How to Prepare Your Body For a Marathon

Written by Chris Bradley

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When running a marathon, preparation is crucial for success. No matter your experience, understanding the importance of marathon preparation helps you reach your goals and stay safe.

This guide explores how to prepare for a marathon, helping you achieve optimum performance and the marathon physio you can use to help with those post-run aches and pains, such as knee injuries

What can you do to prepare for your race? Find out here!

1) Create an Exercise Training Plan

speed work for marathon training

Before you tackle the 26.2 miles, invest at least a year in consistent running. 

Avoid increasing your weekly mileage too quickly; stick to a manageable 20-30 miles per week.

Also, start with shorter races like 5Ks (parkruns are ideal for this) and 10Ks to improve your skills. Make a structured training plan to help your progress. You can use app coaches to help you with your plan and track your results.

Establish a base mileage

Run three to five times per week and work out a base mileage. Gradually increase your weekly mileage by 10-15%. 

Incorporate a long run

Every 7-10 days, include a long run in your training to allow your body to acclimate to longer distances. During these runs, know your peak distance; only train between 60% and 70% of the total marathon distance. You should be able to run this distance approximately 3-4 weeks before your marathon.

Integrate speed work

Alternate between intervals and tempo runs, which is to practice the run at the marathon pace we desire to achieve, to enhance cardiovascular capacity.

Rest and recovery

Remember, rest and recovery are non-negotiable. Adequate rest not only prevents injuries but also helps your mental well-being.

Equally, taper your distance for 2-4 weeks before your marathon. This tactic enables your body to rest and recover before the race so you can reach your optimal performance on the day. During these two weeks, keep your workouts shorter and more intense than usual.

2) Plan your nutrition

nutrition for marathon running

To give your body the correct nutrition, include the following in your plan:

  • Begin with the carb-loading strategy, ensuring your body’s glycogen stores are full.
  • Eat easily digestible foods to avoid discomfort during your run.
  • Practise with the snacks you plan to use on marathon day to assess their impact on your performance.

While energy gels are popular, they aren’t suitable for everyone. Experiment cautiously during training to gauge their compatibility with your body. Remember, improper fueling can lead to ‘hitting the wall’ during the race. 

Equally crucial is hydration; not enough intake or electrolyte imbalances can cause gastric distress, nausea, and dizziness. 

Forming a tailored nutrition plan and understanding what works best for your body ensures you’re well-prepared physically for your marathon.

3) Work on Strength and Cross-Training

lifting weights for marathon training

Running, while excellent for cardiovascular health, predominantly targets specific muscle groups. So, incorporate cross-training into your regimen to ensure holistic fitness and reduce the risk of injuries. 

Diversifying your workouts will give specific muscles a rest and enhance overall endurance.

Integrate strength training exercises focusing on core muscles and lower body. Strengthened muscles provide better support and improve your running performance.

Additionally, consider activities like yoga or swimming. Yoga enhances flexibility and promotes mental calmness while swimming offers a low-impact, full-body workout. Both can improve your overall stamina and your body’s ability to endure the marathon.

By widening your training routine, you prepare your body for the marathon and reduce the likelihood of injuries. Whilst training, regular massages like deep tissue massage can help injuries recover, which is especially beneficial when increasing your mileage. This treatment can also help reduce issues experienced during and after your marathon; this is explained in more detail later in this blog.

4) Buy The Best Running Gear And Footwear

proper footwear for marathon training

Another step in your marathon preparation is to invest in the right running gear and footwear. 

Your choice of clothing goes beyond aesthetics; it directly impacts your performance. 

Properly fitting apparel can help with the following:

  • Regulate body temperature
  • Reduce friction
  • Support your muscles and joints

These factors enhance overall comfort during training and race day.

Footwear, in particular, is non-negotiable. The correct trainers offer both style and crucial cushioning and arch support, whereas ill-fitted or worn-out shoes can lead to discomfort and injuries.

5) Conduct proper stretches ahead of the marathon

stretches to prepare for marathon

As many muscles contract during inactivity, proper warm-up through stretching is vital. 

Embrace dynamic stretching, involving gentle and repetitive motions like arm swings, to prepare your body for the race.

Below are some essential stretches you can incorporate into your routine:

Side Lunge

Have both feet facing forward and step to the side with one leg, bending the other knee. Keep your body upright as you step. If you step to the left, shift your weight over your left foot, and vice versa. Then, return to standing.

Bent-Knee Forward Swing

Stand beside a fence or wall in case you need support. Stand on one leg, then bend the other knee up 90o in front of you. Bring your knee towards your chest, then extend it behind you, straightening it. 

Straight-Leg Lateral Swing

Perform this stretch near a fence or wall, so you have access to support if needed. Stand on one leg and swing the other sideways out, first away from your body and then across the front of your body. The movements should be smooth.

Incorporating these stretches into your pre-race routine ensures your muscles are warmed up and prepared for the run.

6) Focus on Mental Preparation and Motivation

massage for maraton preparation

Preparing your body for a marathon isn’t just about physical endurance. It also requires mental preparation. Regular massages can help the following:

  • Relax your body
  • Loosen tense muscles
  • Alleviate stress
  • Stimulate endorphin release, making you feel rejuvenated and mentally prepared for the marathon.

At bodytonic, we accept various medical insurances to provide massages to support you before and after your marathon. Explore our massage options for your body and mind, ensuring you’re best prepared for the run.

7) Create a Race-Day Strategy

race day strategy for marathon

On marathon day, your preparation culminates in a well-thought-out strategy, which should include the following:

  • Stick to what you’ve already tried; race day is not the time to experiment.
  • Hydrate thoroughly in the days leading up to the race.
  • Eat a simple, high-carbohydrate breakfast for sustained energy.
  • Avoid overdressing to prevent overheating.
  • Use Vaseline on areas prone to chafing to ensure comfort throughout the race.
  • Start the race slowly to conserve energy for the later miles.
  • Drink slowly during the race.
  • Consider brief rehydration stops.
  • Maintain a steady pace.

By adhering to this strategy, you optimise your chances for success. Consistency, sensible choices, and careful pacing help ensure a smoother run.

8) Plan Ahead For Post-Race Recovery and Care

post marathon recovery

Marathon planning doesn’t finish with the end of the race; proper post-run care is essential. 

Address any injuries promptly to prevent them from becoming long-term issues. Listen to your body; if you are aware of recurring problems, consider booking a treatment or a running physio appointment in advance.

By planning ahead for post-race recovery and seeking timely care, you can significantly enhance your body’s ability to recover.

Do you need physiotherapy after the marathon?

Marathon runners often face post-race challenges. If you suffer from cramps, backaches, joint pain, muscle spasms, or minor sports injuries, physiotherapy can help you recover and enhance your performance.

At bodytonic, we offer a range of post-marathon treatments, including soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation, neurodynamics, stretching, and joint manipulation. Our expert physiotherapists can address your specific needs, ensuring your body recuperates effectively after the marathon.

Running a marathon begins with preparation and continues with thoughtful aftercare. By embracing our tips and engaging in the correct treatment, you’re helping to prepare your body for your upcoming marathon.

If you’re looking for physiotherapy in East London, take a look and see how we can support you today.