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Marathon Training Tips

If you're planning to run a marathon, or any long-distance race, keep in mind the following training advice.

Avoid Preventable Injuries

The most common running injuries usually are preventable. Your body responds to the stress you place on it, so listen to your body when it's hurting.

To help prevent common running injuries:

  • Alternate your terrain and running surfaces during training. Vary workouts among flat surfaces and up and down hills.
  • Wear running shoes that fit your foot type and have no more than 500 miles on them.
  • Avoid training too hard or too often. Give your body “easy days” between intense workouts to avoid overuse injuries. A sudden increase in mileage or a severely intense work-out session can cause injury.

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Practice Fueling Your Body

It's hard to perform your best if you're dehydrated or lacking energy. Practice fueling your body now to optimize your race day performance.

  • Get used to drinking plenty of water — don't wait until the day before or day of the marathon. And make sure the water goes into your mouth, not just over your face or head.
  • Practice swallowing in gulps (not sips) out of paper cups while running.
  • If you’re a salty sweater, add more salt to your diet. Eat pickles or pretzels, or add salt to your sports drink.
  • Try small packets of sports gel or honey for instant energy. Practice with these now, to make sure they work for you and you like their taste and consistency.

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Train With What Will Be Provided

If you plan to drink or eat items provided throughout the course on race day, train with them now to avoid discomfort or stomach upset.

Common items include:

  • Water for hydration
  • Lemon-lime flavored Gatorade Endurance Formula for hydration
  • GU brand sports gels (vanilla bean, chocolate, tri berry, strawberry, banana, and jet blackberry) for extra energy
  • Potato chips or pretzels to help salty sweaters maintain sodium levels in their blood

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Step Up Your Mental Game

Mental toughness is just as important as physical preparedness when running a marathon.

To help optimize your mindset:

  • Get out the racecourse and develop a mental approach for each stretch. Prepare “focus cues” to keep your mind in the right place.
    • When you see a playground, use it as a reminder to relax your shoulders.
    • Every time you see someone throw their water cup, imagine throwing away any pain.
  • Develop a race-day support system. Tell friends and family where to stand and what to yell as you run by.
  • Practice visualizing yourself running strong.
    • Imagine “hitting the wall” but staying positive and continuing to push through it.
    • Think about how you will manage obstacles at difficult points during the race.
    • Picture the pride you'll experience when crossing the finish line.
  • Most importantly, prepare yourself to have fun, be excited, and embrace the challenge!

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Address Pain and Injury

If your body is in pain or injured, you should rest and alternate your training methods.

  • Do not ignore the early warning signs of common runners’ injuries:
    • Pain or tenderness
    • Swelling
    • Stiffness
    • Weakness
    • Decreased performance
  • If you experience any of the above symptoms, see your doctor or a sports medicine professional early. Many running-related injuries can be easily diagnosed and treated.
  • Modify your training by:
    • Gradually warming up
    • Decreasing harder workouts
    • Reducing your workouts to a pain-free level
    • Supplementing running with other forms of preparation (such as swimming or spinning)
  • If your injury isn’t completely healed before race day, consider running an alternate marathon at a later date.

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Contact UPMC Sports Medicine

To schedule an appointment or ask a question, call 1-855-937-7678 or contact us online.