CrossFit is more than just a sport, it's a community and a way of life. This guide will be your one-stop manual for getting into CrossFit for the first time and will cover everything from snatches to WODs to poods and everything in between.
You don't have to be fit to get started
This is probably the most important thing to note. A lot of people will put off trying a new sport or hobby for fear of being too unfit. CrossFit is accessible to everyone thanks to their scaled workouts. Whether you're unfit or have a disability, there's something for everyone. Don't let your nerves or insecurities hold you back and just dive straight in.
You will sweat and cry a lot
CrossFit is a notoriously tough sport. They don't crown the CrossFit Games champions as the Fittest On Earth for nothing! You have to have the motivation and the right attitude before you start. It has to be your decision and you have to own it; if you've been coaxed into it by someone else you'll be starting with the wrong attitude and you'll find it way harder than it needs to be. Be ready to sweat a lot and cry a lot, but reap the benefits and rewards at the end of a tough WOD.
Find a local CrossFit gym, known as a 'Box'
If you really want to dive straight in and hit this sport hard, finding your local CrossFit gym will help you get there. A CrossFit gym is known as a box and there are affiliates all over the world. You can find your local box through an internet search or by checking out affiliates on the official CrossFit website. A box will have all the proper CrossFit-specific equipment that you need, as you may not get a full workout at a commercial gym. Getting professional advice by an accredited trainer will also stop you from developing bad habits and will be available to give you advice along the way.
However, you don't have to join a box to be able to practice CrossFit. They can come with expensive memberships and you'll have to do a foundation course before you can participate in the classes. A commercial gym will have most of the equipment you need, and some people even just train out of a garage. Use what you have and don't feel like you're missing out just because you're not a member of an exclusive club or gym.
Know the jargon
There's a lot of sport-specific terminology used in CrossFit which you won't have come across before. Knowing what people are talking about is important if you want to join in on discussions about performance, and so that you know what workout you should be doing! Here are the basics:
WOD - Workout Of the Day. A daily workout published on the CrossFit website which CrossFitters all over the world will tackle and post their results to the public forum. A WOD is also a general term to refer to any CrossFit workout.
Pood - This is a Russian term which is a unit of measurement equalling just over 16kg. It is generally used for kettlebell workouts.
Rx - This is the prescribed way a workout should be completed, with set weights and times/reps. If you Rx a WOD, it means you completed it exactly how it was written. Alternatively, you can 'scale' a workout which might involve reducing the weights or swapping out an exercise. The CrossFit community is one of acceptance and inclusion, so scaling a workout is never anything to be ashamed of.
MetCon - Short for Metabolic Conditioning. This is typically a workout that doesn't involve heavy lifts, and consists more of a body weight circuit style workout. There is also a very popular CrossFit shoe by Nike called the 'MetCon'.
Double Under - This is a movement in skipping whereby the rope passes under your feet twice before they hit the ground. It's a tough movement and you won't be able to do it straight away without practice.
Practise the lifts
CrossFit is unique as it involves so many different physical disciplines: gymnastics, weightlifting, running, cycling, swimming, rope climbing... you name it, CrossFit will have you doing it! CrossFit will train you as a well-rounded athlete and with the right dedication you will develop unrivalled fitness. Think triathlons are impressive? Pro CrossFitters do Ironman triathlon as a warm up!
However, this can be overwhelming to a beginner. The only way to improve is to practise! If you go into the sport expecting to be perfect at it straight away, you'll be left feeling frustrated. CrossFit adopts a lot of really technical moves that athletes will spend their whole lives perfecting. Take your time and practise the exercises that you find the toughest. Scale a workout if you need to and take it easy. Some of the more difficult moves include things like handstand push ups, double unders, rope climbs, and weightlifting moves like the clean & jerk and the snatch. Learn these moves properly from scratch before trying to incorporate them into WODs and build yourself up slowly and gradually.
Know the stars of the sport
The CrossFit Games is the annual pinnacle of the CrossFit calendar. It's the event in which the fittest athletes in the world will congregate and compete to be crowned Fittest On Earth. As with most sports, there are star players, but CrossFit is open to anyone in the qualification stages so often there are rookie competitors too.
