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10 keys to properly preparing for your marathon

Posted by Jean Baptiste on

10 keys to properly preparing for your marathon

Key #1 – Choose your goal and training plan

Running 42.195 km cannot be improvised. Aiming for a marathon goal that is too ambitious or preparing too lightly – or too intensively – is the best way to experience a traumatic experience, both mentally and physically.

Before getting started, it is essential to ask yourself the right questions. Here is advice from our experts, including French champion Yohand Durand, to prepare for your marathon.

  1. Which objective to choose?

If this is your first marathon, take a look at your running credentials. The time achieved in a half marathon is one of the most reliable bases . You should be able to achieve a time equal to double your benchmark on semi, plus 10 to 15%, depending on your preparation and training. Of course, this objective must take into account your intrinsic qualities. If you are very comfortable on long outings, good marathon preparation should allow you to be in the optimistic range of this statistic. Conversely, if you tend to suffer in the last third of the race, on the famous marathon wall, with a real loss of speed and endurance, give yourself some room for maneuver.

In any case, to prepare for your race, test yourself over long distances, at your target pace (around 80% of your maximum heart rate). If you are unable to validate this pace (HRM too high, muscle fatigue), set a less ambitious goal.

If you already have marathon references, for example on the biggest French event with the Paris marathon, your objective could simply be to improve your previous performance. Again, take your level into account. Saving 15 minutes on a 4h30 time is easier than going from 3h30 to 3h15.

Remember how you finished your last run . If your last km have been difficult, it is better to stay with the same objective in order to better assimilate the distance. Your effort should be more even and the final time could hold an excellent surprise.

Improves performance and alertness / Reduces muscular and mental fatigue.

  1. Which preparation to choose?

Preparing for a marathon generally lasts 12 weeks. This is the ideal duration to allow the body to gradually adapt and fully exploit your potential.

The most seasoned runners, who already have several marathon references and are not necessarily looking to improve their previous time, will be able to lighten their program a little and adapt it over 8 to 10 weeks. Once again, it's all a question of objective and proper knowledge of one's strengths and weaknesses.

If your challenge is to be a finisher , without a precise time, your preparation must provide for a linear increase in your endurance . Plan longer and longer outings, alternating walking and running (for example 12 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking). Increase the duration of this weekly outing by a maximum of 10 minutes. Complete your program with one or two outings per week of 45 to 60 minutes of endurance.

Most marathon preparation programs include a minimum of 3 runs per week . Running is of course the essential element of training but it is also recommended to vary the pleasures. For example by inserting, here and there, cycling, swimming or rowing sessions.

Whatever the program chosen, it must include key sessions: long outings and so-called “threshold” outings . The first are essential to allow the progression of endurance. They must be supplemented by outings at a target pace, which will allow you to memorize the ideal pace to maintain on D-Day. As for the “threshold” outings, they will develop your ability to run with a high heart rate, close to your FCM. If necessary, get help from a coach or friends with good distance references.

Key #2 – Take care of your diet

That's it, you have set your goal and selected your training plan. So you are ready for… the hardest part: the 12 weeks of preparation! 😊

Of course, you don't want to leave anything to chance. Along with your workout plan, you've started researching the best diets to follow . Because you know that food hygiene is one of the keys to your success. But beware of the traps!

  • Trap #1: radically change your eating habits.
    Your body is like a well-oiled machine. Change all of its settings and the entire mechanism risks seizing up. Digestion disorders, deficiencies, intolerances: so many side effects that can harm your body and, thus, disrupt your entire training program.
  • Trap #2: neglecting proteins.
    The runner's first instinct is to increase their rations of slow sugars. Excellent idea ! But this should not be done to the detriment of protein intake. As Marie-Caroline Savelieff, sports dietitian, explains, “Proteins play a vital role in participating in the renewal of muscle tissues , they represent 20% of body mass. In athletes, these needs are vital to the growth and renewal of cells and muscle fibers. »
    It is estimated that an intake of between 1.2 and 1.5 grams per day per kilo is necessary in the marathon preparation phase.
    After the race too, protein intake will be essential.

