Why I have a rubber duck on my desk.

A rubber duck is one of your greatest resources. Seriously. Apart from being bathtime entertainment and useful for science experiments (investigation of currents at sea and glacier movements, mostly) they are a firm favourite of software engineers. In this context, rubber ducking is short for “rubber duck debugging” and is a method of debugging code. Basically, engineers can explain the code they are writing to the rubber duck, line-by-line, and as they do so, they can break down the purpose of the code and find the underlying problem. By forcing the issue into words, and explaining it to something that can’t interrupt, often a solution will become clear without having to do any extra work.

 

Why is this relevant to you? Or me? 
Explaining something in detail to an inanimate object (it doesn’t have to be a rubber duck) distances ourself from the problem (coding, homework, understanding complex mathematics, relationships… whatever the problem may be) and allows an opportunity for self-realisation and helping you to find your own answer. Effectively, by explaining the problem to yourself (or your rubber duck), you are able to remove the anxiety and emotion around issues, step back and find perspective. This can help you reflect and resolve the issue.

“Learners who engage in explanation go beyond the obvious to look for broad and simple patterns underlying what they are trying to explain and in so doing…often make useful discoveries.”
Tania Lombrozo, Ph.D, Explaining to Yourself Can Be A Powerful Tool (https://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2016/03/explaining-yourself)

Whilst talking to your duck, your mind also slows down your thinking, breaks down the information and can find new links or patterns. A chance for a fresh perspective.

 

Does it work with a friend / cat / dog? 
This can work, but there are some problems….they move, talk, give opinions (the friend that is), distract and you may end up petting them (cat or dog!). But it will work with another inanimate object, so don’t feel you need to have a duck on your desk, a fluffy pig will do instead (for example).

 

Using your rubber duck. Really, you want a lesson on this? Ok, here goes…
1. Get a rubber duck (obvious!)
2. Explain the problem. In detail. What is the purpose of what you are trying to do? What have you done to date? What have you achieved and what have you not achieved.
3. As you explain, make sure you fully understand where you are going.
4. Find the solution! It may be obvious once you’ve talked to the duck, but if not, try giving it more detail.
4. Do NOT argue with the rubber duck. It can’t defend itself.

 

 

How does it apply to my running? 

There are so many ways to apply this in the context of running, as a runner, or a coach. If you are not meeting your goals….If you are upset by a race result…if you’re not sure on a race strategy…If you are thinking of going off plan….not sure whether to signup for a race.

Any time you want to think about a problem logically, dig out the duck…

 

Want to know more? Read these:

https://www.livescience.com/34000-explaining-helps-understand.html

https://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2016/03/explaining-yourself

https://sites.evergreen.edu/making/concerning-rubber-ducks/

 

 

 

 

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Post Marathon Blues? What Next…

You spend months training for the big day. You’ve ticked off the runs, spent time and money on the prep, tapered and now raced. Fabulous – very well done! But what next?

Whether you achieved your marathon goal or not, ticking off a big target race can leave a hole in your life. Post-marathon blues are real and it can be tough to shift back into the routine of every day life. Everyone feels differently about this. For some, it’s business as usual. For others, running loses its appeal altogether and they struggle to get out the door. Some want to fill the hole it has left by signing up for their next race and launching into training immediately. Whatever your approach, be kind to yourself, share your feelings, don’t make big decisions immediately and take it slowly in the hours and days after the race. If you’re one of the many who feel a bit bereft, here’s some ideas of how to move on successfully.

 

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. Your daily routine, diet, sleep patterns and even socialising may have been built around your marathon training, and this will have increased in intensity in the last few weeks. In addition, stress hormones, tiredness and hunger can play a part in the days post marathon. Don’t be hard on yourself, feeling lost or down is normal and will pass. Signs can be a general lethargy, lack of motivation, feeling down, antisocial, or disappointed – even if you hit your goal. Sharing with others who feel the same can help, and this is where social media and online running groups can come in useful.

 

  1. Reflect on your performance. Don’t do this for too long, especially if the race didn’t go your way, but look at what you did right and what you could have done differently, both in training and in the race. Analysing a successful performance may help you replicate it again in future, and if your race didn’t go to plan, writing it down can help you come to terms with your feelings (and not make the same mistakes next time!). Make a note of your thoughts and then put it to one side.

 

  1. Note what you miss about marathon training. Was it the challenge? The sense of achievement? The regimented schedule? Having a big target to motivate you? Identifying what you really want will help you when setting your next goal.

 

  1. Try something new. This will help replace some of the excitement of marathon training – train for shorter distance, start a new exercise class, run with friends who weren’t running at your pace or distance during training, go off-road, cover your watch, take up cross-training or cycling. Or, just enjoy running with no plan.

 

  1. Indulge yourself. Eating after the marathon is a must, but your body will be repairing for several days if not weeks. Relax a little and have that dessert or glass of wine.

 

  1. Parkrun? Spectate or marshal at a local race, help others with their training. There is often nothing better to rekindle your love of running (if you have lost it) than shouting at (cheering on) others runners at a parkrun or race!

 

  1. Embrace another hobby. Finish that book you started months ago, decorate a room in the house, go hiking, bake cakes – whatever you fancy now you have more time.

 

  1. Plan a post-race trip…self-explanatory really. Just try not to plan it around another marathon (yet!)

 

  1. Find another fitness goal: a cycling or swimming race or triathlon, a yoga retreat, focus on strength training goals or like some of my clients did a year ago, sign up with an online coach to keep you motivated, whether or not you have a target race. Please contact me on the details below if you want more information.

