Marathon Mastery Series: How to avoid an upset tummy

As we approach peak training load for those running Spring marathons, we often hear of runners complaining of an upset stomach and/or feeling sick during and after a run. Read on for advice about how to avoid it….

Run strong without feeling ill
Run strong without feeling ill

 

For many runners, stomach pain, feeling sick and needing the toilet urgently, are all unfortunate consequences of an increase in marathon training and long training runs. There are a number of factors at play that cause this, but one could be taking on too much carbohydrate in the form of gels.

‘If you take on too many gels or sports energy products, that’s when you get into trouble,’ explains nutritionist Fran Taylor, www.thebrightonnutritionist.co.uk. ‘Your body can only absorb so much sugar and any excess accumulates in the gut and draws in extra water which all contributes to making you feel pretty uncomfortable.’

Research shows that if you want to run faster and keep going, 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour when running for up to two hours (although remember the muscles hold enough fuel for 90 minutes so you won’t need to start taking them until you’ve run for an hour), which equates to about two gels or 8-10 Jelly Babies.  For runs longer than 2 1/2 hours, aim for 90 grammes, about three gels or 16 Jelly Babies.

The above paragraph should also illustrate the benefits of getting used to gels for racing – it takes 20 seconds to swiftly swallow a gel (and we’d recommend doing it fast, they’re not something you want to savour!) compared to trying to chew your way through lots of Jelly Babies.

But there can also be other factors at play when it comes to runners’ gut.

 

‘When we run for a long time, blood flow to the stomach is reduced in favour of the blood that is powering the muscles to run, and this is  exacerbated by dehydration along with an increase in stress hormones which are released when we exercise, all which can contribute to making you feel sick,’ explains Fran Taylor.

Try to replenish lost fluids when you finish your run and do some yoga stretches (check our YouTube channel for examples) which will help the body to recover and off-set the harmful effects of the stress hormones.

 

Here’s our guide to what you can eat to fuel your runs…

The Food

Gels

Disgusting flavours (Salted Watermelon or Toasted Marshmallow anyone?) aside, gels are easy to swallow and digest, and become available for the body to use as energy almost immediately. But lots of runners avoid them because they taste horrible and this can get confused with people assuming that this is what causes an upset  stomach.

But the reason they cause an upset stomach is usually because someone is taking on too much. Your body can’t use any more than 3 gels in an hour, or 60 grams or less. Then they don’t overload the system and while not tasting great, they’ll do the job.

I can personally vouch for this, I hate gels, hate the taste and the texture, as does almost every runner of every level that I know, BUT shoot them down in one and don’t overdo them and they DO work.  I’m a fan of High 5 Isogels, which are a little bit more liquid than most.

Electrolyte Drinks

If you’re constantly battling an upset stomach and it’s not nerves, switching to liquids may be an alternative. Nowadays, electrolyte mixes from the likes of Tailwind  and Scratch Labs have been specifically designed to fuel the body while moving in the easiest, most digestible form. This can help to a certain degree, but be aware that getting enough carbohydrate in from liquid alone requires drinking a lot. So, it provides an alternative but not without supplementing with another carb source.

Bloks

Performance blocks like Clif Shot Bloks and Honey Stinger Chews (which are also vegan and use honey as their carb source) are similar to gels but come in a denser form. They provide around seven grammes of carbohydrates at a time, and so this can enable you to test at what point, your body reaches overload and you begin to feel sick.

Longhaul Endurance

These food sachets are increasingly becoming popular with ultra runners, who can’t fuel their runs with gels and sweets because it causes bonking not due to hitting the wall but crashing into a sugar wa (keep feeding the body too much sugar and your sugar levels will spike and then fall, which over a long distance race is not sustainable). They come in flavours such as Turmeric and Chicken and Sweet Potato and Sesame, and provide between 32.6g and 23.7g of carbohydrate respectively. Not easy to take on you’re racing at full pelt but worth investigating for training runs.

Sweet Potatoes

Boil or roast sweet potatoes and you’re left with a creamy, fast-digesting carbohydrate which would work well at the beginning of a race, as long as you take the skin off first which contains fibre and which could cause a tummy upset or require a sudden need to go to the loo.

Crisps

Pretty much the first thing I can even think of stomaching after a hard run marathon is crisps. They won’t fuel you as well as gels, but they break up the monotony of just eating sweet stuff and contain salt to stabilise your electrolytes and they’re great for afterwards . If you’ve ever watched or taken part in an Ironman event, you’ll see crisps and flat cola on all the refreshment stations on the run.

Marathon Mastery Series: What to do when injury strikes

Injury happens to even the most seasoned of marathon runners, but it doesn’t mean you have to sit on the sofa stewing and panicking about your diminishing fitness and not being able to reach your marathon goal…

The reality is that being injured very rarely means you should totally rest*. Ninety nine percent of the time, it means NOT running but keeping up your running fitness and strength to ensure that once you’ve recovered, you can get back on track to your goal without losing your hard run gains. All you need to do is find the right run replacement (check with your physiotherapist FIRST) and perform it correctly to you stay marathon fit and prevent you from slumping into the doldrums.