Fraser is the athlete to watch and is the proud holder of the title of Fittest Man on Earth. He is four-time winner of the games (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019), equalling Rich Froning's record. He's competed in the games since 2014 and has proven how hungry he is for the sport and to be recognised as the fittest man on earth. He has spent years honing his technique and perfecting his lifts and it really shows.
Until Fraser won his fourth consecutive games in 2019, Froning held the record for winning the games the most amount of times, having claimed the title four years in a row from 2011 to 2014. He has won over $1 million in prize money from his wins and is sponsored by global sports brands like Reebok, Rogue Fitness, and Oakley. He is renowned in the sport and partly retired after his 2014 win. He now competes in the team events with his team Mayhem Freedom who are reigning team champions.
While Greg Glassman is the founder of CrossFit, Dave Castro is the face most people recognise as he hosts the games each year and it was at his family ranch in 2009 that the first ever CrossFit Games took place. His personality gets him mixed reviews and some even claim he has 'ruined' the sport. Nevertheless, he is one of the most important figures in CrossFit and it's him you will see on the floor announcing the next WOD in the Games and mixing with all the athletes.
Davidsdottir is one of three Icelandic powerhouses who dominate the female side of the sport. She has won the games twice, 2015 and 2016, after a mental setback in 2014. She was originally a track athlete and gymnast and her sporting background has clearly stood her in good stead for CrossFit glory.
Despite never actually winning the games, Sara is a leading figure in the sport of CrossFit. Sponsored by Nike, she is another of the Icelandic dynamos and has a very likeable personality making her the perfect CrossFit athlete to watch. She unfortunately suffered a bad injury during the 2018 games which caused her to withdraw and she continued to struggle in 2019. Only time will tell if she will be able to recover enough to challenge Tia-Clair Toomey's title.
Toomey is an Australian weightlifter who represented her country in the 2016 Olympics only a few weeks after appearing at the CrossFit games. With her background in lifting, she is a strong competitor and now has three consecutive CrossFit Games wins to her name – 2017, 2018, and 2019. She is now the one to beat and is sure to train as hard as possible to hold on to her title.
Follow the WODs
Each day, a new WOD is released on the CrossFit website. CrossFitters from around the globe are invited to have a go, Rx'd or scaled, and post their results in the forum. Some WODs are for time, some for reps, some for rounds. The beauty of CrossFit is how varied the workouts are and you never know what you're going to get. You have to be ready for anything, from a heavy lifting session to a gruelling run, which is why it conditions your fitness so well. Have a go at any of the WODs that are published and compare your results to others so you can see where you stand.
The biggest WODs in the CrossFit arsenal are the Hero Workouts. Each workout is named after a member of the armed forces who died in combat and they are always notoriously tough workouts. Some of the most renowned are Murph, DT, and Fran, with true enthusiasts marking their territory by asking newbies "What's your Fran time?" All this means is how long did it take you to complete this particular workout. All of the Hero Workouts can be found on the CrossFit website and traditionally one is always completed on Memorial Day in the US.
The CrossFit Games
The CrossFit Games are the pinnacle of the CrossFit year. Held every August in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, the games showcase the best of the best and pit the top athletes from around the world against one another to claim the title of Fittest On Earth.
The CrossFit Games have various unique aspects which set them apart from other annual sporting events (such as the Tour de France for cycling or Wimbledon for tennis). First, the events for the games are only announced that day and none of the athletes know what to expect. This keeps the element of surprise and means that athletes have to train everything and stay well-rounded rather than knowing what events are going to be included and only training for them. It also means that the events are more fair as some athletes are better at heavy lifting, some better at cardio, and some better at gymnastics.
Another unique aspect of CrossFit (which we love) is that in many events the men and women compete together. In some cases, the women beat the men, proving that women are equal to men in physical capability. Events like the Tour de France which do not even have a female version could take note. For example, in the 2019 CrossFit Games, individual event 9 was a swim-paddle consisting of a 1,000m swim followed by a 1,000m paddle. Ten men and ten women took part and the overall winner was a woman, Tia-Clair Toomey, who beat all 10 of the fittest men on earth in this particular event.
So you want to try CrossFit
CrossFit can get a bad rap by some people, usually bodybuilders who have never tried a CrossFit WOD and don't understand what it's all about and just follow what other people say. CrossFit is an awesome sport as it is totally inclusive and everyone encourages one another to succeed. It is open to anyone and you could even be the next champion if you work hard enough.