 

  1. When you are ready, find your next running goal. Don’t rush into this, your mind and body need time to rest and recover, and constantly moving from race to race will not help alleviate the blues. But when you are ready, decide what you want to achieve and how you’d best get there. Getting faster? Think about training for shorter races. More social running? What about trail running, an ultra, or parkrun? Want to improve your marathon time? Consider the timeframe and building blocks to this carefully.

 

 

Above all, make time for the things you didn’t do whilst marathon training and enjoy them. It’s a great time, once those pesky post-race hormones have passed! When you are ready, embrace your next goal and don’t forget to contact me if you need running support, advice, motivation or even a new training plan for your next target race!

 

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Hill Sprints for Endurance Runners

Hill sprints. Along with strides, these are probably one of the best secret weapons in your speed work arsenal. Short, intense but with a good pay off over time. If you haven’t done them before, have a go this week…

 

What are hill sprints:
Maximal effort runs up an incline. Each run is short – 10-15 seconds in duration, followed by a good recovery (very slow jog or walk back down). 4-8 repeats is plenty, depending on your running background.

 

Why do hill sprints?
Hill sprints are a safe way to practice all-out sprinting – the hill means less impact is absorbed when you sprint so less chance of injury. They strengthen key muscles and tendons, much like a strength session, except the incline is the resistance rather than weights. It utilises the same mechanisms as plyometrics and strengthens the hips, glutes, quads and calves. Like strides (bursts of controlled pace over 10-15 seconds), they help recruit muscle fibres (particularly ones that endurance runners don’t often recruit) – very useful for engaging the muscle fibres you’ll want to use at the end of a race. They also may help you improve your cadence, focus on form and reduce ground contact time by improving neuromuscular connections – the speed at which signals are sent to muscles. Really useful too for those sprint finishes or overtaking on hills!

 

When should I do hill sprints:
Do them during or after an easy run. Or before a marathon paced or reasonably hard (but not all out) session to fatigue your legs slightly and help represent running on tired legs. They do not constitute a hard workout in their own right but should be used as an add on much like you would strides. Although they are max effort, each is short, and with a longer recovery, should not leave you fatigued the next day.  If you have a coach, make sure you follow their guidance with which runs to add these in to.

 

How to do hill sprints:
1. Warm up well – at least a mile, possibly with some accelerations to get your legs turning over. Respect that you will be asking your legs to work hard.
2. Choose a hill between 5-10%, steep but it doesn’t have to be cliff-like!
3. Jog gently to the bottom and from a jogging start, sprint up the hill as fast as you can. GO HARD!
4. Focus on form – run tall (not leaning into the hill). Keep your cadence high, shorten your stride and emphasise your arm movement to drive you forward.
5. It may help to have a mantra or go to phrase to help you push something like “explode, explode, explode” works well to drive you forward in an explosive manner.
6. Don’t go over 15s, it’s a max effort. Walk slowly back down, make sure you are recovered, and go again.
7. Repeat 4-8 times (lower end for beginners, if you are coming back from a period or time off or you are not used to hill work or sprinting).

Go all out and enjoy! Do you do hill sprints? Got any tips for runners just starting out with them? Do you prefer hill sprints or strides? Tell us more in the comments below.

 

 

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Coaching Tip – Tapering for a Marathon

Back in 2020 I wrote a blog post on tapering for your marathon. For this week’s coaching tip, I bring back the key points of this article and remind you of the importance of recovering completely before you embark on 26.2 miles.

 

What is tapering?
-Tapering is reducing your training before your target race, giving your body a chance to recover from accumulated fatigue and reach a peak in performance. The taper should be 2-3 weeks in length, meaning you don’t lose fitness, but go into your target race fresh and full of energy. Although a 3 week taper does mean you may lose a little fitness, you won’t notice it, and this is outweighed by the recovery you should feel. However, if your training season has been interrupted or shortened by injury etc. you may want to consider a 2 week taper (details below).
During the taper, you want to try and keep frequency of your runs the same (if you run 4 times a week, keep to that), and keep a little intensity (speed). However, you will drop some of the speedwork and reduce the mileage to allow the recovery to take place. You should also include a little bit of marathon pace work in runs during the taper, to make neuromuscular connections – get your brain used to telling your legs to run at that pace.

Planning a 3 week taper
– 3 weeks out, mileage should be around 65% of your previous (highest) week. The long run will be between 14 miles (less experienced runners), and 16 miles (for more experienced runners). Use this opportunity to practice pre-race routines like fuelling and clothing.
– 2 weeks out: your mileage should be roughly half of your longest week, and long run will vary from 8-12 miles depending on experience.
– 1 week out: down to 25% of the mileage you were at. Take another rest day or two (depending on your current frequency) and include marathon pace work. Drop any extra exercise such as gym visits or cross training at this point. An example last week schedule is on the original blog: https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/tapering-for-your-marathon/

 

Considering a 2 week taper
If your training hasn’t gone to plan (e.g. reduced training for injury or illness), and you want more time to build fitness and / or confidence, a 2 week “aggressive” taper is worth considering. To do this:
– Keep your training high 3 weeks out, peaking with a long run.
– Drop back to 50% of the mileage 2 weeks out, and follow the pattern above for the final week
– Be careful that this allows you enough time to recover properly.

