#grtwproject26.2 ‘Having a virtual coach keeps me accountable – and running even when I don’t feel like it’

The final of our four winners of #grtwproject26.2 winners, Rachel Sparkhall, 43  reveals how accountability and b-run-ches have been so important for the first four week block of her Paris Marathon training…

Taking part in fun events can help to off load the stress of marathon training

Race: Schneider Paris Marathon

Target: 3  hours, 59 minutes

I read a quote this week, ‘the marathon is the victory lap’ and this struck a chord – it will be the culmination of 14 + weeks of not only running an amazing amount of miles but also the thinking time and juggling of work/life as well – I think the mantra ‘this is the victory lap, enjoy it’ might really help me on race day!

Running a marathon has never figured high on my bucket list until last year when I completed the South Downs 100KM Ultra Challenge. If I could cover 100KM with a run/walk/run method in 16 hours and survive training through the hottest summer in decades, then maybe, just maybe I could run a marathon? And so I was delighted when I won the #grtwproject26.2 competition to win a mentoring package worth £300. 

GRTW coach Tara initially loaded a four week block of runs on Training Peaks, which was brilliant as it allowed me to see the progressive mileage and speed work build up and I found the alternate run days worked well, allowing me recovery time and to also plan life around training rather than it dictating it. 

It meant some early mornings and dark evening runs, but I’m fortunate that I work from home on some days which allows me to be more flexible. Still, training for a marathon can be all consuming.  To compensate, I integrate my longer runs with coffee/cake or breakfast get together’s.  This means I have a destination to run to which is more motivating than constant laps/loops on the longer routes. 

In the first couple of weeks, I had a few issues with picking the right routes that suited the tempo and interval training and had a couple of rather frustrating watch malfunctions. All I really wanted to do was run and perform well, so I invested in a Garmin watch and I got this nailed.

Old watch vs new Garmin

If anything, the runs have been slower than I’ve been used to but with that, came more focus on tempo and interval work which forced me to actually start doing them rather than just reading about them.

I think the most important point to make about training with GRTW  can be said in one word – ACCOUNTABILITY. With all my training runs planned and any other training recorded, I’m motivated to get my trainers on and do the session, particularly as Tara can see my exact results on Training Peaks. 

The first 2 weeks flew by but by week 3 I hit a wall. I felt fatigued and had taken a lot of medication for migraines which I’ve suffered from for years, so every run became a challenge. 

Usually, running helps me feel like i’m cleansing my system of any medication but intense exercise can also trigger a migraine attack so it’s a double edge sword.  It’s very easy to curl up in a ball and drown myself in the vat of sugary products even though I know that it will only make things worse.

A hilly run on my third Sunday long run was awful and if it had not been for my coaching plan, I wouldn’t have gone.  The first hill run was truly awful and I stopped wanted to go home, but then I thought about Tara and the effort she was putting into helping me and I thought about how I’d feel if I failed to hit my goal. GOT.TO.KEEP.TRYING. Hopefully this extra little push is going to make all the difference in getting me closer to that sub 4 hour goal.

A beautiful but brutal run

Thankfully, week four has been a recovery week with less mileage and it’s been a fabulous week. Although the weather turned colder, each run was enjoyable and I ended it with the 10K London Winter run.  A fantastic fun themed event where 20,000 participants descend on London to run amongst penguins and snowmen, it was great to go as part of a group and enjoy the social aspect.

The London Winter Run 10k

I started the run, semi frozen in -4 temperatures and with the niggling doubt that I’d lost some speed with all the longer runs I had been doing but was pleased to see that I was achieving 7.30min/miles on course and ended with a PB of 48.10 on what is a flat but very busy course. 

Roll on the next block of training. Now, less than ten weeks before I stand under the Arc de Triomphe.

To  follow the journeys of our four Girls Run the World marathon training winners, follow #grtwproject26.2 on Instagram.

