How To Train Your BODY To Run A Marathon This Summer

by Rachael Collier

In partnership with the coaches at the American Cancer Society's DetermiNation program, we've crafted your beginner's guide to training for a marathon (that's both your body and mind) this summer. Whether it's your first marathon, your training for a 5k or you're just learning to run for personal enjoyment (and cardio), these tips should help guide you on your running journey. 

Hopefully you've read part 1. of this series: How To Train Your Mind To Run A Marathon to help set the right mindset to achieve your running goals. Now it's time to tackle the physical part of training for a marathon or race.

Part Two: Get Your Body Ready to Run 

Drink the right fluids. 

Unless you are putting down some serious miles, like a half marathon or greater distance, you should choose water over a sports drink (that can contain up to 150 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar). If you are still craving flavor, add some strawberries or orange slices to your water bottle. 

Resist the urge to over hydrate. Francis Wang, the team physician for Harvard athletics, provided the following advice to Harvard Health: “For most [athletes], thirst is a good guide for hydration,” he said. “Athletes who have had muscle cramps may need to drink extra, and may need more electrolytes. Use thirst as your guide.”


Fuel with the right foods. 

Every runner, regardless of distance, should choose healthy fuel before and after their run. Snacking 30-90 minutes before a run is an optimal way to ensure you stay on track. Keep your portions small as eating too much before a run can cause cramping

During your training, experiment with the right foods and quantities that make you feel light but full enough to achieve your goals. A whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter and half a banana, packing about 350 calories, is an example of optimal fuel if consumed 60 minutes before a run. 

During your run, try portable superfoods  that will offer a healthy boost instead of running gels (that are high in artificial sugar):

  • Dates are highly portable and full of potassium
  • Frozen grapes are a favorite treat that pack nutrition, hydration and refreshment
  • Make your own superfood running treats by mixing coconut oil, protein powder, and a little bit of honey and rolling them into small balls


Warm up with dynamic stretching.

Many running gurus agree that dynamic stretches that incorporate movement and take your body's joints through their full range of motion are far superior to static stretching. Dynamic stretching means slow, controlled movements like arm circles rather than standing still. For best results, warm up with a five minute jog before a race followed by a few minutes of dynamic stretching to keep your muscles limber on the big day. 


marathonDon’t overtrain. 

Running is a psychological and physical rush. As you get more and more miles under your belt, it can be exhilarating, but new runners should avoid overtraining or risk injury.  The coaching team at DetermiNation offers the following “toos” you will want to avoid:

  • Running too long too soon
  • Running too long too many times
  • Running too long too fast
  • Running too fast too many times
  • Running too short too many times


Follow the 10% rule. 

But how much can you safely train? The 10% rule is one of the most proven ways to safely increase your distance while running and avoiding injury. By increase your weekly mileage no more than 10% week over week you can up your distance at a steady pace. That means if you are training for a 5K and you are running four times per week at 3K each time, you should add no more than 1.2 kms the next week. 


For more tips for first-time runners, check out the following training tips from the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation program and sign up for the upcoming virtual 5K race, If you’ve ever dreamed of changing your life and being part of something bigger than yourself, the DetermiNation team is the place to start. 

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