As you start the taper, you may worry that you haven’t trained enough, haven’t hit paces on all your runs, etc. maranoia (the well-known paranoia of marathon training) will probably kick in. However, the old adage that it is better to go into a race slightly under trained than overtrained and tired is very true, so stick to your guns, take time to recover, and reach the start line as fresh as a daisy and ready to race! Good luck!

 

Key resources:
Full blog post on How to Taper can be found here: https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/tapering-for-your-marathon/
MH Runners Club webinar on Preparing for your marathon: Tapering, racing and recovery, where tapering and a lot of other useful topics are discussed at length, can be accessed in MH Runners Club (www.mhrunnersclub.co.uk)

 

Other useful blog posts include:
Carb loading and race day nutrition: https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/fuelling-a-marathon-carb-loading-and-race-day-nutrition/
How to determine your marathon race pace: https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/how-to-determine-your-marathon-race-pace/
Building mental toughness: https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/coaching-focus-mental-toughness/

 

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How to determine your marathon race pace…

Deciding how to pace your goal marathon race is always a tricky one. You may be a first timer with or without a goal time, or an experienced marathoner with a specific target time, but at some point, you’re going to have to take stock of your training and racing to date and decide what pace you intend to set out and run 26.2 miles… this isn’t something you want to get wrong – too fast and you risk hitting the wall, too slow and you don’t do your hours of training justice. So how can you decide what to do?

 

There are several ways of tackling this, but first:

 

What is your goal?

For first timers, the target is often to get round in one piece without too much pain… so looking at a number of runs you have already completed, especially if near race distance (e.g. 16-20 miles) will give you a good idea of what pace you can sustain. If you’re not near race distance yet, you can use past race or run experience to extrapolate either by using a calculator or a formula (as discussed below).

 

If you have already done a marathon (or several) and want to improve on your current pace, you may already have a goal time in mind. You now need to reflect on how your training has gone, what sort of fitness level you are at, are you injured or niggly? Did you or are you struggling to sustain your paces in training? You also need to consider how much time you have left – the further away your race, the more ambitious you can afford to be, whereas if you’re starting the taper, don’t count on building fitness now.

 

There are various ways to help you set the right race pace for you:

 

Doing a test run at the proposed pace (or several): 
Decide on your distance, do a test run or couple of runs and see how your pace feels. A great way of doing this is to add  5-10 miles at that pace into a longer run (don’t do the whole long run at proposed marathon pace or you risk overtraining). The pace should feel reasonably comfortable for a good part of the segment (depending on how long you have until your target marathon) and you should be able to hold the pace throughout the segment. Slowing towards the end is a sign that you may have been too ambitious in your goal and perhaps need to reduce the pace a little (consider other factors too, like did you fuel well enough, is it poor weather, hilly or just a bad day – which is why several paced runs are better than one for this).
You can then use an online calculator to see what time you could finish if you run at that pace for your race.

 

Doing a race / using a calculator:

Doing a race is a great way of predicting a marathon time – longer races are more useful – e.g. a half marathon will be a better predictor than a 5k. Run your race hard and review your finish time. It does depend on how far out you are from your marathon, a hard half will be faster than marathon pace, so your target marathon pace will be slightly slower than that half time. For example, a 2 hour half marathon (9.09 min/mi) may equate to a 9.25-9.30 min/mi pace over the marathon. Some online calculators give an idea of what race times may translate to over different distances (a few are given at the end of this page to help). They vary in accuracy so try a couple, and remember, the nearer the distance of your test race to your target race, the more accurate the result.
Some people quote formulae to predict – you may have heard marathon times as double your half time and add 10-20 mins. For example, a 1.45 half time will double to 3.30, and so this runners target time may be 3.40-3.50 for the marathon. This can work but can also vary wildly depending on your speed, experience and training. A faster marathoner is likely to be much nearer the double and 10 mins than a slower marathoner who may need to double their time and add up to 40 minutes. The best thing to do is to use that pace as a starting point and test it out (see testing out pace on runs above).

 

Using Heart Rate (HR) data or perceived effort
This can be unpredictable but works for some. Remember HR and perceived effort can vary considerably depending on sleep, stress levels, elevation, weather, menstrual cycle, hydration levels, caffeine and other factors. HR data from training runs should be used rather than races because HR is often spiked by the stress of races, and make sure the source of your data is as reliable as possible (ie use a chest strap or equivalent where possible – wrist based monitors are not as accurate). Marathons are generally run in zone 3 – 70-80% of maximum HR for the majority. This is just below your lactate threshold (the point at which lactate accumulates in your muscles faster than you can remove it). You would expect your HR and perceived effort to increase through the race as your fatigue levels and effort levels increase. You can find out more about calculating your HR zones here: https://www.runnersworld.com/beginner/a20812270/should-i-do-heart-rate-training/

Both HR and perceived effort are tough to use for longer races as when you’re well tapered, or nervous about your race, they can change. Remember – a race start is a stressful place for most of us and will cause increases in HR or perceived effort before you’ve even started.

 

Getting professional advice:
This is one of the best ways to decide on race pace, and can come in several forms.

  1. If you’ve followed a specific training programme that is aimed at finishing in a particular time, and you’ve nailed your training paces, this should help you decide.
  2. If you have a running coach, definitely discuss it with them!
  3. And of course you can ask online, and there are some amazing knowledgable people who can help, but don’t forget, they don’t know your training or running history, and whatever information you give online is just a snapshot, so make sure you weigh up any information or advice given very carefully.

