How to stay healthy while training for a marathon

It’s the New Year, and you have probably already set your New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you want to run your first marathon. This is an admirable goal, but one that takes admirable determination and dedication. Since you’ll be beginning to train during the cold and flu climax of the year–winter–you may wonder how on earth you can stay healthy at the beginning, and throughout the entire duration of, your marathon training.

It can be frustrating and incredibly disheartening to have to cut back or cancel your marathon training altogether. This is especially true if it’s due to an avoidable injury or illness. However, this catastrophe can be avoided by taking a few simple preventative steps.

1. Don’t skip your warm-up
Make sure you warm-up at the beginning of every workout. Try to avoid static stretching at the beginning of a run, as this can actually cause more muscle tearing and damage post-workout. However, you can either carve out time before your run to complete simple exercises such as leg swings or fast feet, or just start your run at a slower pace than needed.

2. Get regular massages
These don’t have to be from a licensed masseuse, or even on a weekly basis, but massages help to flush out lactic acid and loosen your muscles. You can even massage your own legs while sitting on the couch at night if you don’t want to take the time to visit a massage parlor. You might also consider investing in a foam roller. These help you to stretch out sore, overworked muscles without worrying about further tearing or damage.

3. Rest
This tip comes in two parts. First, make sure you are getting plenty of sleep every night. Your body can’t recover from those hard workouts if you clock less than seven hours of sleep.

Second, make sure you incorporate regular rest days into your training schedule. Even if it’s only one or two days a week, your body needs a committed block of time off in order to repair and rehydrate. If you begin to feel an injury or illness coming on, take even more time to rest.

4. Train intelligently
Increase long runs and overall weekly mileage by no more than ten percent each week. This helps to prevent injuries and is a tried and true method of race training. It helps to prevent burn-out and gives you daily, weekly, monthly, and race goals. Simply put, the more you run, the better you’ll be at it! If this is your first race ever (meaning you’ve never tackled even a 5k), consider throwing a few more races into the mix before you run a marathon. Even though you may have logged substantial miles, race days are entirely different than training runs.

Make sure each training plan includes significant warm-ups and cool-downs, as well as adequate post-race recovery. Consider taking ice baths to revive your sore muscles, and don’t forget to eat a nutritious meal and hydrate within half an hour of returning home.

5. Eat mindfully
Yes, you might be logging fifty miles a week. However, that doesn’t give you license to eat everything in sight. Although you can–and should–up your caloric intake during an intense marathon training schedule, you should fill your plate with nutritious foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains. A successful long run isn’t a good reason to down a whole pizza and a gallon of beer. Your body will only work as hard as it is fueled. Make sure you are obtaining proper nutrition so that you can work at your absolute best.

If you’re feeling extra sluggish despite proper nutrition, hydration, and rest, it might be time to consider adding a multivitamin. It can be tough to obtain all of your required nutrients through diet alone. A multivitamin will help you hit your optimal levels.

6. …but also be flexible
Your training plan must fit the season. Although training during the winter months can present a welcome break from running in unbearable heat and humidity, it also results in shorter (and much colder) days. If you aren’t feel 100%, or if the weather turns nasty, consider taking your run inside, cross training, or skipping it altogether.

7. Have a plan and try to stick to it…
But know that things happen. Running in cold conditions isn’t necessarily bad for your health, nor is running in any kind of precipitation. What becomes dangerous is temperatures that dip below -20, those with a significant wind chill, icy roads, or precipitation that soaks through your clothes and results in a soggy, freezing run.

Plan ahead so that you are well-dressed and know in advance what you might encounter. Wear several light, moisture-resistant layers (synthetic materials are better than cotton, which gets clammy when wet, or wool, which can be too hot). Attach crampons or other ice-resistant items to your shoes to prevent falling, and consider altering your workout plan if need be. Take the run to the treadmill. Or, if that’s not your style, you can always run loops instead of your typical long run so that you are always close to the house in case disaster strikes.

8. Avoid germs and exposure to illness
As much as possible, try to avoid your exposure to contagious illnesses. Wash your hands frequently, get plenty of rest, and get immunizations ahead of time. Don’t wait until you’re under the weather to try to recover. Take multivitamins, zinc supplements, or probiotics to keep yourself healthy, and engage in regular self-care and relaxation strategies.

9. Destress
Relaxing is the most important aspect of marathon training. What you’re undertaking is a huge feat. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself! High levels of the stress hormone cortisol can tax your body and reduce your immunity.

If you fall ill and can’t run for a week, don’t stress! Focus on getting better, and build your schedule so that it includes several “emergency weeks” in case you need some breaks. Don’t pretend you’re okay and force yourself through grueling workouts. You’ll recover slowly and become burned out from your training.

10. Drink lots of extra fluids–especially Dr. Willard’s Water®
Hydration is a key component of staying healthy while training for any race, but especially a marathon. You should make sure that you’re drinking at least half your bodyweight in ounces of water a day, if not more. It is very difficult for runners to drink too much water, so make sure you are hydrating well enough that your urine is always a clear or pale yellow color.

You should aim to drink plain water or beverages that contain few additives or extra sugar. Although Gatorade or others sports drinks are fine in moderation, especially after a grueling workout when you need to replace lost salts and electrolytes, in most cases plain water will suffice.

On the other hand, some beverages are ideal when it comes to staying healthy. Dr. Willard’s Water serves to accelerate and enhance the body’s natural process. It increases the body’s ability to fully absorb crucial vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. This beverage is not a substitute for good diet and exercise habits, but can help cycle nutrients through the body’s cells more efficiently. You might find that your digestive processes–which are often unpleasantly stirred and disrupted during high-octane race training–are settled by drinking Dr. Willard’s Water.

Develop your winter training plan the right way. Attack your goal with a reasonable, flexible strategy that has consideration and respect for your body’s abilities and limitations. Know that very few people run marathons–you are among a small minority of people just for tackling this enormous challenge! Follow our tips to make sure you cross the finish line this spring, and above all, have fun!

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