Wow! heading into week 8 already! WEEK 8! Go me! These past 8 weeks haven’t just been about full on running though which has been both a relief and a surprise!. The whole Zero2Hero crew have been learning about nutrition (Read: The best time to eat cake) and hydration (Read: the best time to drink wine) and a few additional and surprising things along with way.
So! if you’re thinking about training for a marathon here are the 26.2 (see what I did there!) things that I’ve learned so far!
- Hydration – It’s all about the water people! 2 litres of water a day including 30 ounces of non fizzy sports drinks per day. This is actually the most difficult thing on earth for me – if it’s not coffee or wine then it’s not a “fluid” in my book, however! this water stuff actually pushes toxins out of your body and rehydrates muscles – pretty essential if you want to keep plodding so make the effort, it’ll be worth it and then you can have guilt free wine!
- Nutrition – Food is fuel, it is no longer something to be enjoyed, it is something to sustain you whilst you plod. Breakfast is no longer just breakfast. It is now essential fats on a bed of low GI carbs with additional vitamins and minerals! Nutrition deserves its own page so as soon as I’ve got my head around good fats, bad fats, blood sugars, insulin, how to eat cake / drink wine (delete as appropriate) whilst training I’ll let you know!
- Running with ID – If like me, your head tells you you’re capable of running 10k but your body has other ideas, you should probably take some ID with you. This will help our lovely ambulance service to not only identify you quickly but will enable them to notify your next of kin!. Most people run with their phones glued to their arms so at the very least have someone you know plugged into your phone with I.C.E (In case of Emergency) in front of their name.
- Trainers – So I had a little surprise in store with this one. Apparently the most expensive thing out of all of your running gear has a shorter life expectancy than your weekly bottle of wine! I know! shocking right! Your trainers will only last for approx. 400 – 500 miles depending on how you run, your weight, surface etc. If, when you look at the bottom of your trainers, you see that the tread has already gone then you should have changed your shoes a long time ago!
- Squats – are our friends! they help improve knee stability, glutes and overall muscular strength. So keep saying it with me folks “Squats are our friends, squats are our friends, squats are our … ” who am I trying to kid. Squats are shit BUT they do work and if you mix it up and throw in a couple of lunges who knows! soon you too could have a butt like Kim Kardashian!
- Strapping – It goes without saying that the next most important thing, after trainers, for women, is a decent sports bra. Did you know that if you aren’t strapped down enough ladies, then this could put your balance off whilst running. It’s never a good look falling over whilst plodding but it’s even worse when you have to explain that your unleashed boobs knocked you off balance. Men also need to ensure their “little man” is well and truly tucked away too. Possibly more embarrassing than a topple due to unleashed boobs, is a surprise appearance from the little fella down under swinging and swaying like a crazed trapeze artist so tuck it away and make sure he stays there for the duration of the run!
- Boobs – Boobs have muscles – who knew! I’ve mentioned above that it’s important to strap down your bits – women need a good sports bra that is comfortable but holds you firmly in place and whilst it’s totally humiliating, it’s a good idea to jump up and down to see how supportive your bra is before you buy one. Men – wow, I have seen some proper damaged nipples over the last few weeks… let me re-phrase that – I haven’t actually SEEN the damaged nipples but following an hours run in the rain, one of our Zero’s managed to give his green running club t-shirt 2 blood-red “go faster” stripes and looked like he may have been in need of a total blood transfusion! So fellas, if you need to, don’t suffer! there are specially designed nipple covers to ensure you don’t go through this embarrassing yet painful moment ever again! So don’t be macho about it, get those nipples covered
- Stance – We have learned how we should be holding our arms. Apparently pocket to socket at a 90 degree angle is correct, flapping arms around like a chicken is incorrect. Also arms should never cross the middle of your body so Rocky! you’ve been doing it all wrong since your very first film.
- Breathing – Chest breathing or belly breathing – who knew there was a difference. Apparently a “heaving chest” is less efficient than belly breathing – thank god I have 2 belly’s right now!. If you can try to get into a nice breathing rhythm, something like 2 breathes in, 2 puffs out in time with your feet, then this will help you stay relaxed, bring your shoulders down and get you into a nice comfortable talking pace (or singing pace as I do).
- Strength training – more squats, lunges, more core work such as Pilates, I’m afraid there’s no getting away from it. Running is sometimes more about the strength than it is about the cardio. The stronger you are, the more efficient your running and the further you’ll be able to go. So once more folks, repeat after me …. “Squats are our friends ….”
- Running in the rain – is fab! Running in a 30 degree heat is horrible. You can’t breath, you sweat buckets, your vest top becomes glued to your skin and everything is hard work. When the temperature gauge hits 30 ish just grab yourself a glass of wine and go sit in the garden. Lets face it, the British summertime is short – why waste it running when you could be relaxing.
- Loop backs – On a Tuesday evening you will see a bunch of people dressed in green plodding through the Milton Keynes countryside (we’re not just about roundabouts and concrete cows you know!). We have varying abilities and varying speeds so our coach puts in a couple of loop backs which means we run to the back of the group and around the tail runner. It’s a great way of increasing our mileage and ensuring we all stay together. However, these loop backs only work when the person at the front listens to the Coach. If you don’t listen to the coach, you’ll get lost and add an extra mile to your training plan! And if you really piss your coach off, she’ll shove in an extra mile anyway so the moral of the story is ….. listen to your coach!
