The mental side of marathon training: 7 top tips to help manage the big miles

14th March 2018

Optimum Nutrition Expert: Kim Ingleby, Award Winning Mind & Body Coach, 8 Marathons Ticked!

There is no doubt, training for a marathon is a huge physical and mental challenge, testing time management, relationships, health and happiness. Training for a marathon is also one of the most rewarding personal journeys you can take. If you are a first timer, or seasoned marathon runner, every training journey will be different, and the rewards will be great.

When I’m coaching people, there is a huge fear about the big training miles, getting injured or ill, and not making the finish line. Having coached 100’s of people to complete their first marathon, and completed 8 around the World myself; I’ve brought together my 7 Top Tips to help you manage the big marathon training miles (these can be adapted to any fitness goal too).

Here are my tips to help you have the best ‘peak’ miles in your marathon training (or any goal you may have in mind). If you create some time to write down, reflect and action the points, you will gain even more.

  1. Be accountable – Even if it is your worst training session, you will have done your best possible on the day. Write down the top 3 things that you were not happy with, and then next to them plan of action on how to improve them. Write down what you are going to do, how it will make you feel and how you will gain from it. Be specific, clear and accountable. (Often our hardest training sessions come through poor sleep, lack of recovery, lack of good food, pacing too fast, and rarely through the actual training sessions, so check in on these areas each week.)
  2. Find the Positive – however good or challenging the training session was, I want you to write down 3 positives from the session, however small, find them, write them down and how they made you feel. Remember this and share with your family and support team.
  3. Recover – Always make time for stretching, foam roller, functional strength exercises and core, they are the key to strengthen and lengthen the muscles, reduce the risk of injury and increase stability. If you can plan in a sports therapy treatment every 2-3 weeks during peak training miles this will enhance you performance and recovery even more, and keep your muscles in great condition whatever your ability. Specific supplements, like Omega 3, Gold Standard BCCA’s and Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein will help with recovery too, something which endurance athletes often miss out or get confused with. It all depends on your end goal, but the key to lean, efficient, energised bodies is quality training, nutrition, sleep and positive stress levels.
  4. Fuel – Be mindful of your nutrition and the levels of energy you are burning. For a week write down everything you are eating, and also your energy levels, mood, hunger and sleep. Once this is in balance your performance, recovery and energy should improve, keep it simple with lots of little changes every week.
  5. Fire – Whatever your race and motivational goals are, make sure they give you some ‘fire’ in your belly, something that excites you, makes you a little bit nervous, motivates, inspires and kicks you to edge of your boundaries. Write down all the reasons why you want to complete the marathon, why it really matters to you.  Then create some mantras to keep your focus when you have a tough week (which is totally normal when marathon training by the way, it’s a tough goal, mentally and physically so don’t be too hard on yourself).  Get positive support & knowledge around you to make it happen to your best.
  6. Fun – Keep in mind that you have chosen to do your goal, so make sure you keep it fun. Even if you are aiming to complete your first ever race, beat your PB or win a gold medal, if you enjoy it you will be more motivated, focused and in the moment, therefore making better use of your energy, gaining better results and having more fun.
  7. Friends and Family – Keep it in balance, even if the goal is taking a lot of time, make sure you make time to have fun outside of the goal, with friends and family. Yet also communicate to them what you have to do for the peak training which will consume some of your potentially ‘free’ time! This will keep expectations clear for everyone, and help you be motivated, allow for time out for rest and relaxation. This is key for balance, perspective & support, whatever your outcome (and helps you cope if you get injured) and for the journey to the finish line… And beyond.

I really hope these top tips help you to embrace the peak training.  It really is about taking the time mentally, as well as physically to prepare you for not only the big training sessions, but life, work and family priorities around them. Then I can assure 100% things will flow, yet also, one of those long runs will be a challenge (but if you keep the fire and fun in mind, you CAN do this).

Can’t wait to hear how you all go, and do tweet us any questions. Keep a look out for my next blog, packed full of specific tips to help you get ready for the actual race and cross that finish line.

Big support,