Jürg Widmer Probst - fitness Marathon

Preparing for your first marathon

So, you’ve finally done it. You’ve gone and plucked up the courage to click ‘submit’ on your online entry. You’ve paid your fee, agreeing to run your first marathon, and worst of all, you’ve told all your friends you’re going to do it.

There is no backing out now – and now the real challenge begins. How on earth do you prepare for something as mind blowingly gruelling as 26.2 miles of hard running?

Well, we’ll be honest – it isn’t going to be easy. It wouldn’t be a marathon if it was. But it is do-able. Here are our tips for marathon first timers.

Get the right training plan

Notice the key word here is the ‘right’ training plan. There are countless ones out there – just search online – but they are for a myriad of different abilities and time scales.

So, think about how long you have to train before the big day. And have a very clear (and most importantly, honest) sense of where you are at in terms of fitness – and then choose your plan accordingly. Also, it’s probably well worth getting yourself checked out by a doctor if you have any doubts about your health.

Never increase your mileage by more than 10%

It’s a simple rule, but an incredibly important one. Keeping any mileage increase to 10% at the most is a great way to balance both pushing yourself to run further with protecting yourself from injury. So, if you run 10 miles one week, run no further than 11 the following week.

Use those rest days!

When you’re really getting into running it can be very tempting to do it all the time. You’re feeling great, and you can see the improvement you’re making. Then along comes one of those boring days with an ‘R’ for ‘Rest’ next to it in your training plan, and you decide that one more little run won’t harm you.

The problem is that those rest days are absolutely crucial – they allow your body to recover, but also to embed some of the fitness that you have been building up while you’re running. Don’t miss them out – they’re there for a reason.

Enjoy the day itself

It sounds ridiculous to say when you’re running well over 20 miles, but do try and enjoy the day. Yes, it will be unbelievably tough, and you are probably going to have more than a few dark moments.

But it is also really important to try soak up the experience of being out there for your first marathon – after all, you may never do it again!

So, while you are out there, look around you. Soak up the adulation of the crowds, high five the kids as you pass, and enjoy the luxury of being able to eat as many jelly babies as you feel like.

You have earned every single last one of them.

Jürg Widmer Probst

Jurg Widmer Probst

How to set good fitness goals and achieve them

We have all been there, whatever our levels of fitness or commitment to getting healthier. We set a goal – for example losing a certain amount of weight, or maybe running a 5k or even a marathon.

We commit to it for a few days, or a few weeks even, before something goes wrong and we give up. It might be that we get injured, or just disheartened with the progress we are making and don’t feel motivated any more.

Then, we stop, feel bad about ourselves, and fail to make any progress until we feel motivated to start again. And all too often, the process repeats itself. So, how do we break out of this? Is there a way to set fitness goals that are testing, but achievable, and that we will stick to until we beat them? We believe there are – so here are out tips.

Willpower really is all down to you.

There have been varying theories on what exactly willpower is, with some researchers suggesting that it is something that is directly linked to rest. And while it is clear that rest (in the form of enough sleep and healthy food at regular intervals) is a fundamental part of helping us to feel in better shape, it isn’t the whole story.

Newer research suggests that willpower is actually only as limited as you think it is – so, for example, if you tell yourself that you don’t have enough willpower to get up and go for a run or hit the gym, that will be the case. This has big implications because it really hands back the power to get fitter to you – whether you have the will to do something really comes down to your own attitude, and nothing else.

Just do it for yourself.

This might seem counter intuitive – after all, having a goal such as raising money for charity, or even just telling lots of people what you’re trying to achieve can all have a motivating effect on you. But the opposite can also be true. By setting a goal that is motivated internally, you can often make much more progress.

What do we mean by this? Well, for example, if you commit to go to go out for a run every day because you are trying to raise money for a charity, it is likely that you are going to feel fairly  motivated. You’ll keep going because you’re thinking about the money you’re raising and the good thing you’re doing for others.

But it will be tough, and there is a good chance that you will be much less motivated to go for a run than someone who actually just loves going running. If you get a big personal buzz out of pulling on your trainers and hitting the road, then you are more likely to stick at than someone who is doing it for purely altruistic reasons. So, find a fitness goal that fits with things you love to do, and it will be far easier to keep to it.

Keep it interesting.

No one enjoys running the same route every day, or working the same muscles on the same equipment at the gym. It is boring and demotivating – but is remarkable how many people make this very basic mistake when they are setting their fitness goals and creating a programme to achieve them. To return to our previous point again – the key to setting and achieving fitness goals is to find activities that you enjoy, and nothing kills enjoyment like endless repetition.

So, mix it up. Pick a different route, or head out on a trail to build a bit of variety into your runs. Or, if you’re creating a programme of gym workouts, make sure that you are focusing on a wide range of muscle groups, or mixing up the equipment you use. For example, if you’re used to just using the gym’s machines, then try using free weights too for a bit of variation.

A final thought on this. So much of setting and achieving our fitness goals is really about being good to ourselves. Too often, people see getting fit almost as a form of punishment – and while it does need to be tough, we also need to try and find something we feel passionate about.

So find an activity you love. Set goals that will test you but that you can achieve, and don’t be too hard on yourself. However you get on, know that you can always begin again: focus on the start that you have made, not on the failures you have had along the way.