Personal Training Ambassador Anthony worked with us as a Fitness Consultant for just over a year before transferring over to a Personal Trainer role six months later. He was then nominated to become a Fitness First Personal Training Ambassador. Here Anthony shares his tips for preparing fully for one of the most gruelling – yet rewarding – running events you’ll ever take part in, a marathon.
How far should the longest training run be before a marathon?
As a general rule, your longest run should be a fortnight before the marathon, and just under the total distance – between 20-22 miles, nothing longer. As always, listen to your body, if you feel resistance then don’t push it, you don’t want to risk injuring yourself before the big day. After this longer run, taper the distance down over the next two weeks.
What should the average training week consist of?
An average training week should consist of around four sessions. If you’re a beginner, these would ideally be made up of one gym session focused on strengthening your knees and mobilising your hips and ankles as well as three runs. Vary the distances of your runs and ensure that you have rest days so that your muscles can recover.
It’s important to do exercises other than running
Cross Training is an easy addition to a marathon training programme. It simply means integrating alternative exercises and equipment. An example for a runner would be weight and functional training as well as core strengthening exercises. These types of additions to your training programme will allow you to:
1. Help prevent injury
2. Train when rehabilitating
3. Keep yourself motivated
4. Keep your routine varied
5. Can prevent body stress and ‘burn out’.
It is common knowledge that the biomechanics of running causes impact and stress on the joints of the ankles, knees and hips. Therefore, continuous running week in and week out, will more than likely lead to injury at some point. Cross Training will allow you to continue to improve your cardiovascular fitness and work all the muscles associated with running. Any interval or constant pace sessions can be replicated on the cross-trainer, which has less impact on your joints and will reduce the risk of injury.
Weight lifting and functional training will strengthen your joints and muscles with low impact movements. Examples of weight training exercises designed for a runners fitness programme include dead lifts, split squats and step ups. Functional training incorporates kettlebells, the ViPR, medicine balls and so on. These exercises can target the areas runners often neglect such as the posterior chain (PC), and the muscles activated whilst running. This counteracts muscle imbalances and in turn helps to prevent injury.
What should the average gym session consist of for a runner?
As mentioned above, an average gym session should combine cardio with weights, functional and mobility training as well as core strengthening exercises. The latter will aid recovery as you train.
Is it better to run in the morning or evening?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. However, training in the morning is a great way to set you up for the day (providing you have eaten breakfast!)
If I'm really busy and don't have time to do that much training, what should I be doing when I can train?
Two tips I would offer are to run easy, sometimes and to also run with faster people.
Many runners think if they can run fast, they are running efficiently, which isn’t the case and running easy can often be the best way to help improve on speed. Training at a set pace is a great way to help your body adapt to speeds easily meaning you will be able to run faster without pushing any harder when increasing. A heart rate monitor is the perfect way to keep track of this.
Building your run slowly and steadily at one minute at a time is often the best way to improve on speed. It is very unlikely that you will find anyone exactly on your fitness level so to ensure you don’t exceed your limitations and do your body damage always maintain your own pace in accordance to how you feel. Having a running partner can be one of the best motivations however so instead why not set a distance goal instead and that way you can run at your own pace until you get there. One of the best ways to increase on speed is to walk between running intervals and recover actively. You can work on speed during your ‘work intervals’ and then recover with an easy jog or power walk in between.
What about nutrition, what should I eat while I'm training for the half-marathon and what should I avoid?
Whilst training for a marathon, it’s important that you eat the right foods. A good diet will be made up of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Obvious things to avoid include foods that are high in sugar such as chocolate and crisps and try to avoid drinking alcohol. Also, try not to eat too close to running, ideally about 90 minutes before you head out should work really well.
Do I need to take energy gels on a marathon?
When running a marathon, you’ll need some form of glucose or sugar to sustain performance. Energy gels are one option, but you can also take some orange juice or Lucozade to drink.
Is there any kind of mental preparation I should be doing before the race?
Physical preparation is key, however mental preparation can also help your performance and recovery during training. Ways to mentally prepare include reminding yourself of why you’re doing the marathon, but to also keep things in perspective. For example if you’re training doesn’t go well one day, don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s also good to rehearse your mental preparation during training and think about race day.
What about experienced runners, how can they shave precious seconds and minutes off their marathon time - what sort of things should they be doing in training?
For those who are more experienced, I’d recommend five sessions a week which includes at least three runs and some gym sessions. When running include interval training to work on building up speed and improving times.