 

Adjusting race pace
Once decided, you should stick to your race pace wherever possible, and make sure any reason for changing it is valid. If you haven’t already been that person that shot off too fast in the marathon, I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories of people who have. Don’t change your marathon goal pace because you feel great during the taper (yes, marathon pace does feel much easier when you’re well rested!), or at the start of the race (adrenalin does funny things to your decision making processes!). But on the other hand, don’t feel you have to stick to it rigidly if there is a good reason – hot or bad weather, niggles or feeling unwell all fall into this category.

I hope this was helpful to you in planning your upcoming marathon. Deciding on race pace is a tough call, but a review of your training and taking an evidence based approach is probably the best way to go. Whatever pace you’re running at, I hope your marathon is a positive and successful experience.

 

Have you already decided on your marathon pace for this autumn? Do you have any tips or stories about pacing that you can share? Or a reliable way of working out your pace? Please let us know…

Useful resources:
There are a lot more calculators available, this is just a few that my clients have used. They vary considerably so make sure you test out any suggested paces before committing, and do share any calculators or resources you use for predicting paces.

V.dot calculator: good for using race data to work out equivalent finish times for different distances, and training paces: https://runsmartproject.com/calculator/

McMillan calculatorhttps://www.mcmillanrunning.com
Strava calculator: This is great for giving you splits for each mile – worth printing off and putting round your wrist etc. If going for a specific time https://www.strava.com/running-pace-calculator
Runner’s World pace calculator: Good for calculating training paces – https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/training/a761676/rws-training-pace-calculator/
Metathon – uses Strava data to predict a finish time. Most find this over-optimistic but it is interesting https://www.metathon.com

 

MH Runners Club webinars on How to Train for a Marathon  https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/webinars/

MH Runners Club Ask the Coach sessions https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/mh-runners-club/

 

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Fasted Running. Yes or No?

We’ve all heard the stories of runners that have run 18+ milers on nothing but air, no breakfast, no in-run nutrition and no water; and it can definitely be a bit of an ego thing in the running community (I used to be one of those!). The question is, what purpose does it serve and should you be doing it?

 

I’m going put in a spoiler in right now – whilst results are often very individualised, I don’t recommend this for the runners I coach, and am not going to recommend you try it. Let me explain more…..

please note, I’m not a specialist in this field and the information below comes from recent and relevant articles and research, as well as my years of coaching runners. But each runner is individual and if you are serious about taking this further, please consult a well-qualified, experienced specialist. 


What is fasted running?

Scientific literature defines fasted training as not eating within 10-14 hours of a workout, so usually this would be an AM run. It’s an idea that has been around a long time and many runners swear by it.

Why has running fasted become popular? 

There are a few drivers behind this, but the main two seem to be weight loss, and increased utilisation of fat as an energy supply (for endurance running).

 1.  Weight loss:
It seems obvious – run without eating and you’ll have to burn your body fat – sounds wonderful! Sadly, it’s not that simple. Yes, you will increase the percentage of fat you burn when you run if you run fasted, but the primary source of fat burned during exercise isn’t the belly fat you’d like to use, but intramuscular fat. There are other negatives too… it increases the amount of protein you break down (in a non-fasted state, protein contributes approx 5% of your energy requirements for endurance training, but in a fasted state it’s doubled to around 10%). resulting in the breakdown of muscle tissue that can lead to a decrease in resting metabolic rate, a decrease in strength and an increase in injury risk.
Running fasted is also a major stressor on your body – it results in increased cortisol levels in the bloodstream, particularly in women, which promotes muscle breakdown, abdominal fat storage, higher fatigue and worse recovery. Not only that, but hard sessions are more effective when fuelled by glycogen, so you may burn more fat as a percentage, but your performance will suffer and you’ll burn less calories overall.

A number of studies have been done on fasted exercise for long term weight loss, and most found similar rates of weight loss in fasted and non-fasted participants, with little difference in body composition.  It just doesn’t seem to work. To meet weight loss goals, you’d definitely do better to fuel your runs. You’ll feel better, run better and nutritious fuel consumed during and immediately post workout is much more likely to be utilised for repair and recovery, rather than be stored where you don’t want it. Try and eat the exercise calories you have burned within a 1-2 hour window after working out. By doing this, it stops your body craving foods later in the day and you overeating and adding in more calories that you burned running.

 

2.  Increased fat utilisation as an energy source (and preserve glycogen in endurance runs e.g marathons / ultra marathons)
Again, this makes sense. Our glycogen stores are limited but we have much more energy in stored fat, even if you have a lower body weight. So relying on fat as a fuel for endurance events will preserve our glycogen stores and keep us running for longer. Research does indicate that training in a fasted state improves the ability to tap into fat stores sooner, and burns a higher percentage of fat during training sessions. But the caveats above still stand – it stresses the body, releasing cortisol, increasing protein breakdown and delaying recovery. As the brain is fuelled by glucose, it will also impact decision making as the race progresses. And the research is very clear on this – running on low carbohydrates will decrease your ability to hold a high intensity level if you plan on running fast.

