Fitness chat: healthy steps lead to a marathon | Health & Fitness

Dear Stephanie and Bruce: I am 46 and one of my Bucket List items is to participate in a marathon. I need your help to make this happen in 2013. What tips can you provide? Ray

Stephanie: Thank you for your question. Running or walking a marathon is an excellent goal and something that I believe anyone can achieve, as long as you plan and prepare for the event. There are many things to consider when you are setting a marathon goal, the first being, are you healthy and fit enough to begin this journey? We recommend seeing your doctor if this is not something that you are sure about. Second, do you have the support of your family? A marathon is a big commitment and is challenging to accomplish if family is not supportive of the time and energy that such an endeavor entails. If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then there are some things to consider when choosing a marathon.

-- Does the race have a time limit?

-- Will you walk or run, or a combination of both?

-- How many months/weeks will you need to train? Typically, the more deconditioned you are, the more time you will need to train for the big event.

-- Do you want to travel to the event or do something local?

-- What type of support will you need? A cheering squad, a coach, a running club?

Bruce: The planning and preparing part can be an opportunity to involve family members with your goal by soliciting their input with selecting the event location, customizing the training plan and charting weekly progress. We find the probability of goal achievement increases when it brings rewards for you and those you care about; think of it as multi-tasking while you grind away at the goal.

Stephanie: There are several good training plans available for free on the Internet. The better plans encourage a gradual increase in weekly running volume over the course of 20 or more weeks rather than an aggressive, short plan that can lead to injuries.

Bruce: Several people have had success with the Jeff Galloway training plan which is available at It is a 32-week plan that incorporates a mix of running and walking. Another good source for training plans is at They have a 30-week plan that requires four runs a week with 1.5-mile runs in the first few weeks.

What is your advice to mitigate the challenges most new marathoners will experience?

Stephanie: Everyone experiences challenges. If doing marathons was easy, everyone would do them. Enjoy the process and try to have realistic expectations. Here are few things you should pay particular attention to.

-- Schedule appropriate rest days and listen to your body. If you need an extra rest day, take it.

--Try to stick to your training schedule but don’t get too stressed about interruptions. “Real life” will occasionally get in the way. One missed workout will not undo the steady progress you have made.

-- Invest in proper footwear (shoes and socks) from the beginning. Test out your clothing before race day to make sure you are comfortable and have clothing that will minimize chafing and discomfort.

-- Plan for how you will hydrate and refuel and practice taking in these nutrients in training.

-- Stay focused on your goal; imagine yourself successfully crossing the finish line and the emotions you will experience. This will help you physically and mentally get through the tough workouts and the actual race day.

Bruce: If you struggle with honoring the scheduled rest days, consider some strength and core work, yoga and frequent stretching. We also recommend frequent napping. Your body will need more sleep as you increase the exercise load.

Stephanie: Whatever your goals are, whether it’s to finish a marathon or to walk around the block, take the time to celebrate your success. It’s easy to focus on the things we haven’t achieved but it’s our accomplishments that fuel our future successes. We challenge you to set a goal for yourself and work toward it.

Stephanie Norton-Bredl is the health and wellbeing director at the Auburn Valley YMCA and may be contacted at Bruce deJong is a group exercise instructor at the Auburn Valley YMCA and may be contacted at

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