If you are interested in having a personalised training plan written by Girls Run the world or our mentoring package, please email info@girlsruntheworld.co.uk

#grtwproject26.2 ‘Having different training zones has transformed my running’

Our third #project26.2 runners, Kerrie Flippance, shares how recovery runs and training zones has transformed her running…while she contemplates a 5am start as she juggles marathon training and motherhood 

Kerrie at her weekend cross country race

Manchester Marathon will be my first marathon and I ‘panic entered’ last August after reading a friend’s Facebook status which led me to believe it was about to sell out. To date there are still places left!  After I entered, I tried to forget about it, ignoring all my friends’ excited social media messages about who was training on what days and where could we run to vary our training.  I was in denial. 

Until I received an email from Girls Run the World, informing me that I had won one of their amazing marathon coaching packages. I never win anything, well except four tickets for a gig from a phone-in competition in 1992.  I was filled with excitement and utter terror.

 

My first thought was, ‘If I have a coach, I’ll actually have to run 26.2, I can’t make an excuse on the day that I’m not well enough or or fake an injury.’ And I also knew that I’d have to stick to a plan and I was scared I wouldn’t be able to. A month into my plan, it has been the best thing to have happened, having Rachael from Girls Run the World as my virtual coach.

Receiving my first two weeks of the training plan (they’re delivered in two week blocks to help accommodate what may happen within a fortnight), it was great seeing all the varied sessions and to be given ‘zones’ based on my pace, something I’d never thought about before. 

Although I’ve always done a variety of training runs, a long slow run and a weekly track interval session, I’d never really thought about what my pace was and the importance behind knowing different zones and how they impact progress and recovery; for instance, there’s a pace for recovery runs, one for interval work, tempo work, etc. Now I can really bore my husband and non-running friends with even more talk about running! But, more importantly, I now understand how training can improve my running.

BUT over the first two weeks, I was shocked at seeing five rest days in my training diary and that made me panic! I knew the importance of rest days, I’d read about it time and time again, and been told so many times by running friends that I needed a rest day, after I’d moaned about how tired I felt.  But FIVE days off running? 

This has been one of my biggest learning exercises so far.  I’ve followed the plan to the letter and the rest days have been tangible.  I use them wisely by following the stretching, yoga or core work that’s been set on the plan or go for a swim.  For the first time ever, I’ve never felt tired on a run, a first in ten years of running.

I know this may not be the case throughout my marathon journey but I am surprised by how good I feel and this is down to a plan that is personal and allows my body to recover ready for the next run. 

I felt pretty rubbish for a few days during week three of the training block after competing in our county cross country champs, but I’d raced hard.  And whereas usually, I get to the point where I want to slow down, and feel like the hills and the mud are breaking me, I was able to keep pushing.

My two running pals, who normally catch me at the half way point, still caught me but rather than the distance between us growing, we stayed together. It was the most consistent performance I’d put in for a cross-country race, and I believe this is down to a carefully tailored plan.                                    

My high so far was my long 15 mile training run last weekend. I’d been dreading it as I had only ever run that far once before. Plus, the training plan specified to run the final three miles at my marathon pace! No way was I going to be able to do this, I thought, not after already running 12 miles. Rachael warned me that it would be hard and I really thought that this run was going to be my first ‘fail’ on the plan. 

But I ran the 12 miles at the easy pace recommended by Rachael, and I felt pretty good.  I’d run with my husband for the first four miles and a friend for the next seven miles, but told her that I wanted to run the last four on my own so I could focus.

My watch beeped to let me know when to change pace and it was like someone had fired a starting gun or given me a huge slap on the backside. I instantly changed mind set and went for it and my legs went from feeling tired and sore to feeling great, they wanted to run at this pace. 

AT first I thought I was probably running too slow  when I looked at my watch, I was running at 30 seconds per mile faster than my marathon tempo pace.  The shock of feeling so in control with a good amount of energy in the tank really spurred me on, although Rachael has told me that I need to be more disciplined on future runs or risk undoing all my hard work, but it was a great confidence boost.

So far, I’ve loved my training butI live in a  beautiful part of the country with lots of trails that pass by castles, canals and cycle paths. And my training hasn’t interfered too much with life, although this will change over the next few weeks when my children’s social lives will interfere with my weekend runs (I’m envisaging having to get up at 5am to get my long run done, or worse still, doing it after they’ve gone to bed). 

