We have officially crossed over to spring, and with that begins the marathon training and racing season. Anyone who has trained for 26.2 can tell you that best laid plans do not always pan out. Sometimes we experience a really great training cycle, and sometimes we struggle. The learning curve is always the steep the first time around and hopefully we learn from our mistakes. Here are 5 of the most common marathon training mistakes and suggestion for correcting them for optimal training and racing performance.
1. Eating a poor diet. This one is first for a reason. What we put into our bodies is the fuel we burn during our daily tasks and on a run. Many people fall into the marathon thinking trap that since they are running high mileage, they are burning calories and thus they can eat and drink whatever they want. A 20 mile training run can indeed easily torch 1500-2000 calories. That is most people’s daily caloric intake burned off in the first 3 hours of one day. It is extremely important to replace those calories with whole food proteins and carbohydrates. Eating an entire box of Kraft macaroni and cheese by yourself does not count. Nor does the carton of ice cream (sorry to be such a Debbie Downer here, I have a sweet tooth too). Many folks feel ravenous throughout marathon training cycles and are baffled to find that they gain weight and feel rotten when they expected to slender down. Much of this is due to giving yourself permission to eat garbage. Beverage calories are equally as bad. A glass of wine with dinner or a beer with your friends is not going to kill you, but drinking several sugary or alcoholic beverages each week requires excess action in the liver. This same liver is responsible for assisting in the management of glucose during a long run. Suffice it to say, you do not want to burn the candle at both ends when it comes to your liver.
Some ideas for healthy food options for the ravenous stages of training are:
2. Only Running, No Cross training. Running is a forward moving, cyclic motion. If we do not strengthen our bodies in various motions, and specifically target muscles that do not fire as readily during running, our bodies will become unbalanced and leave us susceptible for injury. Runners tend to think they they have a strong core simply from running. This is a myth. You simple have to engage in core exercises in order to strengthen the core muscles-this includes all four layers of abdominals, the gluteal muscles, and the hip rotator muscles. Weight training, Pilates, Yoga, and plyometric exercises are all incredible helpful methods of exercising to strengthen the body. If you are unfamiliar with using Yoga as a method of building strength, then I highly recommend that you check out a Vinyasa Flow class. This is an incredibly athletic form of yoga, and requires control and stability.
Pilates workouts for runners can be found here:
3. Not getting enough sleep. This may seem obvious, but often times even though we feel tired, we do nothing about it. Often marathon training requires waking up earlier than usual in order to cram in the weekly required mileage. Sleep time slowly but surely gets chipped away at in the morning, but often bed time remains the same. We live busy lives, we have things to do and some folks have late night television to watch. Week by week one slowly turns into a zombie and the people in our lives start counting down the days until this god-forsaken marathon is over so that we return to normal again. Not a good system of operation considering the amount of strain that the actual running places on our bodies! Be weary of chipping away too much at your sleep hours. 6-8 hours is the recommended dose, and every person has different requirements. Daily life is not going to roll out a red carpet and give way for a training cycle so it requires mindfulness about finding rest, and maintaining proper sleep hours.
4. Under training. There is a sinking feeling (nausea too) when pinning on a race bib and approaching the starting line of a race that you know you didn’t prepare well for. Whether it was an injury, a busy schedule, or lack of desire, things can get in the way and result in under training for a race. Day to day interference such a sick kid, a meeting ran late, etc. may be difficult to make up later. Some ideas are to engage in some form of aerobic activity that day so that it’s not a complete loss. Skier jumps, running in place, star jumps, burpees, jumping jacks, whatever you can do to ensure that your body gets something out of the day.
5. Over training. Many sports physiologists feel that true over training is generally only present in elite athletes who push their bodies to maximum levels on a daily basis. It can pop up in the amateur crowd, but often times the symptoms are due to the above mentioned poor nutrition resulting in a sense of fatigue, malaise, and loss of focus. There are many different training philosophies and plans out there, some requiring running 6 days per week, some only 3. The 3 day training program argues that less is more because it focuses on quality and form, and allows for full rest of the body. I personally have followed this plan for the past 2 years and have found it to be a perfect match for my body and my schedule. I feel much better on runs and it allows me the time to cross train which inevitable has lead to healthier and injury free racing seasons. More information about this plan can be found at Runner’s World here : http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/less-more-marathon-plan?page=single.
There you have it, common mistakes made and easy fixes for a fantastic racing season. Cheers to marathon time! Is anyone running Boston this year?
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Make your day great,