So, get started! Study the WODs, learn the lingo, watch the Games, and get involved. You will be amazed at how fun it is and how incredibly fit you will get in a short amount of time. Have fun!
There are many unique benefits of using gym rings in your training. You will get stronger in ranges of motion that you would otherwise struggle to improve with body weight or even weighted exercises. You will increase not only your strength but your mobility too which is a key part of being fit and healthy.
Gym rings can be used to increase skills and strength in gymnastics, CrossFit, athletics, and even Olympic disciplines. Hang your gym rings at home, outside, or at the gym.
Setting Up Your Sundried Gym Rings – Buckle Guide
The Sundried Wooden Gym Rings are suitable for use both indoors and outdoors. You can set them up at the gym or at home, or on an outdoor rig if you have one. Make sure you have enough head height if you are setting up indoors and that your rig or holds are strong enough to hold your weight.
Your gym rings will arrive in the box separately from the straps and will need to be set up using a cam buckle. Follow these steps to set up your gym rings no matter where you will be using them. The rings, straps, and buckle are all included in the Sundried box.
1. Thread the strap through the gymnastic ring and then take one end in each hand.
2. Press and hold the cam buckle button.
3. With the button pressed in one hand, use the other hand to thread the end of the strap through the backside of the cam buckle.
4. Once through the teeth, you can release the cam buckle button and continue pulling the end through until your ring is at the desired height.
5. When you want to take down your rings or adjust them to a longer length, simply press the cam buckle button and pull the strap back out to the desired length.
Using Your Sundried Gym Rings
Once you have made sure that your gym rings are properly fitted, familiarise yourself with how to handle the rings. Spend some time finding the right grip and position and start with only one or two repetitions for each exercise. Treat your first few sessions as a practice rather than a workout.
Before each session, make sure to warm up thoroughly to prevent injury and so that you can get the most out of your workout. Start your warm up by gently shaking your entire body: with bent legs, bounce up and down and relax your shoulders. Do this for around 30 seconds.
Next, to open up the hips, perform hip circles. With your feet wider than your hips, rotate your hips in a clockwise motion. Repeat this 5 times and then do the same in an anti-clockwise direction.
Finally, to stretch the back and hamstrings, perform a forward fold. Slowly lean forward until you are bent in half. Reach your arms down in front of you and let your hands hang freely. Feel the stretch in the back of your legs and spine. Now you’re ready to begin your first rings session!
Beginner Gym Rings Exercises
Below are three beginner’s poses and exercises with rings that you can practise to get comfortable with this equipment before moving onto more complicated moves. These moves can be progressed so that you become comfortable doing CrossFit ring exercises and more advanced gymnastics moves.
- Top Position
This is the basic position in which you will hold yourself in the rings. Push down through your hands and hold your bodyweight on the rings. Stay upright, lock out your arms, pull your shoulders down, and don’t bend at the hips. You will start a lot of moves from this position so make sure you are comfortable with it and can hold it for a period of time.
- Assisted Push Up
Lengthen the ropes so that the rings are a few inches above the ground. With your knees on the floor, press your hands into the rings. Slowly lower your upper body into a press up position and then push through your hands to rise back up. Keep the rings under your shoulders at all times and the elbows in tight.
- Plank Hold
The plank hold is a classic position in any discipline. Renowned for helping to strengthen the core, other benefits include shoulder stability and strengthening the back. Starting in the same position as the assisted push up, straighten your legs out behind you so that you are in a plank position. Take your time! You may wobble or shake, this is perfectly normal. Keep your shoulders, core, and back as tight as possible to minimise movement. Push your forearms against the rings and don’t allow your lower body to drop. Hold for as long as you can.
Why not try our Gym Rings Workout once you have mastered the basics?
We hope you enjoy using and progressing with your new Sundried gym rings! Why not drop us a comment or a review on the Sundried gym rings product page?
Cycling is something that can improve your life in a number of ways from helping you ditch the car to saving money and getting fit. This guide will answer all your questions and give you all the information you need to get into cycling.
This guide is for people who already know how to ride a bike and want to take this to the next step by cycling more seriously, cycling in organised rides, and cycling to work etc.