Don’t fear weights, they are your friend

Hit the pedals

If you can’t run, spinning or using a turbo trainer is a great way to keep up your running fitness and marathon training. But the cycling must be intense enough to create the same physiological effects as running, or as close to this as possible. Which doesn’t mean cycling serenely to the shops or going on a casual ride.

Emily Proto, a Sussex runner and massage therapist, who recently came third at the Brighton Half marathon explains what she did when she broke her fibula.

‘I broke my fibula during the Brighton Marathon 2015 and had to pull out at the 10k point which was devastating,’ she explains. ‘I’d worked so hard in my marathon training,  I didn’t want to lose my fitness and so I started using a stationary bike with my focus being on keeping my heart rate as high on the bike sessions as i do when I run.

‘I did things like five minutes easy, 10 x 1 minute really hard, with 1 minute easy rest between and a final five minute warm down. It took 30 minutes and I added strength training. I had eight weeks off and it took me only five weeks to get back to fitness afterwards.’

If you don’t have your own turbo at home, try spinning at your local gym or the excellent Sufferfest training available at David Lloyd gyms or MyRide at Virgin gyms or Freedom Leisure.

 

Cycling is a great way of keeping run fit – if you ride smart. This is me hiding at the back of the shot after the 312 Majorca...that’s the former Tour de France winner, Miguel Induráin

 

Leap In

So many runners opt to swim when they’re injured, which is a great way to keep the body mobile and stretched. BUT to make it as specific to run fitness, you need to get your heart rate up and that means swim interval sets, just like you do with your running pace work. Try warming up for 100 metres, then do 50 metres at 8/10 effort, 50 metres recovery, x 10. Warm down. If you find swimming boring, this will help to keep it interesting and work your body in a way that’s more consistent with running. Your alternative is to do resistance running in the pool with a buoyancy belt on.

You don’t have to get a wetsuit and all the gear, but you do need to be smart about your training

Row, row, row the boat

Not gently down the stream. Yes, you guessed it, rowing is a fantastic way of keeping up your run fitness and involves all the major muscles of the body (in fact, it could even improve your running arm strength!) but be cautious. As with all of these suggestions, seek the advice of your physiotherapist, BEFORE you decide on which cross training to do. If you have a calf or foot injury, rowing will put a similar pressure through the foot with flexion and extension as you push to row. If it’s OK to row, then this is one al over, heart rate soaring workout. There’s some great suggestions here to keep it interesting.

Ring the bell

Kettle bells are a fantastic way of keeping your strength and cardiovascular fitness for running, particularly transferable physiologically to pace and tempo work. Originally invented in Russia, these metal balls with a handle are swung, with the drive coming from the hips and bottom which helps to build stability and prevent injury in the first place. As the bells swings through the air, your core has to kick in to stabilise the body in the swing trajectory. So, that’s one tick for strength, while all the muscular effort required to drive the correct weighted kettle bell raises your heart rate hugely, tick number two.

If done correctly, with a weight that challenges the body, kettle bells are a fantastic way of keeping up your fitness and don’t take long – a TABATA session of eight rounds of 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest works wonders. We would advise you to get correct tuition in kettle bell swinging before picking it up yourself.

 

 

How much can your mind help to push your body?

If you find it a battle in training, let alone on race day, the key to unlocking improvement may all be in the mind..

Enjoy the journey of improving yourself – the destination will then take care of itself

Don’t forget to join us for our Facebook Live Mental Strategies for the Female Runner, Friday 19th January, 7pm, £4.99. Secure your space via our booking page and join us in our special Run Like a Pro Facebook group wherever you live in the UK for our live event.

 

Whatever goal you set yourself, whether to achieve a promotion at work, build a business, gain a personal best at a race, lose weight or just get to the end of your first 5km, having a firm grasp of your why is key.

Why is this so important? Because when things get hard, such as weighing up whether to scoff a cream cake or resist, or when it comes to running, push your body to run faster in training when it hurts, your brain is constantly weighing up how hard it feels against WHY you’re doing it. If your perception of how hard it feels outweighs your motivation, you slow down or stop. If the opposite is true, you keep you going.

So, there are two ways to improve – train more so that you get used to the feeling and it feels easier OR, increase your motivation so the drive to do it will aways carry you through.

Easier said than done, you might be thinking. But there are some simple tips that will help you to define your motivations so they help carry you through.

 

 

Love what you’re doing

One of the world’s foremost experts on human behaviour, Edward L.Deci, psychologist at the University of Rochester argues that the strongest motivation comes not from some sort of external reward, like more money, increased social standing, losing weight etc, but ‘from the satisfaction that one experiences in doing an activity itself.” So learn to love your fast pace work, do it with people you enjoy training with and even turn it into a social occasion so that after your weekly ‘hard’ session, you go out for a drink together so it becomes associated with a fun pastime that you enjoy doing in and of itself, not just because you’re aiming for a PB.