So, four weeks in and I am no longer in denial, I’m excited and ready for the challenge.  I love not having to think about what training I should be doing, and whether I am doing too much or too little!  I’m not having to think very much at all which is amazing when you have a very busy life.  Rachael and my carefully devised training plan think for me and all I have to do is lace up my trainers and run.

#project26.2 ‘Marathon training is the same as any other running, just longer, right?’

In her first block of virtual marathon training as part of Girls Run the World Project26.2, Catriona Ward Sell, 31 has learned that running longer distances requires a totally different mindset…

 

Catriona, volunteering at junior Parkrun

I recall, at about age 8, going to football practice with my wee neighbour, John. Unable to kick the ball hard and fast, he became frustrated. “The trouble with practising...” he exclaimed, booting the ball away, “is that you have to practice and practice and practice, just to be any good at practising!”

Surely no truer words have ever been said about marathon running, either.

I am a middle distance runner. In my year-and-a-half of club running, I’ve reached a decent local level; I can consistently run a sub-20 parkrun, am knocking on the door of a sub-40 10k, and perhaps slightly fluke-ishly, qualified for a Club Championship place at the London Marathon by running two sub-1:30 half marathons.

I perhaps clicked “apply” to the London Marathon too light-heartedly. How different could marathon training be? You just run for a bit longer, right?

Oh, you naïve former self. Marathon training, as I have discovered with Tara, my excellent coach from Girls Run The World, is a whole different ball game.

Firstly, there is a lot of slow running.  I’m an adrenaline junkie; I like doing intervals as quickly as I can, turning the treadmill to a level where I risk flying off, or putting my pride on the line by challenging the guys at work to a race (to contextualise, I am in the Army, so extreme physical challenges are pretty much encouraged in my vocation).  Marathon training does not appeal to adrenaline junkies. Marathon training requires slowing down.

Secondly, there are a LOT of kilometres to cover in a week. This was expected but I thought the bulk of the distance would be in the once-weekly designated Long Slow Runs (in runner’s jargon and Insta-hashtags, LSRs). Nope. The distance of every run during the week will increase.

And lastly, at this stage, the types of training runs aren’t ending with my lungs on fire. This might seem like a welcome break to some of you, but I love the feeling of a hard run. It gets the endorphins flowing, and, yes, I feel more justified in reaching for an extra doughnut when I’ve reached that maxed-out zone.

Getting used to longer, slower runs has meant I’ve had to work on my mental game, find a space to put my mind.  Because, on longer slower runs, you have a lot of thinking time, and depending on how the run is going, your head can take you to some downbeat places.

Learning to focus on mental strategies with the miles

For the first few weeks, I felt frustrated and bored. The first run which I enjoyed was my second LSR. I’m new to the area in which I live, and I found a beautiful wooded trail which goes on uninterrupted for miles. I did 16 kms here after volunteering at Junior Parkrun, and both experiences helped me to remember a different side to running – its inclusivity and offers of exploration.

Neither of these are better or worse motivations than chasing PBs, which I expect will always be my main goal. But is a different side of the same medal, and deserves equal recognition within the sport.

I was also worried. My speed seemed to be zapped from my legs. A Cross Country outing with the Army in the middle of week two wasn’t in my training plan – but when, in the military, your boss tells you to run, the only acceptable response is to ask “how fast?”. Although I finished second female, I was slower than usual.

This week, however, has been much more positive. Within a couple of runs, I’ve managed to glimpse my old 10km time (4:00 min/km). Although in time I aim to be faster, for this marathon training cycle, I was scared that I was just getting slower.   Perhaps, as was first feared, that isn’t happening. Perhaps it’s just my body getting used to the extra miles.

But back to the task in hand: I’m not sure yet if I’m looking forward to the actual marathon, nor if I’ll do another one again. It’s too early within this training cycle to say, and frustrations, fears, anxiety and – just this week – some kind of nervous hope has created mixed emotions. But one thing’s for sure: John, you were definitely wiser than your 8 years. Mentally, physically, and emotionally, even feeling like you’re training for running takes a lot of practise.

