Whether you’re getting ready to run your first race or your 50th, the right preparation is key to staying healthy and getting the most out of running. As a sports medicine physician, I see many runners who struggle to develop a good pre-race training plan or just don’t know where to start. Unfortunately, this often leads to training injuries or post-race issues. Here are my top tips:

If you have questions, concerns or want a pre-race tune up, contact ChristianaCare Sports & Lifestyle Medicine today.

1. Stay hydrated and get fueled.

  • Drink lots of water before, during, and after your workouts.
  • Consume adequate overall calories to account for the energy burned during your workouts. Focus on a balance of fats, protein and carbohydrates.
  • Help speed your recovery by eating or drinking carbohydrates and proteins within 30 minutes after your workout. This helps to quickly replete energy stores and helps prevent muscle breakdown.

2. Get the right gear.

  • You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a few running essentials to improve your chance for successful training. Look for light, dry-wick running clothes with zippers that can be easily layered and removed to keep you warm and dry, but won’t add weight and bulk to your miles.
  • Replace your running shoes every 350 to 500 miles while you train to keep your feet well-cushioned.
  • If you’re training outdoors at night, make sure you have reflective gear and a light to keep you safe and visible to others on the roads.

3. Advance your training slowly.

  • Getting ready to run a marathon or even a 5K takes time. The biggest mistake I see is that runners try to rush their distances when training.
  • If you are a beginning runner, try a walk-to-run program, which focuses on intervals of running and walking to help get your body acclimated to running.
  • For more advanced runners, try shorter-distance runs before tackling a marathon. Once you have 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathons under your belt, marathon prep won’t be so daunting.

4. Stick to a plan.

  • When you are ready for a marathon, follow a marathon-specific training program.
  • Try not to advance your mileage more that 10 percent per week. Most people develop fewer injuries by limiting their total mileage to 40 miles per week.
  • Limit runs longer than 13 miles to no more than once every two weeks.
  • Avoid running more than four or five days per week.
  • Rest is so important. Give yourself at least one rest day weekly.

5. Prevent injury by mixing it up.

  • Being a good runner is about more than just running. Make sure your program incorporates stretching, strength training and cross training to improve flexibility, gain strength and prevent injury.