Buying a bike
If you're ready to get into cycling, the first thing you'll need to do is buy yourself a new bike. A clunky old city bike or your childhood mountain bike unfortunately won't do the job so you're best off investing in a reasonably priced road bike. Road bikes have a slightly different geometry to a mountain bike and will allow you to naturally ride faster and more efficiently, therefore allowing you to ride further with less effort and get more out of your rides.
Where to buy a bike
You can buy a reasonably good quality road bike for around £500/$650 and they are well worth the investment. Stick with the big brands such as:
- Giant (or Liv for women)
You can either buy your bike online and have it delivered or you can go to your local bike shop to pick one out and try before you buy. You would also benefit from expert advice if you go into the shop. However, remember that you'll need to be able to get it home so you'll either need a large car or a bike rack. Make sure you organise this before you go to pick up your new bike.
Getting a bike fit
Once you've bought your bike, it's paramount you tweak the adjustments so that it fits you properly. You will need to adjust the height of the saddle and handlebars so that you're comfortable. Riding an ill-fitting bike can cause excruciating pain so do your research and pay special attention to this before you do any riding.
If you want, you can get a professional bike fit from most bike shops. It might cost money or it might be free so it's worth checking first.
Buying bicycle clothing
Once you've bought your bike, you're ready to ride! However, if you're going to be riding any real distance, it's well worth investing in proper cycling clothing. Bicycle clothing is designed to be streamlined to help you ride faster as well as keep you safe as you won't have any baggy clothing getting caught in the mechanics of the bike. Perhaps most importantly, proper cycling gear is designed to keep you comfortable mile after mile as a road bike saddle can be notoriously uncomfortable, especially after being in it for over an hour.
Most cycling jerseys feature large pockets to the back so that you can store your valuables easily and don't have to worry about taking a bag with you when you ride. The basics that you'll need are a couple of cycling jerseys and a pair of bib shorts. Bib shorts have suspenders that go over your shoulders to keep them secure and locked in place so that the waistband doesn't roll down and become uncomfortable while you're cycling. There are numerous other pieces of cycling clothing and accessories that you can buy, but these are the basics for you to start with.
Read our guides below for a full rundown of all bicycle clothing and why you might need it.
Read more: Cycle Gear Buying Guide
Read more: What Kit Do You Need For Cycling
Read more: How To Wash Lycra Cycling Kit
Also make sure you buy a good quality bicycle helmet, read our Guide To Buying A Cycle Helmet for full information.
Learning to ride a road bike
Once you've bought your road bike and got it home, you might be surprised to find it's much trickier to ride than what you're used to. A road bike has different geometry to a mountain bike meaning you lean further over the handlebars and this has a big effect on your body. Also, all road bikes have a high bar between the saddle and handlebars, so if you're used to riding a city bike and swinging your leg through the middle, you will need to learn to stop doing that!
The best way to get used to riding your new road bike is taking it out for a spin and seeing what challenges you face. You will need to figure out the gears as there is a big cog and a small cog and two paddle shifters on each side of the handlebars. Also take some time to test out the brakes as they may well be sharper than what you're used to!
The best way to get used to it is with practise. Leaning over the handlebars puts a lot of pressure on your hands, wrists, and shoulders so these parts of your body will take time to get used to this and might ache a lot at first but this is perfectly normal. It will certainly hurt at first, but don't give up, because you will soon get stronger and your body will get used to the position.
To help your muscles stop aching so much, make sure to do lots of strength training at the gym and core workouts to strengthen your abs as they will be holding you up a lot of the time and using more of your core muscles will allow you to take pressure off your hands and wrists.
Cycling on the road
Once you've mastered the art of riding a road bike, you're ready to get out on the road. Cycling on the road can be very scary and daunting for anyone so don't worry if you feel nervous or scared, this is perfectly normal. Cyclists get a bit of a bad rap from motorists so take care and cycle cautiously. Some motorists will be fine but others may drive too closely to you so it's important to be aware of your surroundings. You might want to invest in a helmet cycling camera to give you peace of mind and capture any incidents that may occur.
Start off by riding on quiet roads and cycle paths until you have more confidence. Cycling on a Sunday is the best time when you're just starting out as traffic is always lighter, especially early in the morning. You will need to be confident enough to take one hand off the handlebars so that you can indicate.
As with everything, gaining confidence riding on the road comes with practise. You might find that riding in a organised sportive that's ridden on open roads will help with your confidence because you'll have lots of other cyclists around you and feel the safety in numbers.
