It's never too late to start training for marathons

  • Soumya Vajpayee Tiwari, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jan 20, 2015 22:47 IST

Did you finish the Dream Run (6 km) at the recent Mumbai Marathon? Well done. Now, instead of slacking and stopping that morning jog, why not train harder and aim to do the Half Marathon (21 km) next year? Better yet, why not keep participating in the several other such events coming up.

As for those who've never participated in such an event before, it's never too late to start training. Go on, hit the road.

For the beginners
Dream Run sounds short enough - 6 km - but those who've done it for the first time will admit that it's far from a cakewalk. As you take it to the next level, there are certain basic guidelines to follow, in order to build your stamina and strength.

"Also, rest is the most important element. Getting at least six to eight hours of sleep every night is a must for your body to heal and repair from the strain of workouts and training," says Dr Saurabh Jain, consultant physician, Cumballa Hill Hospital and Heart Institute, Kemps Corner.

The diet
It is recommended that you consult a sports nutritionist for your body type. However, certain simple additions do go a long way. The most important thing to remember is hydration. One needs to be well hydrated post a workout. When you sweat, you tend to lose a lot of minerals and salts that the body needs; it is important that you replenish them with lots of water and energy drinks. Also, make sure you have a healthy eating pattern, and fix the timings of your meals. Avoid sweets, fried foods and alcohol whenever possible.

While preparing for the marathon: Your diet should consist of 60 to 70% carbohydrates, and about 30 to 40% proteins. Carbohydrates should be of low glycemic index, for instance, wholegrain rice, pasta and potatoes are good as they release energy slowly, and are consistent sources of energy.

During the final days before the run: Stock up on pasta, oatmeal porridge and fruits such as bananas. Eat whole wheat chapattis and good amounts of veggies.

During the run: Replenish your carbohydrate stores 90 minutes prior. Oranges, bananas, sports drinks and dry fruits are great. Fuel the body every 45-60 minutes with 30 to 50 gm of carbohydrates (one large banana/ energy drink). Hydrate yourself well.

Post the run: A fruit-heavy smoothie or hot chocolate will help you gain energy quick.

Building stamina
* Training is important. The ideal time to prepare for a marathon is one year. But if you're eyeing one of the upcoming events, train for at least three days a week for up to 20-25 km. Don't forget your stretching exercises; your back, hamstrings and quadriceps need extra attention.
* Work on building your lower-body strength, and strengthen your leg and calf muscles.
* Indoor exercises such as squats and lunges help build leg muscles and should be included in your daily routine.
* To build endurance, start off slowly with 1 to 2 km of jogging at a comfortable pace. Note the time it takes you to complete the distance.
* Once you can easily complete the distance, keeping the distance the same, increase your speed to build stamina.
* Slowly start increasing the distance from 2-4 km, and so on.
* For a more rigorous routine, add inclined slopes be it while jogging or cycling.

Running plan
* Start with stretches, warm up and then start running.
* Run intensely for a minute, then run at a moderate pace for three to five minutes. Pace up again and then slow down. Amp up your speed gradually.
* Over-enthusiastic workouts can affect your heart muscles, and strain them. Although this is reversible, it can predispose one to cardiac ailments. This doesn't happen to everyone, but it is advisable to be cautious.

Experts say…
* Don't over-exert. At any given time, while training, if you feel weak or drained of energy, it's best to avoid training for a couple of days. If the condition persists, consult a physician.
* Long distance running has many health risks like stress tendon fatigue, knee pain and sprain, ankle sprain, extreme dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, overuse injuries etc.
* Cardiac screening programme for marathons, though not necessary, should not be ruled out as running a marathon can cause decrease in function of more than half of the heart's main chambers. It is beneficial to have acclimatisation before participating in a race of more than 45 miles.
* Make sure your shoes are accustomed for the race at least two weeks before the run. So try to walk for at least 50 km in the same shoes that you plan to wear for the final run.
* Breathe through your nose, as mouth breathing causes more water loss.
* Don't forget to warm up before the training and main event.
* Take multivitamins every day. You will also need adequate amounts of calcium and iron.
* Get a body check-up done to know if you are fit to run the marathon. Consult your doctor in case of any physical discomfort. Also check if you need to take aspirin. Baby aspirin is advised by doctors to some based on their health and heart status.

For the experienced
The diet
* The basics apply here as well in terms of hydration, foods that you need to avoid and maintaining a proper sleep routine. The elements that need to be consumed are the same as for the beginners.
* Make sure you have your daily intake of vitamins, be it from natural sources or supplements.
* You need to have a high protein diet, and have electrolyte and water supplementation during the workout to avoid dehydration.

Building stamina
* To prepare for a long run marathon, it is ideal that you start training well in advance, and preferably, under professional guidance - in terms of your exercise routine and diet. The main aspect to focus on while training is to avoid muscle injury and muscle loss, therefore proper guidance is important.
* Strength training with cardio exercises is necessary.
* To build stamina, you should do free squats, lunges, push-ups and core body training.

Running plan
* Start with walking, then brisk walking, followed by slowly gaining pace and jogging, then start running.
* You should increase the speed slowly, over one or two weeks.
* After gaining the desired pace, you should alternate between slow and brisk walking, to avoid injuries. This will also help you develop a sustained stamina.

Go running (Half marathons)
* January 26 - Republic Day Run, Pune
* February 2 - Kharghar Marathon, Kharghar
* February 14 - Mumbai Midnight Marathon, Mumbai
* February 15 - Hiranandani Thane Half Marathon, Thane
* February 15 - Alibag R&L Half Marathon, Alibag
* February 22 - Nagar Rising Marathon, Ahmednagar
* March 14 - Kundalika River Marathon, Kolad
* September 6 - Satara Hill Marathon, Satara

With inputs from Dr Amrapali Patil, weight management expert and founder of Trim N Tone; Dr Sourabh Goel, cardiologist, Cumballa Hill Hospital and Dr Saurabh Jain.

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