Coaching Tip – Stretching!

Do you stretch at the end of a run or workout?

Our “what’s the first thing you do post run” theme on the Facebook daily thread recently was most revealing…only two of you mentioned stretching after you run! You’re not alone, stretching is often seen as optional, or done separately as a discrete workout rather than post run (yoga, Pilates, rest-day stretch etc)….but just a few spare minutes a day can make a big difference.

 

Why bother to stretch after a run or workout?

Running is a repetitive movement. It forces your muscles into set positions, creating tension and changing their length over time. Our modern lifestyles add to this – forcing the shortening of some muscles over extended periods of time… sitting at desks, driving etc. Stretching helps release the tension in the muscle and return it to its original length. It can reduce the risk of injury (evidence is a little mixed on this), increase mobility / range of motion, increase flexibility, and promote blood flow to the local area (therefore aiding recovery).

 

 

How to get started in less than a minute a day…

The benefits of a post-run stretch are generally well accepted, the problem is actually getting round to doing it – working out a routine and making it a habit. Here’s some ideas on how to make it practical and make it stick:

  1. Work out the main muscle groups you want to stretch, test out different stretches and stick to ones that are quick and give you maximum benefit. (I’ve focused on hamstrings, adductors, quads and hip flexors in this short video, but you may find your calves or glutes get tight too and may want specific stretches for them).
  2. Keep it really easy to do – the harder or longer you make the stretching session, at least to start with, the less likely you are to stick with it. If you did these four exercises and held the stretch for 15-20 seconds, you would be stretching for just over a minute.
  3. Habits are easier to stick to if you tie them to a trigger. Post run is perfect, get in a door, head straight to your space and do it. Stick a post it note up with the stretches you want to do so you don’t need to look them up.

 

 

Your challenge this week is to do a minimum of two of the four stretches in this video  after EVERY run this week (easy effort ones too!). Put a reminder somewhere so you don’t forget, and let us know how you get on. Share any alternative or favourite stretches you have below.

 

 Safety notes:

– If you already have a cool down / stretch routine, this is not designed to replace it. This is for runners who don’t currently do anything post run except check Strava / eat / jump into the shower (please note, feel free to check Strava / eat whilst doing these but the risk of slipping whilst trying to contort yourself in the shower is quite high…)

– Breathe! Don’t hold your breath whilst you stretch. Breathing is good.

– If it hurts stop! If the muscle is tight, ease off slightly and then repeat more gently, but if it actually causes pain, do not continue. You should be able to feel tension in the muscle that you can hold for 15-20s without pain.

 

– I am talking about static stretching here. Don’t do static stretching pre run (it elongates the muscle so increases risk of injury) and don’t bounce when you static stretch – it doesn’t change the stretch and increases risk of injury.

 

If you enjoy this, try some of these:

More stretches for runners: https://www.nhs.uk/…/exercise/how-to-stretch-after-a-run/ (this has quite a nice calf, ITB and glute stretch you could include in your routine)

More info about stretching post-run: https://www.health.harvard.edu/…/the-importance-of…

For more info on creating and sticking to new habits, try this podcast: https://drchatterjee.com/how-to-build-good-habits-and…/

 

 

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 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

 

Coaching tip – Cadence. Is higher better?

Most runners have heard of cadence (the number of steps you take in a minute), and will have an idea that 180 is what they should be aiming for. This originates from coach Jack Daniels’ research into elite runners, and has been popularised over time. But are we worrying unnecessarily if we don’t fit the perfect criteria?

 

Why focus on cadence?

Cadence is probably the easiest metric to measure and control, especially if you have a running watch, which is one reason why it gets so much attention. It’s thought that optimising cadence can not only speed us up (running speed is the product of cadence (stride frequency) and stride length. Increase your stride frequency (cadence) and/or your stride length and you run faster), but also can improve form and change landing to mid foot, which in turn decreases injury risk. A recent study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that slight increases in stride cadence led to significant reductions in loading on the knee and hip joints, which, they hypothesise, might help prevent some of the most prevalent running injuries.