    “Proteins will help rebuild fibers damaged by exercise, called muscle catabolism or muscle breakdown,” explains Marie-Caroline Savelieff.
    Also be sure to vary your protein sources , whether of animal origin (meat, fish, eggs, milk) or plant-based (cereals, legumes such as lentils, soya, dried beans).
  • Trap #3: overdoing fiber as the race approaches.
    If fiber intake is essential for the proper functioning of your intestinal transit, watch out for the adverse effects of overconsumption as the race approaches. An acceleration of transit can lead to bloating or even abdominal pain which could handicap you during the marathon. So remember to gradually adapt your diet during the few days before departure.
  • Trap n°4: pretending to be Top Chef.
    Taking care of your diet does not mean turning into a cordon bleu. In the case of the runner, simplicity is often the best ally. In fact, the more a food is processed, the more its nutritional value drops. Therefore, choose unprocessed foods : raw rather than cooked or quickly cooked. For example, prepare your potatoes steamed rather than baked or mashed. Stock your pantry with seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Finally, it is impossible to talk about diet without addressing the essential intake of minerals, vitamins and other nutrients . If a balanced diet is supposed to provide you with all the necessary nutrients, your body may be subject to certain deficiencies and therefore needs to increase these intakes. Thus, certain metabolisms retain iron less well. Other runners have lower calcium levels in their bodies and are therefore prone to stress fractures. We will obviously recommend Stimium MVM and Stimium Vital LLR for their totally unique vitamin and mineral complexes, but also Stimium SPIRU and Stimium KG which will ensure optimum protection of your immune defenses.

A treatment to strengthen your immune defenses will also allow you to approach your preparation with less risk of contracting an illness that would disrupt your program.

Also consider adding ingredients that are difficult to find in a traditional diet but nevertheless useful for better recovery or in the regeneration process. This is the case of Stimium® Mc3 which contains Citrulline Malate and Magnesium or Stimium MC3 Powder , a unique complex of Citrulline Malate, L-Citrulline and Maltodextrin.

Key #3 – Don’t neglect hydration!

After balancing your diet, today let's look at another major aspect in preparing for a marathon: HYDRATION.

More than a key, it is a real imperative. Not just for the athlete but for each of us.

The body is made up of 60% water . A percentage that rises to 75% when we talk about muscles. It is therefore easy to understand how hydration is essential to our well-being, especially for runners. Because you should know that, during a marathon, a runner can lose between 2 and 3 liters of water. And that a loss of water equivalent to 4% of body weight leads to a 20% reduction in neuromuscular efficiency.

Also note that hydration occurs in the following areas:

  • Thermoregulation of the body heated by exercise.
    To generate the energy necessary for intense muscular activity, our body produces a series of chemical reactions, which cause an increase in the temperature of our cells. Just as a computer needs a fan to prevent overheating, our body must also dissipate this heat. This is where sweating comes into play. And who says sweating says water loss. QED 😊!
  • Cellular exchanges.
    The water contained in our body helps transport vitamins, minerals, and other energy molecules through our cells.
  • Elimination of waste via urine.
    To facilitate this aspect, do not hesitate to supplement your classic hydration with the intake of food supplements (such as Stimium Rgn3 Clean-Up) rich in vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B8, B9, B12 which contribute to a normal acid-base metabolism, it also contains green tea extract, a powerful anti-oxidant which contributes to the elimination of toxic waste. Stimium Rgn3 Clean-Up also contains magnesium, sodium, chloride, potassium and calcium to supplement your mineral intake.

It is considered imperative to drink when the effort lasts more than an hour . Think about it during your long workouts!

During a marathon, refreshment stations are provided for this purpose but the informed runner will bring a water bottle so as not to be dependent on these stations and, above all, to avoid rushing into them and ingesting excessive quantities of liquid which could overload the stomach.

Prefer regular absorption of small quantities, focusing on the ratio 15/15: 15ml of water every 15 minutes.

You can also enrich your water supply with squeezed citrus juice and a little salt and sugar, or enjoy the benefits of Stimium® Boost Powder rich in vitamins, sugar and minerals.

Whatever happens, don't wait until you're thirsty to bring this life-giving water to your body!

Key #4 – Anticipate and test!

Above all, don't start on D-Day with a brand new pair of running shoes! As understandable as the pleasure of showing off this magnificent gift that you have given yourself with a view to this objective is, it would involve running enormous risks of discomfort, blisters, and even joint and muscle trauma.

Just as it is essential to prepare the body for this particular effort that the marathon represents, it is essential to anticipate and test the equipment you will use during the race, not just your shoes, even if these are the essential element of your equipment. Shorts, leggings, socks, top layers... It would be a shame to be disturbed by too much friction on a joint or an allergic reaction to a component of an underlay

Also take advantage of your numerous outings to test various combinations depending on the weather conditions : this will allow you to know exactly what you need to be comfortable on the day of departure.

Also test your supplies!

Who says racing equipment also says supplies.

