Running your first marathon or half marathon can be daunting. It’s the stepping into the unknown that can cause the apprehension you feel leading up to race day. It’s a familiar feeling for anyone who attempted to run their first race.
But luckily for you, I’m about to throw some tips your way which will have you entering race day full of confidence and feeling great. Follow these tips and you’ll perform at your best and avoid injury.
Plan well – Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
Once you know the date of the race plan the following:
- Running schedule. How will you fit in the longer runs around work, family and lifestyle? If in doubt, come and see us.
- Gym attendance. Are you going to continue/start going to the gym? If so, what does your training consist of? Would single leg strength work benefit or hinder your running? For advice, contact us.
- Performance tracking. How will you be tracking your running? What device do you need to buy and what app will you be using? I currently use Strava & WHOOP (I will go into these further down).
- Race day. What are your plans on race day? How will you get there? When will you eat and what will you eat? Are you staying in a hotel the night before? Understanding that your sleep will be significantly worse in a new environment could hinder your performance the next day. Perhaps it’s worth staying over 2 nights.
Consistency – To avoid disrupting the training programme
Injuries are the most disruptive element in training programmes. The most common injuries I see in runners are tendon issues. When we run, we cause microscopic trauma to our tissues which are then repaired providing recovery outweighs trauma. This is the key element. If we get this right to start with, we can often stay away from tendon pain.
Consistency in your training helps prevent spikes in load which is one of the biggest reasons we pick up tendon injuries.
An example of this is running 20km’s every week for 4 weeks and because you were feeling good, you decided to accumulate 40km’s in week 5. A huge increase which can lead to injury.
My biggest tip for consistency is to make this event your priority. If training for this half marathon or marathon isn’t your number one priority, then those long training runs will be replaced by other mundane events.
For any tips on how to improve consistency, download our 12 weeks to 1/2 marathon.
Strava – Track your training
TRACK. YOUR. TRAINING. It’s the only way you know how much distance you have accumulated or increased by and furthermore it keeps an eye on your progress. I use Strava to track the distances and times I run. What’s even more beautiful about this app is that it will let you know if you are in the red zone. The red zone means you have increased your training too much and therefore you are at risk of injury. Data is king.
WHOOP – Track your wellbeing
The Whoop band records the volume and quality of your sleep, your daily strain and whether your recovery is optimal based on your heart rate variability. If you wake up and you are in the red zone, it’s time to take it slow or get a complete rest day. But if you are in the green zone, it’s time to push.
The 80/20 rule – The Pareto principle of training
80% of your runs should be moderately comfortable and only 20% moderately intense. The 80/20 rule helps build a nice base where you are consistently working aerobically. If you can continue to build this aerobic base, then you will be able to work at an increased capacity for longer.
Recovery is key – Breath. Stretch. Relax.
Often athletes underperform, not because of overtraining, but because of poor recovery. Nutrition, sleep, rest periods/active recovery, stress management are all recovery’s factors.
In addition to tracking your training, you should be tracking your nutrition too. If you felt sluggish in one of your runs, you can look at what you ate that day and the day before. You can then play around with your macros and see how you feel in the next run. Perhaps increasing your carbohydrates improved your running!
And don’t forget that you should also be aiming for between 7-9 hours of non-disruptive sleep each night. No caffeine after 2 pm, blackout blinds, blue light (phones/tv) limits after 8 pm and managing your stress all influence your quality of sleep.
Finally, rest/active recovery days are just as part of your training as your running schedule. But recovery doesn’t mean no exercise at all. Go out for a walk, encourage the blood to flow and perhaps include even a long stretching session with a focus on your breathing. Slowing your breathing down works on the parasympathetic nervous systems which aids recovery.
Sports massage & stretching – Why not?
There is always conflicting evidence out there for the effectiveness of these two elements, but I know I always feel great after getting a sports massage or spending a good amount of time stretching. I don’t think they should be at the top of this list but including them into your training programme can keep you feeling good and aid in recovery.
Injuries – Don’t let them stop you!
If you experience pain, then you need to get this looked at as soon as you can. A small tweak to your training might be all you need.
Remember: It is a much harder task to fix an aggravated injury close to race day than it is at the first sign. Sometimes being in a little discomfort is not a sign of injury but something called DOMS.
If in doubt, have a read of our blog here to learn how to differentiate between pain and DOMS. An of course, if you discover that you indeed have an injury, just come and see us.