It's Marathon Season! 5 Training Tips for Long Distance Running

September 11, 2013

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2014 Boston Marathon registration opened on Monday at 10 a.m., and over 4,000 people signed up just on the first day. But there are still 22,000 spots left for time qualifiers. And if you’ve been gearing up for New York City Marathon coming up on November 3, these last 7 weeks will make a big difference on whether you push to the next level. If you are running in either of these races, half-marathons, or even 10ks, read these tips for long distance running so you maximize your training.

1. Run 4 days a week: A good basic plan for increasing your endurance and speed is to run 4 days a week with varying intensity. For instance: 1 long run at a moderate pace, 1 intense speed run, and 2 easy-effort runs. In between running days, you should also be cross training to prevent injuries and increase your stamina, balance, and muscle strength. Pilates and yoga are both great options, as are any conditioning and weight bearing exercises. Leave one day a week for active rest–meaning you shouldn’t be exerting yourself too much, but also not glued to the bed either. A bit of walking, moving around, and doing chores on rest day will keep your energy levels up and running.

2. Hydration is key: Now that you’re exercising and running round the clock, you should be drinking a lot more water, too. Your body can’t run if it’s not hydrated properly, so don’t wait until right before a long run to hydrate. You should be drinking continuously throughout the day for maximum energy later on.

3. Time your meals: All the hours you put in won’t be effective if you don’t fuel your body correctly. To get the most out of your runs, make sure you time your meals correctly. The best time for a run is about 2.5-3 hours after a light meal (around 500 calories); if your run is over 4 hours after your meal, plan to eat a small snack (100-180 calories) at least half an hour before the run. After the workout, make sure to eat a small snack with some protein within an hour so your muscles can recover. My favorite post-workout snack is a cold glass of chocolate soy milk or this delicious Happy Banana Almond Milkshake.

4. Take your vitamins: The best and most natural way of getting your nutrients is through whole, unprocessed foods. Having said that, your body requires more nutritional attention now that you’re putting it through hell intense physical transformation, week after week. Here are the nutrients that you should watch for, either through eating more nutrient-rich foods or taking supplements:

-Potassium– no brainer, this electrolyte balances fluid levels and keeps your muscles from cramping. Besides bananas, Potassium can also be found in Swiss chard, spinach, beans, and lentils.

-Magnesium– called the “fifth but forgotten electrolyte,” this lonelyhearts mineral wants you to take notice, and for good reason. Not only is it crucial for maintaining fluid levels, it’s also essential for bone health. Get it from pumpkin seeds, almonds, Brazil nuts, spinach and Swiss chard.

-Calcium– hours of pounding the pavement put a lot of stress on your bones. Fortified soy or almond milk, broccoli, tofu are all good sources of calcium.

-Iron– when you’re exercising a lot it’s important to watch your iron levels so that you don’t hit a wall during your run. Dark greens, soybeans, and lentils will help keep your stamina.

-Vitamin B6 and B12– the Bs are crucial for preventing anemia, and maintaining healthy red blood cells and nervous system. The easiest and (delicious) way of getting more Bs in your diet is nutritional yeast. I also recommend seaweed (B12), avocado (B6) and potatoes (B6).

5. Aftercare Matters: Stretching is necessary for muscle recovery and preventing fatigue and pain the next day. Wind down your run with dynamic arm swings and leg swings, then stretch out on a mat and try these best foam roller stretches for runners. And don’t just stretch the big muscles in your legs: running works out your entire body, so pay attention to all your body like ankles, feet, spine, hips, and neck. To reduce inflammation and injury, you can try a cold bath or an ice pack. If you don’t like the idea of sitting in a tub of ice cold water, try a soothing Epsom salt bath.


Inspired yet? You can sign up for the Boston race here. If you are not quite ready for a marathon but want to try running races, here is a good place to look for them. No matter what you do, remember these 5 tips, stay safe, and most of all, have fun!

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