Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Marathon Prep for Beginners

So I mentioned briefly in my last post that I am training for an October marathon.  Frankly, that idea was not in my plans for the year at all.  In fact, I really wasn't 100% sure that I ever wanted to run marathon, period.  But the desire crept up on me, and I was thinking that New Orleans in February (you know, seven months away...) would be a good idea.  But my girlfriend Lindsey (who is running the Cowbell) convinced me that long run training during the winter in the snow would be no fun.  I looked at the dates and messed with a few training plans, and decided to try it.  My mileage base was not at all where it should be to run a marathon in 8 weeks, but with a few tweaks, I made a plan that seems do-able.  I have just enough time left to get in all my long runs including 20 miles, have two dropback weeks, and still taper.  My long run was 14 last week, and I am still feeling strong.  Not ideal by any means, but hopefully do-able.  (And I am a slooowww runner anyway, so finishing would have been my number one goal for a first marathon, no matter how long I had to train!)

All that being true, here are some things I am doing to try to keep myself healthy and strong during the abbreviated training cycle:

1.  Follow a Training Plan

Being very Type-A, it never even occurred to me that some people wing marathon training.  I am all about plans and checklists.  While I do have an abbreviated timeline for training, I make sure to stick to a well-tested plan.  I don't skip runs, and I don't add mileage to runs.  I am trying to slowly increase my weekly mileage in order to get myself to the starting line healthy!

2.  Increase my calcium

During my last training cycle (for a half), I had plenty of time, but the quick increase in mileage still led to a stress fracture.  I was lucky to catch it early and it was resolved with a few weeks of rest, but I don't have time to take 4 weeks off this time around.  Gotta make sure those bones are strong!

3.  Increase my magnesium

A huge majority of the general population is deficient in magnesium, and athletes are even more deficient.  Magnesium helps improve strength, stabilize blood pressure, balance hormones, aids sleep, decreases anxiety, and speeds up recovery.  I use a magnesium oil spray twice a day-magnesium can be absorbed through the skin very quickly and doesn't cause the stomach irritation that oral supplements can.

4.  Increase my collagen intake

(Can you see a theme here?) Collagen improves muscle recovery and joint health, both of which are essential when you increase your weekly mileage.  Studies even show it can increase energy and strength.  (And total disclosure time: I am totally hoping for amazing hair and nails too!)

5.  Fuel carefully

Proper fueling means very different things to different people.  I follow a very clean eating lifestyle, but when I started strongly increasing my weekly mileage, I found that I needed to take further steps to make sure I have the energy and fuel to make it through my long runs.  Because of my hypoglycemia, I usually don't eat any sugar at all, and I keep my diet very low carb.  Well, neither of those things work with marathon training.  Most athletic fuel like Gu, Shotbloks, Gatorade, and many other products are pretty much straight sugar (as they should be!  Your body needs the glucose as you burn through it).  And of course, complex carbohydrates are important to sustain your energy on longer runs.  I tried a few weeks of not fueling at all and keeping my diet at it's current very low carbohydrate level....and I was bonking out pretty hard.  As soon as I added in Preworkout, Complete Hydration, and After Workout, and made sure to get in some quality carbohydrates the day before my long runs, I started feeling 100% better (and my pace on long runs improved by 3 minutes/ one week.  Hmm).  The best part for me is....all Arbonne Phytosport athletic nutrition are low-sugar, so it doesn't knock me into dangerous sugar spikes and dips.

6.  On the Wagon

Speaking of clean eating, I made the decision to give up alcohol until after the marathon too.  While I know that many people do long runs solely to be able to indulge in a few cocktails immediately afterwards, it seemed prudent for me to skip it for the time being.  I am asking my poor old body to do enough without gambling that it can process all that alcohol too :)  (And seriously, I feel great!  I can *almost* see giving it up for good.  Almost).

7.  New Gear

I may do an entire post on this soon, but when I increased my mileage so much, I also picked up a few new favorites.  A friend mentioned that compression socks were hugely helpful for her, so I have been using those on/after long runs (and I think she is right!).  The trail I often run on doesn't have any water, and I had been carrying my water bottle.  It felt like it was messing with my form, so I picked up a Camelback Dart - best purchase ever!  I can barely tell I am wearing it, and it allows me to hydrate on my own schedule.  I would call this an essential for summer training if you are in a similar situation.  Also grabbed another pair of Yurbuds (my favorite earbuds for running), two new pairs of running shoes to work into my rotation, a Flipbelt for my phone (I only use this when I am not wearing the Camelback) and yes, even more Lululemon.  (Sorry not sorry Seth!)  I wear more running gear than real clothes these days, so we're gonna call that a necessary purchase.  :)

Considering that they say only 1% of the population has completed a marathon, I seem to know an unusually high number of people who have, and they have been SO kind to give me excellent tips and advice.

So, what about you-what are your best marathon training tips for beginners?


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