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Carb Loading, Energy Gels & Refuel Meals: Marathon Runner’s Nutrition Guide

Guest Blog by: Veronika Larisova

Introducing the awesome nutrition team at Chief Bar headquarters! They have compiled this the first of three articles for us on fueling for your marathon – specifically for Melbourne Marathon as we rapidly approach it! Thanks guys!!

Signing up for a marathon can be daunting, even for the most seasoned runners. The idea that you’ll be running 26 miles or 42.2 kilometers is mind-boggling in itself, let alone the sheer volume of training and nutrition information that’s now available. What do marathon runners eat? How should you fuel your training? What do you eat before and after a run? We’ve enlisted the help of ultra-marathon runner, nutritionist and co-founder of Chief Nutrition to help us cut through the confusion!

We know that adopting a whole-foods approach to your diet is extremely beneficial for longevity and overall health. However, typical ‘running fuel’ includes things like energy gels, cereal bars and jelly beans which are loaded with refined sugar and artificial ingredients. So why are we told to stock up on these artificial, processed and high sugar snacks when training for an endurance event?

Much of the advice in magazines and online is either out-dated or based on (old) scientific literature aimed at elite athletes. To put this into context, think about the mobile phone you had 20 years ago and compare it to your smart phone today – that’s how quickly science progresses! The same concept applies to nutrition, you wouldn’t use your ancient ‘brick’ phone today so why follow 20-year old nutritional advice?

The simple answer to all nutrition questions and concerns is that a healthy, balanced diet is always the way to go. Supplements should be used to complement a healthy diet, not to substitute real food. However, there are a few tricks and rules you can apply to maximize your performance and recovery on the big day!

CARB LOADING
To carb load or not to carb load? This is the main question I get asked by race runners. Whether you are running 10km, a half marathon, or a marathon, you need to increase carbohydrate intake to fuel your training, racing and recovery… but you only need to ‘carb load’ for a full marathon. Carb loading for a 10km run or half marathon will not hugely impact performance and making a habit of over-eating carbohydrates can lead to unwanted weight gain.

Carb loading should not be treated as a ‘’free pass for binging on sugary junk food! The idea behind carb loading is to increase the % of carbohydrates in your diet, while maintaining the same energy intake. This means you’re still consuming the same number of calories but with a higher proportion of the calories coming from carbohydrates and less from fat and protein. This process can begin a few days prior to your race in order to maximize your muscle glycogen stores. It’s actually possible to gain fat while training for a marathon if you eat more than your body actually requires (for training and recovery) on a daily basis, so be mindful of the quality and quantity of your carbs.

The Sports Dietitians Australia has some valuable tips on carbohydrate loading – here.

RACE DAY NUTRITION

The main goals of your pre-race meal are to top up your glycogen stores and to optimise hydration levels. The Melbourne Marathon kicks off at 7am, which is pretty early considering you’re probably not going to wake up at 2:30am to have a ‘proper’ breakfast four hours before the race. In this case, it’s smarter to have a light, low fibre carbohydrate-rich snack 1-2 hours before the race.

Snack Ideas:
• 1-2 rice cakes with peanut butter and few banana slices on the top
• 1 standard cup chia parfait (recipe below)
• A Chief Collagen bar + a banana
• Half of regular size smoothie with almond milk (to prevent any stomach upset caused by lactose in regular milk), honey, a banana and fruit of choice.
• ½- 1 cup oats/porridge with honey and banana
• Homemade (you guessed it!) banana bread

Chia Parfait
I like to make my Chia Parfait in an empty jar because you can see all the colourful layers so it looks tempting and delicious!

Ingredients:
• 4 tbsp chia seeds
• ½ cup almond milk
• ½ cup fresh berries
• ½ sliced banana
• 25-50g low fat natural yoghurt (if you can tolerate it)
• 1 tsp honey
Method:
• Put the chia seeds in the jar and top up with almond milk
• Let it all soak in the fridge for few hours or over night
• Place a layer of banana on the top
• Add 1cm layer of yoghurt and little bit of honey
• Add a layer of berries
• Add a layer of yoghurt and rest of the honey
• Leave in the fridge for the morning.
• If you are travelling take it with you and eat 2 hrs prior to race.

Liquids
Coffee lovers can have a black coffee but be sure to re-hydrate by sipping on water until the race starts. Avoid drinking large volumes of water before the race – your body won’t be able to absorb it and you’ll end up needing the toilet, which could risk impacting your time and PB efforts! Our body can assimilate only about 500ml of water per hour (unless it’s super-hot and humid). So drinking 500ml in one go is just going to go straight through you even if you don’t drink anything else in the next hour…keep sipping!

Gels
Gels and energy drinks do play their part in fuelling for races and very long training runs (those that last over 90min). However, if you’re typically sat at a desk all day and then go for an hour-long jog, you definitely don’t need energy gels and an extra sandwich.

If using gels when racing, you should have one gel (or 30-60g of carbohydrate) every 40-60 minutes to prevent muscle fatigue and to maintain pace and cognition. There are many gels on the market that can cause gastrointestinal upset so it’s a great idea to practice taking gels on your long runs. Choose the most natural gels, as too many chemical additives are bad for your health and more likely to cause stomach issues. You can use wholefoods instead of gels; just stick to easily digestible carbohydrate-rich options with minimal fat, fibre and protein (as these can slow down digestion).

Standard sports drinks located at aid stations throughout an event usually contain around 6% of carbohydrates and will help to meet carbohydrate and fluid needs simultaneously.

RECOVERY NUTRITION

Running at high intensity, or for a prolonged period of time, depletes glycogen stores so consuming a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack soon after finishing will help to maximise your recovery and prevent injury or burn out.

In addition to carbohydrates, the recovery meal or snack should include around 20-25g of high quality protein (for efficient muscle repair) and some healthy fats (to further assist in reducing inflammation). Inadequate protein intake hinders the recovery process resulting in prolonged muscle soreness (‘DOMS’ for days), fatigue, delayed ability to return to training, and increased injury risk.

Fluids are essential for rehydration and to replace water in the body, lost through sweat. Sodium is also lost through sweat, with endurance athletes typically losing >2% of body mass during training and racing. Insufficient dietary sodium causes muscle cramps, inability to properly hydrate and restore electrolyte balance post-event and it also leads to increased risk of hyponatremia. Pass the water!

Besides covering the macronutrient and hydration needs, a good post- long run snack should contain iron, vitamin B12 and salt.

Iron is a key factor in aerobic capacity and iron deficiency, even without anaemia, can impair endurance performance. Iron is lost not only through sweat but also via gastrointestinal bleeding and due to haemolysis (red blood cell damage) caused by the impact of each foot strike when running. Furthermore, the ability to absorb iron is reduced after endurance event as a result of hormonal regulation. The best way to replace iron in this case is through animal foods as animal iron (haem) is better absorbed than non-haem iron.

Nutrient-rich wholefoods are always your best option. Processed foods are often low in nutrients and high in various pro-inflammatory additives such as: trans-fats, sugar/artificial sweeteners, flavour enhancers, sulphites, nitrites and other nasties. If you don’t have time or don’t like to eat too many meals per day, aim to plan your training sessions around meal times so that you can use main meals to promote recovery after training.

So, how can we put all of this advice into practice? Here are some of the best recovery meals:

• A big salad or veggie bowl with two eggs and a high-quality carbohydrate such as sweet potato, quinoa or brown rice. You can choose to replace the eggs with fatty fish such as salmon.
• A veggie omelette for a quick meal (remember to add some starchy veggies!)
• Some plain yoghurt with fresh fruit, nuts and tiny bit of honey if you have a sweet tooth.
• A smoothie with a good quality protein powder and some good fats (avocado, nut butter or nuts).
• A salad sandwich with chicken or tuna – only if you are remote and can’t create and buy any of the above.