Target: To finish fast

Goal finish: 3 hours, 17 mins

To follow the progress of our #grtwproject26 runners, search for the hashtag on Instagram. 

Girls Run the World offer personalised virtual coaching for all distances and all levels. For more details click here

 

#grtwproject26.2 How running slower is making me faster

After winning a virtual marathon coaching package as part of the Girls Run the World project26.2, Marie Knight reflects on her first month where she discovered the value of recovery runs… 

Marie, at the start line of the Maverick Race

I can’t quite believe it’s the end of week four of my training plan, and it’s been a learning curve; getting to grips with new running shoes, new training app (Girls Run the World use Training Peaks to deliver personalised plans from their team of female coaches), a new approach to nutrition, not to mention learning to programme my Garmin watch correctly, which I’m ashamed to say I’ve owned for 2 years without ever doing this. And then there is the small matter of the running itself.

I usually take part in GRTW Runuary to kick start my year of running without any particular focus for each day’s run other than the fact that I know I need to complete one at some stage. So it’s been an exciting change to having weekly plans delivered to my in box detailing distances, pace, focus, tips on form and type of run, all designed to help me to achieve running the Brighton Marathon in a time of approximately 4hours 35 minutes.

I’ve loved being able to look at the plan for the week ahead and shift things to fit around work and play. I’m also enjoying not having to worry about what training I’m going to do each day, trusting the coaching process to get me where I need to be in the end.

I’m a classic over-thinker and I would already be panicking about having the week off for skiing I’m having in February and what impact this would have on the rest of fitness and plan.

The biggest thing I’ve learnt is the value of running slowly…which sounds a funny thing to say as I’m not what you might consider a fast runner to start with. Settling at the correct recovery pace has been so challenging but it’s also given me the chance to focus on form, breathing, cadence. It’s also been the hardest thing to nail because it often feels like I’m barely moving faster than walking pace.

But most interestingly of all, it’s helped me to achieve more during the speed interval sessions , as well as providing valuable time on feet with active recovery. I guess the clue is in the name? (D’oh!)

The strength and core work included on my plan via the Girls Run the world YouTube channel have been a love/hate addition to my plan. It’s the area of my normal fitness routine that I’ve always abandoned when training for half marathons, thinking I didn’t have the time.

It turns out these short, guided, 20-minute workouts can fit in but they leave me feeling more exhausted than the running (which I know is exactly why I need to include them) and deadbugs have become my new personal nemesis. 

My favourite run so far has been the Maverick Inov-8 West Sussex, which was part of the GRTW January meet up. Stunning scenery to distract me whilst tackling brutal, muddy hills and undulating forest routes.

The focus that I was given was to treat it as training rather than a race  by keeping at easy pace throughout (which I eventually did after starting off way too fast with the excitement of the starting line), running alone rather than with run buddies to help give me a feel of how it will be during the marathon, and completing the distance without the use of gels. The theory being, your body can fuel aerobically using fat storage and if you get your body too used to gels, it won’t be able to get the maximum benefit when racing.

Marie, finishing strong, gel free after a 14 mile trail race

I hadn’t even considered it possible to run that far without gels and it felt great to finish and know that I have the endurance to run without gels, allowing my digestive system a chance to be without them for a while. It’s also given me something to think about in terms of using them for future training runs at easy pace, as I clearly don’t always need them.

It was a tough and challenging 14 miles all-round, but I got to the finish to be cheered in by a smiling GRTW crew. Plus a beer in my goody bag to go with the medal.

If you want to follow the journeys of our four Girls Run the World Project 26.2 runners, follow the IG #grtwproject26. Lend them your support and learn through them as they journey towards the marathon finish line. 

Girls Run the World offer personalised virtual run coaching from £92 per month. For more details email info@girlsruntheworld.co.uk.

 

How was your weekend running?

