What is the best way to prepare for a marathon?

Whatever your motivation is, whether it's a personal challenge, losing weight, getting healthy, charity awareness or as simple as a friend talking you into it, doing a marathon requires preparations. Here are the basic steps required to prepare for a marathon.

Step 1: Create and follow a training schedule.

  • A schedule must include types of training and recovery exercises and the miles you want to do in a single run. Don't expect instant results, so plan everything accordingly. You should train at least 5 to 6 months, before the actual marathon.
  • Long runs are very important. They prepare your muscles and bones for the marathon. You should schedule one long run every week. At the beginning, your long run should be 10 to 11 miles. Also, run at a slow pace during the run, you should be able to speak freely while running.
  • Switch up between your long, medium and short runs. A short run is 3 to 4 miles and it improves your cardio function. Medium runs are 7 to 8 miles and should be faster paced than the short ones. It's good to use the treadmill for these runs because you can control your pace. Schedule 1 or 2 short runs and 1 medium run per week.
  • Too much running can actually have a negative impact on your marathon performance. Some of your training time should be spent doing low-impact workout, which helps your endurance and build upper-body strength. Cross trains like this should be scheduled 2 to 3 days of the week, alternating with running days.
  • Give your mind some rest. Try doing something else, maybe betting on sports events or some reading to keep your mind focused.
  • Take the training seriously, but if you have to miss a few days of it, modify your schedule so that you miss only cross-trains or easy runs. Your longest training run should be at least a week prior to the marathon to allow your body recovery time and energy.

Step 2: Recovery from workouts is important.

  • If you feel sore after a run, you should ice it down for 6 to 12 minutes. Take a warm shower thirty minutes after the ice treatment.
  • Too much workout leads to exhaustion and damage to your joints. You should rest for two days a week to let yourself relax and heal.
  • Stretch AFTER runs every day. Do static stretches instead of bouncing stretches to avoid pulling or damaging a muscle. It's important to stretch everywhere, not just your legs.
  • Don't push yourself too much. If you feel your legs go weak or you cramp up, immediately stop and take a break or walk it off.

Step 3: The right diet.

  • 60-65% of your diet should contain high carbohydrates (potatoes, beans, apples, pasta, white bread).
  • 15-20% foods rich in protein (chicken, eggs, fish, dairy).
  • Calcium (broccoli, milk, yogurt, salmon) is very important for your bones.
  • Drink plenty of water (especially if you live in a hot country like Colombia)

Step 4: The right running gear.

Each of these items will help protect you from injury, keep you hydrated or monitor your health.

  • Running shoes that fit
  • Double layered socks
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Running belt