In the final weeks of any marathon training, be it an actual event or virtual, between your longest training runs you must think about balancing your energy with your lifestyle. Your body actually gets fitter when you rest, not when you train. This may sound counter intuitive but it’s when all the micro-tears and cellular damage which happens through training starts to heal, leaving you stronger. We want you to think about the next few crucial weeks as an equilateral triangle with training at the top and nutrition and recovery/rest as the other two points;
To keep your body and journey healthy your goal needs to be to keep this training triangle balanced. If we solely focus on boosting up your training, eventually the triangle will become unbalanced and sickness, injury or loss of motivation will rapidly follow.
Follow these top tips to make the most of your long runs arriving at your marathon start line healthy and full of energy.
* Be flexible and listen to your body – You need to be prepared to adapt. There may be days during this period when your body screams ’NO’. However, there is nothing wrong with completing a very easy run instead or simply taking a rest day. Equally if you find yourself unexpectedly feeling awful during a run when you had planned to run faster then back off and listen to the signs… there is always another day. Maybe try doing some light core work instead to make yourself feel better about life! The moral of the story is to be realistic during these periods. Accept that family, work or social must take precedence and terminate the guilty gremlin on your shoulder. Remain ticking over and above all positive and healthy. It’s also a risk to get super tired during a period when we have a global pandemic. Energy and health create a stronger immune system.
* Sleep yourself fit – the growth hormones which allow your body to recover and progress are released in the deep sleep phase of your sleep. If you are regularly getting less than 7-8 hours of sleep a night you will not be adapting to your training as well as you could be. Aim for 15-30 minutes more, banish smartphones, TVs and laptops from the bedroom and try to avoid stimulants like alcohol or caffeine late at night in these key weeks. Extra sleep could be a game changer at this stage.
* Don’t play catch up – If you miss a run or training session, doubling the volume of your next session simply won’t work – In fact, it carries high risks. Be patient, accept where you are and step back into the plan as you left it. You might find replacing some of your running sessions with cross training, using a road or static bike, aqua jogging or the elliptical trainer can allow you to continue training pain-free whilst retaining fitness.
*Get a massage or visit the physio for an MOT – with extra miles being run in this key period it’s time to treat yourself and see the experts. A weekly massage will speed up recovery and ease sore muscles helping to break down the scar tissue formed. See your local physio for an MOT could prevent injury and get the ‘car’ out on the road feeling great.
*Foam roll and stretch – there’s always the odd article out there saying this won’t make much difference or prevent injury. Well after 25 years of coaching I can tell you that those I see foam rolling every day or two on key muscle groups and stretching daily definitely get injured less. Stretching will speed up recovery and lengthen tight muscle fibres post-runn. Start each run with an easy jogfor 5-10 mins to warm up but ensure you are foam rolling and stretching afterwards as this can help.
* Embrace your rest days. Rest is more than just ‘not running’. Try to avoid the trap of replacing your rest days with heavy strength and conditioning or high intensity training or suddenly doing all the heavy DIY jobs at home because you have an extra hour in your day. Give your body the break it needs to recover and develop. Make sure you eat well on your rest days too! Your body needs those quality calories and nutrients to replenish your carbohydrate (energy) stores, repair tissue and balance the micro nutrients.