 

However, the often quoted 180 spm was an average cadence, so at times, these elite runners will have been running at a faster or slower cadence, rather than a metronomic 180. Your cadence will (and should) vary over time depending on a number of factors – what pace are you running at? At marathon pace, your cadence should be slower than when racing a 5k. Cadence also varies with leg length, height and terrain – trickier terrain like rough trails results in a higher cadence as you will be more stable, for example.

 

And some runners are just outliers – they don’t fit the formula. Take the famous Jim Walmsley, who despite beautiful form, ran 12 seconds slower than the world record for 100k with an average cadence of 161! https://www.strava.com/activities/4670542009/overview. It’d take a brave coach to mess with that! Some sources also quote Kipchoge as running his record-shattering marathons at cadences that were almost always between 190 and 200 steps per minute (spm), well over the recommended 180 spm. Again, I’m not sure I’d be trying to changing his cadence to fit a formula.

 

So what does this mean for us?

We often get stuck into a habit, such as cadence, that our body is used to and has become efficient at, but may not be optimum, so this may be worth investigating if you want to try something new. If your cadence is lower than 180, speeding up foot turnover may speed you up – to a point. (Of course, it may actually be detrimental if it decreases your stride length or if your cadence is already high, so don’t just assume more is better). Whilst I’m certainly not encouraging you to aim for a “magic” number, it is worth experimenting and getting to know yourself better. Your your task this week, then is to

– Note your current cadence (either by counting foot fall for 30s and multiplying by 2, or by using your watch)

– Play with increasing your cadence on one of your easy runs. Does increasing your cadence speed you up? Make your run easier? Improve your form? If so, focus on practising it. If not, put it out of your mind. There may be easier wins.

 

How to increase your cadence:

There are a number of ways to increase cadence:

– Use high beat music

– Use a metronome app

– Swing your arms faster to move your feet faster (see resources below)

– Simply repeat “fast feet” to yourself over and over again whilst running, and observe what happens.

 

How do you feel? Do you speed up? Do you feel comfortable, or do your feet pitter patter (a sign you may have shortened your stride length too much?). Make a note of this self experiment and let us know how it goes. Have you worked on cadence before? Did it make a difference? Share your thoughts on this topic with us below.

 

Some useful resources:

Increasing cadence through arm movement: Form video 2 https://www.facebook.com/groups/mhrunnersclub/permalink/936237400507241/

Should I increase my cadence: Q&A session with Martin on 1st April, Question 1 https://www.facebook.com/groups/mhrunnersclub/permalink/923606095103705/

Great article on why we may be overthinking cadence:

https://www.outsideonline.com/…/stop-overthinking-your…

If you decide you want to increase cadence, McMillan website has a good workout to use to help you: https://www.mcmillanrunning.com/cadence/

 

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: Rest Days

This week’s coaching tip is on making the most of your rest days.
Rest or recovery days are important – you’ve probably heard the saying that training benefits don’t happen when you train, they happen in the downtime you take in between harder sessions. Recovering is essential to becoming a stronger runner, and provides a mental break as well.
How many rest or recovery days you take depends on many different factors and is much art as science (you knew there was a reason for getting a coach!). Some of these factors may include: your current mileage; your goals; your age; your history of injury; if you’re recovering from a race etc. But as a runner, you should take your recovery days as seriously as your running to avoid overtraining and potential injury. Here are some top tips:
1. Avoid strenuous exercise! Sounds obvious but the point of a recovery day is to make sure you don’t do anything that will contribute to muscle breakdown and therefore prevent full recovery (cross-training and strength work springs to mind here, but a lot of runners also use rest days for gardening or DIY, which can lead to poor muscle recovery). Limit yourself to gentle exercise that will facilitate your recovery such as walking, swimming, yoga, or a little stretching and foam rolling. Light, gentle movement may stop you feeling sluggish, but make sure you don’t overdo it – this is not an opportunity to top up your overall walking mileage!
2. Make the most of the time off – a lie in if you are a morning runner, or an early night for an evening runner will also boost recovery. Enjoy it and take a mental as well as physical break.
3. Feed your body well. Rest days are good opportunities to spend a little more time preparing nutritious food that will aid recovery. It’s useful time to refuel and replenish your glycogen stores too.
4. Whilst most rest days are scheduled, if you feel fatigued, don’t be afraid to take an extra one or replace a harder run with very easy effort. Some women also find they benefit from an extra rest day or two just before, or during their period. Workouts feel harder due to high hormone levels so this can help balance your training and body needs better.
Remember – feeling full of energy is not an excuse to skip a rest day! You rest so you feel energetic. Taking planned rest days on a regular basis will prevent the need for prolonged time out due to injury or burnout. Running should boost your energy, not leave you tired and fatigued all the time.
How often do you take a rest day?
Any top tips?
Let us know what you get up to and if it helps or hinders recovery!
If you want to find out more, this is a good read on the importance of rest days.