Hopefully that clears up some of the questions and concerns you might have around marathon running and nutrition. The most important thing to remember on race day is to have fun. You’ve done the hard work, now it’s time to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy it!

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“M” Day

Ok, you know me enough by now to know that I am a seriously crap liar….

I’m going to level with you here… seeing the “M” word laid out in my run plan terrified me, in fact, it pretty much made me poop my pants (every runner’s nightmare I know….). It is a far less scary word when it is accompanied by another one starting with “H”. Ironically, I read that and remember a little too clearly when that combination of words terrified me as well.

If you haven’t worked it out yet, I am talking about a Marathon distance yep the entire 42.2 (or if you are being super fussy 42.195 something or other km’s versus a Half Marathon.

Yet as much as it terrified me there was that word staring back at me from my plan. I couldn’t escape it.

The worst part is I shouldn’t have been surprised. With the entire run goal for me being to see how far I can run in one stint and not die it was kind of inevitable. However, there it was in print and it filled me with that sick, butterflies in the gut, super odd fascination and dread feeling. I can’t explain it. Other than saying it was the sheer distance that freaked me. Time doesn’t bother me. If someone said you must go out and run for 8 hours I would be like ok, take it slow and steady you’ve got this. For some reason though the thought of actually making a prescribed distance that I haven’t run before kind of chills me to the core.

They (including my coach) say that you should set goals so big it terrifies you, well this certainly fits with that. So, it must have been the right thing for me to set my sights on.

Taking a deep breath and just taking it one training session at a time was what was going through my head. This was only after my freak out mind you. It’s totally ok to freak out, reboot and tackle the elephant one bite at a time. If you are like me sometimes you need to remind yourself of that.

My longest distance prior to this training plan in one stint was around 25kms and it filled me with such a super buzz that the goal was born. That little voice on my shoulder kept saying, that was awesome, how much further can you go?

In putting my trust in my coach (Chris, Go Run Australia) (let’s face it he is a top bloke, he likes ice cream and is just as crazy as I am, so how could I not), myself (a little harder to do) and the plan I set off on one hell of an adventure!

Some sessions seriously sucked. You must keep in mind that I am a serious diesel engine (I very frequently refer to my standard pace as Turtle pace). It takes me a while to warm up, I run for the pure joy of it and this body is not built for serious speed (think hare like). I am ok with that and have become exceptionally ok with that fact. I have learned not only is this a weakness for some it is one of my greatest strengths. I don’t give up easily and I have a lot of mental arsenals to work with.

I also love to run hills, a lot. Yep sometimes I hike them, but that’s awesome too. I just want to get to the top in the best shape I can. I also enjoy those sessions where you are hurting more than you thought you could and your heart and lungs want to land on the pavement (or in my case trail) in front of you. Pain makes me wary, it doesn’t scare me. One of my favourite Ultra Runner quotes is “It only hurts up to a point” and for me, it’s spot on. You can only experience so much physical pain then things change. The psychology behind this is super interesting, but so not what this blog is about.

So as the sessions stretched on, the general training runs got longer, my excitement growing in tandem with my frustration. You see a lot of the training was done one semi-flat ground and not super big hills (which I LOVE the challenge of). A LOT, no scrap that, most of this cycle and build was completed using a very low heart rate. What did this mean? Basically, I had to run and keep my heart rate at, but preferably below, a predetermined rate. These sessions seriously killed me. They were just so amazingly frustrating!!! My head was screaming at me the entire time to RUN and my watch was beeping at me the whole freakin time telling me to slow my heart rate meaning my pace needed to decrease.

That was tough with a capital T. To get my head around this was one of the hardest things about my training. To trust this process at times was pretty much impossible. Sometimes I even questioned what the hell I was doing. I just wanted to run….

One run though it seemed to just click, one of those super rare, magical, run forever sets. This diesel engine wasn’t fast by most runner standards but, the ah-ha moment happened. It felt easier… It felt easier to keep my heart rate down, to take each step, to keep a good pace. Low and behold Mr Garmin even agreed with me! It was marginal, but there was a clear increase in my pace per kilometre. This was my turning point. I could trust the process again, why? Because I could start to see my body responding. When I had that breakthrough, my mind responded too and with renewed vigour, we tackled each set, some good, some super ugly, but all with purpose, and most with a triumphant grin from ear to ear. That little voice continued to talk to me tempting me on, eager to push, some sessions sated it, but it would always come back.

Wobbles, yep I had multiple, the worst being at the end of my seriously tough 30km training run. Yep, that crappy milestone…. Longest run to date and this little Diesel Turtle couldn’t celebrate I just felt empty depleted and that is where the little voice turned. It turned NASTY. With only a few weeks to go until “M” day, my mind started to let me down. I put it out there in the big wide world and you know what? The support I got from my run family was AMAZING!! Every single one of them had been at this point before and each one had the wisdom to give me and I was in awe of every single one of them! This was what spurred me on and kicked that shit voice off my shoulder, this amazing network of support, of people I consider my family, this thawed me out and melted my heart in such an amazing way. With renewed bounce (not too bouncy we can’t waste energy when we run with too much height 😉). This venting and talking through also enabled me to formulate a mental plan and a game plan for the day.

This week was the week my little Diesel Turtle voice and I had an in-person catch up with the coach. This was the serious icing on the cake from the talk through a few days earlier with everyone else. I got to get rid of my demons. Together we laughed, talked about the process, what was good, what was improving, interesting things of note and best of all a solid game plan for “M” day.

Armed with all this knowledge and serious game plan I threw myself into the last couple of weeks of training (gently of course, couldn’t risk an injury!).

This is when my inner voice and the little shoulder voice started to get excited. We knew with the amazing amount of support we had we were going to do it. This is where my mind shifted, and, in my head, I knew it would be achieved that the entire 42.2km’s would be done. It was also at this point I could hear that little voice over my shoulder starting to ask, “What’s next?”. Note to self this is not the best point to start asking your coach that same exact question lol.

I smashed out the longest run in the plan of 34kms and was just seriously excited. This was my icing on the training and I couldn’t wait for the event. I was tired when I finished the 34km, I mean who wouldn’t be that’s a hell of a long way when you haven’t run that far before! But I was happy, excited, feeling strong and seriously driven!

As per the coach’s wise words and awesome knowledge we “freshened me up” before the event with a real-life taper! What a crazy space of time that is!

Then I blinked and “M” day was here! I was so super excited!!! With a few of my buddies running Western States in the US the same day, I was seriously pumped. I think I even managed about 3 hours sleep.

I was so happy it was with my Trail Family in Trails Plus the Tan Ultra event. We got there early to help set up and get organized and all I wanted to do was run. I literally felt like I was jumping out of my skin! As the day started to buzz and runners started to arrive the adrenaline and internal excitement grew. So many runner friends and family starting to arrive, say hello and help keep the pump up going it was AWESOME!

Before I knew it was pre-race briefing and then seriously shortly after that it was line up time and then GO!

And my Diesel Turtle legs and I were off! The funny part…. The race plan was to run the entire event with a low heart rate as much as possible! I could increase it as I ran up Anderson Street, yep up it not down. So very quickly I proudly took up the position at the back of the pack. Remembering that my strategy was to walk at two points in each loop (yep I ran 11 consecutive loops of Melbourne’s Tan Track, plus a little bit to make up the official distance 😉) for a minute to recover, take on nutrition and tackle the next segment.

