Health Dummy | 5 Tips For Marathon Newbies

By Arielle O'Neill
22nd Feb 2016

how to train for a marathon

Running your first marathon (or any marathon!) is no easy task. It takes weeks of preparation, some serious motivation and also a really great pair of sneakers.

Here are my top five tips for marathon newbies.

Tip 1: Start slow and give yourself time

If this is your first marathon, chances are you are not a seasoned or experienced marathon-er. This means there is about a 0% chance that you are going to be able to complete a 42.195km (to be specific) run in record time. Therefore, the first tip, and probably the most important, is to start slow and give yourself the appropriate time to prepare.

If you want any chance of being able to finish a marathon, I would consider a minimum of 12 weeks of training in the lead up to race day.

Firstly, you need to build up your cardiovascular fitness to ensure your body can withstand the distance. This would mean incorporating a variety of cardio into your routine including walking, interval training, swimming, and bike riding. Variety will ensure that you become a well-rounded and “fit” athlete, as well as minimising boredom—because let's face it, running for hours on end every single day isn’t going to be particularly stimulating!

Tip 2: Set your goals

Motivation is the key to success. By setting goals before you complete your marathon, it will encourage you to stay on track and stick to your routine.

Be realistic with your goals and make sure that they are attainable—there is no worse feeling than being disappointed when you realise there is no way you're going to break the world record on your first run. Sometimes it is better to under promise than to over deliver. 

A good goal for a newbie would be to finish the marathon without stopping (whether or not you need to walk for some parts).

Tip 3: Lift weights

Yes ladies, you heard me! Being successful at completing a marathon involves muscular endurance, which means you DEFINITELY need to include weight training in your preparation.

Generally speaking, to train for muscular endurance, you should complete 20-25 repetitions of one exercise for 5 sets. Use a lighter weight and have minimal rest periods in between sets. The stronger you are, the better you will perform.

Tip 4: Eat carbs

“But carbs make you fat...” WRONG! Oooo the controversy! But it is the truth. Obviously everyone is different, and we could get all scientific and speak about insulin sensitivity blah blah—but let's keep it simple: carbs aren’t the enemy.

Carbs are essential for energy—and how are you going to train for a marathon without the right amount of energy? Just make the right choices and stick to your complex carbs, like green veggies, rice, sweet potato and whole grains.

Tip 5: Do trial runs

The only way to get good at something is to practice. Experts say that beginners to the marathon game should aim to build up their weekly distance to around 80km over the 12 weeks in the lead up to race day.

Splitting this distance between 3-5 runs per week is sufficient, with the majority of these practice runs being completed at a relaxed pace.

Good luck! If you're looking for some more fitness and health advice, you can email Arielle here.

Image credit: Brodie Chan for The Urban List. Model: Ellen Seah.

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