The steps I'm taking taking to get marathon-ready (and they don't involve running!)

It's important to show up for your marathon, but the prep is also crucial.
It's important to show up for your marathon, but the prep is also crucial.

Last year, I ran my very first marathon and enthusiastically promised myself afterwards that I would do it again. Now, midway through the year, I realise that I need to keep that promise. A lot happened in the meantime – traveling, work, life... and running sometimes took a back seat.

So I signed up for the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon 2019, confident that I had built and maintained a fairly good base.

But now the work has to start. Besides the obvious steps (increasing your weekly distance gradually, doing quality speedwork sessions, focusing on your longer runs), there are other steps that I need to take:

1. Clean up my eating 

Increasing my weekly amount of kilometres will also increase my appetite, but that doesn’t mean I should ingest every morsel of food I crave. Food is fuel, and you can never outrun a bad diet. While I’m not suddenly restricting portions and food types, I want to attempt to “clean up” my eating to fuel myself for optimum training. This means a breakfast that doesn’t consist of a croissant and a cappuccino; a healthy midmorning snack (a combination of protein and fibre like nuts and a fruit); a substantial lunch to fuel me for my afternoon run; and a light, yet filling supper (lean protein, a good carb and plenty of green vegetables).

And instead of grabbing a greasy breakfast after a Saturday run, I will be much better off refuelling with a balanced breakfast consisting of fibre and protein (a smoothie with yoghurt, a portion of fruit and spinach).

2. Go teetotalling – but not totally

While everyone has a different take on the consumption of alcohol during their training, I find I feel fresher and sleep better when I forgo my glass of wine in the evening. With weekend runs becoming longer on Saturday mornings, that Friday night tipple is not the best idea, as alcohol at night can lead to poor sleep. Alcohol can also cause inflammation in the body and hinder optimum muscle recovery. Another thing is that as alcohol is a diuretic, a beer or two after a training run may counteract the hydration that is key to proper recovery.

Also, running with a hangover is an extremely bad idea and very unpleasant…

3. Roll out the yoga mat (and dust off the dumbbells)

If you think that marathon running involves pounding the pavement non-stop, you are wrong. Even though you feel you should be running every day, this is not what you should be doing. Strengthening your core and glutes is beneficial for remaining strong and injury-free. I’m not the biggest fan of the gym, and I find that incorporating a strength-training workout at home that requires no equipment besides dumbbells, my body weight and a yoga mat works fine for me.

4. Take magnesium

Hitting the road during the week is hard if you are still recovering from a weekend long run. However, taking a magnesium supplement may aid muscle recovery and make it easier to ease into your weekly routine. 

5. Get more sleep

Oh, this is difficult, but not getting enough shut-eye can jeopardise all your other efforts. Sleep is crucial for the body to recover and the muscles to regenerate, as they take a massive beating during every run. I struggle to sleep through the night, and feeling tired the next day can severely impact the quality of my eating (hello, sugary snacks!) and workouts (I tend to skip a run altogether if I feel tired and run-down). In the lead-up to the marathon I might make a conscious effort to clean up my “sleep hygiene”, which means fewer reality shows and more reading before bed, decluttering a messy bedroom, avoiding doing any work or reading emails in bed, and maybe even a drop of lavender oil on my pillow to aid relaxation.

Image credit: iStock

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