 

3.  Other reasons: Convenience / it feels better / less digestion problems.
Running on a full stomach certainly doesn’t feel great. Most of us have also experienced runner’s tummy problems at some point or other. And not eating before a morning workout means 10 mins more in bed….
The best solution to stomach issues is to trial different foods to see what works (I have a client that can’t eat raisins for 3-4 hours before they run without getting an upset stomach, for example, but their friend always has them as a pre and during workout snack), and getting used to running with a little something in your stomach. It doesn’t have to be much. Stay near home whilst you try it, and preferably on an easy run! As for convenience, get out of bed ten minutes earlier and have something easier on your stomach. You’ll be fine!

 

 

Should I run fasted at all?
Well that’s all a bit doom and gloom for fasted running! But actually, short easy runs fasted won’t do any harm and you may feel good doing them. Generally, for easy effort runs of less than 60 minutes it is fine (but make sure you are well hydrated), but for harder or longer runs, a little sugar and protein goes a long way – it’ll boost energy, mental clarity and mood, allowing the body to better access energy sources and slow muscle breakdown. The general recommendation is around 150 cals, mostly simple carbs with some protein, but low fat and fibre. I use Mountain Fuel’s Morning Fuel for this (148 cals, some protein, mostly simple carbs) for convenience and easy digestion, but other ideas may include:

  • Half a protein shake with a banana or dates in for carbs (have the other half when you get back)
  • Instant porridge pots
  • Banana (maybe with a tablespoon of low fat Greek yoghurt)
  • Dates (a little peanut butter if you can stomach it)
  • Rice or potato balls
  • Nakd bar (or other similar dried fruit / nut bar)
  • Granola bar
  • A sports gel or chews
  • Half a white bagel or a slice of white toast with jam.

 

 

As with any new nutrition, try it out on an easier run close to home! And listen to your body. There’s lots of advice out here on the internet, but ultimately, we’re all individual and respond differently to different stimuli.

What about you….Have you discovered the secret to maintaining the ideal runners weight? Do you run fasted and love it?  Do you have the perfect pre run snack? Let us know….

 

Other useful resources:

MH Runners Club webinars on marathon training and nutrition https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/webinars/

MH Runners Club Ask the Coach sessions https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/mh-runners-club/

 

Join the Club at MH Runners Club

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Want to know more about running or personal training?

Contact me today to ask any questions or to book your FREE consultation.

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Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

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The Importance of the Long Run

It’s that time in marathon training – the mileage of the long run is increasing, and runners seem to be divided like marmite. Some love and embrace the increasing distance, others see it as a chore to be ticked off each week. Which camp do you fall into? And do you really need to run long every week?

 

It actually doesn’t really matter what you’re training for, from 5k to marathon, if you’re a distance runner, you would most likely benefit from a regular long run. The long run is about getting you ready to perform – Robert Wallace, a 2.13 marathoner, says “They’re the mainstay of any training programme. You don’t get results immediately. It’s like saving pennies….  Over a year [the benefits] really accumulate.”

 

Why run long? 
Long runs improve running efficiency (teaching you to conserve energy and run as effortlessly as possible), and offer both psychological and physical benefits – cardiovascular improvements include increased mitochondria and capillaries, and recruitment of different muscle fibres. Long runs also strengthen your muscles, tendons and ligaments – all of these are beneficial for racing any distance, not just the marathon. But for the longer distances, it also provides a dress rehearsal for the race (breakfast, clothing, fuelling etc.), and a chance to build mental strength and confidence.

 

Run easy or run hard?
There are two main types of long run that you will come across.

Easy long runs – Hard long runs can be too taxing on a weekly basis. Running 60-90 mins slower than your marathon pace for a few hours reduces stress, makes the run more enjoyable and brings lots of aerobic endurance benefits. Running easy also gives you a chance to work on mental strategies such as dealing with boredom and building patience. It teaches you to make wise decisions and run more efficiently.

 

Long runs with pace segments – these are great for practicing race pace, improving your speed endurance and working on mental toughness but can really take it out of you so these shouldn’t be done every week. Varieties include progressive long runs, long runs containing intervals, long runs with a certain number of miles at marathon pace, or even a long run with a faster parkrun on the end!

 

The one type of run you don’t want to do is a full distance long run (over 14 miles) at marathon pace or faster. You may think this will build confidence and help you prepare, but actually you accumulate all the tiredness and fatigue of a paced long run, but without some of the key benefits. You will quickly find yourself over-trained and struggling to recover.

 

Do you need to do a long run every week? And how far?

Firstly, you shouldn’t do a long run every week. Once you get over a comfortable distance, often about 12-16 miles, you should include a drop-back week every 3-4 weeks where you drop your distance by 25-50% to give your body a chance to recover (remember, adaptations happen when you stress your body, but then allow it to recover). If you are particularly injury prone, you may want to consider running long every 10 days or every 2 weeks.

 

Distance depends on a number of factors, including your level of your experience and your goals. If you’re fairly new to a marathon for example you may benefit most from building up to one 20 miler, but my more experienced runners often do as many as six 20+ milers, going up to 23-24 miles (with the longer runs usually at an easy pace).

If you’re not marathon training, distance of the long run can be more flexible. Greg McMillan, well known running coach, suggests 90-120 minutes. Other coaches go by percentage of weekly mileage – where the long run doesn’t account for more than 25% of total mileage. Most coaches suggest including some pace in long runs for non-marathoners, e.g., a faster finish, depending on what distance you are doing.