Commuting by bike
Commuting by bike has lots of benefits such as saving you money, helping you get fit, as well as the fact that cycling to work is a great way to make your work day more eco-friendly. Cycling to work is fairly different to going out for a training ride at the weekend and as such you will need to make adjustments. You might need to add panniers to your bike so that you can transport your belongings with you and you will at the very least need to take a change of clothes with you.
If you're going to commute by bike, you'll need to be confident cycling on the road and being surrounded by traffic. Make sure your bike handling skills are up to scratch so that you can indicate with your arms and follow the highway code.
It's best to take it easy when cycling to work otherwise you'll be hot and bothered when you get there. Don't overdo it and enjoy the ride. There are steps you can take when you get to work in order to freshen up but getting changed will be the main thing.
Read more: How To Freshen Up After Cycling To Work
Cycling in organised bike rides
The final hurdle to overcome once you've become an established cyclist is taking part in an organised ride or 'sportive' as they are known in cycling circles. The Tour de France is perhaps the world's most famous sportive, but if you don't think you'll be joining the king of the mountains at next year's event, there are plenty of other organised group rides all over the world.
Cycling in organised bike rides can be a great way of exploring on your bike without having to worry about getting lost or forging your own path. Enjoy the benefit and support of marshals and rest stops and find a true passion for cycling.
Read more: How To Get Faster At Cycling
Further reading and sportives in the UK
Whether it's for charity, to prove to yourself that you can do it, or just for fun, running your first marathon is a huge milestone. We're here with all of the information you need in preparation for running your first marathon.
Choosing your marathon
Choosing the right marathon can have a huge impact on your success and enjoyment on the day. Most people opt for one of the six World Marathon Majors as their first marathon as they are the most renowned. These marathon majors are London, New York, Chicago, Boston, Tokyo, and Berlin. These are the marathons that have gained iconic status over the years due to being so well organised, having such great support, and being set in beautiful cities.
Due to being so popular, these marathons all have difficult entry processes and you cannot simply pay an entry fee to gain a place.
London Marathon Ballot Entry
There are three ways to enter the London marathon: enter the public ballot, run for charity, or achieve a Good For Age place.
The London marathon public ballot opens at the beginning of May of each year, about a week after the race, and is open for a week to give everyone a fair chance of entering. Results are then published 6 months later in October when eager hopefuls will either receive a magazine through the post notifying them that they have been successful or a commiseration email telling them they have not got a place. A record 414,168 hopefuls entered the 2018 ballot to run in 2019, making the London marathon the most popular marathon in the world.
However, this also means your chances of getting a ballot place are very slim. In 2016, almost a quarter of a million people entered the ballot in the hopes of achieving one of the 17,000 allocated ballot places. That means that each person only had a 7% chance of getting a ballot place. With nearly twice that many people entering the ballot in 2018, your chances of gaining a ballot place are pretty tiny.
One of the easiest ways to run the London marathon is by gaining a place through a charity. There are numerous charities who provide runners with places in return for raising at least £2,000 for their charity.
Finally, there are Good For Age places. However, you have to be very speedy to attain one of these places. For a man under the age of 40 you'll have to be able to run sub 3 hours and women will have to run sub 3 hours 45.
The Boston marathon is also famed for its strict and tough entry process. For this race, you can only enter if you achieve a 'BQ' or a charity place.
If you BQ, that means you have managed to run a marathon in a Boston qualifying time. For men under the age of 35, that's sub 3 hours and for women of the same age it's sub 3 hours 30. However, it is made even harder by the fact that entries are always over subscribed each year, meaning the actual BQ time is often lower than this target.
For example, those who entered to run in 2019 had to achieve a time 4 minutes and 52 seconds faster than the qualifying standard. Therefore a man under the age of 35 would have had to achieve a BQ of under 2:55:08 - very speedy!
Entering your first marathon
Due to the strict and often difficult entry processes of the World Marathon Majors, it may be an idea to run your first marathon somewhere that allows simple paid entries. Unless you are willing to take on the stress of raising a huge amount of money alongside the gruelling training, there are plenty of other marathons out there that are perfect for your first marathon.
