Whether you’re taking part in a local running event, such as one of those organised by Vitality’s partner parkrun, or you’re training for a half marathon, these tips from running expert, co-founder and coach of Yelling Performance, Martin Yelling, should help you reach your personal best. Read what to eat, how to make sure you’re properly equipped and what you should do before you set off on every run.
Why eating right is important
Endurance athletes need food to fuel their bodies for the demands of the duration of the exercise they are doing. When running, the average person burns about 100 calories per mile – regardless of how fast they are running. Therefore, if taking part in a half marathon, you can expect to burn in the range of 1,300 calories! It’s not just about energy for exercise though. Food also fuels recovery from and adaptation to training, ensures that training can be optimal and helps endurance performers get the most from racing, resting and training. Food choices are very individual for endurance athletes yet simple choices can make a big difference. Non-processed foods, as raw and clean as possible and low in sugar make the best choices. Carbohydrates are an important fuel for exercise and can be from potatoes, brown rice, porridge, whole grain breads and whole-wheat pasta. Proteins help with muscle repair and recovery and can be found in chicken, red meat, salmon, almonds and eggs. There is also nothing wrong with eating fat either, although it’s important to avoid the saturated and trans fats found in cakes, pastries, biscuits and crisps. Instead, look for those naturally found in nuts, fish, meats and oils.
How far in advance and what should you eat before running?
How far in advance you eat before a race is a very personal thing. It can depend on what you are used to, the distance of your event and your personal preference. To avoid indigestion during the race, look to finish your food 11/2-2 hours before you start. It’s okay to drink or eat a little after this but avoid things you haven’t tried before. My favourite pre-race fuel is simple toast with butter and jam and a mug of coffee.
How often should running shoes be replaced?
Running shoes are the tools of your trade – they should be selected with careful consideration. A specialist running footwear retailer like Vitality partner Sweatshop will be able to identify the shoes that will fit correctly for your foot strike while also suiting your running style and aspirations. The time to replace your shoes depends on how much you run in them! The best indicator is signs of wear, rather than time or distance run. Look for a reduction of tread (both outside, inside and heel), and the fabric upper (the shoe itself). If you’ve got holes in the shoe and gaps in the tread then it’s definitely time for some shiny new runners!
How long in advance should you warm up for before a run?
A warm-up depends on the length and type of run you’re doing. A warm-up for a marathon is very different to a warm-up for a 1 mile race. The purpose of a warm-up is to prepare your body for the forthcoming activity. A great warm-up also gives you time to focus your mind as well and seek out the optimal mental state. In simple terms, the longer and lower intensity the run, the shorter the warm-up and vice versa. For 10 miles to half marathon, five to 10 minutes of very light running at an easy pace followed by some gentle mobility exercises gets the heart and lungs working and warms the muscles. For a marathon the first few miles can be used as a warm-up, which will also help to stop you going off too fast. My pre-race warm-up routine includes 10-15 minutes of easy running, some dynamic mobility exercises such as lunges, hip circles and shoulder circles and a few stretches for areas I know need a little extra attention pre-race.
In a build-up to the race itself, how many days before should you start to taper your runs?
The art of running a great race is reaching a peak at the right time – ideally on the day of your target race. You’ve got to plan to peak and prepare to reach race day feeling fresh, energized, motivated and ready. Putting the final touches to your race preparation is called tapering. If you can get the final few weeks leading into race day right, you give yourself the best chance of hitting your target. Get it wrong and you could seriously jeopardise achieving your goals. The harder you’ve trained, the more tired you are and therefore the more important it is to run less to achieve more when it matters. This doesn’t mean do nothing, but translates as maintaining the frequency of your running routine but dropping the volume. Make sure as the race draws closer you feel fresh, recovered and not tired. If you normally run 3 or 4 times a week then keep that regular routine going right up until race week, but run for a shorter duration and cut the volume of your individual workouts as well as your weekly total. For a 10k have an easy week, for a half marathon a two week taper and for a marathon a three week taper.
Planning on taking part in a half marathon? Download one of Martin Yelling’s Vitality training plans for FREE, whether you’re a beginner, improver or advanced:
- Download the 10-week beginners half marathon plan here
- Download the 10-week improvers half marathon plan here
- Download the 10-week advanced half marathon plan here