The spirit is willing, but the flesh is flabby. Don't despair. You can conquer those 26.2 miles with some serious dedication and a good plan.
: Training for a marathon is extremely strenuous. Consult your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise regimen.
Step 1: Assess your fitness level Consider your fitness level. Are you hitting the gym regularly, or is your only exercise lifting the remote? Be honest with yourself.
TIP: Before training in earnest, you should log about a year of running four to five days a week, averaging a total distance of 15 to 20 miles.
Step 2: Study up Gather information. Magazines, books, and online sources will give you an idea of the commitment, mental preparation, gear, and nutritional requirements you’ll need, and what you can expect from an overall training regimen.
Step 3: Find a training schedule Find a training program that’s right for you. Your preparation will likely last 18 to 26 weeks, and will involve some combination of weight training, building mileage, and tapering (or reducing the length and intensity of your workouts as the race date draws near).
TIP: Track your progress online for free with training websites.
Step 4: Pick a race Set a goal. Pick a race to train for by consulting a race calendar. Plot out your schedule and when you plan to complete your regimen on a calendar at home.
Step 5: Adjust your diet Eat a well-balanced diet, complete with raw vegetables, whole grains, good fats, and lean proteins. In the weeks and days before the race, you’ll need to increase your complex carbohydrate intake.
Step 6: Hydrate Always stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. When doing runs longer than an hour, use sports drinks instead of water to keep your carbohydrate, calorie, and salt levels up.
: Be just as careful to avoid overhydrating—it can be fatal. Too much liquid can lead to dangerously low sodium levels in the blood, so during long runs, drink no more than 8 oz. of fluid every 20 minutes. A good rule of thumb is to weigh yourself before and after you run. If you gain weight over the course of a run, drink less.
Step 7: Lubricate Friction points on your body—like feet, armpits, and nipples— may get uncomfortable. If hot spots develop, use a body lubricant to avoid chafing.
Step 8: Work with a buddy You may find it easier to stay on course if you train with a buddy or a local runners’ club, which you can find online.
Step 9: Don't overdo it Don’t overtrain. If you push too hard, you could wind up injuring yourself. Listen to your body and keep pace with your schedule, and you’ll be right on track for the big day.
FACT: If you’re an 18- to 34-year-old male and you’d like to run the Boston Marathon, you must have a qualifying time of 3 hours, 10 minutes.