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: Balance

This week’s coaching tip is on balance. It’s something you probably already focus on if you are a member of the club if you do the Wednesday workouts. These workouts focus on single leg exercises, which of course will work on your balance too. When runners do strength work, they often neglect balance as many balance exercises don’t give obvious strength or aerobic benefits. BUT, they are really important, especially as we age and our balance deteriorates.
Why is balance important to runners?
Running is a series of thousands of alternate single leg hops, which rely on balance and coordination. According to a top physiotherapist, the top 3 most common running injuries that don’t relate to overuse, relate to balance: anterior knee pain, iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome and ankle sprains. They are connected to small movement deviations related to balance and control. A tiny amount of instability can be magnified over all those thousands of steps and lead to injury.
How to improve your balance:
Your first task is to assess how good your balance is at the moment. Do this by:
1. Try to balance on each leg for 30 seconds with your eyes open. Make sure you have good form for this: activate your glute on the grounded leg, keep your hips neutral by drawing in your belly button, bring your knee up to a 90 degree angle, keep your shoulders back and head facing forwards.
2. Now repeat with your eyes closed and see how long you can do it for.
Don’t be alarmed if one leg is worse than the other!
Once you’ve assessed your balance, you can now work on improving it.
This week, your challenge is to pick three balancing exercises that you are going to repeat on a regular basis (every second day will work well). I recommend the single leg arabesque, the split squat (also known as a static lunge) and a single leg hop and hold, but any three balancing exercises will do. You can find loads of variations in the Wednesday workout videos. Try to pick exercises that you don’t already find easy. You can see the hop and hold and arabesque demonstrated in workout video 26 in the MH Runner Club group.
On top of this, it really helps if you get into the routine of fitting balance work into your every day life, for example: stand on one leg and mobilise your raised ankle whilst brushing your teeth, or do single leg calf raises whilst waiting for the kettle to boil.
At the end of the week, repeat the balance test and let us know how you got on. And if you have any favourite balancing exercises, please share below.
Good luck and enjoy!

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: Running in the heat

Do you run, sweat, suffer and complain? Bask in the heat? Or cancel your run altogether?
The good news is that you body temperature can safely rise a little without much consequence according to experts, and humans have mechanisms like the evaporative cooling of sweat to help them stay safe. But there are precautions you should take when running in heat, especially if you haven’t yet acclimatised, like those listed below. Don’t forget, the further or harder you plan to run, the more diligent you need to be about staying cool.
  • Go out when its cooler – early morning is cooler than late at night, but wherever possible don’t go out in the middle of the day.
  • Adjust your pace – go by effort and don’t worry if you are as much as 30-60s slower per mile. By running slower you reduce the amount of heat your body produces as you run and you can then run for longer.
  • Shorten your run if needed – especially if its humid as humidity impedes the sweat process so you don’t cool as efficiently.
  • Don’t forget the sun protection – sun cream or block, a visor or sunglasses to protect your eyes, too.
  • Keep hydrated, and replace electrolytes – before and during your run, drink little and often, especially if you are a salty sweater (if your dog licks your legs after a run, that’s you!). If you don’t want to carry water when you run, plan a looped route and hide some in nearby bushes etc.
  • Plan your route carefully – Try and run as much in the shade as possible. Running in the sun will increase your core temperature, not only because it is hot, but its rays bounce back at you from surfaces. Trail running in wooded areas are great for this.
  • Vaseline is your friend! If you are going long and will sweat, make sure you put Vaseline or body glide on parts likely to chafe.
  • Dress appropriately – light, sweat wicking clothes, and wear a buff round your wrist to wipe your face down. This helps with the sweat wicking process, stops sweat and sun cream getting in your eyes and makes you feel a tad less disgusting if you run into a friend…. Wetting a buff and putting it round your neck and head may also help.
  • If it is a long hot spell, go out regularly to help your body adapt to the heat. This isn’t a quick process, but you will acclimatise over time.
  • Rehydrate after your run with water and electrolytes. Read the coaching tip on hydration to help you calculate your sweat rate and know that you are getting enough fluid back in.
As for cancelling your run, there’s rarely any need in the UK and you can run on most hot days with a little common sense. Although if you are looking for an excuse, the American College of Sports medicine advises running event cancellations at 27c (82F), and a 2010 US study was even more conservative, advising the cancellation of large marathons at 22c (72F). On the other hand, Badwater, the 153 mile ultramarathon in California’s Death Valley, that takes place in temperatures of up to 53c and will melt the soles of your running shoes, started on 19th July. Just be glad you’re not there!
Enjoy the summer, and don’t worry, we’ll soon be able to complain that its rainy, dark and cold when we run…
If you have any advice for your fellow runners out in the heat, please do share.

