Oklahoma health and fitness experts weigh in on what it takes to prepare for a 26.2-mile run.

Before Beginning

Get evaluated: David Rhodes, an orthopedic surgeon with INTEGRIS Health Edmond and winner of the 2019 OKC Memorial Marathon, suggests visiting your doctor before training begins.

“A doctor will perform a routine screening based on the patient’s age, medical problems and overall conditioning level,” he says. “The doctor may decide to do a blood pressure check, heart disease screening or look for other things that could potentially be an issue if somebody starts an exercise program for the first time.”

While Training

Create a routine: Endurance is built over time, so forming a regular running schedule is key. 

Sloan Taylor, a registered dietitian with Saint Francis Hospital, says athletes should use a structured plan with pre-determined distances as they work toward race day. She advises increasing distance conservatively over the plan, especially if you’re a novice. A common method is running maintenance runs twice during the week and tackling longer distances over the weekend.

“If you haven’t been running, it’s important to start out with a reasonable amount of exercise,” seconds Rhodes. “Some people get really motivated and excited to begin their training, and they go on to do too much too soon. They get injured, almost immediately, and that really sidetracks them from making progress.”

Tulsa-based personal trainer John Jackson says cross training is also essential to avoiding injury, creating stability and increasing your aerobic capacity. He recommends foot builders – because everything goes through your toes, feet and ankles – as well as weight-lifting. 

“Using both bands and weights can help your body handle the mileage under gravity,” he says.

Rest and replenish: Staying hydrated is necessary for training safely, but Jackson says runners need to do more than just drink water. After running for an hour or more, Jackson recommends replenishing your glycogen stores. This will help you from hitting a wall at the 20 mile mark. 

Racers can replenish by eating energy chews on the run, but Rhodes advises to try them before race day to see how the body responds. 

As for resting, Taylor says novice runners should have a designated rest day at least once a week.

Before Race Day

Map the space: When it comes to combating extreme weather, runners must know their geography. Jackson says training in the region you’ll be running in is the best way to acclimate to the conditions. 

“You can trigger your body temperature systems with hydration, too,” says Jackson. “If you can get a feel for how much water you need or how you need to eat based on where you’re running, that can help as well.”

Stay steady: As the race draws near, runners shouldn’t change much about their training regimen. Taylor says the intent of the “taper down” is to capitalize on both the rest and decreased mileage right before the race. Jackson adds that by this point, runners should be consistent in their mileage and recovery. Don’t treat preparing for race day like cramming for a test.

Implement the same mindset when it comes to pre-race meals. Avoid seafood, high fiber foods or anything outside of your typical diet.

Stay positive:Your mental state plays a huge role in your ability to finish the race. If you’re healthy, the experts agree that you can work up to the 26.2.

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