Marathon training is a long-term project. You can’t really wing it. I recommend you either get a plan or a coach for training. There are many online resources for that and a lot of them are free. I personally love the Hal Higdon programs (and have been using the different levels for all my half marathon trainings). I turned 30 this year and as I mentioned, have completed a number of half marathons and other races in the last 4 years so I decided it’s time to tackle the full 26.2 this year. What I learned throughout this training though fundamentally surprised me—it’s not really about the running. I mean sure, you have to put in the mileages and be consistent and disciplined—and I love all of that—but there are a few other things that are crucial when prepping for a race like that.
4 Things I Did For My Marathon Training (Aside From Running)
Sleep: I can’t stress this enough. Sleep is the most important thing ever for recovering and absorbing heavy workout loads. When you sleep, your body regenerates its cells and works on rebuilding muscle. During training season, I am even more obsessive about getting at least 8 hours per night. That means I clear my calendar, schedule dinner dates early during the week so I can still get up around 6 for my training sessions and make sure I wind down at night be leaving my phone and other screens outside my bedroom. In that way, I am not distracted mentally and can prepare to fully rest.
Cross training: marathon training is not just about running. I discovered an amazing class and teacher during my training: the Bodhi Sculpt method developed by Jason Bayus and his team. The class is a mix between yoga, pilates, dance, and martial arts, and will strengthen your muscles while also challenging your balance and developing a strong sense of body posture. It’s honestly the perfectly complementary workout to running because it trains all dimensions of movement versus just doing the same movement over and over again (which running is!). If you live in New York, definitely sign up for his class as it’s a game changer.
Nutrition: you don’t need to supplement heavily on a plant-based diet. Vitamin B12 is pretty much my only constant supplement (that is an absolute must!). But with this increased workload and running over 50 miles a week (while also biking to work every day), I added a few things to my nutrition. For one, I started taking magnesium supplements at night to relax my body and help with deep sleep. And secondly, I added a little more tofu and tempeh to my diet for some extra protein. Finally, I added more nuts and seeds to my meals, especially on days when I ran less, to up the healthy fats. A great way to do that is to add a tablespoon or two of nut and seed butter to your morning smoothie or snack on nuts and seeds (my favorite are cashews and pistachios) when you need an afternoon snack.
Mental Health: I am a doer and have a hard time enjoying the journey and process. It’s something I am working on and training for a marathon helps with that because it’s all about the journey and the race at the end should just be the cherry on top. I realized over the last few months that a demanding training schedule requires you being extra kind with yourself and taking care of your mental health. The best way for me to achieve that is schedule in a weekly self-care “treat.” It could be getting a manicure, checking out a new yoga studio, a trip to my favorite consignment store or even a day excursion upstate to a local town for a hike and a nice vegan meal. It’s easy to theorize about self-care but to make it happen is harder, so I literally plan out my month in advance with my calendar and book/map out my self-care sessions. I think of them as at the same commitment level as a doctor’s appointment or a business meeting, which are things I wouldn’t cancel on either.
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Photo: Angelos Michalopoulos on Unsplash