Steadily and surely each segment was tackled. With each loop I saw more and more of my run family out on course and around the track cheering, laughing, encouraging and just being awesome. At the end of each loop at party table central (also known as aid stations!) my nearest and dearest, including my coach, who we know is just as nuts as I am, were there to cheer, support, feed and refuel me then give me a swift kick up the butt to get me going again. I was only allowed to stop for what seemed like the blink of an eye.

On and on I went, and round and round. Somewhere after loop 2 (yeah on loop 3) I totally forgot how many laps I had done! I am sure it isn’t just me that can’t keep track! I think I drove everyone nuts asking each loop what number I had just done, but seriously 10 meters after that, I had already forgotten!

The middle three laps sucked. I just couldn’t get my heart rate down. It was erratic and high and this stressed me. I got to speak to Chirs (aka Coach) at the end of these laps and he just looked at me and said it’s all good. Just Breathe!

Serious words of wisdom. Next lap and from then on, my heart rate was under control. I new in my head, my heart and my freakin toes I had this.

I had some amazingly dear people join me out on course for laps and little bits and was looped and lapped more times than I could keep count of but each time the cheer, excitement and encouragement was AMAZING!! With each interaction my smile grew, my head buzzed (or maybe that was the caffeine and sugar), and my feet moved easier.

One of my dearest run buddies (another member of the S Team) came into town specially to run parts of the loops with me and my heart swelled. My run twin joined me on one of the later laps proclaiming that for the rest of the event I was going to be stuck with herself or the awesome George for the rest of the run, this made me happy right down to my toes.

I laughed, cried (I swear they weren’t sad tears!!), talked, ran, walked, ate, drank, frowned, sighed and just excitedly continued to put one foot in front of the other for each one of those darn 42.2kms.

As I rounded that last corner and saw the crowd of people (seriously there was a crowd!!! Just for me!!!) I turned to mush! I swear my heart exploded with joy and the stupid grin on my face grew wider and wider. As the cheer started to emerge from these amazing people that have waited for me to finish, that have supported me and helped me get there this Diesel Turtle managed to find some Turbo Turtle pace to finish with a famous Team George sprint finish!

They say the emotions you feel through a marathon are wide and varied. They are right. But EVERYTHING pales in comparison to that buzz and joy of crossing that line. To the pure heart warming specialness of my run family that cheered, joined me out on course, encouraged, coached, inspired and just plain out helped me get there I am in awe of every single one of you and each and every one of you means the world to me, thank you!

The fact that all those (well almost everyone) that are special to me could be there. That I could do this at a Trails Plus event, for those that I spoke with in the build up and on the day that couldn’t be there in person, with my coach on site and my run family, my seriously supportive but long-suffering hubby, I couldn’t ask for more you guys are amazing and mean the world to me! THANK YOU!!!

They also say that you will always remember your first. They are right. I won’t forget this one.

The interesting part…. The most amusing part…. That little voice over my shoulder is already there asking the question…. What’s next?

This leaves one question for me. Who’s in for the next adventure?

Sa x

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42 Random Thoughts as I Build for a Marathon

A lot of you will know that I am currently in build phase for my first marathon in a little over two weeks, yep the shit is getting real people. Because of this my training is starting to really be awesome and tough all in one. I have started keeping stock of all my random thoughts while I run and that I have to do with my running. I wonder how many of these you will have thought as well at some point during your training!
To give you some context on some of the points below I run at strange hours. It is not uncommon for me to go for a run at 9pm at night or in the middle of the day. To give you further insight I normally run in my trail vest – I feel seriously naked without it, and when I run at dark I always run with my Glimmer Gear and a headlamp. My neighbours are used to it, but strangers not so much….
So here goes….

42 Random thoughts I have had during the build phase for my Marathon.

1. Oh man why can’t the GPS signal just get a fix straight away.
2. Crap it’s cold.
3. Did I charge my headlamp?
4. When was the last time I charged my headlamp?
5. Oh, awesome song!
6. I hope that dog is on lead – Why is that dog not onlead!!!
7. I wonder if I give this runner a high five how weird that would be.
8. Where is that screaming kid?
9. Do I really need the loo?
10. Is that pizza?
11. Oh man it smells soooooo good!!
12. I am sooooo hungry!
13. How did this song make it on my playlist?
14. I should have worn less layers.
15. Ohh rain yay!
16. Yes Mr policeman it is just me randomly doing my long run at 10pm at night…. Nothing to see here except some crazy chick getting her km’s in.
17. Oh yeah awesome song!!! Turn up that volume!!!
18. Walk breaks should be dance breaks!
19. Food!
20. Yay 15 min food reminder – yummmmm
21. Is it Blok or actual food time?? I can’t remember, stupid runners brain.
22. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know my HR is out of the zone – I’m running up a god dam hill.
23. Where’s the nearest loo?
24. Oh man…. Yep pit stop needed aka emergency loo stop – just gotta make it to the loo so I don’t have to break out the emergency tissues!!
25. (as I walk into McDonalds, Bunnings or any facility with a loo) Yep I know I look super strange I don’t normally just walk around like this I promise, it is either I use the loo here of a soil myself….
26. What’s with the random stranger horn beeping – get a freakin life!
27. Crap clearly I didn’t charge my headlamp (as it’s flashed and gone into limp home mode….)
28. Shut up legs – we are not stopping
29. Come on channel your inner Dory – just keep swimming!
30. What is that noise? (random pack rattle/sound that just gets super irritating!!)
31. Crap forgot the chafing spray.
32. Thank god for the anti-chafe!
33. As I step into the shower after a run – AAAGGGGGHHHHH crap I forgot about the chafing!!!
34. Opps didn’t see that crack/bump as I almost fall flat on my face.
35. Look at the view!
36. How does the entire freakin route feel uphill?
37. This song sucks! SKIIIIIPPP!
38. Thank god for my buff.
39. I wish my nose would stop dripping.
40. Am I there yet?
41. Random pedestrian can you hog the path anymore???
42. Thank god for coffee…..

How many of these have you had at some point during your training?

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Is My Training Plan Right For Me?

Our awesome ambassador Kel has written the following article. I love it! It hits the nail right on the head. Remember if you need help or advice just ask we have an amazing network of people we can send you to for help 🙂

You can follow Kel’s road to marathon awesomeness on Instagram HERE.

Is my training plan right for me?

With nine weeks to go before the Australian Running Festival commences in Canberra we find most recreational runners are starting to get into the real meat of their training plans. These training plans are often free and sourced from the internet. They tend to be generic in nature and vary in duration from 12 – 16 weeks. These plans often relate to specific events such as the Canberra Marathon or City2Surf. They are often referred to in the industry as ‘spreadsheet’ training plans. On the other hand some runners will seek out a running coach for a specific plan for their event with additional guidance and support throughout their training. Which one are you?

I recently read an article from Runners Connect about the most common mistakes with training plans and it really resonated with me and my running journey. When I first started endurance running I searched the internet and found a number of free ‘spreadsheet’ training plans that I attempted to follow. They were easy to understand but weren’t very flexible when I had niggling injuries that prevented me for training that day or I was sick. I am also sure that they all had the majority of the following mistakes built into them.

Later on I sought out a run coach and have been following him blindly ever since, not truly understanding the purpose of my workouts, tweaking the pace and distance during workouts. I have made inroads into my fitness and also achieved PRs in nearly all my distances with the exception of the marathon. Running a good marathon still eludes me and I would say it has a lot to do with the faults mentioned below.