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 Choose The Best Training Plan

A training plan is much like a diet plan.  If you stick to it, it will work. The big question is “can you stick to it”?

 

If you type ‘running training plans’ into a search engine, you will be greeted by pages of different plans. There will be free plans and plans that you have to pay for before downloading.  Most of these plans will be generic plans that are for a set timeframe and a set distance target. Each will be slightly different to the other, so how do you choose which one to follow? Which one is going to be the best one for you?

 

Firstly, you need to decide on a few things and I suggest writing these down.

What is your target? Is it to complete a certain distance? Is it to run a particular time or run at a certain pace?

What are your barriers to running?  This is important if you have a family or work to consider. What days of the week can you run and how long can you commit to each day?  Will you be able to run regularly without it causing issues at home or with work?  Work on minimum time and then anything else is a bonus.

Where are you with your running at the moment?  If you can currently run a 5k in 30 minutes, setting yourself a target on running 5k in 20 minutes within two months is unrealistic. Make it a challenge but be honest with yourself.

How injury prone are you?  If you often suffer injuries when you get to a distance of 10 miles, why is this and how will you cope when you need to run over this distance?  Do you also need a strength or mobility plan to supplement your running?

 

Once you have all of these things in front of you then you can be more specific with your searches.  For example, if you want to complete your first marathon, search for “beginner marathon training plans”. If you are looking to run under 40 minutes for a 10k then search for a “sub-40 10k plan”.

 

The next step is to download a load of plans. Work back from your race or target date and look at what mileage the plan would have you doing now (or at the start).  Is that realistic for you? If you can run 5 miles at the moment and the plan says you have to run 10 miles next week then it is not right for you (delete it!). Does the plan fit in with your life and the days you can commit to? If not, can the runs be moved to fit without changing the structure of the plan?  If not, delete it!  You will hopefully end up with at least one plan that looks right for you.

 

The next thing to do is make sure you understand the words on the plan and how you do it. For example, on Facebook I saw a question a runner had with a run on their plan. The run was “Tempo 3 miles 2×8 on4’ “.  She had no idea what that meant and the answers she got varied from “3 miles warm up and then 2 x 8minutes at tempo pace with 4 minutes recovery” to “2 x 8 minutes at 4 min mile pace which should be 3 miles”.   You can see how people would get confused. If you do not understand the plan then it is not for you (delete it!).

 

Can you mix and match plans?  This is possible if you know what you are doing and that the changes you make to each doesn’t render it useless for your targets. Training plans are written to get harder over the course of the plan to enable you to be at your fittest or fastest on race day.  If you change the balance of the plan it may be that you do too many miles or too much speedwork, for example, and get injured, or too few and you don’t make the improvements you want.

 

The final thing to think about is what will you do if you get ill or injured.  Most improvements are made after training for a minimum of 8 weeks but realistically the longer your training plan the better.  That means that if your plan covers 16-20 weeks and you suffer an illness or injury and have to miss two weeks of training, how do you then adapt your plan?  Do you start back at where you were and hope you can catch up later, or ignore the weeks you’ve missed and start back to where you would’ve been had you carried on?  Get this wrong and you will be overreaching with where you start back from or trying to adapt your plan later by making bigger jumps in the mileage that the plan was designed for.  This can have a negative effect on your confidence and increase the risk of injury.

