So you signed up for your first 10K, half or full-length marathon. Now comes the hard part: making it across the finish line with some gas left in your tank.
To help you prep for success, we recruited one of the best endurance athletes in the world, Nathan Sports-sponsored athlete Michael Wardian. In January 2017, this elite athlete won the World Marathon Challenge in record time, completing seven marathons in seven days across all seven continents (yes, including subzero Antarctica). The 43-year-old from Arlington, Virginia, won every race in the circuit, averaging 2:45:57 per each 26.2-mile leg.
Here are six of Wardian’s top tips to go the distance.
1. Set your benchmark.
“Do a 5K [3.1 miles] to get a baseline of your current fitness level,” Wardian says. “Then you can establish a specific, comfortable training pace. In the base-building phase of running, a pace between 60 and 75 percent of your max heart rate zone is safe and will build endurance.”
2. Don’t add more than 10 percent to your distance each week.
You can add a bit more if you’re already fit, but, says Wardian, “Ten percent of max volume allows the body to adapt, and should help you avoid overuse injuries.”
3. Invest in appropriate footwear.
Your shoes can make your training a dream or a dread. “I don’t think endurance training is bad for your knees and hips — especially if you have the correct equipment like great shoes, with ample support and cushion,” Wardian says. Get properly fitted at a dedicated running store with shoes that suit your feet, stride, physiology and race distance.
4. Allot time for recovery.
Wardian suggests training at distances of 26 miles and above no more once every six or seven days to prevent overuse injuries. “Overuse injuries are not due to the activity itself, but more [often] occur from people enjoying it so much that they get overzealous. They don’t allow for enough recovery, or [they] go hard every run,” he says. Don’t kill it all the time — vary the intensity of your training from day to day and schedule days off.
5. Don’t fear the bonk.
“The more you learn [about your body] in training, the more you can figure out how to avoid a bonk and overcome a bonk if it does happen,” says Wardian, who recommends calories, hydration and electrolytes — in that order — to keep your wheels running. He takes in about 100 calories every four miles — about 200 to 300 calories per hour — during a race. “I also try to eat something pretty close to the start, about 45 minutes out, so I can process it and my body is ready to rumble.”
6. Slow down. Really.
“Another thing that can cause a bonk is going too fast, and that is easy to avoid, too — just readjust your pace,” Wardian says. “That being said, we all [experience] low patches here and there on the road, but you can get through them with persistence. That is just part of being an endurance athlete.”