We are drawing closer to the start of the run season and most runners have had a few weeks of building into their plans. Now the real work begins for them. But when was the last time you really looked at your training plan? A real in-depth assessment of everything included in the plan including your workouts, the volume, and the paces. Do you understand the why? Why the author has you running that 8x 800m interval session? Why your tempo run is set at that pace? Why are you running those hill repetitions?

Understandably most recreational runners don’t need to know the intricate details and science behind their plan. After all they are not likely to be chasing a win but more likely doing this for fitness and fun or other personal reasons. There is no reason why you can’t make a ton of progress by just following along with the plan and not really understanding it. But you would like to hope that whoever wrote it surely understands.

Most ‘spreadsheet’ training plans will cover the necessary training principles of Overload; Progression, Reversibility and Specificity, but unfortunately they tend to suffer from a lot of the same mistakes. These mistakes are mainly tied to 1980’s physiology and a misunderstanding of the physiological demands of the race distance for runners like you. They are also very generic and don’t take into account your physical and training ages, training history, motivations and desired outcomes.

This blog focusses on four of the most common mistakes often found in spreadsheet training plans. As you read this, have a copy of your training plan open and see if you can spot any of these mistakes in your workouts.

FLAW 1: NO RACE SPECIFIC WORKOUTS

There are four principles of training and they are Overload, Reversibility, Progression and Specificity. The principle of specificity means that each training load produces its own specific response and adaptations dependant on the physiological stress encountered by the body. A training load must therefore be specific to the fitness objectives of each individual runner and their goal race.

As the name implies, race specific workouts means tailoring your workouts to the specific physiological demands of your race distance. Now, this might seem obvious – isn’t every workout in your training plan training you for the demands of the race, especially those plans written for the specific race like the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival marathon training plan for the Sydney Marathon? Well, not really. The difference between the physiological demands of commonly run race distances can be quite different. Certainly, there is some overlap between distances in close proximity, like the 5k and 10k, but there is a large difference between the specific demands of the marathon and half marathon.

It’s important to remember that when you’re in a race-specific phase of training (usually 4-6 weeks in duration and about 6 weeks prior to your event), your performances at distances outside your goal race range will suffer e.g. if your goal race is the marathon your 5k or 10k performances will drop.  Most runners forget this important lesson when they schedule tune-up races like 5ks and 10ks when training for the marathon or when trying to cap off a summer of 5k racing with a half marathon. The most obvious difference is the paces these events are run at, but also the different cardiovascular systems (aerobic or anaerobic) used.

There is a balance in training that gets ignored in the four to six week race-specific phase of training. You’re sacrificing overall running fitness for better results at one specific race distance. If you’re targeting the 5k, you’ll be gaining speed endurance, but losing fitness to your aerobic system and lactate threshold. Conversely, when training for the marathon, you’ll rarely be running faster than half marathon pace and you’ll be constantly tired, which means you’ll lose the speed and VO2max required to run a good 5k.

Targeting your training to one specific goal is crucial if you want to run your best on race day, but it’s also important to remember how the training will impact your overall running as well.

Let’s take the marathon for example.

The marathon requires you to (1) be very efficient at burning fat as a fuel source to; (2) conserve carbohydrates while running fast; (3) while doing so on very tired legs.

Now, let’s take a couple of workouts from popular marathon training programs = 6x 800m and 6x hill repeats. These workouts are what we call a VO2 max workout – you run at max speed for 2-4 minutes and then take an equal amount of rest in between intervals. Research demonstrates that an increase in VO2 max doesn’t increase fuel efficiency.  Likewise, VO2 max intervals don’t specifically develop or improve your aerobic threshold (ability to run at marathon pace).

Therefore, a workout like 6x 800 or 6x hill repeats during marathon training has limited benefit to your specific fitness. Now, it’s okay to have a workout like this sprinkled into your plan two or three times over a 16 week training cycle to break the monotony and spice up the legs. It is also not a bad idea to help build your speed, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you are only training a couple of days each week. The majority of you training week really needs to be specific to your race. Remember the purpose of this type of training is to help build your speed only and not increase your aerobic threshold.

How do you fix this?

Luckily, this fix is pretty simple – just swap out those workouts that aren’t specific to the demands of your race distance for those that are. Specific marathon workouts get a little tricky because it’s impossible to simulate the distance and intensity of the marathon in one run without actually running a marathon. The marathon requires you to be efficient at burning fat as a fuel source to conserve carbohydrates while running on very tired legs. Therefore marathon specific workouts are often a combination of workouts throughout a week that build up fatigue and require you to run with low glycogen levels as opposed to one specific workout. If you are not sure what to replace this with speak to a running coach who will be happy to help you.

A better training session would be something like the 2x 6 mile, which was made famous by runners at the Hansons Running Shop Olympic Development Project.  It involved a 1 mile (1.6 km) warm up followed by 2x 6 (10 km) miles @ 10-20 seconds faster than marathon pace with 10 minutes rest in between each set and is finished off with a 1 mile (1.6 km) cool down.

The purpose of this workout is to run at your threshold pace for a total of 12 miles (19 km), which will help you (1) increase your ability to burn fat as a fuel source when running at marathon pace; (2) practice running on tired legs; and (3) simulate the ‘dead leg’ feeling many marathoners experience after 18 miles (29 km). Likewise the goal of the 10 minute rest is to get your legs stiff, stagnant and uncomfortable to simulate how your legs will feel during the later stage of the marathon.

For most runners, not performing race specific workouts is the reason they feel like they are getting fitter and faster in training, yet fail to run their goal time on race day. Their training is getting them fitter, just not for their specific race. I have personally experienced this over the past few years that I have been undertaking endurance training and this is through no fault of my current running coach but mine as I have made all these fatal training plan mistakes.

FLAW 2: NOT ENOUGH EASY MILES

One of the most common problems that runners face when training is running the easy runs at the incorrect pace. I often hear comments like ‘how am I supposed to run fast on race day if I am running easy all the time?’ I am even guilty of saying this.

That’s because for most runners, about 80% of your training plan should be easy kilometres. But we tend to run closer to the moderate or hard for the majority of our training. This has a lot to do with runners ego.

These easy runs help target your aerobic system and aerobic development is the one true secret to training. It’s the key to unlocking your potential.

At the heart of aerobic and anaerobic training is the following science; to exercise, your body needs to break down sugar and convert it to glycogen, so it can be used as energy or fuel – like when you run easy miles with your friends and you can easily hold a conversation without feeling out of breath. Each time you breathe in, your body efficiently uses all the oxygen it needs to power the muscles, and you exhale out what your body does not need.

When the body has an adequate supply of oxygen for this process, we call it aerobic respiration. Aerobic exercise (also known as cardio) is physical exercise of low to high intensity that depends primarily on the aerobic energy-generating process. Aerobic literally means “relating to, involving, or requiring free oxygen”, and refers to the use of oxygen to adequately meet energy demands during exercise via aerobic metabolism. Generally, light-to-moderate intensity activities that are sufficiently supported by aerobic metabolism can be performed for extended periods of time.

When there is not enough oxygen, for example when you are running hard at the end of a 5k, this is called anaerobic respiration. Anaerobic exercise is short-lasting, high-intensity activity, where your body’s demand for oxygen exceeds the oxygen supply available. Anaerobic exercise relies on energy sources that are stored in the muscles and, unlike aerobic exercise, is not dependent on oxygen from (breathing) the air.

Each of these have difference effects on the body.

Sure, track workouts, VO2 Max sessions and tempo runs will increase your fitness and are still important to racing faster. However, nothing will consistently help you improve like developing the aerobic system.

Why is this?

In short, during any event longer than 5k, the aerobic system contributes more than 84% of the energy required to run the race. In the marathon, that number is 99%. That means to run your best at longer distances from 5k to the marathon (or longer) you need to fully develop your aerobic system.

