Training for a marathon is a huge time commitment and requires a balance of training and life. And I don’t just mean the hours you log running either. As the miles you log increase, so does your need for additional rest. And then there is the additional food you will need to eat because you’re so hungry. I’ll be completely honest with you, it takes a lot of time to properly train. And balancing training with life can be a challenge. Since I’ve been through the marathon training cycle several times already, I’ll share with you some of my tips to help you train well and not have it disrupt your life too much.
1. Decide on a schedule. Hopefully, you’ve decided on a specific training plan to follow. There are many different plans out there that will help you reach your goal – whether that goal is to just finish the race or finish in a certain time. There are plans for advanced runners, beginners and people that want to use a combination of running and walking. The important thing is to pick one that is appropriate for you. The other aspect of scheduling is to determine when you will be able to complete the runs. If the only time you will be able to run is in the morning, commit to that and make that a scheduled part of your day. If you try to fit it in as you can, it’s more than likely that you will miss some important runs. At the same time, you need to be flexible with scheduling just in case something comes up. One great way I have found to get long runs done is to find a running group. All of my long runs are done on Saturday mornings at 6:45 with my running group. Sure, I’d love to sleep in Saturday morning but getting up and getting it done first thing eliminates anything else getting in the way. Having friends to run with that have similar training schedules is a great way to pass the miles.
2. Get support. If you have a family, this will be huge because training is a big time commitment. Having supportive friends and family members who allow you to keep your training schedule and pursue your marathon dream is important. We all have busy lives and things to do so you may need to get creative. If you have young children, this may mean arranging child care a couple of times a week. For me, it means throwing meals in the crock pot several times a week so I don’t have to worry about getting a healthy dinner on the table. You’ll need to surround yourself with people who are uplifting and supportive.
3. Pick the appropriate time to train. You’ll want to take a close look at your calendar and compare it to your training plan to make sure it works. For example, I run the Houston Marathon every January. That means the longer mileage weeks hit around Thanksgiving and go through Christmas and New Years. If you work a ton of hours at year end or know you can’t commit to training during the holidays, you’ll be better off picking another race. The typical training cycle lasts around 16 weeks so that’s a significant chunk of the calendar. Some of the earlier fall races may involve training during the summer. If you live in Texas like I do, training during the summer can be brutal. There’s no right or wrong answer, just what works best for you.
4. Be realistic. Thinking that you can do it all like you’ve always done and still train well for a marathon is an unrealistic expectation. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating – marathon training takes up a lot of time. You will need to make sacrifices to make it happen. Your body will need more rest as your training progresses and you’ll have to make the time to nourish your body. If you’re used to spending a couple of hours each evening relaxing and watching television, be prepared to sacrifice that time. Unless you can watch television while on the treadmill, don’t count on seeing it much for a while. Prioritizing your schedule will become more and more important. Set yourself up for success by recognizing that you can’t do everything and still train.
Training for and running a marathon is truly a life-changing event. Finishing a marathon is well-worth the time and sacrifice required but understanding how it will impact your daily life is important. If you’ve considered running a marathon, be sure to ask yourself these questions to see if you’re ready.
Have you run a marathon before? Do you know someone who has?