As Marie-Caroline Savelieff, marathon runner and sports dietitian, explains: Food management during a competition is one of the keys to success, just like training or recovery. Intake of calories, fast or complex sugars, or even vitamin supplements play an important role in endurance races from the marathon onwards.

To do this, you need to have a “racing strategy”. Everything must be defined in advance : taking gels at such kilometers, hydration with water or exercise drink. It is essential to eat and drink before you need it. By the time you get the craving, it’s already too late…”

For this, training must serve as a test . Once your strategy has been defined and the products chosen, consume them in conditions close to those that will await you on the day of the competition. This can start with the “sports cake” which is consumed two hours before a competition and which will be tested and approved during the famous long outings. The same goes for gels, energy bars or exercise drinks. Tolerance must have been validated during the 12 weeks of specific marathon preparation .

It is not uncommon to see runners choose “new products” recommended by a friend the day before and suffer from heartburn or intestinal problems during the competition which can lead to a forced stop at the toilet.

Also favor products that are light and easy to ingest , even – and especially – when your breath is a little short. The Stimium Boost and Stimium Pro-Nrj gums have been designed for easy absorption, minimal bulk and optimal effectiveness.

Key #5 – Listen to your body!

Mobile applications, connected watches and bracelets, heart rate monitors, training programs: today's runner is better equipped than ever to monitor the quality and intensity of their efforts. But the best barometer of your health remains your body .

Because you understood it after reading our first four tips: preparing for a marathon is not a “walk in the park”! During the 12 weeks of specific marathon training, your body may express its “dissatisfaction” to you. Above all, listen to him!

Many factors, independent of the diligence with which you prepare, can hamper this precision machine that is your body:

  • The stress
  • A passing virus
  • Weather conditions
  • Less restful sleep than usual

Accept the idea that there are “days with” and “days without.”

Just because you slow down during a workout doesn't mean you're going to waste the days or weeks of effort that preceded it. To force is to run the risk of excess fatigue , injury, or quite simply to remove that dose of pleasure that is so essential in the quest for the final objective.

Consider a full medical checkup

If you want to avoid any unpleasant surprises, it is best to plan, before your preparation, a complete medical assessment (in addition to the traditional examination to obtain the necessary medical certificate).

In addition to ruling out any contraindication to undertaking a race as long as a marathon (cardiac abnormality), this will also help guide your diet by identifying deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals: vitamin C, magnesium, zinc... Ingredients fortunately present in number in the products of the Stimium Sport Nutrition range 😉!

You could even discover unsuspected origins of certain recurring pains that disrupt your training. For example, an abnormal acidity level which would make you prone to tendinitis. Or an inflammation causing certain muscular ailments that you would have attributed to temporary physical overload.

In short, a real technical check which will allow you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your body!

Key #6 – Learn to recover

Preparing for a marathon inevitably leads to fatigue. Between long outings and threshold outings, or even any work in the gym, it is normal to feel a certain amount of wear and tear accumulating throughout the 12 weeks of training.

To arrive on the day of departure without excess fatigue, it is essential to respect an effective pre-race recovery phase. this phase should make it possible to:

  • Compensate for mineral losses: the Stimium® Rgn3 Reload and Stimium® Rgn3 Clean-Up products are there for that!!
    The sequence of preparation sessions can reveal mineral deficits, especially if the period is conducive to extreme heat.
  • Replenish your immune system.
  • The intensity and length of marathon preparation can cause an imbalance in the immune system and, thus, make you more susceptible to infections, especially respiratory infections.
  • Relax.
    Your effort, during these 12 weeks of training, is just as mental as it is physical.
  • Resolve small traumas. Enjoy the benefits of Stimium® Mc3 and Stimium® Joint Flex .
  • Long rides make your muscles, tendons and joints suffer, especially when they are repetitive.

It is especially during the last weeks before the race that you need to think about recovery. This period is also called sharpening . You must reduce fatigue while reinforcing the acquired knowledge of the previous 9 or 10 weeks. To do this, follow these few tips:

  • Limit weekly distances.
    Gradually reduce the length of your outings, up to 60% of your usual volume.
  • Maintain the frequency of outings.
    This will allow you to maintain what you have learned.
  • Objective: aerobic.
    Integrate short moments during which you intensify the effort, up to 80/85% of your VMA.
  • Don't feel guilty!
    Many runners feel guilty about taking their foot off the gas, especially as the race approaches. Result: on the contrary, they tend to intensify the work... and arrive too tired at the starting line. Your achievements are there, solid. Maintaining a balanced training load will easily allow you to maintain them... and even help you progress!
  • It's the best remedy for fatigue! Since your outings are a little shorter, take the opportunity to take micro-naps. Also take care of your evening ritual to optimize your night's sleep.
  • Stay focused.
    Recovery does not mean relaxation! Don't go out of your eating or hydration routine (see the first two keys).

