As a personal fitness inspiration story from me to you, here’s how I prepared for a full marathon (in only three months).
In October 2014, I ran the Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon, Full Marathon. This was my first full marathon and it was exhilarating to say the least. I’d always been a runner, and it has always been a passion of mine, but how to prepare for a marathon and actually run 42.2 kilometres, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t think I had even run a half-marathon at that point either, but I was determined to do it.
I remember back to when I signed up to compete and physically run in the marathon in July 2014, only three months prior to the race. I had a timeframe of only twelve weeks to prepare and train for the marathon, with no prior long distance training (to that extent) – the longest and furthest I had ran before then was 15 kilometres in an hour and 22 minutes. That was my max!
So in order to be ready for the full 42.2km that I set out to run, I gave myself five areas to focus on to make sure I’d be fully prepared to run the marathon. I’ve got them all for you here and I hope they inspire you in learning more on how to prepare for a marathon and to actually get out there and train. Trust me, if I can do it, having once weighed over 240 pounds, you can do it, too!
1. Full-body strength and resistance training.
I generally am not a fan of strength training, I really do prefer cardio (as most runners do). But as much as I crave my dose of runner’s high, cardio alone isn’t enough to fully prepare you for a marathon in my opinion. Not only my leg muscles, but my core and upper body all needed to be properly trained and toned. It’s important to have lean muscle mass to help burn calories and shed unneeded fat in those areas. The more toned, sculpted and lean your core is, the more control you have over the rest of your body, and this is paramount for a long distance run. The entire body needs to full supported during the run.
So I hit the gym, 3 days a week and focused only on strength training for those days. Things like weighted squats, weighted lunges, core/abdominal training along with bench and lateral pulldowns.
2. Long distance training.
This one is key. If your body is signed up to RUN for 42km, it needs to FEEL like it can run 42km. It’s recommended to run long distance runs every 7-10 days for months before a marathon, to get your leg muscles accustomed to supporting the rest of your body on the big day. So every Sunday from July to October, I would push myself to my furthest possible limit. I wouldn’t focus on how much time it would take me, I would only focus on pushing myself to my furthest. When I started, my furthest distance was 15km, so each week I set out to add an extra 3km to my max.
3. A tight nutrition plan.
I literally cannot adequately stress the importance of a robust nutrition plan when you’re learning how to train and how to prepare for a marathon. The better (aka the healthier) the foods you put into your body, the better your body will perform. Plain and simple. It really comes back to basics here, a balanced amount of protein, carbs and greens for all meals, protein with every meal, fruits that help burn fat like blueberries, apples, pears… etc. and a generous amount of cruciferous vegetables. I remember eating a banana pre and post workouts every time I pushed my long distance training limit, they’re great for rebuilding and nurturing your muscles.
4. Speed interval training.
I didn’t focus too much of my efforts on this one as I wasn’t interested in winning, being in the top percentile or being the fastest runner in the race. My goal was simply to complete a full marathon. That being said, speed interval training and the required effort it takes from your muscles, DOES help your overall performance in reaching your long distance goals. With bursts of speed dispersed throughout a regular long distance run, your leg and core muscles are actually becoming stronger and better suited to support the rest of your body. You’ll be able to run longer distances, improve your overall time and have your muscles recoup quicker post-workouts.
5. A post-workout refuelling plan.
When learning how to prepare for a marathon, you have to first learn how to refuel after a marathon. I know, it sounds counter-intuitive but it’s true. It’s so important to know how to properly recharge and re-nurture your body after a huge strain on your muscles that a marathon naturally brings. Running long distances is a stress on your body, and your body will react to it like it would any other stress. In exerting workouts, especially long distance running, you don’t just lose sweat, your body loses a lot of electrolytes and it’s natural minerals and salts. The best way I found to refuel after a straining workout was a litre of coconut water (personal fav of mine is Jax Coco), a banana and a protein shake (I generally prefer plant-based protein options like Vega).
That’s all there really is to it, but by no means was it a cinch. I exerted myself every week, pushed my boundaries and a stuck to a nutrition and regular workout regimen that I never imagined I’d be able to stick to, but I was determined. I had gotten the idea in my head that that year I wanted to run a full marathon, just like many others had done in the past, so I said why not me? So now, why not you? Now that you know how to prepare for a marathon, are you up for the challenge?
Nick Joly | Inspired by Nick
be good to your body