So how do you develop the aerobic system? With slow, easy runs. And that’s why your plan should have lots of them!

Now take a look at your plan – are you doing the majority of your mileage at your easy pace? If not, here’s what you can do …

How do you fix this?

The fix here isn’t quite as easy as swapping our race specific workouts. My recommendation is to remove the intense workouts from your week until your ratio is 70 – 80% easy kilometres to 20 – 30% hard kilometres. That is of course unless your coach has you running a specific program, so it might be worthwhile checking with them as to why they have you running a higher ratio.

Add up your weekly mileage. Then add up the amount of mileage that is easy pace. Divide your total easy mileage by your total overall mileage. This number is the percentage you’re running easy.

I know removing hard and fast workouts seems to be a recipe for racing slower, but science proves otherwise. Recent research from Dr Stephen Seiler et al from the University of Agdar, Norway, backs up this methodology, finding that high volume; low intensity training stimulates greater training effects for recreational runners, in particular when using the 80/20 split of easy/hard training.

A conclusion backed up by the 2014 Salzburg study published in the Frontiers of Physiology; found that the concept of ‘polarized’ training demonstrated the greatest improvements. After a nine week training period, runners using the 80/20 easy/hard split had improved their ‘time to exhaustion’ by a whopping 17.4% and change in peak speed by 5.1%.

If you’d rather not remove workouts from your plan, another option is to add more easy mileage. Now, you might be scoffing at me, thinking if you add more kilometres you’ll likely end up injured. However, it is a common misconception among runners that increased mileage has a direct correlation to increase in injuries. This simply isn’t true. Mileage alone doesn’t cause injuries. Intensity, mechanics, strength and unintelligent training are far more likely to cause an injury than running easy mileage. Increase the mileage the smart way and you’ll be totally fine.

FLAW 3: NO ANCILLARY WORK (STRENGTH OR CROSS TRAINING) INTEGRATED INTO YOUR PLAN

A training plan is more than just the miles you run and the workouts you perform. It should include everything you need to make you a better runner. Ancillary work, like strength training and cross training, can help keep you healthy and make you a better runner – but not if they are just thrown on top of your running plan without regard for intensity, the phase of your training plan, and your specific weaknesses. For example, the mistake many runners make is performing their strength workouts on their easy, recovery or off days. The thinking behind this makes sense – you’re the most tired after hard workouts, so why push yourself even more by adding strength work on these days? But, we’re forgetting about the recovery aspect and the training plan as a whole.

If you were to perform harder strength workouts, especially anything that involves the lower body, on your easy running day the added stress and shortened total recovery time between workouts would detract from your body’s recovery ability. That’s why a good strength training plan needs to be tightly integrated into your running plan. Otherwise, you might be doing more harm than good.

Some good exercises that suit running and don’t cost a lot of money or require specific equipment from a gym are as follows:

  • Planks – Prop yourself up on your elbows with your feet slightly apart. Make sure your body is aligned, your abdominal muscles are tight, and shoulders are directly above the elbows and down and back, not hunched up. Hold this position for 45 seconds to one minute. Gradually add time as your core gets stronger.
  • Variations include – side planks to target the obliques; single leg planks; spider planks; mountain climber planks; and supine planks
  • Repetitions – 3 to 5
  • Muscles worked – core, lower back and shoulders

 

  • Russian Twist – Lie on your back with your upper legs perpendicular to the floor and your knees bent 90-degrees. Without changing the bend in your hips or knees, lower your legs to the left side of your body while keeping your shoulders in contact with the floor. Lift them back to the starting position, and repeat to the right side of your body. That’s one repetition.
  • Modification – to make harder, keep your legs straight
  • Repetitions – 10 to 12
  • Muscles worked – core

 

  • Scorpion – Get into push up position but with your feet on a bench. Raise your right knee toward your left shoulder as you rotate your hips up and to the left as far as you can. Then reverse directions, rotating your hips up and to the right, and try to touch your right foot to the back of your left shoulder (you won’t be able to do it). That’s one repetition. Continue for 30 seconds with your right leg, then switch legs.
  •  Modifications – to make it easier, do step one of the exercise, twisting in just one direction. To make it harder, instead of putting your feet on a bench, do the exercise with your shins on a stability ball.
  • Repetitions – As many as you can in 30 seconds
  • Muscles worked – Shoulders, Core

 

  • Back Extensions – Lie facedown on a stability ball with your feet spread wide for balance. Your elbows should be bent with your hands lightly touching the ground for initial support.
  • Squeeze your glutes and lift your torso up until your body forms a straight line. As you lift your torso, allow your hands to come off the ground, keeping your elbows bent. Extend your arms overhead. Hold for one or two seconds. Release your arms and then your torso back down to the start position. That’s one rep. Aim for 10-12. No stability ball? You can do the movement on an exercise mat: Raise your thighs and arms off the ground while your torso stays in contact with the ground.
  • Modifications – to make it harder, hold light dumbbells or some books if you don’t have access to dumbbells
  • Repetitions – 10 to 12
  • Muscles worked – lower back, glutes, middle back, shoulders

 

  • Squat to Overhead Press – Hold the kettlebell (or some other form of weight if you don’t have a kettlebell) with both hands in front of your chest. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Push your hips back, and lower your body into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Press the kettlebell above your head, and as you stand back up, return the kettlebell to the original position.
  • Modifications – Do the squat without the overhead raise by just keeping the kettlebell in the centre chest position for the duration of the exercise.
  • Repetitions – 10 to 12
  • Muscles worked – Glutes, quads, hamstrings, lower back, upper back, shoulders

 

  • Overhead Forward Lunge – Hold a pair of dumbbells (or some other form of weight if you don’t have a dumbbells) straight above your shoulders, with your arms straight and elbows locked. Step forward with your left leg, and lower your body until your front knee is bent 90 degrees. Return to the starting position, and repeat with your right leg. That’s one repetition.
  • Modifications – to make it easier, hold dumbbells at shoulder level
  • Repetitions – 6 to 8 (each leg)
  • Muscles worked – Quads, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, core

 

  • Stability Ball Jack-knife – Get into push up position but instead of placing your feet on the floor, rest your shins on a stability ball. Pull the stability ball toward your chest by raising your hips and rounding your back as you roll the ball forward with your feet. (if you don’t have access to a stability ball you can use any other sports ball such as a basketball or volleyball)
  • Modification – To make it easier, pull your knees as close as you can to your chest without lifting your hips into the air, and return to the starting position.
  • Repetitions – 10 to 12
  • Muscles worked – Shoulders, core

 

  • Stability Ball Leg Curl – Lie on your back on the floor, and place your calves on a stability ball. Extend your arms to your sides to help support and balance your body. Push your hips up so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Without allowing your hips to sag (keep with your body at all times), roll the ball as close as you can to your hips by bending your knees and pulling your heels toward you. (if you don’t have access to a stability ball you can use any other sports ball such as a basketball or volleyball)
  • Modifications – To make it easier, only do steps one and two, and skip the leg curl. To make it harder, do the exercise with just one leg, holding the other leg in the air above your hips.
  • Repetitions – 6 to 8
  • Muscles worked – hamstrings, glutes, core

 

  • Rotational Shoulder Press – Stand holding a pair of dumbbells just outside your shoulders, your palms facing each other. Press the dumbbells overhead as you rotate to your left. Lower the dumbbells as you rotate back to the centre, then rotate to the right as you press the weights upward again. That’s one repetition.
  • Modification – to make it easier, do half of the repetitions without the rotations.
  • Repetitions – 6 to 8
  • Muscles worked – shoulders, triceps, core