This sharpening and recovery phase is the ideal time for a combined treatment of Stimium®Mc3 and Stimium® Rgn3 reload .

Key #7 – Prepare your supplies

We have already discussed refueling in our emails on nutrition (#2) and hydration (#3). But today let's see in more detail how to best prepare this essential part of your equipment .

One of your major objectives on D-Day is to keep your performance level intact throughout the duration of the marathon. You will have physically prepared for 12 weeks for this purpose. Don't let running out of fuel ruin all this work!

Supply management is a real strategy . You must fill your pockets and equip your belt according to your race duration objective and the stands planned by the race organization. To do this, here are several rules to follow:

  • Test your products.
    We detailed it in our Key #4: all your running equipment should be tested in advance. Refueling is no exception to this golden rule!
  • Pack foods that are easy to digest.
    During exercise, the body will have difficulty absorbing ingredients that are too heavy. Avoid foods that are too fatty, hard and take a long time to digest.
  • Travel simple and light.
    Don't burden yourself with foods that are difficult to unpack or ingest. Also avoid products that are too heavy and only take the bare minimum: you will have to carry each extra gram for 42 km!
  • Think about protein.
    Your muscle tissues will suffer during this long effort. A protein intake is recommended around halfway through the race, especially if your race lasts more than 3 hours.

The Stimium ®Pro-Nrj and Stimium® Boost rubbers have been designed for racing. Lightweight, very space-saving and easy to ingest, they are the ideal complement to your Stimium®ProBar protein bars.

Finally, it is impossible to talk about refueling without (re)emphasizing the primordial importance of hydration . Think like this:

  • Energy drinks.
    They will allow you to better manage your glycogen reservoir (sugar reserve contained in the liver and in the muscles) and, thus, limit the sensations of muscle fatigue.
  • On sodium intake.
    Make sure your favorite energy drink provides you with this essential mineral, which will help you maintain fluid volume in your body.
  • Don't drink too much, too quickly.
    As a reminder, it is recommended to drink small quantities, at regular intervals (15/15 rule: 15ml every 15 minutes). This also applies to refreshment stations, where it can be tempting to gulp down a cup placed on the table in one gulp.

If you use a belt, also remember to test it "in running condition" - therefore full, during your training.

It is also recommended to wear it with the weight forward: when the weight is concentrated at the back, it tends to rotate and thus hinder movements during the race.

 Key #8 – Visualize your race strategy

A marathon is also being prepared in your head! And in particular by establishing and visualizing your racing strategy in advance . In terms of mental preparation, there will be no better than Stimium Bacopa to help you with this marathon challenge. Our unique Bacopa has extremely interesting properties by acting on strengthening concentration, helping to manage stress, increasing motivation to intensify efforts and increasing the speed of processing information.

In marathons, we generally cite two major strategic trends: the negative split and the equal split.

The negative split

It's about running the second half of the race faster than the first .

Easier said than done... Because, in general, it is at the start of the race that we feel the freshest. There is then a great temptation to push the pace a little. Temptation often reinforced when you are caught in the movement of the crowd at the start. You have to stay focused on your own race, ignoring the hundreds of other pairs of legs racing around you.

The main difficulty of the negative split is therefore to start at the right pace , a little slower than the objective. Enough to save just enough energy to pass the halfway point with good reserves and be able to restart the machine. Suffice it to say that this strategy requires excellent knowledge of your physique : you must be able to manage your running pace per kilometer to within a few seconds.

The negative split is an excellent mental aid during the race . Being able to accelerate even after 25 kilometers provides a positive feeling which will be very useful when making the final efforts. It also generally allows a lot of people to catch up during the second half of the marathon. A virtuous circle that helps achieve good performance.

The equal split

The objective here is to maintain a regular pace throughout the race .

Most long-distance running world records have been broken using the equal split strategy. It is also the “simplest” strategy to apply since it allows the runner to run at the pace to which he has become accustomed during his preparation.

To help runners maintain a linear pace, most marathon organizers employ pace setters .

Scattered within the peloton, they are generally very easy to spot. At the Paris Marathon, you will recognize them by their flags (each flag color corresponds to an objective. There is an objective every 15 minutes from 3 a.m. to 4:30 a.m.). In Barcelona, ​​they hang balls behind their backs. Whereas in Washington, they hold a sign in their hands.