Three such popular marathons in the UK and Europe are Brighton marathon in East Sussex, England, Paris marathon in France, and Edinburgh marathon in Scotland. Each of these races simply require you to pay the entry fee and you're in. They are equally well organised with fantastic routes in beautiful cities and still benefit from overwhelming positive support at the sidelines. It's certainly worth considering a less famous marathon to be your first.
What is a good time to run a marathon?
Finding the right pace for you is hugely important for your first marathon, but don't try to achieve an unrealistic time. Everyone is different and a good time for your marathon will depend entirely on your age, gender, body weight, how long you've been running, and your ultimate goals. Are you just running to have fun and enjoy the experience or are you competitive and looking to run as fast as possible? As this is your first marathon, you don't yet have a personal best time to try and beat, but having a goal in mind is a great motivator.
Of course, the previously mentioned Good For Age times are an excellent indicator of just that: what is a good marathon time for your age. However, so long as you enjoy yourself and get out of it what you wanted, your time really is irrelevant.
That said, it's important to train enough that you can run a sensible pace and not end up on your feet for too long. Putting your body under that much strain can be pretty dangerous and you want to be able to put up a good fight rather than having to walk most of the course. After all, the quicker you run the quicker it will be over!
Training for your first marathon
The most important factor in your success of running a marathon is your training. Whether you're a complete beginner to exercise or you've run up to half marathon distance, running a full marathon is a completely different experience and requires full dedication as well as knowledge on nutrition and hydration.
Finding a good training plan
Your first port of call should be finding a great training plan that suits you and your goals. One of the most popular places to find marathon training plans is Hal Higdon's website. An American writer and marathon runner, Hal has written over 30 best-selling marathon training books and guides and has contributed to Runner's World longer than any other writer. His training plans cover something for everyone from the beginner to the intermediate to the advanced. For your first marathon, it's recommended to go for one of the beginner training plans.
Fitting training around work and home life
Before you commit to running a marathon, it's important to know that you must remain dedicated over several months and put in the time to train. This means your social life will likely suffer and you may need to give up things like alcohol and tighten up your diet. Speak with your family and friends about your intentions to make sure they are on board as their support could be invaluable to your success.
You also need to make sure you have the time to fit training around your work life. There are plenty of ways to fit training into your daily routine, such as running early in the morning before work, working out at work such as at lunchtime, and incorporating training into your commute. Explore these avenues and find out what is going to work best for you.
Many of the popular UK and European marathons take place in spring time, meaning you will be training over winter. This comes with its own perils such as unexpected snowfall and freezing temperatures. Make sure you have the right activewear for winter running as this will make winter training more bearable. Your essentials should be a long sleeved training top with temperature control to keep you warm without overheating and a water resistant running jacket and glove to protect you against the elements.
Many people who have run a spring marathon say that training through the winter is the toughest part. Dark evening runs after work and cold early morning starts can make motivation difficult, but if you keep your goals in mind and stay dedicated you will be able to enjoy working out and stay motivated.
Both Berlin marathon and New York marathon take place later in the year, meaning the bulk of your training will take place over summer. As we saw in 2018, a freak heatwave can really make a difference to your training and it's important to stay safe when running in hot weather. Be sure to carry extra water and be flexible with your training. Listen to your body and adjust your speed accordingly, as running at 100% effort in soaring temperatures and blazing sunshine probably won't end well.
Nutrition and hydration
Any marathon runner will tell you that you could put in endless miles and countless training hours but it will all be for nothing if you don't crack your hydration and nutrition strategy. As we saw in London in 2018 when a woman fell into a coma after crossing the finish line, hydrating with only water can be potentially dangerous and it's important to replenish your electrolytes and sodium as well.
Drinking a sports drink and taking sodium supplements will combat this easily so make sure they are a part of your hydration and nutrition strategy. It's also important to be able to adjust your strategy for the weather on race day, as you could have been training in sub-zero temperatures but will need more water than you think on an unseasonably hot April day.
Finding what works for you
There is no one-size-fits-all hydration and nutrition plan; you will have to devise your own. Some people are fine with a few litres of water and some energy gels while others find that fuelling with real food is much more effective. You can even make your own energy gels and bars for endurance training so that you know exactly what's gone into them; especially effective for those with a sensitive stomach or a food intolerance.
Make sure you trial different things in your training to find what works for you so that there are no surprises on race day. It's also important to be as self-sufficient as possible once you have found what works for you, as not all races will have what you need at the aid stations.