 

There is another way, a personalised option.  Most runners, from a novice to someone aiming for a sub-3 marathon or quicker, will benefit from having a coach.  A coach will write a training plan personalised around your lifestyle that will take you safely from where you are to where you want to be. The plan should be easy to understand and if not, the coach should be able to clarify the run before you do it. The plans should only be written on a shorter-term basis, usually monthly and be adapted by the coach when needed.  Want to run with friends? No problem.  Can’t run today?  Just a small tweak to the rest of the week and all is ok.  Doing better than you thought? The goals can be adjusted as you go along.  Last minute race you want to enter?  A quick change of the plan and advice on how to run the race and it all works.

 

For a small outlay per month all of the time and effort that you invest in training and improving yourself can be used far more efficiently and effectively.  A good coach will provide you with feedback as your progress, so that you know how you are doing and not guessing by looking at a piece of paper with a load of runs on it. A good coach should also act as a sounding board, mentor and be there to hold you accountable.

 

It can be a scary thought if you’ve never considered working with a coach. A lot of runners don’t believe a coach would want to coach someone like them.  Maybe you’re a novice, maybe you think you’re too slow, maybe you don’t have a specific target race?  I have coached a very wide range of runners to meet their personal goals – including to ‘complete’ a marathon, to run under 3 hours for a marathon, to run their first 5k, to run a 5k under 16 minutes and a 60 year old to complete a 24 hour race.  More importantly, I’ve helped a lot of people to keep running and improving through lockdowns, even without the focus of races.

 

Remember, the best running plan for you is one that you will stick to. It is that simple; if it fits around your life and you can follow it consistently you will improve.

 

Please have a conversation with a coach before you commit and pay any money. All good coaches should offer this as they will be confident that having that conversation will reassure you of what they can offer you.  Make sure you feel comfortable with them as a person and what they are offering is what you want.  Find out what other clients think about the coach.   Here are a few reviews from my own clients who have benefited from my personalised coaching approach:

 

“Thank you Martin. Without your support and advice I wouldn’t have achieved my dream of running a marathon, and running it all, no stopping or walking. I’m still on cloud nine!”

 

“I enlisted the help of Martin to write me a training plan for running the London Marathon. I had a conversation with Martin about where I was with my fitness, my aims and end goals for the marathon and my availability for training days.  Once I commenced my training plan, every month I received a tailored program for the month ahead. From my feedback on each training session, and by reviewing my Strava, I received weekly detailed feedback from Martin which was a great aide for keeping me motivated during the training. Martin was available for extra questions and support whenever I needed it.   Thanks to the training program written, I was achieving PBs at races throughout my training as well as achieving my end target of completing the London Marathon in a time that I never thought was achievable for me.  Martin is a great trainer with a brilliant insight in to racing at all distances. His personal approach makes it worth every penny.”

 

“I had a strange idea that I might be able to achieve a Good For Age time at Vienna Marathon and Martin gave me the belief, the tools and the confidence (not to mention the speed) to not only achieve that time, but smash it by 9 minutes.  He understands that my time to train is limited, given my busy family and work schedule and the training plan was entirely suited to meet these needs.  He helped me through an injury that laid me out for 3 weeks, despite my confidence crisis and insistence that it would stop me achieving my goal.  A genuinely nice guy, really supports you and understands what is going on in your head as well as your legs. And really wants you to do well.  Thank you Martin, you helped me achieve what I didn’t really think I could – and got me to enjoy it at the same time.”

 

“Can’t recommend Martin as a running coach highly enough! I’ve been training with him (virtually rather than in person) for just 5 months and have a new PB at every distance including nearly 40 minutes off my marathon time.  I’m officially faster in my 40s that I was in my 20s, and I enjoy running so much more now.  Everything he advises me is evidence based, he can explain reasons behind his training programs and always has a good answer to my endless questions.  Truly life changing – thank you Martin”

 

 

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

 

Fuelling a Marathon. Carb Loading and Race Day Nutrition

There are two big fuelling traps that runners fall in to before they run a marathon.