Pacemakers are extremely reliable benchmarks : they are selected by level and are capable of running significantly faster than the level assigned to them.


Manage the particularities of the route

“Visualizing” the race course is an integral part of your strategy. It helps avoid any unpleasant surprises. Observe the starting area. You will have to avoid crowd movements, find your right stride, analyze your first sensations. A good knowledge of the places will allow you to better concentrate on the essentials.

Analyze the relief. If possible, locate the predicted coastlines. You will thus anticipate the moments when you will have to manage your breathing and give up a few seconds per kilometer without fear of moving away from your goal.

Key #9 – Manage possible side stitches

This is a pain well known to runners. It often occurs under the ribs, on the right or left - hence its name - but can also appear in the clavicles, stomach, liver or spleen. Annoying, side stitches can however be prevented, and even managed during exercise.

Why do we have side points?

The side stitch most often comes from a diaphragm cramp. This muscle, located under the lungs, ensures air intake and therefore oxygenation of the blood. During exercise, the diaphragm is subjected to more numerous and closer contractions. Like any muscle subjected to violent effort, the diaphragm can therefore suffer from cramps!

Poor digestion can promote the appearance of side stitches.
After a heavy meal, the digestive tract is subjected to greater input. It therefore requires a significant influx of blood, which is to the detriment of the diaphragm which, stressed by your effort and your accelerated breathing, finds itself short of oxygen and contracts before being seized with cramps.

Prevent side stitches.

  • Eat light.
    As you will have understood, it is better to avoid feasting before your marathon. Eat lightly and at least 3 hours before departure.
  • Warm up your diaphragm.
    Like all muscles, you can also warm up your diaphragm. Breathe “upside down”: inhale deeply through your mouth, pulling your stomach in, then exhale, inflating it.
  • Drink regularly.
    We're coming back! Good hydration promotes blood circulation and therefore the oxygenation of all your muscles... including the diaphragm! However, avoid drinking too large quantities at once: this could disrupt your breathing rhythm. Opt for the 15/15 ratio (see our Key #4): 15ml every 15 minutes.
  • Breathe well!
    A gentle start and gradual acceleration will allow your blood circulation to regulate itself. Next, listen to your breathing. Inhale and exhale deeply, without exaggeration. Accentuate your exhalation as you intensify your effort.

Pass a stitch aside.

There are several methods for passing a stitch aside. Here are the most common.

  • Press on the painful area, after taking a deep breath, and lean forward.
  • Cross your arms behind your back while continuing to run in order to clear the rib cage and encourage exhalation.
  • Force exhalation: exhale four times for two inhalations.

If the discomfort does not go away, do not force it. Stop and breathe slowly until the pain disappears.

Key #10 – Take advantage of the recovery window

Whether after training or after your marathon, you have a period of time during which it is essential to optimize your recovery .

Between 30 and 120 minutes after the effort , the athlete needs to take stock again ,” explains Marie-Caroline Savelieff, sports dietitian, confirmed marathon runner: “During this period, he has an optimal metabolic window to provide the cells glycogen and proteins consumed during exercise. The body then effectively captures the nutrients it needs .

So plan a carbohydrate-protein recovery ration which may include:

  • Nut
  • Almonds
  • Fruits
  • Yogurt
  • Ham
  • Cheese
  • Bread

Of course, it is also essential to rehydrate yourself . Preferably opt for water rich in bicarbonates.

Finally, do not neglect the mineral and energy intake that certain nutritional supplements can provide you.

Magnesium , for example, will help reduce your general fatigue.

Vitamins B1, B2 and B6 contribute to normal energy metabolism.

Vitamins C and B2 help protect cells against oxidative stress.

All these nutrients are present in the new Stimium® Rgn3 Reload formula.

If you have reached the end of this article, you are probably saying to yourself… that it is not that easy to properly prepare for a marathon. As much as we can always take a bet with our friends during an aperitif to do a 10km for example, improvising on a marathon is a much more difficult thing, and even an accomplished athlete in another sport , will not be able to embark on the main road event without a minimum of preparation, without a training plan. But we assure you that the adrenaline in the starting airlock, the atmosphere during the race, and the satisfaction of finishing your marathon, because this first event will forever become your race, it's really just the best! It's up to you to play (and run)!

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Key #1 – Choose your goal and training plan Running 42.195 km cannot be improvised. Aiming for a marathon goal that is too ambitious or preparing too lightly – or too intensively – is the...

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