13 Jan 2014
So, you’ve signed up for the London Marathon? Here are some generalised training tips and knowledge to help.
OK, not the London Marathon, but I do like this shot of me and the huskies on the Brecon Beacons!
A marathon is either as easy or as hard as you want it to be. If you can walk normally and are generally free from negative physical conditions you can already complete a marathon right now. Everything you do from now until the marathon is just going to make it easier and more enjoyable!
Look to run as much as you can. If you feel good, then run faster and further. If you don’t feel as good, then I would suggest running slower and shorter. Listen to your body. In this way running does not become a chore but a pleasure.
Always give yourself at least 24hrs off each week, so your cardiac and smooth muscles (heart and vascular system) can get a little rest. Don’t run if you ache, instead rest. Aching is a sign that your body hasn’t recovered from the previous training, so if you run when aching you are risking over-training. Again, listen to your body.
Injuries are a problem with the first time runner or for those stepping up the distance. As soon as possible I would suggest booking in with The Running School (Google them, there are quite a few locations) who will help you find the right biomechanics for your physical shape and size. There is no one-size-fits-all but instead you need to run as the individual you are.
As a heads up on technique look to run in a relaxed efficient manner, soft hips knees and ankles, think ‘tap-tap-tap-tap’ as your footfall with light and fast impact, don’t over-stride instead allow your foot fall to land beneath the centre of gravity, and relax your body and breathing. If you are relaxed you may allow your body to run in the efficient way for you.
Injury prevention through specific training is also strongly recommended. Proprioception is the sense of your body’s position in space of time. The ‘act’ of proprioception is for example when you turn your ankle going over a kerb – yet your body senses this and corrects it so you don’t hurt yourself. Instability work really helps with this and helps strengthen your joints by way of tendon and ligament strengthening combined with the right motor neurons firing. Try standing on one leg each time you brush your teeth, and get someone to show you how to do ‘Bulgarian squats’. Your body will strengthen exactly how it needs to.
In respect to energy you have enough stored energy by way of muscle glycogen and fat to run the marathon many, many times over. The only food you’ll need to absorb will be a little bit of sugar every hour, just to ensure that your blood glucose remains stable. The little energy gels such as ‘Gu’ is great for this. Yet again, don’t overdo it! This will help prevent you from hitting ‘the wall’.
Only, and I mean ONLY drink when thirsty. The human body is designed to operate quite efficiently while dehydrated, whereas over-hydration has led to many deaths. The advice used to be to drink as much as you can and the exercise death rates increased as a result. The advice now is to drink ONLY when thirsty and no more than 400-800ml an hour. This will also help you avoid dodgy tummies and bowel movements. Again, drink ONLY when thirsty.
You don’t need electrolytes in your drink. You have more than enough salt, or electrolytes, in your body to last several marathons. If you get salty deposits on your skin while sweating that is just some of the excess from your body being expelled. You can get all the salts you need for a marathon from a single meal.
With your runs you need to train your mind more than your body. Fatigue is nothing other than a perception in the mind. You need to train your mind that your body can safely do more than it thinks it can. The way to do this is to get the body used to running when tired. A quick word of caution here – get yourself used to improving your technique the more tired you get! To get your body used to running tired get in a long run at least once a week. Make it an enjoyable one! Don’t worry about speed on your long run, enjoying it is MUCH more important!
If you can’t find the time to get a long run in, and for increased benefit even if you can, get used to running “back to backs” where you do two long runs either in consecutive days, or even running twice in one day. This gets your body used to running while tired.
The purpose of getting the body used to running while tired is to allow the mind and the body to understand that it is not going to hurt itself during the marathon – that it is just something it can do, and should allow the person to do. It is mental and physical conditioning. If this conditioning is not carried out the brain will reduce the number of muscle fibres it recruits for the exercise, slowing the pace, and the body will be giving you the ‘tell-tale’ signs of ‘fatigue’.
Allow yourself to get enough rest. Remember that your body improves and strengthens during rest. Initially you can get great gains as the neurology learns and remembers the movements, so expect your running to improve really well for the first three to four weeks. After that your muscles will start to adapt and get stronger, and your gains will slow, yet they will still be increasing.
Nutrition wise start eating ‘clean’ – get your food from as natural sources as possible, stay away from processed food, and look to whole foods where possible. There is no one size fits all for nutrition as everyone has individual genetics and needs. Your body knows itself best. Listen to eat. Only eat when hungry, and only what your body tells you it needs. Stop eating when no longer hungry, never when full. You won’t need any supplements if you eat like this – your body will quite easily get the nutrition it needs.
So there you go – what, are you still here? Get out and run!