 

  • Alternating Row – Hold a pair of dumbbells (or any other weight available) at arm’s length in front of you, palms facing your thighs. Keeping your back naturally arched, bend at the hips and lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor. Keep your arms straight as you bend your hips so that the dumbbells hang straight down. Pull the dumbbell in your left hand by bending your elbow and raising your upper arm toward the middle of your back. Lower and repeat with your right arm. That’s one repetition.
  • Modification – To make it easier, perform the move with both hands at once (using both hands requires less core stability).
  • Repetitions – 10 to 12
  • Muscles worked – middle back, biceps, core

 

  • Calf exercises
  • Skipping – Jumping rope builds muscle while providing a cardiovascular workout. According to Muscle and Fitness magazine, the main muscle you work in a jump rope routine is your calf, but the exercise conditions most major muscle groups. Start by jumping rope with both feet for one minute. Work your way up to three minutes. Mix up your jump rope workout by trying crossovers and double passes.
  • Bounding on single leg – Stand on your right leg. Jump up, driving your left knee up. Use your arms to help propel you forward. Continue to jump forward, aiming to spend a very short time on the ground. Jump until you can’t maintain speed or distance, or no longer than 20 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
  • Next level: Try the triple tuck jump: Do three single-leg bounds on one leg, then jump to bring that knee to your chest. Land softly, and immediately perform another series of three bounds on the same leg. Repeat on the other leg.
  • Straight leg running –
  • Step 1: Find a flat stretch of road, trail or grass with trustworthy footing.
  • Step 2:Keeping your legs straight and your ankles dorsiflexed (toes pointing upward), run forward for 50 to 75 meters, landing on your mid-foot while not allowing your feet to come too high off the ground. Keep your torso straight, swing your arms to build speed and momentum, and focus on running with a quick turnover.
  • Step 3:Following your first repetition, recover for 30 seconds before heading back in the opposite direction. Perform two 50-meter reps, progressing to four as you build coordination.

 

Do these drills twice a week after easy runs and as part of a comprehensive warm-up routine before workouts and races.

  • Calf presses – Find a step 4 inches off the ground. Stand with the back half of your foot hanging off the step. Lower your heels 2 inches. Press up so that you are standing on the balls of your feet. Repeat 15 to 20 times to complete one set. Do two sets to complete the exercise. Personal trainer James “Flex” Lewis recommends pointing toes in to isolate the inner calf and pointing toes out to isolate the outer calf.
  • Lateral jumps – Lower slightly into a squat position and quickly jump to your left side, aiming to cover as much distance as possible. Land softly on your left foot and immediately jump to the right side. Continue until you cannot maintain speed or distance, or no longer than 20 seconds.
  • Power Mountain Climbers – Assume a push up position. Bracing your core, keep your upper body rigid while you alternate driving each knee forward as quickly as possible. Focus on keeping your core stable throughout the movement. Stop when speed decreases, or no longer than 20 seconds.

How do you fix this?

If you’re currently working from a plan that does not specifically assign you ancillary work in addition to running kilometres, my recommendation is to add to your training in the following way…

  • Your hardest, most running specific strength routines (like leg workouts) after your hardest workouts
  • Your medium effort routines (like basic core or hip routines) on your regular running days
  • Any preventative routines on your off or recovery days

I know that’s still even a little general, but it’s difficult to get specific without knowing your experience level or what distance you’re training for. If you do want something more specific and created for you, I would suggest speaking with a Personal Trainer at your local gym. If you have a running coach make sure the Personal Trainer liaises with your coach to ensure the strength training program supports your running plan. That way you get an exact routine prescribed to you based on your race distance and experience level added to your plan on the correct days.

I hope this was a great guide to help you better understand the current plan you’re using and to help tweak it to better suit some of the other challenges I know a lot of runners face when it comes to their training plan and race day. It has helped me to refocus on my own training plan and the weaknesses in my own training.

If you are interested in getting something customized to you and your running goals, we do have training plans available, with coaching at an affordable cost. Whether you are a Master’s runner tired of working with ‘spreadsheet’ training plans that don’t take into account you’re not 25 years old anymore or a beginner who is trying to run their first marathon and don’t know where to start, we can help you out with your own unique plan. Just send me a personal message through Instagram or Facebook @Austgrizz_Running

 

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I Run For Me

2017 was a year of amazing learning and realisations for me and the beginning of friendships that I know will last forever with some amazing people that are now considered family.

In 2017 I learnt that my legs, body and mind can run again. My own two feet can recover and run the distances that they were before anklegate and I now feel stronger than before. I learnt that I can train smarter and it’s ok to seek guidance, advice and help in your training.

In 2017 my one goal with my running was to simply enjoy it, stay injury free and get back to the distances I was doing before I destroyed my ankle and had the reconstruction at the end of 2016. At the start of 2017 I set a goal to run 1000km in the year… By the end of 2017 Mr Garmin tells me that I ran a total of 1,264.12km. I find that figure crazy, to just sit there and look at it knowing that my feet did every single one of those kilometres, some were easier than others, some were faster than others, but each on my two feet did, especially when I have only just started to inwardly call myself a runner!

I reflect on last year fondly knowing that I worked hard and feel so very lucky to have as part of that journey some amazing people in my life that are just as crazy as I am and that I can never see not being a part of it. There was real blood, sweat and tears involved in 2017.

There were more than a few times in 2017 that I was asked “what are you training for?” I always find this question strange…. In so many areas of my life I have set goals, I plan for them and make them happen. Running for me has never been about that. For me it is an escape, a de-stress, a timeout from the real world and my me time. I do it for me and only for me. I am not the fastest runner out there and I am very fond of my turbo turtle pace. My only goal with every run I have ever done is to finish and enjoy it (sometimes the enjoyment part doesn’t happen during the run, it is purely the fact that it finishes that causes the joy).

That is why this question puzzles me. I know the asker is expecting me to say a particular event or distance, but that isn’t my reason. My go to response now is “I am training for me”. In 2018 I plan to stop saying – scratch that – I will stop stating this as if it is an apology.

As my training approached the end of 2017 my coach (the poor guy, I think I drive Chris from Go Run Australia nuts!) wanted to know as always, if my goals had changed since the last training block. I normally state nope, goals still the same, enjoy it, improve and stay injury free. At the end of last year, I added another to the list. In 2018 I want to see how far I can run. Yes, I know this is open to interpretations and manipulations, but I want to see in one go how far I can safely and enjoyably run. I know it’s crazy and to be honest it scares the crap out of me, but it also excites the hell out of me, and isn’t that what all your goals should do???

I am excitrified (a mix of excited and terrified) about this goal. I do know that with Chris in my corner and the amazing mix of people that are now part of my family there is no doubt that I will be able to achieve some serious distance this year. As I begin the training a little part of my brain is starting to scream at me. This little part of my brain isn’t logical or even really all that nice….

My body has started changing along with the changes in training, and this makes that little nasty voice somehow stronger and somewhat meaner, and I am honestly not ok with it. I am not a skinny, tiny, petite or super feminine female (think the human equivalent of a staffy in the canine world) and when I feel good and strong I am totally at peace, happy and even proud of this and what my body can do! But, when this little voice starts to talk, and I am not feeling so on top of things it is hard not to listen and see the negative and that self-doubt and the dark and nasty body image stuff kicks in.

