Thanks to its growing popularity over the past years, here are some techniques that are used in preparing for the marathon.
As emphasized earlier, progression, planning and mental preparation are three of the most important aspects to marathon training for two important reasons – avoid acute or chronic injuries and to perform optimally. Also, the training needs to begin quite a few months in advance, with respect to the final date.
Though marathon training needs to be an optimal mixture of stamina/endurance and mental focus and strength, there are some techniques used for training as follows –
Stay relaxed and loose – Mostly while running, we tend to tense up our shoulders and arms or twist our hands into a fist, both of which increase blood pressure temporarily and also advances the onset of fatigue easily and pain. Hence the key is to relax the shoulder and arms by moving or shaking your arms as naturally as they move.
Countdown the mileage – Break the total distance into comfortable chunks of distances, like say 5 kms each and then countdown from 5kms downwards as you move forward. This reverse counting has proven to be effective in keeping the motivation and mental strength up and going.
Stride length – Longer strides may make you feel like you’re covering more distance but it will advance the rate of exhaustion faster causing any initial gains in distance to get nullified by the slowing down due to fatigue that follows. Hence it is advisable to use smaller strides, or smaller steps to conserve energy.
Pacing – For the first set number of kilometres (as decided by your trainer depending on your goals and level of conditioning and training) use a higher pace and slow down the pace as you progress. Avoid increasing speed un-methodically since any gain in distance will be easily offset by the slowing down that follows, due to fatigue.
Hydration – Drink adequate fluids as decided by the dietician before the run and during the run to avoid dehydration. Even a small amount of dehydration can cause tremendous mental and physical fatigue.
Proper Surface – Usually, the marathons are run on tarred or concrete roads, on the main day of the event. However, while training it may not be a good idea to start out by training on roads, since the impact forces exerted by these surfaces are extremely high which can lead to joint injuries, in an un-conditioned body. Also it increases the challenge and may initially lessen motivation, to be consistent. A treadmill, synthetic tracks or dirt paths are ideal to begin training. However, as one progresses and gaining muscular and cardio-vascular strength and endurance, training can be shifted to actual road surface, in order for the body to adapt to the challenges offered by the surface.
Breathing – One of the most important factors to work on during the training and which can drastically affect the endurance and rate of exhaustion. Practicing deep breathing (through the belly) is essential to increase the amount of oxygen intake into the body. Only chest breathing proves insufficient for the challenge posed by the long duration nature of the marathon. Deep breathing exercises, done on their own or through meditation techniques are very helpful.
Take breaks – Taking walking breaks in between the run, is a very good idea since it gives a small and quick rest to all the systems in the body thereby refreshing you. Water or energy breaks are also a good idea for a quick rest.
Nutrition before and during the run – One of the most important aspects during the pre-marathon training is the nutrition and energy intake, as designed by an expert sports nutritionist, depending on your energy requirements and activity levels. During the marathon, it is perfectly acceptable to refuel your body with food or energy drinks like bananas, raisins, sports drinks etc.
As the final date of the marathons near, the sports nutritionist may suggest structured and planned techniques to store up energy, for the final run.
Therefore, a planned and structured approach is the only way to train for a marathon and enjoy it too!