The 2020 London Marathon is finally just around the corner, and while the current pandemic means this years’ event is virtual, it hasn’t stopped runners up and down the country ramping up their training to the final, exhausting stage as they prepare to run the London Marathon their way.
Of course, if you’re not training yet, it’s far too late for you to join them. However, if seeing friends and family posting sweaty progress photos has you feeling inspired, here are our five top tips that might help you join them next year – or at least do a 5k in the park.
1: Train towards your goals
The first step to designing your training routine is to work towards whatever your end goal is. Are you training to run a marathon? A 5k as quick as possible? Or are you just running for leisure?
A long-distance training programme is dramatically different from one that’s focused on strength and speed. Long distance running takes a huge toll on the body and needs longer periods of rest in between intense training sessions to give your tissue time to repair.
If you’re running for that fast 5k time, you’re not going to see many benefits running beyond 8-10 thousand metres. You’ll be doing shorter, higher intensity runs that can be grouped closer together, rather than long runs that need to be spaced further apart.
2: Increase load gradually
No matter what type of running you do, you need to be careful not to overload your body. From a load perspective, running is one of the most intense activities you can do, and puts a tremendous toll on your muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Your average 75kg individual doing a 5000-metre run will have an unbelievable 600,000 kilos of force put through their body during their run. Multiply this out to a marathon, and you’re looking at 4.8 million kilos!
The 10% rule is often recommended, where a maximum increase of 10% each week is added. This can be a good guide for gently increasing mileage for most runners. However, it may be limited for those who run either a very small or very high mileage. Therefore, a step up, step back approach may suit runners better, where an graded increase for 3-4 weeks is achieved, followed by a week of much lower intensity and mileage.
3: Replace worn out footwear
There is a general consensus that you should change your shoes around every 500 miles, but studies bring this number down to around 300 miles. That’s a huge gulf, and one that could make a significant difference to the health of your feet and legs.
Good practice for serious runners is to cycle between two or more running shoes so you can gauge when one is worn out compared to the other. Your normal running shoe should provide a good amount of bounce in each step. If not, it’s time to swap them out.
As for what type of shoe you should use, unless you’ve been specifically prescribed a certain type of shoe to aid in rehabilitation, whatever shoes are most comfortable for you are the ones you should use. They’re what your body has adapted to and changing them shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Many shoes promise increases in performance but bear in mind it takes months to adapt to a shoe that’s significantly different from what you’re used to.
For example, the much-hyped barefoot running shoes can take up to 9 months to get used to – which is shocking considering how many people will just throw them on and expect miracles in the first week!
4: Fuel your body
Try not to eat a minimum 90 minutes before your run, with two hours being ideal. Eating immediately before your run won’t give your food time to digest, but if you wait two hours, you’ll be running just as your body starts converting that food into energy.
During your training period, eat your carb-heavy foods early in the day, even if you’re running in the evening. This will ensure you’re burning the energy when you run, rather than having it sit unused in your body overnight.
The longer distance you run, the higher your carbohydrate requirement will be. If you’re training for shorter distances and speed, you can opt for a more sugar and protein-based diet that provides a more rapid, short-term release of energy and plenty of protein for muscle repair. All runners need protein though, optimally 1.2 – 1.7g per kilo of bodyweight to ensure recovery.
5: Never skip the warm up
Many people just open their front door and start running without preparing their body. A simple 10 minute warm up will get your tissues used to moving, absorbing force and generating power, improving your performance and reducing your risk of injury.
Whatever activity you do, your warmup should break down the movements into smaller parts that you can exaggerate so that your body is prepared for a wider range of movement than is actually required. Running is especially easy to break down into smaller movements that represent distinct parts of the run cycle.
Try these as your warmup:
Each of these represents a different part of the run cycle, and after about 5-10 minutes of this warmup your entire lower body will be well-prepared for your run.
Get in touch with Vita Health Group for your best chance of running success
We do more than just treat injuries here at Vita Health Group we can also provide detailed performance diagnostics and design training programmes tailored to your individual strengths and weaknesses.