As my calf muscles grow and adapt so my feet can move me along the trail and the road for longer distances safely. As my quads and hamstrings increase in size and muscle mass so that I can sustain a pace and keep going for the distances I want to achieve. As my glute muscles increase in strength and consequently their size and shape changes to allow me to get to the top of hills easier and see the view and grin from ear to ear from the achievement and feel the crazy pounding of my heart as though it wants to climb out of my chest from the climb. As my core changes and adapts and its structure also changes to enable me to maintain a strong and stable base to move my legs from and carry a pack on back, this little voice starts to talk a little more and a little louder.

Because of all these changes my clothes don’t exactly fit like they used to. The logic part of my brain is excited by this. Logically it means that my body is adapting to the training and I can run further without feeling as drained as I once did, I am getting stronger!! The little dark and nasty voice though, grins at me sinister like from the dark recesses of my brain and makes me look at all these changes in a dark and shadowy hue. It makes me question my appearance and makes me feel uncomfortable about the way I dress and feel about myself, it even gets to the point where I look at my image and think to myself how the hell can I be a middle to long distance runner in this body….

So, what is MY goal for this year……

My goal for this year is to shine a light so freaking bright in my head that that little dark and nasty voice has no where to hide and do it’s bidding. This year I want to get rid of that dark, nasty twisted little voice and be so freakin proud of what my two feet and body can do and achieve REGARDLESS of what it looks like that I can’t help but wear the biggest freakin grin from ear to ear! If I am hot, you bet I will run in a crop and shorts. My promise to me is that I won’t hide anymore. I will not give that little dark, nasty, twisted voice a place to hide and gain power. I have always believed there is no such thing as a “runner’s body” I just need to shine it up in the biggest lights inside my head that I can so that little voice has no place to hide.

Here’s to 2018 being the year of the long run, the year of runner empowerment and the banishing of the little dark, nasty twisted voice and goals so big they are excitrifying!!!

Sa x

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Training as the Mercury Soars – How I Survive!

Tonight, in Melbourne it is a very balmy 35 degrees, or at least when I went for my run tonight at 6.30pm it was, the mercury is currently hovering around 29…. It makes for an interesting training session. On the plan for me, tonight was a 70-minute hilly trail or road set. I had my route relatively planned out, I was going to do a very similar route that I completed a couple of weeks ago in the same time set (notice that right here I am setting myself up to beat myself up as I can compare tonight to the last time which was in totally different weather!!).

The temperature made tonight’s run interesting. Given the heat I felt I had a few options:

  1. Stay home in the air conditioning and stretch or simply state it was too freakin hot to run (tempting, but I also knew that I would not be very happy with myself if I took this option)
  2. Head to the gym to run on the dreadmill in the air-conditioning (honestly, I seriously considered this… but getting my pace just right on the dreadmill sucks and it is so freakin booooorrrrrring!!! Besides I just wanted to be outside if I went, not stuck on the darn gym equipment for 70 mins tonight.
  3. Run the entire way and kill myself or worse collapse and end up in hospital – no thanks
  4. Trian smart – guess this was the best choice!

What did training smart entail for me tonight? Simply put, I dressed appropriately. I am not a skinny athlete. I am strong and robust, I refer to myself as a staffy, strong and powerful but certainly not svelte. I am ok with that, my body has achieved some amazing things and my body type is never going to look like the marathon runners you see on TV, so be it. I refuse to get caught up in that anymore I am going to celebrate what my body can do and what it can achieve. Keeping this in mind I dressed in my runners, socks and bra with a crop. I set my middle free and to be honest I only started doing this last year and it really is empowering to join the #sportsbrasquad. It should NEVER be about what we look like, only what we can do, regardless of what “society” thinks we should look like to achieve this!!! I am so very sick of that attitude!!

As I step down from my soapbox and get back to my original point….

I dressed appropriately, including a hat and buff to keep the sweat out of my eyes and mop it off my face. I waited until the real heat of the day had passed. I also made sure I had all the nutrition and hydration on board I could through the day to keep my safe. While I ran I took my vest with 2L of ice and water in a bladder, 1L of ice and electrolyte and chews and some baby food as well (yep I am trialling this as nutrition as I run, so far it’s working great! But more on that another time!!).

Yep, the pack was heavy, but I knew that no matter what I would be cool – the ice in the water helped keep my body temperature down – and I had hydration and electrolytes as I needed them.

I took off at super turtle pace and just took my time. Kept plodding one foot in front of the other. I took the first couple of hills at a super slow run pace and then I started to feel the heat getting to me. Instead of panicking and freaking out I just slowed it down. When it got to the hills I fast walked up them as much as possible and ran the flat bits and the downhills that I could. I kept up with my hydration and electrolytes and kept my body temperature down, so I didn’t overheat. I paid attention to my body and what it was telling me!!!

When I first started running I would have panicked and pulled the pin super early, so early in fact that I wouldn’t have even gone. Granted running tonight in that heat would not be the safe thing to do for everyone, I fully acknowledge that! I am just talking about me, my tactic and how I got through it. When my 70 mins were up I called hubby and he came and got me with an iced water face washer to cool me down and an air-conditioned car.

I played it smart tonight. I got the distance and time in my legs in tough conditions. I paid attention to my body and what it was telling me. I also had a contingency plan in that I knew I could call my pit crew at any point if I needed too. I dressed for the conditions and knew how to keep my body as cool as possible. I took more than I knew I would need out on my run with me in regards to hydration, electrolytes and nutrition in case the worst happened.

I want to be clear. I am NOT recommending that everyone trains like this! Today this is what worked for me and me alone.

My take away point from this is train smart!! Yes train hard, but don’t hurt or damage yourself in the process. You need to be smart about what you do. This includes having a plan but also being adaptable within that plan, something I am getting much better at!!

Take care out there this summer you awesome Glimmer Family. As a trail runner, there are so many hazards that can cross the path, from the need to carry hydration, nutrition and compression bandages, right through to sunstroke, heat stroke and the dreaded live sticks. No matter what the situation, be prepared for it, have a backup plan, be smart about the situation, listen to your body (some days are good, some just suck), but most of all be adaptable!!

Trian Hard, Train Safe,

Sa x

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The Rest Day – An Honest Look at Inner Turmoil

As I sit to write this post I wonder how many of its readers will relate and how many will just fob it off? That is a rhetorical question, but it is one of the many thoughts running through my brain at the moment.

There was a new addition in my last four week training plan that my amazing coach provided me and it is one of those things that fills a lot of us with dread…. To my horror and astonishment there in big letters on the Friday’s were the words “Rest Day”. This was noted with a statement of how important rest is as part of the plan, and honestly in the logic part of my brain I wholeheartedly agree. I fully believe that recovery and rest make up the vital part of your training. The rest of me though actively went crazy and stressed, but at the end of the day coach really does know best.

To really understand my inner turmoil at this ghastly Friday proposition you really need some background on me and my internal state, strap yourself in, it may not be pretty….

I have what people like to categorise as a Type A personality…. Outgoing, ambitious, rigidly organised, sensitive, impatient, anxious, proactive, overly concerned with time management and a workaholic. Team with this a super dose of perfectionism, clinical depression and anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, food issues, body image issues and an interesting childhood with a returned serviceman father with PTSD means my brain is generally a little on edge to begin with.

That’s great and all (well it isn’t really when things are bad, but you know what I mean), but what does this mean in regard to the rest days?

