Tuesday, 23 April 2013

So the marathon is over....

Firstly massive congratulations to you all there were some great performances on Sunday in tough conditions. For those of you that didn't finish it’s important to look back at how far you progressed in your training and remember the journey of the marathon, not just the race itself.

I just wanted to note down some thoughts about the next couple of weeks;

* Delayed Onset Post exercise Muscle Soreness (DOMS) - Stiffness and muscle soreness are inevitable over the next couple of days. The soreness is not caused by lactic acid accumulation as many people think but by microscopic muscle damage....so....;

      - Eat and drink well - Eat what you fancy this week! You deserve to treat yourself this week BUT keep it in moderation and do ensure a good intake of protein and carbohydrate to help the muscles heal and then re-load. Focus on a really well balanced diet with red meat, white meat or fish (or nuts, tofu and pulses for veggies). Lots of good fruit and vegetables, with a broad spectrum of colours. It is often the micro nutrients you will be deficient in - so top them up with loads of good veg. Plenty of water as well - try to keep up with your minimum of 1L a day. Don't rely on processed sugars to help you lift yourself out of physical or mental fatigue - it will likely do the opposite and leave you feeling lethargic. Focus on good slow release carbohydrates; wholegrain and organic. PLEASE do not start a diet or calorie cutting regime this week - your body needs to heal, give it the macro and micro nutrients it needs to do this. Your immune system will also be low so get plenty of Vitamin C in. Please let me know if you need any ideas for meals, or if you want to know more….

      - Weight Gain - Please note its likely your weight will increase this week as your body retains fuel and fluid as it repairs - this is temporary.  

      - Massage - If you can book in for a sports massage this week and focus on breaking down the scar tissue created through the course of your marathon you should. If you can’t get a sports massage in use a foam roller or even self-massage to find those knots and trigger points - if you are not sure on this give me a call!

      - Get active! - Rest is good but inactivity isn't. Whilst it is not necessary to run this week (see below) you might find it really helpful to include some light activity - walking, swimming or easy cycling. 30 minutes or so 3-4 times this week will help to work some of the stiffness out of your muscles - stretch after as well focusing on quads, calf, hamstrings and gluteal muscles. Email me if you want instructions or videos, but most of you will know these.

* Post marathon low - The 'post marathon blues' are a common affliction. The media coverage, the expo, the hype, the training all results in a really big build up. The marathon almost becomes your friend and a key focus for your life. However you performed to see it go so quickly leaves many of us with a feeling of being at a loss, anti-climactic and without focus. Here a few things to note;

      - Sleep - Part of this feeling is exhaustion. Treat this week like you are in taper week - get to bed early and sleep as much as you can.

      - New goals - Arrange to meet up with me and we can chat through what next. It might not be a marathon, or even running, but getting yourself a new goal can really help overcome a lack of endorphins and lack of focus. If you are going to set yourself running goals perhaps have a think about a few options - another marathon? - maybe you'll aim to run it faster, or over a hilly course, or run abroad? Perhaps join a running club, change up your routes or run some off road or trail races? Perhaps challenge yourself over different distances - what about a summer track race, or nail those 5km and 10km PBs? Maybe it’s time to focus on your strength and conditioning so you can not only run faster, but stronger too?

      - Congratulate yourself - Completing a marathon is an incredible achievement, training for a marathon is even more an incredible achievement. Look back over your training and remind yourself how far you have come, what you have learnt about yourself, how much you have risen for charity. It's easy to forget to take time to reflect and congratulate yourself.

      - Give yourself time - If you don’t feel like you want to get back into running straight away then give yourself time and space. We run because we enjoy it – if you force yourself to return to structured training before you want to you will eat away at that love for just running. Be patient with yourself.

* Getting back to running - As a general rule it will take 1 day for each mile of the marathon before your body is back performing and before you can expect to feel strong in sessions or longer runs. Here are a few tips on building back into running;

      - Take a week off - I would take a week off running totally, but keep active - walk, swim or cycle but keep your effort light and conversational. This is not the week to be hitting heavy gym sessions!  

      - Week 2 you can start to build back into your running but make it a week of light, easy runs; 2-3 during the week at a conversational pace. The runs should be roughly 30-45 minutes in length, 60 maximum and up to 2 minutes a mile slower than marathon pace.

      - The weekend of week 2 is when you might start to include some faster work again. I would recommend a tempo run of about 40 minutes – 10 minutes easy to warm up, 15-20 minutes at half marathon pace or a controlled discomfort, and the remainder of the time to ease down into a conversational pace again followed by 15-20 minutes of stretching.

      - By week 3 your training can start to include some structure again; building a slightly longer weekend run 75-80 minutes entirely at a conversational pace. You can start to look at interval work again but initially focus on threshold intervals through nice simple blocks – 5 x 5 minutes, 3 x 8 minutes etc. at 4 word answer pace. Towards the end of this week and into week 4 speed work and VO2 max interval sessions can start to build. The nature of these session will depend on your running goals going forward, but it is good, when your body has recovered, to get in a phase of Vo2 max training and intervals that focus on leg speed development, building towards 5km and 10km in the late Spring and early Summer.

      - Whilst your training volume is lower concentrate on building up a good routine of core strength and flexibility that you can maintain as your training volume increases again. Core (chest, abdominal, lower back and glute) strength can be included easily into your post marathon running training – if you need advice on the right exercises drop me an email or give me a call and we can arrange a session to guide your training.

Well done again everyone, onwards and upwards!


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As an althetics coach, personal trainer and sports conditioning expert my job is to help everyone achieve their goals. This is a collection of my thoughts on training and the world of sport and health and fitness.