In Part One of our Every Woman’s Guide to Training for a Run, we covered the basics of training for a long run, supplementing your running with other training, and how to eat and drink right for marathon training. Now it’s time to get down to more details. Here we’ll talk about how to choose a route, avoiding injury, staying motivated, gearing up, and coping with challenges.
Choosing a race or route
Especially if you’re new to long distance running, choosing a race or route is key to maximizing your chances of succeeding. There are several factors to consider here:
When is it?
If you’re running early in the fall, remember that you’ll have to train during the hot summer months; if you live where it’s very hot, this may not be a great choice. On the other hand, if you hate cold weather, avoid having to run during very cold months. Both race day and training weather should factor into your choice.
Where is it?
If you have the travel bug, choose a race in a totally new place. If travel stresses you out, choose something closer to home.
What kind of city is the race taking place in?
There’s nothing quite like running a race in a major metropolis; the energy and support of the crowds is amazing. On the other hand, these races can be expensive, and if crowds get you down, you won’t like this type of event.
What kind of course is it?
Almost any race has a website, so make sure you look to see the course map, description, and elevation. If you want to run on flat courses, make sure that’s what you’re signing up for. If you run to take in beautiful scenery, avoid courses that loop around multiple times. If you don’t like wind, stay away from races alongside big lakes or oceans.
There are a number of things you can do to avoid injuries:
- increase your mileage gradually
- incorporate rest and recovery into your training plan
- rotate tougher days with easier days; alternate longer runs with short, slow runs
- reserve at least one day a week for a complete break from running
- try cross-training or other alternatives to mix up your training methods
- use a foam roller before and after running to improve range of motion and loosen up muscles
- don’t neglect strength training, especially for your core, hips, and glutes
- always include stretching in your plan
- listen to your body; if you feel atypical levels of pain, take more rest or scale back
Everyone gets discouraged sometimes. So how do people who make it all the way to the finish line stay motivated?
- visualize yourself crossing the finish line
- develop a mantra
- reframe negative thoughts and repeat the positive versions
- get ample sleep
- set aside time for recovery
- train with a partner or group to help stay accountable
Make sure you have the proper gear if you’re going to run long distances. Your most important piece of equipment is your shoes. If you’re new to running, get help buying your first pair of running shoes; visit a running store where they can analyze your gait on a treadmill and put your needs in the context of your training plan.
As you shop for socks, shorts or pants, a shirt, and a sports bra, look for synthetic materials that wick moisture, breathe, and fight odor. Chafing is a particularly bad problem for long distance runners, so ask about this when you shop. Some runners use products like BodyGlide or Vaseline to fight chafing, too. Finally, as you consider which colors to buy, realize that many long distance runners have “accidents” as they run; darker colors are a good choice for shorts and pants because digestive issues are common among long distance runners.
Consider the weather conditions you’ll encounter during the race. If it will be hot, look for a hat or visor and sunglasses. You’ll want UV protection and synthetic materials that are light, comfortable, and stay put. If it will be cold and/or wet as you run, look for a weatherproof jacket that keeps your core dry while allowing your skin to breathe.
Finally, look for ways to carry anything you’ll need with you as you run. You’ll definitely need to carry fluids with you, and you’ll find vests, waist belts, and bottles for this purpose. Which works best is a matter of personal preference. You can also find pocketed belts and vests for carrying things like keys, phones, and other items, but remember: less is definitely more when it comes to lugging things around on a long run.
Coping with challenges
Running in the longest race of your life is exciting, but it’s also scary. Some people feel fear about their upcoming races until after they cross the finish line! Add to that the fact that not everyone in your life will support your decision to run the race, and you may find yourself feeling discouraged—especially on a day when your feet are throbbing in pain and you’re soaking them in an epsom salt bath.
Hang in there! Remember that all you can do is plan, train, and give it your best effort.
The bottom line
You can do this. If you want to train for a long run, you have what it takes, no matter what your current fitness level is like. If you have questions about training for a run or any other fitness goal, contact a fitness professional at She’s Fit today.