Date: 20-22nd July

We’ve never had a summer quite so hot, although one way to steer clear of the heat this weekend was to take part in the Lunar-tic Marathon River Marathon which ran through the night. But we thought it was the perfect conditions for our inaugural GRTW Run Wild trail and yoga retreat. How did you fare this weekend in training or racing?

 


 

Over the weekend, we spoke to lots of runners at our GRTW Trail and Yoga retreat and opinion is evenly split – some people love warm summer running, others much prefer the cooler conditions of autumn or winter.  Whatever the case, a little nifty trick for you – put your running vest in the freeze for 15 minutes before you go out…it will keep you cooler for a little while.

On our trail weekend, we kept our runs to the early morning or late afternoon with a route through Houghton woods for one of the steamiest runs of the weekend on the Sunday. And even on those hotter, hillier runs the reward was stunning views and a delicious breeze on the way back to base. And of course, nothing feels quite as good as yoga after a run, particularly outdoors in the shade.

Elsewhere this weekend, was the Lunar-tic Marathon, a 3 lap night trail along the River Adur, the perfect antidote to the day’s heat and perfect conditions.

We’d love to hear where you trained or raced over the weekend, particularly further afield in Scotland, Wales or further north. Let us know.

 

How was your weekend running?

Summer is a time of trail races and those with a bit of a twist…

I didn’t race this weekend as I was busy checking out  more routes for the Girls Run the World Trail and Yoga Retreat this coming weekend (July 20-22), and it sure was a hot one! Which is why I headed off for an open water swim in the beautiful Weirwood Reservoir rather than run again.

But elsewhere, there was lots going on in the trail running stakes, not least the spectacular Gran Trail Courmayer, with distances of 30, 50 and 105km to choose from…the winning woman of 30km took 3 hours 50 mins, 47 seconds while the 102 kms took 18 hours, 51 minutes and 12 seconds. That says it all about the elevation, eh? Still, it’s a race that’s on my bucket list.

Closer to UK shores, literally, was the Beat the Tide 10km in Worthing on the South Coast. This is a great concept, where you run an out and back along the beach, trying to beat the return of the tide to avoid getting wet feet.  One GRTW runner who took part, Tanya Taylor said this about the race: ‘It’s always fun when you do a race that’s a little bit different to the norm- and running with a few hundred people across the sand definitely felt more fun than not. Well organised, relaxed & beautiful scenery- win, win.’ One thing to remember though, wet sand…it’s a little tougher to run on but definitely not as tough as soft sand! And of course, this weekend saw the 100km Race to the Stones, along The Ridgeway. Did you run it?

And for those The other big race of the weekend was The British 10km in London, which goes right through the heart of London. Did you run it?

 

 

 

 

How was your weekend running?

The weekend just passed had us thinking a lot about motivation and will power to push through when training or racing gets tough…

Perhaps this was partly due to my taking on Grafman, a Half Ironman event, which comprises a 1.8km open water swim, followed by a 56 mile bike ride and rounded off by a half marathon at the end. But it was also because it was a weekend of running events that require a lot of mental reserve, such as the Night of the 10km PBs and the North Downs Way 50.

Fittingly enough, the Girls Run the World ultra distance coach, Sarah Sawyer, took home first place this year at the North Downs Way 50 (for coaching advice and mentoring with Sarah, email info@girlsruntheworld.co.uk) and another reason my focus was on mental strategies due to a podcast that I did with her last Friday. After all, who better to ask about mental strategies than a woman who came first in the Crawley 24 Hour Track Race a few months ago, running 127.8 miles in 24 hours around a 400 metre track?

You can listen to the podcast later this week, but what was most interesting about our chat is that Sarah didn’t say ANY of the usual things when it comes to mental strategies. Instead of counting, music or mantras, her main approach is grounded in the fact that she loves running and whenever anything gets tough, she reminds herself of how lucky she is to be running. That and switching up her events so that her ‘journey’ to that final event destination goal stays interesting and enjoyable seem to be her main strategies for staying strong.  At the beginning of this year, she focused on the 24 hour track race, then she switched from flat running to the hills to take on the North Downs 50, which leads her on to the Global Limits 200km Stage Race.