 

In my own experience, the more I love the process of what I’m doing and embrace it as a way of improving rather than doing it for the end result, the more I enjoy it. Try to  frame whatever it is you are doing as a personal quest to get better—to improve and beat yourself—and focus on the satisfaction you gain from doing just that.

Think of others

Fear, discomfort and tiredness are the most common reasons why we slow down, walk or pull out of training or a race all together.  Yet, people achieve incredible feats of superhuman effort, such as lifting cars, when helping others in danger. So it stands to reason that thinking of others when you’re feeling in discomfort could help to pull you through.

In fact, when Shalane Flanagan, who became the first American woman in 40  years to win the New York City Marathon last November when asked how she’d pushed through the pain barrier, she said:  ‘I was thinking of other people when it started to hurt.’ So try that next time you’re on a hard training run and see if it works.

Turn on, tune in, drop out

Mindfulness and meditation are the big buzz words nowadays and for good reason – if you can meditate and learn to let go of distracting thoughts, you feel calmer, less anxious and gain better focus. It can work to improve all aspects of your life, and the same principles can apply to running. Like meditation where you learn to ‘watch’ thoughts pass through your mind without attaching to them, so too, you can try this method when running. It can help to disassociate from voice telling you to stop running if you’re just starting out, and help to keep you focused to that finish line.  This is one that worked for me in February 2017 last year dong the Seville marathon. And as you can see from the picture of me when I’d just finished, the pain was real but I managed to disassociate from it long enough to get my PB.

 

 

 

 

 

The Running Show – will we see you there?

Want to hear from some of the most inspirational female runners in the UK today? Do you want to find out all the latest kit info? Then you need to get yourself to the first National Running Show at the Birmingham’s NEC on 20th and 21st January

 

Girls Run the World will be at the show and hoping to bring you some podcasts and interviews with some of the incredible female runners who will be presenting, including Jo Pavey, Dame Kelly Holmes and the amazing ultra running mum, Susie Chan, who has completed the Marathon des Sables three times, and tackled running through a jungle for 5 days self-sufficient – a true Girl that Runs the World.

Plus, you’ll get the opportunity to have your gait analysed, which really helps you to see where you have biomechanical issues that strength and conditioning, flexibility and a different training shoe could improve. Plus, chat nutrition with the brilliant Anita Bean and visit the Nutrition Advice Zone, who will be offering valuable advice on what you should be eating and drinking as a runner..

And if that’s not enough, there will be plenty of running products and clothing to browse and purchase, with the likes of everyone from Vibram to Hoka One One and Saucony at the expo.

Tickets cost just £10. For more information and booking visit the event website. If you are coming, give us a shout in our FREE Girls Run the World Facebook Group and we can meet up.

 

 

Do you want to be a Girls Run the World contributor?

Do you love running and exploring the UK and the rest of the world as you run? We do, and we think that other women of GRTW do too. That’s why we’re looking for YOUR help

 

Watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat before the half marathon in Cambodia

We are working behind the scenes on creating a fantastic website and on that, we’d love to create a space for women to send in their reviews of the most amazing, awe-inspiring running events that they’ve taken part in, from 5km and 10kms to half marathons, marathons and even marathons.

We’re not just looking for the typical ones though – London Marathon, Royal Parks Half, Manchester…these events have been written about all over the internet. We want the unusual ones, the local trail ones that are stunning for their scenery or for the fact that they have a funny twist to the race, right through to the out of this world events on the other side of the globe in unusual cities or up mountains and along beaches.

Your article will feature on our website and be entered for a prize to be drawn at the end of every year, where we will ask our readers to vote for their favourite review, the one that made them think, ‘Right, I’m going to do that event, even if I have to save up for years.’

You can be someone who has always wanted to write or someone who already does, or on the flip-side, you’ve never thought about writing but have a great event that you’ve run that you want to tell other women about. It doesn’t matter where you live, the UK or the Far East, the further afield our contributors the more stunning events we will all get the opportunity to read about.

And don’t worry, we’ll give you questions to answer so you know what to write and what to include and not to.

Want to be a GRTW contributor? If you have a race that you have already run, or are about to run and think it would make a good review, please fill in this form. If you have already run it, please only fill in the form if you took pictures on the race or know that the event organisers will have some that will showcase the event.

Here’s to sharing the events that we have run and enjoyed with women around the world!

Become a contributor – click here

Race refreshments around the world

Salted cucumber, so Sweden
Salted cucumber, so Sweden

While picking up my Mumbai marathon race number a few years ago, I met a couple from Sweden and the wife told me that she has stood on the sidelines of the Stockholm Marathon for the last ten years, handing out refreshments.

And the refreshment of choice for Swedish runners?  Salted cucumber.

Genius, I thought.It begs the questions, just how different are race refreshments around the world?

In Paris, I’ve been given bananas and oranges, in England it’s all about sports drinks, while Mumbai was sweets and biscuits, as was Lake Garda  (sadly, as I was hoping for some genius pasta variant).

It begs the question, what would the refreshments be like at the Angkor Wat Half Marathon, or the Great Wall of China Marathon.

Have you eaten anything unusual during a race? Which country do you think provides the best enroute refreshments?