5 training tips for marathon beginners

How to look after your running body when training for a marathon

As a marathon running newbie it's easy to make lots of mistakes. One area you really need to ensure is mistake-free though, is your body. Injuries and niggles must be avoided at all costs. Here I show you how to look after your running body when training for a marathon.

Written by Tom Bedford
Tom has had running in his blood since the age of 12. He boasts not only the family marathon record (2.19.30) but also the high jump (1m79). He’s coached hundreds of runners of varying ability levels over all distances backed up by his 15 years of road running experience, and now he’s here to help you.

Listen to your body

Whether you are in the gym or out on a run, it is human instinct to push our bodies to the limit. No pain, no gain! In endurance running this is not good advice, especially for beginners. If you have not been to the gym or played football for months and suddenly pump iron or play for an hour you can expect your body to know about it the next couple of days. This lesson can be used in your marathon training in this final preparation phase. In this final stage of your training, you will be entering a period of races and long runs that will push your body to new boundaries. Yes, you need to push yourself hard, but have in the back of your mind the rest of the week’s training program.

Remember you are the athlete and the coach! Before, during and after your runs listen to your body and do not ignore what it is telling you. If you worked extra hard in a run and pushed your body hard, reward it by recovering the best way possible. This includes eating good running food, getting enough sleep and most importantly not whipping it the next run you. Recovery runs are very important during this block of training. Recovering from races will be important as well keeping on top of niggles and illness. An all out last mile in a half marathon might reduce your half marathon personal best but, if it leaves you with a limp what is the point?


Watch out for the weather and be flexible

This is almost the same point as above but still worth mentioning. Let’s say you have a long run planned for Sunday. This is the main session of the week but the forecast is cold rain and wind. Sending your body out there without sufficient clothing is a recipe for disaster! Think about it. If you catch a cold or make yourself ill you will miss a week of training in return for a two-hour miserable run. Can you sensibly rearrange this long run later in the week? Or swap it with the Saturday?

Be flexible with your training but also avoid doing two hard sessions in a row. Your body needs to recover before you can go hard again. Failing to do this will lead to injury or illness. Trust me I have learnt this the hard way many times!

Stretch when you are tight

When your legs get tight from hard training they will stay tight until they are released. The pain may go in a couple of days but your legs will remain tight. You need to stretch a lot on recovery and easy run days. I do not recommend extreme stretching immediately after a hard/long run. You have spent two hours tightening your muscles up and then you want to stretch them as far as you can? Something must give and it will probably be a tear!

Do some stretching after an easy recovery run or just after a warm up for a session. Calf stretches and IT band stretches are a must!

Stretching is not always the answer

Stretching will certainly help but sometimes your legs need a bit more tender loving care. Sports massage or even self-massage can help in this situation. Check out this old blog that is still relevant regarding niggles, injuries and massage.

Go hot and cold

Remember icing can reduce swelling immediately after you pick up injury. It is also good to remember niggles or fatigued muscles require fresh blood to help your body repair any issues. A bag of peas (2-3mins) and warm water (2-3mins) repeated 2-3 times whilst you watch your favourite TV program will help!

Please stay on top of your training but also niggles or injuries. Try and get them fixed or seen to ASAP. Keep on running!

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