How to prepare for running a marathon

By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

If you go by the book, training for a marathon should ideally begin one year before the race date. That’s enough time to fully engage your body into a process that is potentially bad for your knees, hips, shins and feet if your body hasn’t been given enough time to properly acclimate itself to running all those miles.

With enough dedication and an average starting place fitness-wise, seven to eight months is enough time to extend one’s limits to 26.2 continuous miles.

The first thing to consider when training for a marathon is losing weight.
Whether thinking about miles-per-gallon or distance running ability, weight factored in with engine size is a good way to estimate fuel economy. Simply put, you’re going to get better miles per gallon in an empty streamlined Camero than a fully-loaded truck.

Same goes for people. With all things being equal, if someone’s body mass index is at 28 (considered overweight) as opposed to 21 or 22 (normal), he or she is going to run slower and less efficiently.

This reasoning suggests that losing weight won’t just help you look better in a swimsuit, but help your muscles and heart be happier with you throughout the process.

Setting the goal of losing one to two pounds per week is considered safe by both the American Diabetic Association and American Obesity Association. If you were starting to train for the Salt Lake City marathon April 18, you’d have 33 weeks to safely and realistically lose 20 to 40 pounds by race day. Losing that kind of weight can have dramatic effects on run times and distances. It also lowers the risk for cardiac problems and stress on joints in the lower torso and legs.

To safely lose one pound of fat per week, dieticians recommend cutting 3500 calories per week or 500 per day8212;that’s without exercising. If you’d rather die than give up Big Macs, cardiovascular exercise that keeps your heart rate at about 70 percent of your maximum heart beat threshold (your age subtracted from 220 beats per minute) puts you in ideal fat burning mode. Thirty minutes of cardio at that pace each day, or less if supplemented by a good diet, is literally all it takes to lose a pound of fat a week. If you’re training for a marathon, 30 minutes or more of running can easily allow a college-age person to hit 140 beats per minute three or four times per week.

Starting to adapt to the rigors of a marathon at least 33 weeks out allows a person to increase his or her distances at a rapid, but obtainable pace. It also allows one to hit and pass through the inevitable progress walls without getting off track, even if starting out with one mile.

The best way to set up a running plan is to plan on typical wall distances. Think of these as little plateaus that one must conquer in order to press his or her body on. Three- and five-mile distances seem to be natural early walls for beginning runners. Planning a schedule that allows for a few more weeks of feeling comfortable at this distance is not only smart but effective. Even if you have to sacrifice extending your mile intervals beyond a one-mile-per-week increase, anticipating walls will keep your body from stressing out and allow your muscles to catch up with your goals.

Perhaps the most crucial component of the early part of marathon training is to lift weights with your legs. Building strong hamstrings and quadriceps is key to preventing knee, foot and leg injuries that are caused by the stresses of running. A workout plan that includes five basic leg exercises is a smart way to decrease the risk of injury. Squats and leg presses on a weighted sled are both great ways to hit the larger muscle groups in one exercise. Leg extentions and leg curls on machines are a good way for focused muscle group work and can be combined in tandem, better known as a superset, for added benefit. Mixing in any variety of the lunge exercise group with some sort of calf exercise is all one needs to get the moving parts of a distance runner in ideal condition.

As one last tip, if you want any chance of running for the next three days after a leg workout, then stretching for at least 20 minutes after each leg session will help decrease recovery time. But plan on having your legs tell you “no” while your mind tells you “yes” when it’s time to hit the pavement for at least the first two weeks.

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