Are You Taking a Holistic Approach to Marathon Training? If Not, Here Are Five Ways to Fix That
Summer’s in full swing, but we’re only 16 weeks away from the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon. Whether you’ve got a few weeks of training under your belt or you’re just starting out, it’s smart to think about your marathon prep from a big-picture perspective. That means not just focusing on mileage but also strength training, recovery, and other elements that can set you up for a stronger finish on November 4. Here are five things to think about as you tick off your training miles toward 26.2.
1) Is your training program right for YOU?
From the seasoned marathoner logging triple-digit mileage in a single week to the newbie who’s nervous about her first 20-mile training run, no two runners are the same—and their training plans should reflect that. The TCS New York City Marathon Virtual Training program is customized to your fitness level, lifestyle, and running experience. It also adapts as you progress through your training, whether you need to reschedule workouts or adjust the finish time you’re targeting on race day.
Once your training’s in full swing, think about opportunities to test your progress. If you live in the NYC area, check out the three-part TCS New York City Marathon Training Series. Over various distances—12 miles (July 21), 15 miles (August 12), and 18 miles (September 16)—you’ll have access to pacers, hydration, and gels, all set to mimic the race-day experience.
As important as it is to have a plan and frequently check in with how you’re progressing toward a goal, don’t beat yourself up if you fall off track. “Hey, life happens while you’re training!” says NYRR Group Training coach Melanie Kann. “A successful training cycle is made up of a series of runs over many weeks; it doesn’t rest on one or two key workouts. If you find that you must miss a run, resist the urge to ‘make up miles’ and pick up from where you currently are at, fitness-wise, not where your plan says you should be. Think of your plan more as a guide, rather than letter of the law.”
2) Have you made strength training part of your routine?
Weight training—even if the resistance is just coming from your body weight—can do wonders for your running, and you don’t need to step foot inside a gym to get a good strength workout. Consider a fitness class, one that focuses on the muscle groups you may be neglecting—like your core.
“Building core strength is key to healthy running, injury prevention, and improving your running economy,” says Jen Ares-Cruz, director of product and experience at New York Pilates. “Adding Pilates to your training routine—even if it’s only once a week—will help strengthen not only core muscles, but also glutes and hamstrings. It will also improve your balance, coordination, and flexibility.”
3) What are you doing to recover post-run?
“A little recovery on a regular basis is the key to keeping your body healthy and performing optimally,” says Kann. “If you take an extra 5 to 10 minutes at the end of each run to foam roll and stretch, it can save you hours of time, money, and frustration rehabbing an injury later on.”
Also aim to incorporate cross-training activities such as NYRR Deep Water Running or yoga a couple times a week. (If you’re local, swing by the NYRR RUNCENTER for free yoga classes!) “These activities will contribute to your body’s overall strength and mobility to help you withstand the pounding of extra mileage,” explains Kann.
4) How are you fueling your marathon training?
“The key to nutrition when training for a marathon is to shift your mindset about food,” says Kann. “As runners pile on miles, our inclination is to add extra treats, but we need to ask ourselves, ‘Will this fuel my running?’”
Think of your body as a sports car: You wouldn’t fuel it with the lowest quality fuel you could find, would you? “Focus on whole foods: healthy carbs to fuel you, lean protein to repair your muscles, and healthy fats to help your body absorb the vitamins that keep all of your systems running smoothly,” advises Kann. “And above all, hydrate!”
5) Are you taking steps to manage stress?
“Your body just recognizes stress reactions, but doesn’t recognize where they’re coming from, so work- or family-related stress will absolutely affect your overall energy levels, which in turn affect your running,” explains Kann.
Your best defense against stress? REST. “Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep, and try to work in quiet moments throughout the day,” says Kann. “Even if it’s just a brief 15-minute walk around the block to clear your head, it makes a huge difference in your all around well-being, which will translate to your running.”
Whatever you’re struggling with, know that other runners are in the same boat. Check out these resources for more advice on maintaining run-life balance: