Skip to main content

9 things to keep in mind when training for a marathon

| Healthy You | Exercise and Fitness

Two people running in park.

A how-to guide to running a marathon for beginners.

Training to run a marathon can take you on a journey of physical and mental transformation. If you’re a beginner, it's essential to keep your health and wellness in mind throughout your training. 

“It’s common to experience injuries and other setbacks when starting a new training regimen. It’s important to modify your workouts and allow appropriate time for recovery and stretching to reduce your risk of injuries that might compromise your ability to fulfill your goals,” says Tyson Hawkins, MD, an internal medicine doctor at PeaceHealth Cordata Main in Bellingham, Washington.

Here are a few ways to stay healthy and focused as you prepare for your first marathon:

  1. Get a check-up. Before starting any new physical activity, you may benefit from visiting your healthcare provider. You can decide together if you’re healthy enough to take on the challenge. They can also give you tips on how to prepare and prevent injuries.
  2. Set realistic goals. As a beginner, it's important to pace yourself. Start with small goals such as running for 30 minutes without stopping. From there, you can gradually increase your distance and time. You can set short-term goals for the next week or month, and long-term goals for the year. This will help you stay motivated and focused on your progress.
  3. Wear proper gear. Invest in supportive running shoes and comfortable clothing that allows your skin to breathe. This can help prevent blisters, chafing and injuries.
  4. Hydrate. Staying hydrated is crucial for running, especially during long runs. Do your best to drink plenty of water and electrolyte-rich fluids to avoid dehydration. Two hours before your run, try drinking two 8-ounce glasses of water.
  5. Fuel your body. Eating a balanced and nutritious diet is vital for runners. Your body needs energy to sustain long runs. Choose foods that are high in carbohydrates and protein like lentils, brown rice and grilled chicken breast or Greek yogurt. You might also want to consider meeting with a registered dietitian to create a personalized nutrition plan.
  6. Cross-train. Adding in other forms of exercise such as strength training, yoga or cycling can help prevent injury and improve your overall fitness.
  7. Rest and recover. Rest days are just as important as running days. Plan with intention for time off to allow your body to recover. Get enough sleep, stretch and foam roll to prevent muscle soreness and improve flexibility. Foam rolling helps to massage large muscle groups through a self-myofascial release technique. 
  8. Listen to your body. If you're feeling tired, sore or experiencing pain, take a break from running so you can recover. Pushing through pain can lead to injury and set back your progress.
  9. Reach out for expert help. If you're experiencing long-lasting pain or discomfort, consider making an appointment with a physical therapist or your primary care provider. They can help diagnose and treat injuries and share advice on how to prevent them in the future.

By following these tips, you can achieve your goals while tending to your health and wellness. Good luck on your marathon journey!

portrait of Tyson J. Hawkins MD

Tyson J. Hawkins MD

Internal Medicine

Tyson J. Hawkins MD practices Internal Medicine in Bellingham.