 

  1. They go into the race under fuelled
  2. They eat loads the night before

 

Carb-loading has evolved over the years. In the 1970-80s there was the process of doing a really hard run the week before your marathon, then having little or no carbs for 2-3 days before eating a very carb-heavy diet for 3 days leading into the race.  This was in the belief that if you emptied the muscles of carbs, when you then introduce them again your muscles will hold on to them.  However, some runners would get really run down with 2-3 days without carbs, some fell ill and with the more recent sports science studies showing little benefit, the carb-depletion phase is very rarely used nowadays.

 

The practice of carb-loading though, is very much still alive and recognised as essential to good endurance performance.  This is because unless you are going to run your marathon at a very easy effort your body will be burning mostly carbohydrates.

 

According to research from the Mayo Clinic, runners working at a moderate intensity will use up their normal stores of glycogen (energy stored in muscles) after about 90 minutes. Unless you are planning to beat the world record by half an hour, you will need to top up your energy levels in order to continue running without issue.

 

To help to increase this 90-minute period you should try to increase the amount of glycogen stored in your muscles you should be increasing your carbohydrate intake in the three days before your marathon. This is not increasing calories but increasing the percentage of carbohydrates you consume – the Mayo Clinic suggests that about 70% of your calories should come from carbohydrates in those final three days.

 

As you’ll be tapering and running less (see blog for how to taper) the increase in carbohydrates will be naturally increasing your glycogen stores.

 

How should we be getting the carbs?

A three-day carb-fest sounds great, but in reality, it is hard to be able to eat enough carbohydrates for the needs of a marathon and you risk feeling heavy and bloated on race day unless you carb-load wisely. Choosing low-fat options may help, as fat delays stomach emptying and promotes fullness, something you don’t really want just before race day.

 

Those who are prone to gastrointestinal distress should choose low-fibre carbohydrate sources. Too much fibre may result in diarrhoea or cramping on race day. White bread, white rice, pasta, sports bars and sports drinks are better compared to the brown, more fibrous options.

 

Another way to increase your intake of energy is to consume carb-rich drinks. Not only will this increase your carbohydrate intake, but it will also help to fully hydrate you prior to race day. You can include fruit juices or sports drinks as your carb-rich drinks.

 

How much carbohydrates is enough?

Most information relating to carb-loading suggests consuming between 7-10g of carbohydrates per 1kg of bodyweight. Personally, I always aim to go for the 10g per 1kg as then if you fall short (it is tougher than you think) you will still be way above the 7g per 1kg minimum amount.

 

I start to increase my carbohydrate intake from breakfast on Thursday (when running a Sunday marathon). The key to carb-loading is preparation. You need to look at the amount of carbohydrates in a portion size of foods you are likely to eat. Then choose the foods with the highest amount of carbohydrates as that means eating less food overall.

 

I will have written a list of what I need to eat in advance and have bought everything. This way I can break up the foods and drinks into manageable amounts, plus it is thought that most people can only absorb 90-100g of carbs per hour. I continue this through Friday and then on Saturday I eat 90-100g of carbs from waking until about 3pm when I have a normal sized carb-rich evening meal together with sports drinks.

 

As I mentioned earlier, most people think a massive carb-rich meal on the Saturday night is the most important thing to do. However, depending on the speed of your digestive system, if eaten later in the evening, the meal may still be sitting heavy in your stomach as you start the marathon. This increases the risk of having stomach issues during the race. By finishing the carb-loading process by mid-Saturday afternoon, your stomach should be emptied the following morning.

 

This is my carb-loading menu to give you an idea of what I consume in the days before a race of half marathon distance and above.  If you do not eat any of the foods on the menu then please look for foods you do eat that have similar carbohydrate values (you should be able to open this photo in a new tab or save it to view it in more detail).

 

 

For those of you who like to weigh yourselves before races, you may notice an increase in weight of 2-4lbs. However, this should be fluids and not body fat because each gram of carbohydrate stores about four grams of fluid. Once you get running you shouldn’t notice this and it is a good thing as, you’ll start more hydrated and need less fluids during the marathon. Don’t worry about the number on the scales.

 

Marathon Day

Your race day breakfast should have been practiced as part of your long runs. You should aim for 1-4g of carbohydrates per 1kg of bodyweight, about two to four hours before you run. This will help to promote steady blood sugar levels early in the marathon. I tend to have my breakfast about three hours before the start and then sip on a sports drink while heading to the start, finishing about 30 minutes before running.

