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The Whole Health Marathoner: A Training Approach -- ©Deborah Barr. All rights reserved.

Reprint from Western PA Health and Fitness Magazine

So you’ve spent months preparing your body for the Marathon, running, stretching, pushing your physical self to the limit. What about the rest of you? Remember that the mind is the most powerful organ we have. Professional athletes and coaches have recognized for years that a wholistic approach to training (incorporating mind, body, attitudes, emotions and spirit!) leads to peak performance and better feelings before and after the race.

Try some wholistic approaches to maximize your marathon return.

Before The Race:

DO use creative visualization and affirmations. Favorite tools of professional athletes, they enlist your mind to aid your body energy follows thought. Use it as part of your training, not just during the race.

Think and visualize what you want to experience. See yourself on marathon day – calm, ready, rested. Take yourself mentally through the race, including “the wall” or any part you fear. You can use a tape (there are many in book and natural food stores) or record your own voice guiding you through the race from beginning to end.

DO write down your fears and anxieties about the race. Transform any negative attitudes or beliefs into a positive statement, such as “I complete the race healthfully, joyfully and with ease.” Repeat the affirmation tens of times each day.

Talk to loving, supportive friends about your fears. Writing and speaking them takes fear outside of you, freeing your energy for the race. If those fears surface again during the marathon, exhale them away.

DO use visualizations on race day to guide you over rough spots in the course. See yourself as a deer or visualize yourself connected to the person in front of you or a car, something pulling you along. Breathe!

DO use yoga stretches and breathing exercises as a complement to training. Yoga helps you feel more connected to your body and keeps you aware of it. It can also help to prevent injury. Yoga stretches keep connective tissues loose. Breathing exercises oxygenate your entire system, boosting energy.

DO recognize the importance of diet in training. DON’T just “carbo load” the day before the race. For the pre-race training table, I suggest a balanced, whole grain diet. Whole grains (brown rice, barley, millet, buckwheat) are more nutritious and burn less quickly than refined carbohydrates (breads, pastas, sweets) and build strength and endurance.

DO include these foods in your training menu:

  • Whole, unprocessed grains
  • Sweet and root vegetables (winter squash, carrots, parsnips, turnips, onions, yams, daikon, and burdock root)
  •  Spring, distilled, or filtered water. Hydrate yourself more so the week of the race.

DON’T overload on protein. It is prolonged, strenuous exercise – not protein – that builds and strengthens muscles. A high protein, high fat diet creates ketones, toxic substances that can lead to dehydration and kidney damage.

Keep meat and dairy to a minimum. They will make you feel sluggish, dull your senses and create phlegm. Vegetarian animals, such as horses, giraffes and antelopes, have greater endurance than carnivores. This relationship of diet to endurance holds true for humans as well.

DO avoid energy-draining foods like alcohol, sweets, coffee and soft drinks. They will dehydrate you. Long term, sugar weakens your immune system and steals energy.

On Race Day

DO get involved in the festivities. Enjoy the camaraderie and sense of community. Laugh, relax, socialize. Get your family and friends involved. Ask them to cheer you on and encourage you at specific points.

DO view the race philosophical as journey. Have the inner strength to stop if needed. Don’t hurt yourself. Stay focused and aware of your body/mind. Be in the moment.

You’ve done your part in training and preparing yourself mentally and physically. Now turn the outcome over to a Higher Power or your Higher Self. Release the tension, worry, fear, anxiety and desire to control over to this Power. Release any internal chains that bind you to failure. Self-confidence and success stem from knowing there is a power outside us and within that wants us to succeed. We are not alone. Trust in this. Let go of the need for effort and struggle.

After the Race

DO acknowledge and congratulate yourself. You’ve done it! You’ve realized the dream. Sit with your feelings. Intense physical exercise often brings a release of physical and emotional toxins that need to come out, making you stronger and healthier.

DO write down your feelings. Running a marathon can be a tremendous healing experience that carries over into everyday living. You can become stronger, more adaptable, more disciplined, more adventurous, more self confident and courageous.

DO take time off to savor it. Don’t start training again right away. Get a massage. Be with friends – relax, laugh, play.

DO draw upon your marathon experience in life. When experiencing fearful situations, go back to your victory and use the memory of success to get you through difficulties. Expand your potential. Challenge yourself again. Reach another goal. Live your dreams!

©Deborah Barr.  All rights reserved.

For professional guidance creating the right diet for improving your health conditions, click here, call Deborah at 412.361.8600, or email

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Deborah Barr, 28-year Holistic Health and Nutrition Counselor/Coach, speaker, and author, works with clients who want to reverse health and weight issues; achieve emotional harmony, radiant health, passion, peaceful living, work-life balance, and a life they love. In 1985 she founded Whole Health Resources, the premier Holistic Health Center in Pittsburgh. WHR’s mission is to promote the healing and development of body, mind and spirit, and to teach an understanding of the relationship between diet, attitudes, lifestyle and wellness. She offers free help through her e-newsletters, Holistic Weight Loss, and Whole Health Matters, and free articles. Contact Deborah at or 412.361.8600.

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