What to eat during a marathon
Some of the best foods to eat during a long endurance event like a marathon include:
- Protein balls
- Peanut butter sandwiches
- Pretzels (good for sodium but can be very dry, especially if you’re dehydrated)
- Pickles and pickle juice
- Dried or fresh fruit
- Sugar cubes
- Energy gels
- Sports/electrolyte drink
Top Tip: If you take on a lot of energy gels and sugary drinks during training, brush your teeth as soon as you get home to protect against cavities and tooth loss due to the excessive sugar consumption.
Cross Training For Runners
Once you have your training plan in place, you need to make sure you are also doing effective cross training. Putting in a lot of miles is a given for marathon training, but in order to avoid injury and perform at your best you will also need to cross train.
Cross training for runners is any other type of training apart from running that will supplement and enhance your training. Some of the best types of cross training are strength training at the gym, swimming, and cycling. All of these are low impact sports which will give your joints a chance to rest after pounding the pavements for hours on end while simultaneously working your muscles and increasing your power and strength, all necessary for putting in a good performance on race day.
What to expect at your first marathon
As the big day draws near it is completely natural to start to feel nervous. You will be wanting to know what to expect at your first marathon so that it doesn't come as much of a shock. Here are some of the most common things you're likely to experience at your first marathon.
Long toilet queues
If you've done a lot of races you'll already know the frustrations of a couple of portable toilets trying to accommodate thousands of runners and this won't be any different at a major marathon. The key is to join the queue early and be patient. So long as you get there with plenty of time, you won't miss the start and the time you spend in the queue would just be time spent pacing back and forth in your starting pen anyway. A top tip is to take a small amount of toilet paper with you as there probably won't be any by the time you get to the front of the queue.
A busy start
The start of a marathon with thousands of runners is always going to be busy and it may take a while to cross the start line. At this point you will be feeling pretty anxious and nervous but also very excited. Take this time to make sure you have everything you need and in place ready to run. Make sure your running watch is ready to go and switch it on early to make sure it can find a GPS signal among all the people.
Setting off too fast
All the excitement of the start may well cause you to set off too fast. Stick to your pacing plan and keep an eye on your watch to help you stay on track. Don't be tempted to rush off with everyone else; keep calm and start sensibly so that you can enjoy the race.
Hitting the wall
This is one of the most common fears among marathon runners and for good reason. Hitting the wall can take the form of anything from feeling a little lightheaded to physically not being able to move. The key to not hitting the wall when running is to stick to your nutrition and hydration strategy and to stay as hydrated as possible.
Read race reports
If you want to be well prepared on what to expect for the particular marathon you are running, it's a great idea to read race reports from people who have been there, done it, and got the finisher's t-shirt.
Experiencing the best day of your life
Even if you're hobbling along with sore feet, painful joints, and no energy, when you hit that finish line it will all be forgotten and you will remember this as one of the best days of your life. Running a marathon is a huge accomplishment and all of the long training sessions, dedication, and compromise will be worth it when you cross that line. The elation you feel will be like nothing else.
Getting to the start line uninjured
One thing you will hear from a lot of people training for a marathon, whether it's their first or their 10th, is that getting to the start line uninjured is a big deal. It can be all too easy to over-train and end up with an injury that hinders your chances of performing at your best or even running at all. Some of the most common running injuries are caused by pushing yourself too hard and doing too much too soon, especially if you're new to running.
In order to stay injury-free, always listen to your body during training and don't underestimate the importance of rest. Some of the best ways to deal with running injuries are not to push through the pain, learn from your mistakes, and don't rush your comeback. Rest up and ease back into your training gently. Ideally, you shouldn't get injured at all when training for a marathon. So long as you eat well, train smart, and listen to your body, you should be good to go.
Organising with family and friends
Of course, for your big day you will want your family and friends to be there to support you. There's nothing worse than running along wondering where they are and when you'll see them, distracting you from your performance. Before the race, make sure you all agree where they will be standing to watch you so that you know when to expect them.
A top tip is to see them towards the end of the race when you're needing some extra encouragement. Not only will they encourage you towards the finish line, but knowing that you get to see them soon could keep you going when the race starts to get tough at the halfway point. We recommend Mile 20 as the optimum place to arrange to see your supporters.