5 Steps to Running a Marathon for a Couch Potato


May 13, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man


For some, running a marathon is the ultimate goal. For others, it is a 26.2-mile waste of time. Then there are some of us who sit idly by, with envy in our hearts at the thought of crossing the finish line. There is, however, a strategy for achieving the ultimate goal of a marathon, even if you are a couch potato like I used to be, and believe it or not, it doesn’t require cheating.

The following steps will not only make it possible for a non-runner to finish a marathon, but may, dare I say, make it easy:

Step One: Drop the “Jogging Myth”

When I discuss running with my mother, she says, “Oh, I can’t run, but I jog from time to time.” This belief holds back many would be runners as they believe that running is too difficult, and that jogging doesn’t count. The truth is that jogging IS running. Here is the only distinction you will ever make when it comes to running: If you have one foot on the ground at any given time, you are walking. If you have both feet off the ground at any given time you are running, no matter how fast or slow you are moving. This leads to Step Two.

Step Two: Slow Down

The simple explanation of the scientific mumbo jumbo is this: Lactic acid accumulation in our legs equals heavy legs and fatigue. We want to increase our lactate threshold to avoid this. Science has found that you get the best results by training aerobically, which means slowing down your run to a very comfortable pace so that you don’t get tired while running. You may be asking, “How slow can I really go?” Keep reading.

Step Three: Listen to Your Body

Ideally, you should get a heart rate monitor and stay below your maximum heart rate. To find your optimal heart rate you can use an aerobic heart rate chart, or follow the 180 formula.

But let’s say you don’t want to spend the $100 on a new heart rate monitor; is there another way? Yes. Your body gives clues. Listen to your breathing. Are you huffing and puffing? Does your chest hurt? Is it difficult to catch your next breath? If so, you are running too fast. You should be able to breathe easily. Listen to your heart. Is it pounding, or barely noticeable? Check in with your eyes. Is it easy to focus on the world around you or are you getting tunnel vision? Overall, you should be enjoying the run, and if you are not, then you are going too fast. Slowing down makes running easy and trains your body to burn fat, which is Step Four.

Step Four: Become a Fat Burner, Not a Sugar Burner.

Burning sugar is like burning the head of a match. It’s fast and it disappears quickly. Burning fat is like burning coal. It’s slow, and long lasting. When we slow down our running, we train ourselves to burn fat instead of sugar, which is what we need for a distance run. Become a fat burner by consuming more good fats and less sugar.

“But I like sugar and bad fats,” says the reader. I understand, and suggest the rule of 80/20. Just make sure that 80% of the time you are eating good fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds) and complex carbohydrates (whole grain breads, quinoa, and beans). That means you get to indulge 20% of the time. This will support you in becoming a fat burner and push you to the finish line. Finally, we get to the most important step.

Step Five: Believe!

What you believe is true for you. If you truly believe you can do it, you will. If you believe you can’t do it, you won’t. To change your beliefs you must consciously associate massive pleasure with the belief that you will cross the finish line. Visualize how will you feel. Think about your new body, and the energy you will gain from this success. On the flip side, you must associate tremendous pain with the thought of not reaching your goal. What does it mean to stay the same? What will it mean in 10 years? Who else will it affect? When you believe you will gain more pleasure and avoid more pain from reaching your goal, you will be unstoppable.

Remember, you are not running a 26.2-mile race. It’s only 1 mile, 26.2 times.


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