Marathon Training: Watch Out for These Mistakes on Your Long Training Runs
Marathon training is one of the most demanding physical endeavors most of us are likely to encounter in our modern world. Many people consider a 26 mile run and the training process leading up to it to be major personal accomplishments, and those who possess the will power, energy, and grit to complete this task usually don’t try tackle the challenge more than a handful of times in a lifetime. Marathon runners who have what it takes to enter-- and ideally complete-- a full length marathon deserve congratulations! And good luck.
But before the glory comes the training. It’s a good idea for marathon runners to obtain professional guidance as they develop a marathon training schedule that works for their own body type and their specific time goals. If marathon runners can’t afford or aren’t interested in enlisting a trainer, there are plenty of marathon training resources available online (including this site) or through local runners associations or the YMCA. But no matter what resources they rely on, runners should not underestimate the importance of experienced outside input. Marathon training isn’t necessarily intuitive, and if a runner is receptive to the advice of those who have gone through the process before, he or she will end up with a faster time, a better experience, and some great memories.
Marathon Tips: Common Mistakes
Once a marathon runner has an established training schedule in place, including long runs, short runs, rest days and a nutrition plan, she should avoid these common mistakes that often set runners back, especially beginners.
1. Skipping warm ups
Before athletes head out on any run, long or short, they should begin with a warm up. Serious long distance runners often warm up with a light jog of about one half to one full mile before they begin the stretching process and prepare for a longer running session. In addition to complete warm ups, pre-run and post-run stretching should also be taken seriously. Both cold and static stretching can actually weaken the muscle fibers and interfere with performance, so after a warm up session when the muscles are loose and circulation is established, runners should engage in dynamic stretches for at least five to ten minutes for maximum benefits.
This means moving the muscles while simultaneously stretching them. Instead of standing still for hamstring stretches and toe touches, runners should try kicking their legs up behind them while jogging, as if trying to reach their rear ends with their heels. Then they should walk forward, kicking their legs out in front of them while keeping each leg straight at the knee. Kicks should alternate between the left and right leg.
One of the most popular and effective post warm-up dynamic stretches for marathon training is called the Spiderman stretch, or spider crawl. To complete this move, runners should drop to the ground and crawl for several yards, touching the ground with only the hands and feet but keeping the body as low and flat as possible. The move looks and feels a little silly, but it offers a great way to warm and limber the muscles while keeping tendons and ligaments as loose and flexible as possible.
2. Running too far too fast
Beginning marathon runners should work their way up to longer distances steadily but gradually, instead of attempting to tackle ten or fifteen mile runs during the first few days of training. This is one of the areas in which a long term, focused training schedule can help runners find success. Runners should start the process months, not weeks in advance, and should use baseline abilities and endurance as a reference point for the long term process. There’s nothing wrong with pushing ourselves beyond our limits, as long as we don’t set unrealistic goals or take needless risks. A training program that takes a runner’s body from one daily mile to ten all at once can increase the risk of an injury that can cancel the entire operation.
Instead, runners should allow the muscle fibers to grow and the heart and lungs to develop the condition necessary for a long race. As training progresses, oxygen delivery becomes more efficient, muscles gain strength, and metabolism shifts occur at a natural pace that lays the foundation for greater endurance.
3. Relying on sugar as an on-the-go refueling source
Effective marathon training involves paying close attention to the special nutritional needs of endurance athletes. As the heart rate rises and stays elevated for hours at a time, the body’s metabolic processes shift, meaning the body converts food into energy using different mechanisms. First, the body burns the sugars and carbohydrates that have just been consumed. These quick burning fuels are passed immediately through the liver and into the bloodstream. Later the body draws energy from glycogen stored in the muscles, then glycogen stored in the liver, then fat stored in the body, and so on.
As these processes shift from one to the next, runners should be careful not to load up on quick burning sugars to sustain hours of demanding activity. The results can be stressful for the liver, the kidneys, and the muscle fibers.
4. Skipping rest days
As with all forms of physical conditioning and intensive, goal-focused training, the body needs time to recover from especially demanding marathon training sessions. During long marathon training runs, the muscles undergo damaging strain, including minuscule tears that take time to heal. The heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and even the gastrointestinal tract need time to process the demands placed on them and adapt before being pushed to their limits again and again. Daily long runs with no breaks can cause more harm than good to the body and can undermine long term training goals. And as with any other planning lapse, this marathon training mistake can increase the risk of injury and decrease long term motivation by making the entire process more painful and less pleasant than it would otherwise be. Marathon training involves pushing the body and mind to their limits, but also protecting them from damaging assaults that can set the process back.
For more information, tools, marathon tips, and marathon training resources, reach out to the expert trainers and athletes at Kbands Training.com.
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