5 keys to preparing well for your first marathon
Brad Beer provides his five key tips to help prepare you for your first marathon at the Gold Coast Marathon.
After 20 years of competitive running, I can thankfully say I’ve picked up a few tricks that make the often painful task of running that little bit easier, comfortable and hopefully enjoyable. Below are my top 14 – I hope they come in handy!
A main reason we all exercise is to look and feel good, so it’s a bit counteractive to damage your skin in the process. Wearing sunscreen is a must when exercising outdoors, even when it doesn’t feel particularly hot or sunny (wind and clouds can be deceptive in hiding those burning UV rays). A trick I picked up (after complaining of a delightful combination of sweat and sunscreen running into my eyes) is not to wear sunscreen on my forehead. A hat is a better option to avoid those stinging eyes while providing UV protection.
As the only performance enhancing drug that’s legal, most runners I know (myself included) have an obsessive love of coffee. Down a cup before your run, and you may very well find yourself going for longer without the extra effort. But be sure not to overdo it. Stick to six cups (or less) a day, and by cup I mean roughly 237mL of coffee. Factor in any double shots or extra large orders!
Everyone has days when they lack motivation (I can vouch that even elite athletes often have moments when they don’t feel like training). On these days say to yourself “ok, I’ll just do half of what I had planned”. This will seem achievable enough to get you out the door, and 9 times out of 10 you’ll end up completing the whole run. This is because we often feel better after 10-15 minutes of exercise, as the muscles have warmed up and the endorphins have started flowing.
The mental focus and forward-facing momentum that running requires (especially when running hard!), means slowing down to look left and right before crossing a road is often rushed. Combine this limited visual assessment with not being able to hear motor vehicles, and you have a recipe for a potentially dangerous situation. In saying that, when you’re in a safe and sound environment (i.e. you’ve reached the park or have a hit a long stretch of uninterrupted road) feel free to get those tunes pumping! Research shows that listening to the right type of music when exercising can help to motivate and improve your performance.
Running is great at getting the metabolism going and the bowels moving, but it’s never ideal when nature calls and you’re in…well, nature. That’s why I have learnt (after many close calls and uncomfortable runs) to carry a bit of toilet paper in my running shorts.
Yes, running is painful, but that means it’s working. “No pain, no gain” as my coach always quotes to me. At the same time, however, use your common sense and caution, as there are some pains that shouldn’t be ignored.
You need to have an achievable goal in the not-to-distant future, as nothing is more effective at overcoming procrastination than a deadline. However, make sure you meet your fitness goals in a sensible way as there is no such thing as cramming when it comes to running.
Hats are not only a great protector of the eyes and forehead in sunny conditions, but they also serve a fabulous purpose when raining. I have found them to be the best way to keep rain out of eyes and off my face when running, saving me from having to continually wipe my face.
If you’re getting serious about your running, I highly recommend you buy a heart rate watch and monitor (Garmin is a good brand and they have wrist-based monitoring so you don’t need to wear a chest strap). This amazing device will not only help you keep track of your kilometres, sessions and rate of improvement, but it will let you know how hard you are really working every run. Measuring your heart rate will also accurately tell you how many calories you burnt, which will prevent you over-eating or under-eating after a run.
Running is painful enough without the added discomfort of chafing. I suggest putting a bit of Vaseline anywhere you are chafing-prone i.e. between the thighs. Also, band aids over the nipples for men is a great trick to prevent nipple chaffing.
More importantly, it will help keep you injury-free in the long run (no pun intended).
Don’t underestimate the power of new exercise gear to get you excited about going for a run.
This is preferable to wearing layers of clothes, as most of your body heat escapes from your head and hands. Plus they are easier to take off and hold as you run when you inevitably warm up.
I use to avoid water stops (for fear of them slowing me down), but have since learned what a positive difference drinking mid-race can make to my onset of fatigue, as well as my recovery. Trying to drink water from a cup while running is surprisingly hard (most gets all over you or the road), so a little trick is to crush the rim of the cup to form a spout.
Lara is a former World Junior Mountain Running champion and a two-time Australian 10,000 champion. She is also a four-time World Country Championships representative and has represented Australia at the World Athletics Championships and World Half Marathon Championships. Lara won the 2011 ASICS Half Marathon (1:12:19) and 2013 Southern Cross University 10km Run (33:05). She is the online editor for Run For Your Life magazine, a bi-monthly, full-colour magazine containing interesting and valuable information for runners at all levels.
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