Whether you’re training for your first marathon or your fifth, you want to make sure that everything, all the way down to your outfit on race day, goes exactly according to plan.
You hydrate like a pro, you use Body Glide to prevent chaffing and you carefully plan each one of your weekend long runs. You’re doing everything right and it’s paying off in the form of performance gains.
However, training for a marathon is a fairly long endeavor, and while you know what needs to be done in order to cross that finish line successfully, over the long haul it’s easy to overlook a few common flubs that you should absolutely avoid.
Ensure a smooth and (mostly) painless marathon training period by avoiding these eight common mistakes.
Don’t: Let Your Guard Down During Long Runs
“You start spending a lot of miles on the road during marathon training, even if you do everything safely, not everybody else does,” says Tara Steinmetz, an avid runner who blogs at StrongerThanIKnow.com. “Just because you know the rules of running on the road doesn't mean everyone else does. Always be ultra-aware of your surroundings. Being right isn't always enough to be safe. Don't be paranoid or anything, but don't get too comfortable either.”
Don’t: Leave Without a Backup Plan
Steinmetz recommends always having a backup ride ready. “I was 10 miles from home, and though there were folks who knew where I was in case of an emergency, I hadn't thought that I might need a pick-up,” she said. “When I called, my ride couldn't get me for an hour or more. So, I had the choice between waiting several hours for a ride or walking several hours home; not fun! Always have a worst case scenario planned just in case, or do a series of loops rather than out and back so you’re never too far from home.”
Don’t: Wait to Address a Potential Injury
“Get checked out by a doctor right away,” says Steinmetz. “Maybe if I hadn't been so stubborn, a quick visit to the doc and a physical therapist could have gotten me ahead of the hip flexor problems that plagued me for weeks to come. Stay ahead of your health problems, because even if they seem minor in the moment, they can escalate pretty quickly when you're training for a marathon.”
Don’t: Underestimate the Importance of Warming Up
Amanda Brooks, running coach and creator of RunToTheFinish.com, recommends that you warm up before every workout. “Studies have shown spending just 5 to 10 minutes walking can help increase your endurance by up to 20 percent. A few dynamic stretches and a short walk will help you run farther and reduce the risk for injury.
Don’t: Forget to Include Rest Days
“Without giving your body the rest that it needs you can end up being over-trained and will not reap the benefits of all your hard fought miles on race day,” says Sandra LaFlamme, a marathon runner and triathlete who blogs at OrganicRunnerMom.com
Don’t: Overlook Cross Training
LaFlamme also recommends making sure to schedule cross training workouts into your training plan, like swimming, biking or weight lifting. “Cross training is an important part of recovery and will also help you to avoid injury,” she said.
Don’t: Skimp On Sleep
“Nighttime sleep plays an essential role in allowing your body to recover properly from long runs and hard workouts,” LaFlamme said. “Without adequate rest your body is more susceptible to illness. Lack of sleep can also cause mental fatigue making longer training runs and even race day tough.”
Don’t: Make Any Drastic Dietary Changes
During marathon training, LaFlamme suggests sticking to a diet that your body is used to. “Unless you are working with a nutritionist, drastic changes to your diet can result in fatigue or other unwanted GI issues.”