You're never too old to get stronger, fitter and faster!
If you’re a seasoned runner, then you’re probably already aware of the basic steps that must be taken to train for a marathon. It’s important for you to understand that running in your 40’s will be a little different than running in your 20’s or 30’s. It’s never too late to begin training for a marathon, though. Perhaps you’re entirely new to the sport. No matter where you are on your journey, the following these tips will show you how to train for a marathon after 40.
Now, there’s no reason that you can’t get into the best shape of your life just because you’re getting older. You can be faster, stronger, and fitter than you’ve ever been before. The basic marathon training strategies actually remain the same regardless of your age. With that being said, you will need to pay more attention and take a little extra care of your body throughout the training routine.
Getting older means decreased bone mass, joint health, endurance, and balance and coordination. It also means increased risk of injury and dehydration, as well as a need for longer recovery periods.
If you’re serious about training for a marathon, there are a few things that you need to do to prepare yourself before you begin training. You’ll benefit from these tips no matter how young or old you are. Having the right equipment, mindset, eating habits, and training schedule will set you up for successfully completing your first marathon after 40!
Get Your Gear
Choose the Perfect Running Shoes – Having a good shoe is the key to running comfortably, as well as running safely. You don’t need to spend a ton of money, but remember that you get what you pay for. Investing in a good pair of running shoes will make the whole process a lot less painful, literally. Quality shoes are even more important for aging runners because they’re just another line of defense against unnecessary injury.
Get the Best Affordable Activewear for Any Budget – Owning a light, breathable pair of running shorts or pants will work wonders on your workouts. Being comfortable is absolutely necessary in order to have a great training session.
Listen to the Ultimate Running Playlist – While music isn’t totally necessary, any avid runner will tell you that they have a go-to playlist for their training sessions and marathons. Music has the unique ability to motivate you to keep going! You don’t have to use this playlist, but you should create your own with the songs that inspire you!
Mind Over Matter
Trust us: Your mind will try to quit on you long before your body will. Your running success depends on getting your mind right. You must acknowledge that running a marathon is no simple task. It’s going to be challenging, and there will be days that you’ll want to quit.
Preparing yourself mentally–before even beginning your training regimen–will set you up for success. Know your limits and listen to your body. Pushing yourself too hard (physically or mentally) will end in disaster.
Start by setting realistic goals for yourself. Your first marathon after 40 most likely won’t be your best or your fastest. That doesn’t mean that you can’t improve, but too-high expectations can make you want to give up. Think of your first marathon after 40 as a learning process. Greater experience will lead to greater results. If you want, you can break it down into smaller goals like completing a 5k, 10k, or half-marathon before aiming to complete a full marathon.
Water is a vital component for everyone, especially runners. The average person should consume at least 64 ounces, per day. Older runners require even more water each day, due to diminished kidney function and a weakened thirst mechanism.
As you age, your kidneys don’t conserve water as well as they once did, requiring a greater water intake. The thirst mechanism that tells you to drink also becomes less active as you get older. It’s a good idea to always have a water bottle with you to remind you to drink routinely. While participating in a running program, keep in mind that you should drink an extra 6-12 ounces for every 20 minutes you run.
Proper nutrition is another crucial part of training for a marathon. As you get older, your appetite begins to decrease. This is why it’s even more important for you to get as much nutrition through your food as possible. Increase your protein and fiber intake. Focus on whole foods like lean meats, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Carbohydrates are also essential for your pre-run fuel. This doesn’t mean you should eat a bunch of sugary, processed foods. You should focus on things like whole wheat toast, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and oatmeal. Try these 10 Foods to Fuel Your Run. Just make sure you eat 30-45 minutes prior to your run.
How to Train for a Marathon After 40
Now that you know how to prepare for your run, we can get into the nitty gritty. There are five steps to training for your first marathon after 40. Before you ask: They’re all non-negotiable.
1. You should never skip your warm-up.
There are several different warm-ups to choose from, so select the best one for you from our list of Which Warm-Up is Best for You. Properly warming-up will get your joints and muscles ready for your workout and help you avoid injuries that could set you back.
2. Pick a marathon training program and stick to it.
You can’t just workout randomly. You need to choose a plan and stick to it. Marathon training programs are designed specifically to get you to your goal, safely and effectively. Try one of these helpful running programs:
- Running Program for Absolute Beginners
- How to Train for Your First Half Marathon
- Beginners Running Program ebook
- 6-Week Walk/Run Calendar
You will notice a common theme among all of them… they each progress slowly but steadily. Always focus on mileage over speed; running a marathon is all about endurance not how fast you can finish.
If you’re new to running, you should try different combinations of speed, distance, and duration to find what works best for YOU. Pace yourself and increase these three things over time. This will allow you to build endurance without burning out. You should also be sure to train on the right terrain. For instance, if your marathon takes place on pavement, then you should train on pavement. If parts of the race will be in sand or on hiking trails, you’ll want to train accordingly.
A good marathon training program incorporates rest days and cross training workouts into the running schedule. Cross-training is utilizing other forms of exercise (such as biking, swimming, skating, etc.). This will help improve your cardiovascular fitness while also giving your body a break from running.
Strength training is the most important cross-training workout for runners. As previously mentioned, aging causes your bones to become more brittle. You’ll lose approximately one percent of your bone density each year post-menopause. Strength training does more than strengthen your muscles: It also increase bone density and joint health. You should perform a total-body strength routine like this 15-Minute Circuit Workout at least twice per week.
3. Always take time to cool-down
Cooling down is just as important as warming-up, yet many people neglect to do it. When it comes to the older runner, a cool-down is even more important. Cooling down will restore your breathing and heart rate to its resting state as well as aid in the recovery process. Since it takes longer to recover as you get older, cooling down will allow you to recover more quickly so that you can keep your training on track.
4. Stretch it out with these 10 Essential Stretches for Runners.
After your cool down, you should should always stretch. The cool down helps remove the lactic acid out of your muscles, but stretching will keep them from getting tight. Flexibility is key to maintaining proper running form and avoiding injury.
5. Take time to recover.
The importance of the recovery process cannot be stressed enough, especially for running a marathon after 40. As you get older, your body takes longer to heal, whether it be from injury or training. Rest days are just as important as training days. If you don’t give your body enough time to recover, it will not function optimally and will almost always result in injury. Don’t skip the rest days. If you absolutely must workout every day, choose an exercise that’s easier on the joints, like swimming or biking.
Your age should never be an excuse for not getting into the best shape of your life. These tips on how to train for a marathon after 40 will keep you safe while helping you achieve your goals. Age is just a number, but completing your first marathon after 40 is something that you should celebrate.
It will take hard work and dedication, but following these tips will help you get there! Check out these Top 10 Marathons to Add to Your Bucket List. Signing up for a race is your first step in the right direction. If you’re new to running, pick a race that is at least six months out. This will give you ample time to train. If you’re a seasoned runner, you can sign up for a race that’s six or more weeks out.
We want to hear your thoughts! Are you new to running or have you been doing it for a while? Have you run marathons in the past or are you looking to complete your very first one? Do you have any tips to share for how to train for a marathon after 40? Let us know in the comment section!