Expert Marathon Training Tips You Need to Know Now
BALANCE caught up with Cory Wharton-Malcolm, running coach, founder of Track Mafia, an adviser to Mentholatum and Nike+ Run Club Head Coach, to find out just how we should be preparing for the marathon in the final weeks leading up to the big event. Here are his top tips:
How often should you be running in the 8 weeks leading up to the marathon, and for what distance?
A typical preparation schedule for a marathon is 16 to 20 weeks long. You should be running three to five times a week in the eight weeks before the marathon, with low-intensity training and cross-training in between. Increase your distance bit by bit as you get nearer the day and you ideally want to be hitting 20 to 24 mile runs four weeks before dependent on your goals. It’s advisable to try and focus on your goals and why you are running during your training as this will help to fend off demotivation.
If you feel like breaking up the monotony of running, try some yoga and or pilates as both are great for strengthening your core. Most runners are blissfully unaware that a slight imbalance in your core muscles can actually create problems for you whilst out on the road, so don’t neglect them. It’s also a great way to allow your legs some rest time too.
How should you be fueling your body in the run-up?
Your nutritional choices during training are really important. Food is fuel after all and you need to fill up on foods that will boost strength, stamina, fitness and energy. Protein is especially important. It helps you build muscle, recover quicker and avoid injury. Chicken, lean meat, fish, dairy products, if that’s your thing, and for our non-meat eaters tofu, beans and legumes are good sources of protein. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables too. Carbs are important but don’t go overboard. Carbohydrate-rich food, such as pasta, rice and oats should be thought of as fuel for training sessions specifically. Aim to have a snack with a nice balance of protein and carbohydrates 30 to 60 minutes before a run dependent on how much of a gap you need between eating and exercising. You should also try to eat a small recovery snack within snack withing 20 minutes and then something a little more adequate an hour of finishing, especially if you ran long or hard.
Adequate hydration is always crucial and it’s as important to hydrate when you aren’t training as when you are. Fluids regulate your body temperature, flush out damaged cells and ensure that your joints are adequately lubricated. Don’t glug down pints of water just before the run though – you will be needing the loo! And if you can, try to avoid alcohol whilst in training.
What stretches should one be focussing on?
We suggest a dynamic warm-up followed by doing some dynamic stretches before you get into the main bulk of your workout. It can help to avoid and reduce pain and increase mobility, range of motion, strength and flexibility. The Mentholatum “Mind Your Back” campaign sets out five stretches which only take a minute or two, but will reduce stiffness, boost circulation and ease pain. Stretching can improve flexibility and range of motion of a joint. Stretching may also help improve your performance in an endurance activity like a marathon, by allowing your joints to move through their full range of motion.
Invest in a foam roller to help aid recovery and muscle repair. You might also try the Deep Heat Muscle Massage Roll-on Lotion. It combines heat and massage therapy and using it before a run can help loosen and soften muscles, ready for movement, stretching and exercise. It is drug-free, has a pleasant herbal fragrance and comes in a convenient bottle, perfect for a kit bag.
An ice bath after a long run can help your muscles recover, but it is pretty hardcore. If you are not feeling jumping into an icy bath, try Deep Freeze Glide On-Gel to provide fast, cooling, soothing pain relief on those aching muscles.
When is it good/bad to have massages?
Some studies indicate that massage can reduce inflammation, improve immune function, and reduce stress hormones like cortisol. Massage can relax tense muscles and remove adhesions or minor scar tissue between muscles and fascia, a fancy word for the sheath or casing that surrounds your muscles. Massage is definitely valuable to runners but the timing is very important. Massage right after a hard run or workout can be counterproductive to the recovery process. There is still substantial muscle damage and massage may make that worse. Massage right before a run is also not always a good idea either. It might leave you feeling sore or reduce muscle tension so you feel ‘flat’. If you want to have a massage before a run, it’s best to do it 2-3 days before. After a run, it might be an idea wait until any initial soreness has subsided before you head for your next deep tissue massage, however, something very light post-race can have a positive effect and aid recovery.
What kit does one need to get ahead of the marathon?
Invest in a pair of comfortable running shoes that match up with your budget. If it’s your first rodeo it might be an idea to head into a specialist running shop and try on a few pairs and find a pair you are happy with. If you can stretch to 2 pairs, one for longer distances and one for shorter faster distances, splash out. We are big advocates of shoe rotation as different running shoes can offer different levels of support which if used correctly can help you to become a more efficient runner.
Make sure this is done at least a few weeks before the big day so your feet are used to them and they are well broken in. Wear seamless socks, made of synthetic moisture-wicking material. When it comes to long-distance running, think “cotton is rotten!” And don’t forget to clip your toenails!
Remember your intimate areas too – cover your nipples with plasters, tape or strap some cotton wool over them. You can also carry a little tin of Vaseline, just in case. For guys, friction and sweat can also be a recipe for disaster down below and Vaseline can help make things go more…smoothly.
When should you start to take it easy before the event?
Rest is as important throughout your marathon preparation programme as training. Your leg muscles need time to recover between runs and you should also aim to get eight hours sleep every night.
As you approach the big day, you need to ‘taper’ your training, reducing mileage, to give your body and mind a chance to rest, recover, and prepare. Tapering boosts muscle power, potentially boosting speed and strength; increases glycogen stores, enhancing performance and energy; and repairs some of the damage that may have been down by regular training.
Aim to run your last long run three to five weeks before your big day. Treat this long run as a “dress rehearsal” for your race. After that last long run, gradually decrease your mileage and complete your taper.