By Leading Personal Trainer Rowan Clift. View online at Female First
With only a couple of weeks to go until tens of thousands of people will be pounding the pavements for 26.2 miles in an attempt to complete the London Marathon, top Personal Trainer Rowan Clift shares his top tips and specialist advice to ensure success.
Keep an eye on the weather and dress accordingly:
Be sure to check the weather forecast prior to your race so you can dress appropriately. However, do not assume that the forecast is correct and be sure to prepare for the warmest temperature that it predicts, as well as the coldest. You should also ensure that any extra clothing that you bring is not something that you want to keep, as you will likely need to discard this once the race begins, as your body temperature starts to increase as the race progresses.
Hours of rain can also make for an extremely unpleasant marathon, so make sure you wear clothing that will not become heavy and weigh you down once it gets wet. Sunglasses and waterproof sunscreen are a necessity in the heat, while a hat or visor to protect your face is also a good idea if it is sunny. I recommend the Pro Run Cap from BUFF® (£26.26 www.buffwear.co.uk), it’s designed for long distance runners and offers vital UV protection and breathability, helping to boost performance and enhance comfort, with moisture management properties and an inner sweatband.
Be cautious about what you eat in the final week:
What you eat in the days before the marathon can make or break your race, so eating too much, too little or the wrong foods could leave you feeling tired during the race or force you to have to stop to use the toilets. The lead up to a marathon is not the time to be experimental with new and different foods, so make sure you plan your meals, and stick to them! Most importantly, in this last week leading up to the marathon, approximately 65-70% of your calories should come from complex carbohydrates, such as wholegrain bread and pasta, so that your body stores this for energy that you will need on race day.
Know your pre-race warm-up:
The warm-up for a marathon starts hours before you cross the starting line. You should wake up at least two and a half hours prior to the race, in order to ensure you feel prepared and ready to get going. Most runners understand the importance of warming up before a race, as it primes your muscles for peak performance, by increasing your core body temperature, which pumps oxygen throughout the body, loosening your legs and triggering the neural pathways between your brain and your muscles, which in turn improves muscle contraction and power.
You should not be going too hard on your warm-up, as the main goal is to get blood and oxygen flowing through the muscles, so a slow, 10-minute jog will suffice. Not only will this get your body ready to begin the race, but it will also put you in a good head space, by calming those last minute nerves. It is also really important to acknowledge that many runners will have a different strategy for their warm-up, and it is important that you stick to your own routine and do not get put off by what others are doing around you on the day.
Run a half marathon in the weeks before:
Do your last long run about three to four weeks before race day. Treat this as a “dress rehearsal” for the big race and use it to fine tune your technique, pace and your hydration/energy strategy. This will allow you to identify any potential problems which you don’t want to arise on the big day, for instance, if your leggings chafe, you feel an energy slump at mile fourteen or your socks are too thin. After that last long run, cut your mileage down to about 80% of what you were doing for that week.
You will probably feel tempted to run longer and harder during this time, but you must resist the urge as you will not make any fitness improvements this close to the marathon and will only put yourself at risk of injury.
Prepare your clothing and invest in good quality, technical kit:
Comfort is key when it comes to race day attire, so make sure you’ve chosen good quality kit which can also boost your performance and aid recovery. Opt for fabrics which are designed to work with you, not against you, to reduce fatigue, inflammation, stress and excessive fluid loss. For a marathon, sweat wicking kit is also a must, as they draw moisture away from the body, keeping you dry, cool and comfortable.
On the day, you’re likely to wake up feeling nervous and anxious, and the last thing you want is to feel rushed. Make sure that you have prepared everything you will need on the day throughout the week, to ensure that there is no last-minute stresses. This includes making sure you have the right socks, which have been washed and ready for the day, the best leggings or shorts that you know you perform well in and any other clothing that you might need depending on the weather. On the night before the race, lay out your entire outfit, so that when you wake up there is one less thing to worry about.
Get plenty of rest with 72 hours to go:
The night before the race, most people do not sleep well. This should not throw you off, one sleepless night is not going to hinder your performance. However, this is why it is important that you stock up on plenty of sleep in the build up to the big day. Clear your schedule the week before the race and give yourself the best chance of getting several nights of good sleep prior to the big day, as this is when your body rebuilds and restores the muscles you will need to finish the marathon. Sleep is a form of training, and you need to incorporate it into your plan just like you would any other strategy.
Have a post marathon recovery strategy:
As soon as the marathon finishes, you are going to want to crash to the floor. Resist this urge. Try with all the last remaining strength you have to do a little walk or jog afterwards just to keep your muscles moving and prevent them cramping up. I also recommend taking a blanket if they offer it to you at the finish line, as your body might go into shock at the end of the race and you may suddenly feel very cold.
Depending on how fast you ran and how sore you are, ease back into activity while respecting how your body feels. If your legs are struggling, do not push them, they have done enough at this point. Do not feel guilty if you go a day, or even a week off of running. Recovery time is as important as training.