 

During the Marathon

If you think of your glycogen stores as your fuel tank, you want to stop that fuel running out during the marathon, known as “hitting the wall”. A lot of new marathon runners will have heard horror stories of people who can’t run a step further and end up painfully shuffling to the finish while others run effortlessly by. All that has happened is that those hitting the wall have failed to prepare properly or have failed to follow a sensible race day plan.

 

Proper carb-loading will have helped to fill your fuel tank and what you consume during the race will stop that fuel from running out.

 

As with breakfast, this should have been practiced during your long training runs.  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 30 to 60g of carbohydrate per hour for events lasting 1 to 2.5 hours, and up to 90g of carb per hour for events 2.5 hours or longer.

 

As most people reading this will be aiming for a finish time over 2.5 hours we should be aiming for as close to 90g of carbohydrates per hour as possible. If you haven’t practiced with 90g of carbohydrates per hour, don’t expect your stomach to be happy with this on race day. Stick to roughly what you’ve practiced with and you know your stomach can tolerate.  For any future events, practice consuming more carbs each week on your longer runs so that your stomach will tolerate more in your next marathon (there’ll always be another…..).

 

Start to consume carbohydrates after the first 30 minutes of the race and then keep taking them at regular intervals, taking in as much as you know your stomach can tolerate.

 

I always stick to sports nutrition products when running a marathon. These have been designed to be consumed while running and work as quickly as possible. Carb-gels usually have around 20-25g of carbs per gel and so 2-3 of these per hour will keep the energy levels of most of the quicker runners topped up. Gels are easy to consume and many now can be taken without water. These are better for those working at a harder effort when it may be difficult to chew whilst running.

 

For those who are running for over 4 hours, or those running at an easier effort or taking walk breaks, energy bars or real food can be used as well as or instead of gels. Taste fatigue (when you get fed up with the same thing or flavour) can occur for those who are running for longer and a variety of carb sources may help. You don’t want to get fed up with what you have with you and then stop consuming carbs as this will eventually end up with you hitting the wall.

 

Just remember that you want to be consuming carb-rich products if not using sports nutrition. Some people use jelly sweets as an alternative, just make sure you have enough and know how many to consume and when.

 

Finally, always carry a little extra. There is always the possibility of dropping something as you run.

 

It is useful keeping a food diary around your long runs and races. You can log what food and drinks you consume, how many carbs in each product and how you felt and performed in each race. You can then replicate this for future races (there’ll always be more).

 

A big caveat to all this information is that those with diabetes or other specific health conditions should always speak to their doctor or consultant before adjusting their carbohydrate intake. Plus, those with any specific allergies or intolerances to certain types of carbohydrates may need to do further research to minimise possible illnesses or stomach distress.

 

Finally, if you’ve completed every run on your plan, eaten all your carbohydrates, drank all your fluids and consume your carbs regularly during the race, you can still hit the wall. This is because the final piece of the jigsaw is pacing. Aim to run at an even pace based upon your realistic and practiced target time. If you go out too fast you will be burning your energy too quickly (think about your fuel tank when you speed in your car). Once you get into energy deficit you cannot consume enough carbs to pull it back without slowing right down or stopping. Even starting 10-20 seconds a mile too quickly can cause an encounter with the wall.

 

I give the runners I coach, when they are going for a specific finishing time, a 10 second per mile window based on their target and training times. If they keep each mile within this pace window and fuel as discussed above, there should not be any energy deficit and they should be able to finish strong and evenly paced. If in the last few miles they feel good, they still have the energy to push on and finish faster.

 

To summarise:

  • Consume 7-10g of carbs per 1kg of bodyweight from Thursday to Saturday afternoon (for a Sunday marathon)
  • Eat a normal sized carb-rich evening meal the day before race day
  • Have a practiced race day breakfast of 1-4g of carbs per 1kg of bodyweight
  • Don’t start too fast
  • Aim to consume between 50-90g of carbs per hour during the race

 

If you follow all of this, I have no doubt that you can have the best race day experience possible. Marathons are hard work, but let’s not make it any harder than it needs to be and let’s make sure we don’t encounter the fabled wall.

 

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.

 

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