 

How to get it right: 
1. Preparation is key. This includes fuelling well, before, during and after the run. Remember, anything over 90 minutes and you should be eating on the run.  According to Runners World columnist Joe Henderson “You need to keep your glycogen stores continuously high if you want to maintain training effectiveness”. i.e., you can run fasted, but you won’t get the same training benefits. Hydration is another one to consider – do you need water with you? Can you stash water along the route? Clothing (and Vaseline if you’re prone to chafing!) and safety also need some thought.
2. Don’t give headspace to negative thoughts. If you’re not enjoying your long runs, work out why. Bored? Find something you enjoy (new route, meet a friend half way, new playlist, audiobook or podcast etc. Sign up to a race or group run for added distraction.
3. Chunk it. Don’t think about the run as a whole thing…break it down and focus on one segment at a time, especially if you find the distance you are doing overwhelming. Consider having little rewards on route – walk break or jelly baby every mile, gels every few miles, ring a friend at half way etc. Try crossroads e.g. for 20 miles go 4 miles out and back, 3 miles out and back, 2 miles out and back and 1 mile out and back. This gives you a chance to focus on each segment as it happens rather than the whole distance.

 

There are downsides to running long. It is of course time consuming and running too long too often and you raise the risk of overtraining or injury. It’s also easy not to recover properly – you need to refuel and hydrate properly (regardless of appetite), rest and definitely no hard run for a couple of days after.

But, if you can, stay positive, embrace the long run and enjoy it. It’s a privilege to be able to complete these runs, whatever your pace. It puts you into a minority of the population and your achievements should be celebrated.

 

Do you love or hate the long run? How do you stay entertained on the run? What are your favourite routes, distances or types of long run? How do you prepare for your long runs? Please share any experiences or tips below!

 

Other useful resources:

MH Runners Club webinars on marathon training and nutritionhttps://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/webinars/

Runner’s World article giving a table of possible long run distances for non-marathoners:https://www.runnersworld.com/advanced/a20794978/why-non-marathoners-still-need-long-runs/

My blogs on carb loadinghttps://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/fuelling-a-marathon-carb-loading-and-race-day-nutrition/

And how to recover from a marathonhttps://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/how-to-recover-from-a-marathon/

MH Runners Coaching Tip on Post Run / Race fuelling https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/coaching-tip-post-run-and-race-fuelling/

 

 

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Want to know more about running or personal training?

Contact me today to ask any questions or to book your FREE consultation.

Email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com or contact me via Facebook Messenger

Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

www.facebook.com/mhhealthandfitness.co.uk

#MHrunners

Coaching Focus: Breathing

Following on from a recent Q&A, this week’s coaching focus is breathing. Firstly, to be clear, it *is* a good idea to breath whilst running… Not doing so can cause significant harm! But seriously, improving your breathing is seen as a possible way of increasing oxygen uptake and decreasing the risk of side stitches and cramps, as well as reducing stress before or during a hard run or race.

 

This week, why not think about your breathing whilst you run? Do you follow a particular breathing pattern? Have you tried different breathing techniques? Pick a run this week, focus on how you breathe, and maybe try one of the changes suggested below.

 

Baseline

Start your usual run. When you’re warmed up and a little way in, count how many steps it takes to inhale and exhale. You’re not looking for a particular number, this is just to give you a baseline of how you currently breathe. Then try one or more of the techniques below, or play with your breathing pattern in your own way, and see which feels more comfortable to you. You can also play with deep breathing drills to improve your oxygen intake before or after running, and relaxation breathing techniques to relax before a hard run or race.

  1. Nasal breathing: This is useful for checking you are running at a very easy effort. Oxygen intake is restricted so it’s ideal for stopping you running too hard. One to try on a very easy effort run.
  2. Match your breathing to your cadence: breathe in on each left foot strike and out on the right. Or breathe in on left foot strike and out on the next left foot strike. Which pattern feels better to you?
  3. Try a different breathing pattern. Alter your breathing so you breathe in for more foot strikes than you breathe out e.g. 3:2 – breathe in for three foot strikes and out for 2, or a 2:1 pattern.
  4. Try using breathing to reduce your heart rate whilst running easy. If you feel your heart rate rising, slow down. Then breath in slowly for a count of three steps and release. Repeat 2-3 times, and note your heart rate at the start and the end.

 

Please don’t take this too seriously and if you find that something doesn’t work for you try something else. The main thing with breathing while running is to find something that you feel works for you and that feels natural. Whilst these techniques can help some, for others, one of the worst things would be to have to think about breathing whilst running.

 

Have fun and enjoy this – and don’t forget to post below to let me know what you are planning to do and how you get on.

 

I hope that you can take something away from this blog. I would love to hear your thoughts and I’ve set up a very supportive free Facebook Community where like-minded people can share their experiences of life and exercising. Please feel free to join and invite others you know who may be interested.

 

I also have a Facebook Club for runners where I post two weekly workout videos, host a live weekly Ask The Coach question and answer session plus a monthly live webinar on a host of running related topics.  This is ideal for those who use free plans but want to have access to a coach and ongoing information.  You can find more information and join here.

 

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Want to know more about running or personal training?

Contact me today to ask any questions or to book your FREE consultation.

Email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com or contact me via Facebook Messenger

Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

www.facebook.com/mhhealthandfitness.co.uk

#MHrunners

 

Coaching Tip: Post Run and Race Fuelling

This week’s coaching tip is about post-run or race fuelling. This is a really important process and something a lot of runners get wrong. All runs need some sort of post race fuel. For shorter, easier runs, this may just be your next meal e.g breakfast containing carbs, protein and fat if you’ve done a morning run. But for anything hard or over an hour, post run fuelling should be planned in advance to satisfy your body’s needs so that it can rebuild / repair and cravings don’t take over later!