So, when I was running my final six miles of my Half Ironman this weekend, with the sun belting down, I reminded myself that ultimately, I choose to do this, as we all do. At any time, any one of us can say, ‘That’s it, I don’t want to do this any more,’ and stop.

We take part and participate because we enjoy the challenge, the camaraderie and the sense of achievement. And if we remember this, that when we train and it feels tough on a tempo run, or a long run when we’re just not feeling it, try to shift your thinking to accept that that discomfort is simply part of your end goal, making you stronger, and helping you to get to the fantastic end feeling of achievement. If it wasn’t challenging, none of us would feel quite so good at the end of it. Besides, it makes the celebratory beer feel even more amazing.

We’d love to hear about your weekend racing and any strategies you use when the going gets tough. Comment below.

How was your weekend running?

Sleep, or more widely, how to maximise your recovery has been on my mind this weekend. This is partly because I was chatting with Jonathan Robinson, exercise physiologist at the University of Bath at the recent Elevate conference, and because it appears to have then cropped up in numerous conversations with clients over the weekend.

Time and again, as runners – and particularly if we ‘re also mums and runners, we tend to focus on running only as our training, and perhaps if we’re really good, a bit of foam rolling and yoga. But this is NOT what we mean by recovery, and if we got this right, we’d optimise our performance, prevent injury and avoid mental burn out.

All the research points to how recovery is the cornerstone of your training, not an add on. Ignore it, and you effectively undermine all those hard training sessions that you’re doing.

So, what do we mean by recovery strategies? 

What might come to your mind are compression socks, ice baths, recovery footwear and the like, but according to scientifically proven studies, your foundations for recovery are simple -sleep, body management and nutrition.

Grantham and Jarvis 2005, Recovery Pyramid

 

Sleep

When we sleep, our bodies get to work, helping our muscles to repair and adapt to grow stronger. According to research in the British Journal of of Sports Medicine  cognition, metabolism and tissue repair are critical physiological processes that contribute to training capacity, recovery and performance and are all positively affected with the right amount of sleep.

What you can do? 

Start tracking your sleep to see how many hours, on average you’re getting. I have a Garmin 920XT watch which tracks not only my sleep, but the quality of my sleep. It’s a helpful reminder to show when I’m not. If you are consistently getting injured, or not seeing improvement despite lots of training, take a look at your sleep patterns.

Body Management

Simply put, this means how you are managing your body. Are you only running or are you adding strength training, yoga and foam rolling?

Recovery methods, such as at home yoga, stretching even for 20 minutes per day can help promote blood flow to the muscles and improve range of movement, which in turns helps you to run with better economy, which means less stress on the body.  Moreover, focused, good quality strength training not only helps prevent injuries. Research shows that the fitter and stronger you are, the less time you’ll need to spend on recovery strategies.

What you can do?

Try a Yin Yoga class, try to remember the poses that are the most challenging for you and do those ones on your own at home. Strength wise, we have lots of free exercises on our YouTube channel that you can follow to build stability. Our more dedicated month long gym or at home strength workouts will launch in a few weeks for our dedicated Virtual Training Hub members. Pre-register here.

Nutrition 

Follow the three Rs, rehydrate, refuel, rebuild. Running is BIG business, and nutrition has kept pace with this resulting in the proliferation of products from protein shakes to beet and sour cherry shots. Some of these can be useful if you have a very heavy training load or are short on time.

What you can do?

You can get all the nutrition you need from the food you eat or drink, whether it’s a chocolate milk/almond milk shake after a run, foods rich in polyphenols, such as beetroots (grated in a salad or juiced with ginger and apple) to help with inflammation, fish, meat or pulses for a protein kick and green leafy vegetables and fruit for a vitamin kick to boost your immune system. It can be useful to keep a food diary for three days, noting what you eat and when you eat, plus when you run. That should be enough, without any expert advice for you to evaluate whether you are eating right for running.

We’d love to hear how you manage your recovery strategies, and if you have any tips that are useful for super busy women.

 

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.