If you have landed one of the coveted spaces in the London Marathon 2016 – or any other of these gruelling races – you might already have started your training. Or, if you’re living ‘la vida last minute’, you might have at least thought about it.
Whether you’re new to running and preparing for your first marathon or a serious runner who has been at it for years, you’ll always want to progress and continue to challenge yourself. Ultra-marathon runner Ann Johansson has kindly shared her top tips for bringing your personal best on race day.
She says, “The key to completing any challenge is to set a goal and stick to it. In my experience, sharing your goal with those around you is a great way to stay committed and on track. If ever you feel like giving up, those closest to you will be there to offer support and give you the encouragement you need to keep going.”
Find an exercise partner
Having a fitness buddy will make you mutually accountable, so you’ll both work hard not to let each other down. The right training partner will be able to put you through your paces and share your triumphs, and pick you up when you’re having a down day. If you prefer to go it alone, there are lots of training and tracking programmes online which consistently log your workouts and will provide a similar motivation.
Create a training plan
To set effective and realistic goals, it is important to create a workout plan that is broken down into weekly progression. Most running plans revolve around three runs a week: intervals, tempo and a long run. Do not schedule these three runs back to back as it will increase the chance of injury.
You can also supplement this training with other workouts that will compliment all the running you’re doing. I’d recommend spinning, a great low impact aerobic workout, a barre or pilates class to strengthen your core, weights to help your muscles with the impact and a yoga session to stretch and tone.
Push with precaution
Achieving any goal you set yourself will take effort, application and dedication. To avoid injury, stick to the rule of 10%, which means building up your running gradually and increasing your weekly mileage by no more than 10%. The first few weeks are without doubt the toughest; it requires real discipline to incorporate workouts into a busy schedule. But in a matter of weeks, what once felt like a chore will become invigorating as you progress and get fitter!
Don’t forget to stretch
The other key element to avoiding injury is a post-run stretching routine and a trusty foam roller. I do some overall body stretches before focussing on the calves, hamstrings, quads, and glutes. I mainly use the foam roller on my IT band and my quads. Rolling on a tennis ball is a handy alternative to a foam roller and it can hit precise points of tension.
If you continue to feel tight, a sports massage can help to release tension in areas that are hard to stretch out. It’s so important to listen to your body, so if you are feeling pain seek out a medical professional. The earlier you catch an injury, the quicker it is to recover and the sooner you can get back to training.
Invest in the right kit
I struggled for years to find workout gear which was both stylish and functional, so I took the plunge and decided to create my own range, BoomBoom Athletica. Using all of my experience as a marathon runner, I set out to create a chic range which truly responds to the body for improved performance.
My designs are made from high-quality materials, with several garments incorporating advanced compression fabrics with 25%+ elastane, which helps to reduce jarring of muscles and subsequent inflammation, and enhances recovery. These fabrics are complimented by fine mesh panels and detailing which offer excellent breathability whilst wicking moisture away from the skin, keeping you comfortable and focussed on your workout.
A great pair of trainers and a supportive sports bra should never be overlooked either. To make sure you’re getting the right fit, make sure you try them on properly and seek expert advice – the wrong fitting shoes or bra could cause some permanent damage.
When aiming to run for over an hour, keeping hydrated and adequately fuelled becomes an increasingly important factor but the latest sports science is inconclusive on the absolute requirements. I mainly rely on electrolyte drinks but most people also like to use gels (one sachet every 30 minutes washed down with water). Virtually all running events have feed stands at every mile, so ahead of the race contact the organiser to understand what food and drink products will be stocked to ensure you’re well prepared.
Track your progress
Use a smartphone app or GPS watch to log your runs, as understanding how you’re progressing will help you to develop further training plans and monitor how you’re balancing the demands of everyday life with a sporting challenge. It’s not for everybody, but sharing your progress on social media can also give you an extra boost. You may be surprised at how much encouragement you receive and you might even inspire others to take on their own challenge or start keeping fit!
Credit: Image by James Macari for Vogue Mexico April 2015