet with your primary care provider to determine if you have the heart and lung capacity to do the activity. You also may need to meet with an allied health care professional, such as a physical therapist or athletic trainer, to see if your body can handle the rigors of long-distance running.
It can take eight to 12 months to go from the couch to full marathon. For some people, it may be a better choice and more realistic goal to plan on a shorter race like a 5K or half-marathon.
If you have run a full marathon before, congratulations. However, you might want to try a different plan this time around for a couple of reasons. Variety can help maintain motivation and if you encountered issues during your previous training or race, it's time to shop around and find a plan that works best for you.
If you have decided to start adding up the miles, it is important to have the right shoes for the job. Evaluate your feet so that you get the right shoe. Do you have flat feet or a high arch? Each foot type requires a different type of shoe to provide support and reduce the risk of injury.
If you're not sure about your foot arch type, dip your foot in water. Then step on a piece of cardboard and examine the footprint that remains. After examining the footprint, use the Determine Your Foot Arch chart.
When you buy shoes is vital. When you first start training, invest in a new pair and do not rely on a pair you have owned for a while. The older pair will break down too quickly and not provide the support your foot needs. For long-distance runners, a good shoe will typically last between 300–500 miles. Some runners make the mistake of buying a new pair of shoes immediately before a race. Make sure to break them in for a few weeks before a race.
Cross-training and recovery
Every running program should have a strength training component. This will reduce the imposed loads on your body and prevent overuse injuries, such as tendonitis and stress fractures.
You also should plan to include a recovery plan or build in rest days so your body has time to rebuild before placing additional demands on it. Quality plans also include nutrition and hydration recommendations as you are eating and drinking to drive the changes in your body to support running.
Listen to your body
As you start and progress with your training program, don't forget to listen to your body, as it often will talk to you — loud and clear. If you have swelling or pain that worsens, don't just power through and follow your plan. Get the problem checked out and be prepared to adjust. Every plan can be modified to meet your needs.
It's time to lace up and start training.
Learn more about running, training and footwear:
- Get information about balancing training and family obligations.
- Get expert advice on finding the best shoe fit.
- Get tips for fueling distance practice and runs.
- Review a safe running checklist.