- Increasing mileage – The basic rule of thumb is to increase your mileage by no more than 10% per week so if you run 10 miles throughout the week, you should aim for 11 miles the following week. You then run, eat, sleep, recover, repeat until you’re at your required distance. Easy!
- Stretching – Stretching after your run is so very VERY important. Stretching before a run is not good – your muscles are cold and could be torn quite easily, however if you stretch after your run, holding each stretch for a minimum of 15 seconds, this will help you cool down, bring your heart rate back down and reduce the risk of stiffness and injury
- Decent nights sleep – Getting enough rest should be part of your training plan. When your body is tired, its more prone to injury so get yourself a good nights sleep!! And if someone could let my 3 yr old know this, I would be eternally grateful
- Look after your feet – I’m not a massive fan of feet. In my opinion feet should remain hidden inside shoes or trainers all year round and sods law says that you’re bound to have lost a toenail by the time Welly weather becomes flip flop weather. Having said that it is so important to look after your feet. Any issues with your feet can change the way you walk or run which has the knock on effect of changing your gait which could lead to injury. So what better excuse is there to head on down to your local salon and have a full on foot massage with a pedi thrown in for good measure! And if you need to – find yourself a good podiatrist!
- Massage aids – oh-er missus, although I am talking about foam rollers or massage balls. Invest in them and you’ll never regret it!
- Strava – And any other running app that measures your distance, speed, what you had for breakfast etc.- don’t become a slave to it!. It’s a fantastic way of motivating yourself and tracking your progress but the moment you have a bad run (see below) it totally blows your motivation to get off the sofa. This piece of advice is coming from someone who hasn’t moved off the sofa in 2 days! so don’t let it ruin your love of running. Leave the gadgets at home one day and see how much fun you can have without it.
- Bad runs – there is no such thing as a bad run. You’re out there lapping all the people on the sofa. So it wasn’t as fast as last weeks run, it didn’t feel as comfortable, your legs were tired, you couldn’t control your breathing – these are not bad runs! these are learning experiences. Learn from it, file it and move on.
- Endurance – refers to your ability to exert yourself or remain active over a period of time It also refers to your ability to withstand fatigue, stress or pain. Endurance training helps improve cardiovascular, respiratory and muscular endurance during any aerobic or anaerobic exercise. Thank you to Coach Portia!
- 80/20 Rule – for us Zero’s we are only just beginning this marathon journey so our general rule at week 8 is 80% food (that’s ‘clean’ food not burgers and cakes!) and 20% exercise – apparently this will change over time but I kinda like this ratio – this is my happy place!! Apparently we need to train to support our goals and eat to support our training because we can’t out train poor diet and nutrition. Actually – that does make pretty good sense.
- Support – Training for a marathon requires support, emotional, physical and mental support. If you’re going to embark on a journey as big as this make sure you’re family are on the journey with you. If they’re not then you may need to consider if this is the right time for you to be taking this ride.
- Running buddies – find one! There will be days you just don’t want to un-stick your backside from the sofa or days when you watched your running mojo get run over by a 10 tonne lorry. Don’t let these odd days ruin your training! Find yourself a running buddy and just go for a “no pressure plod” with them to get you back on track.
- Running Clubs – I have to be honest, to the outside world a running club can be seen as being cliquey, competitive, full of fit people and quite frankly terrifying! I know that’s what I thought when I rocked up to the Redway Runners beginners class in January. I remember sitting in my car with the heating on full blast wondering how I could convince myself to get out of the car. Its scary stuff walking up to a group of strangers and even scarier running with them. By the end of that first session there wasn’t a hope in hell I was ever coming back – until the next week!. Out of morbid curiosity I made it back the next week and the next week until there ya go! I was running for 5 mins with a bunch of strangers I would happily call my friends / running family. So fight the fear and do it anyway! the support, encouragement, laughter and wine/cake you get out of it is worth the 10 minutes of fear.
- Bling! – oh yeah baby! I only run for the bling, well not quite but it’s a great reminder of how far you’ve come and something to show your kids when they become teenagers who won’t leave their bedrooms – “look kids! mummy can still move even though I’m old!”. I guess the question that now needs to be answered is “How long is it OK to wear your medal after a race” only after the race? the rest of the day? the next 2 days? or never?
- Consistency – This is key to progressing. It is better to run 3 small runs a week than 1 big run and then nothing for a couple of weeks. Did you know that a new study shows that when runners reduce their activity by 80% for 14 days, they lost muscle mass, put on a bit of timber and were unable to run as far or as fast by the end of the 2 weeks. (that nugget of information is courtesy of Runners World)
And finally the home straight! …
26.1 You will become obsessed.
26.2 You will lose friends and family through your obsession … but hopefully you will find other more like-minded friends on your running journey.
Apologies for the long post!! I think us Zero2Hero’s have learned a heck of a lot over the last 8 weeks and for those who think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, think again!