 

Good recovery fuel should have a mixture of carbs and protein in a 3 or 4:1 ratio – that is 3-4g carbs for every gram of protein. It used to be accepted wisdom that the best window for refuelling was within 30 mins of the workout, and although this has been contested by recent research, it won’t do any harm to aim for that, and for women it’s thought to be more important to refuel sooner rather than later. If you are not planning to have a meal in that time, have a snack immediately after and aim to have your next meal within 2 hours post run.

 

Here’s just a few ideas to to get you started:

  • a formulated recovery shake or bar (check the nutrition to make sure it has the right ratio)
  • A protein shake with added carbs eg banana, dates, honey
  • Eggs on toast
  • Milk or a milky drink plus an egg sandwich or a peanut butter bagel (skimmed milk has slightly more carbs than full fat, check the nutritional info on plant milks)
  • Yoghurt, muesli, chopped banana and honey
  • Beans on toast

 

If you’re like me, eating always sounds easy, but the harder or longer your run, the more blood is diverted away from the stomach and the less hungry you’re likely to feel. This is a particular problem for some runners but if you learn to make refuelling a priority, you will recover faster and feel better. If it makes you feel slightly nauseous, take small bites of something you fancy and as blood returns to your stomach, your appetite should return too.

 

Don’t forget to hydrate as well – glycogen stores can’t be refilled without available water. An electrolyte drink such as High 5 zero is perfect for this.

 

This week, aim to plan recovery fuel for any run over an hour, or a harder session such as tempo or intervals, and share below what you plan to use to recover.

 

This really is an easy win that ALL athletes should take seriously! And don’t forget to ask any questions you have here or in the weekly “ask the coach” live sessions

 

Other resources on this that you may find useful include:

MH Runner’s recent webinar on Nutrition for Runners

My blog on recovering from a marathon: https://www.mhhealthandfitness.co.uk/how-to-recover-from…/

 

I hope that you can take something away from this blog. I would love to hear your thoughts and I’ve set up a very supportive free Facebook Community where like-minded people can share their experiences of life and exercising. Please feel free to join and invite others you know who may be interested.

 

I also have a Facebook Club for runners where I post two weekly workout videos, host a live weekly Ask The Coach question and answer session plus a monthly live webinar on a host of running related topics.  This is ideal for those who use free plans but want to have access to a coach and ongoing information.  You can find more information and join here.

 

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Want to know more about running or personal training?

Contact me today to ask any questions or to book your FREE consultation.

Email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com or contact me via Facebook Messenger

Martin Hulbert

Running Coach & Personal Trainer Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

www.facebook.com/mhhealthandfitness.co.uk

#MHrunners

 

How to Recover from a Marathon

Marathons are tough on your body. Sorry, but that is a fact.  Recovering from a marathon is a critical component of a perfect training plan but is something that is often neglected.

Unfortunately, if you don’t properly recover from a marathon, you will increase your risk of injury, limit your long term potential and increase the risk of overtraining symptoms.

Muscles, hormones, tendons, cells, and almost every physiological system is pushed to their limits during a marathon.  Muscle soreness and fatigue are the most obvious signs of damage in the days following a marathon.  One scientific study conducted on the calf muscles of marathon runners found that both the training for, and the marathon itself, induce inflammation and muscle fibre necrosis (premature death of cells) that significantly impaired muscle power and durability for up to 14 days after a marathon.  It will take your muscles about 2 weeks post marathon to return to full strength.

Muscle memory and coordination are also compromised. This will make repetitive stress injuries more likely when running faster/harder in the weeks after the race.

recent study confirms that the immune system is compromised for up to three days post marathon and is a major factor in overtraining syndrome.  This also increases the risk of contracting colds, flu and other illnesses

Therefore, it is important that marathon runners have a 2-week marathon recovery plan that focuses on rest, recovery and a gradual return to running.

 

The First Hour

Congratulations! You’ve completed your marathon.  As soon as you cross the finish line (in a race or virtually) your legs go from running to ‘incapable of movement’. However, don’t stop! Recovery starts now and the best thing you can do is to keep moving. Slow is fine but keep moving.

Get yourself into some clean, dry clothes and comfortable shoes as soon as you can (if you are travelling to your marathon, remember to take everything with you).  Some people swear by recovery shoes, compression tights or other products to aid recovery. If they work for you then change in to them as soon as you can.

Walk for at least 10-15 minutes to cool down, instead of sitting down immediately. This will help two major issues:

  • Low blood pressure often occurs immediately after a sudden stop. This will make you feel dizzy or possibly faint.
  • Walking will promote blood flow to clear your muscles and blood stream of by-products caused by the marathon (lactate, cortisol, adrenaline, etc).

At most marathons, there will be fluids and food available at the finish line. Take advantage of these or have something either in your kit bag or with your supporters. Focus on the following:

  • You are probably dehydrated. Start drinking fluids as soon as possible.
  • Focus on carbohydrate-rich foods. I know that you have probably had enough of these with your carb-loading, but you have just run 26.2 miles and you have burnt a lot of energy.
  • If possible, include something with protein in it to help to start to repair damaged muscles.
  • While the perfect advice is to eat a large nutritious meal, realistically any high sugar or processed food will help to start the refuelling. Treat yourself.

