26.2 is nothing

Why not jump-start your fitness routine with a marathon?

By Stephanie Kinnear 03/08/2007

If you’ve ever been under the watchful eye of a personal trainer, this adage may sound all too familiar and, perhaps, comforting: “Set reasonable, realistic goals.” I wonder if Lance Armstrong ever chanted that one to himself on day 1 of the Tour de France?

Not that many of us need to set fitness goals that are on par with Lance Armstrong’s. But still. Sometimes you need to kick your exercise routine out of the one-to-two half-effort days at the gym and into a more intense, rewarding experience. So I say, don’t set your goals low, set them high. Sign up for a marathon. Yes, that’s what I said: sign up for a marathon today. If you can step out your front door today and walk a brisk two to three miles with relative ease, then, in four to five months you can train for and complete a marathon.

And why a marathon? Here’s why:

Setting that goal

Why do we exercise? Overall health, weight management, a general sense of well-being — these reasons are all well and good, but often they are so hard to quantify that we’re able to ignore them and stay home with a good DVD. When you’re registered for a marathon, there’s a reason to get out and log your miles: If you don’t, you know that, come race day, you won’t be able to participate in the marathon, which can be quite embarrassing, assuming you’ve told all your friends about it.

Building slowly

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to run a marathon. Thousands upon thousands of people walk marathons every year. And you also don’t have to be an elite athlete to participate in one. The beauty of a marathon training program is that it starts off light and builds. There’s very little chance of burnout, because for the first month or so the mileage is very low (even though you are expected to train six days a week).

Joining a group

The best way to train for and complete a marathon is with a group. You’re a million times more likely to follow through with your exercise routine if there are 20 other people expecting you to be there for a training walk/run on a Saturday morning. And, luckily, there are tons of training groups to choose from. Many marathon training groups raise money for charitable causes: Team in Training raises money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Train to End Stroke raises money for the American Stroke Association, to name a few. The charitable aspect can be another great motivational tool to keep you on target.

The finish line

You’ll be amazed by what you’ve accomplished. One day, you’re walking three miles,`` and the next, amazingly, 26.2. Think about it: You’re just five months away from being a marathoner!

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