 

Later That Day

As per my previous advice on keeping moving, a shower is often better for your recovery than a bath on marathon day.  With a shower, you are staying on your feet and it is easier to continue to promote blood flow through your muscles. The best way to do this is a contrast shower.

A contrast shower is simple. Just alternate between hot and cold water. The hot water dilates your blood vessels and increases blood circulation. The cold water constricts your blood vessels and decreases blood flow. The contrast of the two creates a pump effect that further flushes your muscles and blood of the by-products of your marathon (lactate, cortisol, adrenaline, etc).

  • Start with a hot shower (don’t let it burn) for 2 to 3 minutes
  • Slowly turn down the water temperature from hot to cold
  • Take a cold shower for 1 minute
  • Repeat the hot and cold cycle for 10 minutes
  • Place the water stream on any painful or sore areas for added relief.

The cold water may be a bit of a shock at first, but you soon get used to it.

After your shower it is time for more substantial food, especially if you were unable to east much straight after finishing.  As with earlier, while best advice is to eat a big nutritious meal, just eating is best. The ideal is a mix of carbohydrates and proteins in a 3:1 mix. Being honest, often my go-to post-marathon meal has been a large burger and chips from a motorway service station on the way home (burger has protein, bap and chips are carbs)!

Depending on what time you finish your marathon, think about having an afternoon nap. Sleep is the best time for the body to repair muscle and generally recover.

Finally, go to sleep earlier and ideally try to get as much sleep as possible. Your body will thank you for it tomorrow.

 

The Next Day

After a (hopefully) good night’s sleep you will be ready to continue your recovery.

Aim for some form of active recovery today. No running though!  If you have access, swimming or cycling on a static bike can be a good form of active recovery. You are not looking to build or improve fitness, but just to move your muscles.

If you do not have access to a pool or static bike, go for a gentle walk for 30 minutes. Once again, this is in no way a training session or power-hike. It is a gentle walk.  If you have any niggles (not aches, these are normal) or really sore spots, stop the exercise.

Now is also a good time to get a massage. Keep it light. Deep tissue massage at this point can be detrimental to muscles that are trying to repair damage. You want the massage to promote blood-flow.  Deep tissue massages are best kept for 1 to 2 weeks later.

Make sure you still keep sleep as a priority and keep eating, even if you have to get back to work.  If your job involves sitting at a desk, try to take breaks where you can stand up and move around. Easy movement is good in the days after a marathon so that your joints do not stiffen and your muscles continue to have blood flowing through them.

 

The Next Few Days

Stick with prioritising sleep and food, but now try to start getting back to a more normal way of eating as the week goes on.

Keep cycling and swimming if you can and also include walks. and as the week goes on, increase your walks from 30 minutes up to 45 minutes if your legs are starting to recover. Listen to your body and if your legs say no, stop and go home.

When you can comfortably walk for 45 minutes, it may be the time to try a very easy run the following day (not before Thursday though).  When you do feel ready to run, aim for a 20-30 minute run. The goal of the first run is to test how your legs feel. If your legs feel really heavy or if anything hurts, stop and walk home and give your recovery a few more days before trying again.

You are not proving anything to anyone by running earlier, further or faster than your legs want to. Park your ego as if you don’t respect your recovery, the injury, illness or overtraining symptoms mentioned earlier are likely to come back and get you in a few weeks.  Now is not the time to test if you are invincible.  Remember that muscle memory and coordination are compromised. This will make repetitive stress injuries more likely if you don’t allow recovery.

 

Week Two Onwards

When your running does feel comfortable and niggle free, you can employ a reverse taper (build up miles in the opposite way you tapered prior to your marathon).  Do not try to do too much too soon and don’t try to run hard or race unless you feel 100% recovered.

I’ll reiterate it again, be sensible and you will be able to continue running with no extra risk of injury.

 

Going Forwards?

Make sure that you are recovered first. So, I wouldn’t advise booking any races in the first 2-3 weeks after your marathon.

Some people can suffer from post-marathon blues. You’ve invested so much time and energy in to your running that you may feel a bit of a void. When you feel like this, it is then good to have a focus to get you back running again so go and look at some races and see what you want to do next.

Some people will only do one marathon a year and then focus on shorter races. Others use a marathon as a stepping stone to an ultra. Some will just want to continue enjoying their running. Some people may want to better their finish time and look for accountability. A few of my clients came to me after marathons wanting to improve in future races.

Whatever will motivate you to keep running after you’ve recovered from the marathon, please keep going. Completing a marathon is a big achievement so don’t waste all of that fitness you’ve built over the last few months.

 

  • Enjoy basking in the glory of completing your marathon
  • Recovery sensibly or pay later
  • Enjoy your future running

 

I hope that you can take something away from this blog. I would love to hear your thoughts and I’ve set up a very supportive Facebook Community where like-minded people can share their experiences of life and exercising. Please feel free to join and invite others you know who may be interested.

 

Do you want structured training to keep you running after your marathon?

Want to know more about running or personal training?

Do you want a personalised training plan?

Contact me today to ask any questions or to book your FREE consultation

Call me on 07815 044521 or email me at martinhulbertpt@gmail.com

Martin Hulbert

Personal Trainer & Running Coach Leicestershire

MH Health and Fitness Online Community

www.facebook.com/mhhealthandfitness.co.uk

#MHrunners