I use my running, my training and my work to escape all the inner demons, they help to burn off the crazy and control for me what is going on, they add a sense of calm to times that don’t feel so calm to me. I honestly can’t say if it is the endorphins, the routine or just the pure fatigue of the process or physical power that enables this to happen and honestly, I don’t really care, all I know is that it works and it helps and I LOVE my life, I LOVE who I have become because of it and who I will be. In refusing to allow my life to go backwards to the point where I am far too close to a very unhealthy for me 100kgs again or to the point where I am holding a scalpel in one hand and suicidal thoughts in my head, or the point where I feel utterly helpless and powerless over anything, I really struggle during “rest days” or down time. I am not good at it. If you have ever seen me on holiday or on a rest day, or worse, when I have been physically unable to do anything you can see how edgy, restless, angry and frustrated I get. It really isn’t pretty, it makes me cranky and lost and I really hate it. I do not do holidays, rest time or enforced down time very well at all, in fact during these times I almost need a sign above me that sates “CAUTION: In current state does not play well with others”. It is like the worst case of the Hangries you have EVER seen.

I can say now looking back that the Friday rest days were a good thing. It helped my body and my mental state just dealt with it, because it was in the plan. It didn’t mean I couldn’t be productive it just meant that I wasn’t actively training my body as demandingly as I had been. It turned into a really positive thing.

Why the turmoil now?

Given all of the above I hit struggle street when the “real world” doesn’t match up to the world inside my head. This includes things that I have been really looking forward to not happening. Last weekend (the AFL grand final weekend, yes we are Victorian, but no, I don’t even follow the football), was the Trails Plus Surf Coast Hell Run. This single event was one that I was so very excited about and looking forward to for months. The fact I was going to get to spend the weekend with my Trail Family down by the coast doing what we love just means the world to me.

What ended up happening though is a delightful virus totally kicked my butt from Thursday, I spent two full days in bed, one out of bed and even now am still not back to near fully recovered, needing to sleep multiple times through the day.

Safe to say I was and still am gutted. It fully created the inner turmoil that I hate and know so very well it stirred most things up again and I hate that one little thing can do that.

However, the worst part is that because I am not well, still, I am not training, I can’t work or even fuel effectively or efficiently and that is not good for me on any level.

I sit here (even that hurts more than it should, I never sit to work normally), writing this trying to get logic to rule my head and not the turmoil, but I am struggling. I don’t know when I will be well enough to train again. I am honestly hoping I can pick my plan up again on Wednesday but I just don’t know for certain, and that makes me edgy. This means that the inner issues and voices start to creep in and the fear that I will lose all my fitness and condition come along with it. It terrifies me to the bone. I am no elite athlete, I have no ambition to be, all I want is to be the best version I can be given my restrictions, but again that is starting to feel so far away…

Because of this my body issues are poking their head around the door as well, which sends a cold shiver down my spine. I want logic, reason and love to win the round here so badly. I want to be proud of what my body can do, it shouldn’t matter what it looks like, but my head is struggling to see that now.

The big one…. Is my fear that this virus has flared my Chronic Fatigue so badly that it will refuse to settle again. That everything I am working for both physically and with this amazing family as part of Glimmer Gear Australia and my rocking Fit Chicks Australia will stall because I can’t achieve what I have in my head in the real world. This saddens me deeply and scares me, no scratch that it terrifies me. I am working so hard to make these things amazing for all involved, but I am afraid my history will work against me here. Currently I am feeling pretty dark, terrified, anxious, negative and not in a great place.

I am lucky, I have amazing employers and clients that understand. I have an amazing coach that will work with me to get be back on track (thanks Chis from Go Run Australia from the bottom of my heart!). I have brilliant colleagues and running buddies, and the Glimmer Family and Fit Chicks Australia make up a big part of this. I have Mr Glimmer Gear Australia who is just amazing and puts up with all my crazy on all levels, and he needs a medal sometimes for that (not that I would ever tell him that out loud, can’t have him getting a big head).

The big thing now is rest. My body and clearly the universe is screaming at me to rest. I am trying and resting when I can. So, my message to you all is don’t ever think rest is a dirty word. Yeah there are demons and some of us have more than others, but each of us has our own demons. I am resting. I will get better.

My final parting words to you amazing people, if you have managed to read this far is know you are not alone, no matter what. This business is all about safety. It is about you being able to do what you love, be supported but most of all make it to the end safe. That is why I share this with you all. We are here for the long term, of that I am certain. Know that you can always come to us at an event and talk to us about your safety training needs. ALSO know that your emotional and mental health and safety ARE part of this. We will always be honest with you, if you are nervous, anxious or terrified about your event, that is ok, it is a sure bet we will have some strategies we can talk to you about to help you feel calmer about it. Know that no matter what this amazing community of people our all-encompassing Glimmer Family and Fit Chicks Australia are here to support you.

I am going for another lay down, so that I can be more productive later on, take care you amazing people, thank you for being part of our family.

Sa x

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Guest Blog: Protecting My Down Side…. By Chris White

I want to say a massive thank you to Chris for sharing this honesty. Some of us know this feeling better than others and we each have our own strategies to deal with it all. I honestly just want to share this with you all so that you know you are not alone. Every single one of us has our own funk monsters that we deal with, and we each deal with them differently.

I do very much agree that Chris is not alone in the way he copes with his.

I can honestly say Chris has been an amazing coach to me and helped me deal with my own issue regarding running and events etc and he is really doing brilliant things int he running world. So please don’t be afraid to head to his site: www.gorun.com.au to send him some love!

Thank you for sharing Chris!

I’m nervous about writing this post.  I thought about not typing this up or waiting until I felt differently.  I even started a different post to reflect on Sydney Marathon and the weekend that just past, but this is how I have been thinking and feeling for the last couple of days.

I feel fat, unfit, injured and well…down.  I can barely listen to any semi-emotional music in the car, have any sentimental conversations without wanting to cry or shout at someone.  I just beeped the car horn at the builders in our street because they are taking up the whole street and all the parking spaces. That’s Kath’s territory, not mine.  I’m telling you that someone is going to cop a random outpouring of emotion soon.  Who will be the lucky winner??  This is the part of the 17 marathons challenge that really sucks. The downer.  The post marathon blues.  The supposed calm after the storm of the marathon a few days ago.

I knew this was going to be an issue for me this year and that I would have to work to ‘protect my down side.’  This is something businesses do. It’s a bit like risk analysis and predicting the worst case scenarios, then trying to prepare and protect for that.  Writing this post is part of protecting my own down side.  Its an outlet for me and the idea is that I feel better after doing it, get it off my chest and can then move on and function again.  Normally I take the time to sit with the laptop but all I have now is a couple of pieces of paper and a pen and I just need to get this out of me.  I don’t really care how it comes out at the moment, as long as nobody in the cafe where I am sat reads it.

Sydney Marathon actually went well on the surface of things but dig a little deeper and there are a few issues that I need to deal with one of which is actually getting fit.  The perception is that if you can run a 3:12 marathon three weeks after running a 3:14 marathon and that was only one week after a 3:22 marathon, that all is going well, and your fitness is fine, but this one I had to work hard for.  This was the first one where I genuinely felt unfit and that the lack of ‘training’ in between marathons was catching up with me.  At 25km I just wanted to go to sleep.  That’s not me, that’s not normal.  I have been managing a few lower leg injuries over the past couple of months which have really limited the amount of running that I can do.  I still do pilates, a bit of gym work and the occasional swim but I’m finding it tricky to balance the differing needs of improving recovery / increasing fitness and working on my business (which involves more running) all at the same time whilst running a marathon every few weeks.

Generally speaking, I am usually just about ready to run again by the time each marathon comes round and this one was no different.  I started this run tentatively and after 15km knew that I was going to have to be careful with my right achilles.  Gradually everything tightened up in my right leg and I slowed down as I went round the hundreds of cones, barriers, switch backs, ran up steps, ramps, boardwalks, pavements, dodged tourists, screws and street furniture.  My aim for this run was to simply stay ahead of the 3:15 pacers and for two thirds of the run, I had the feeling of being chased, but ended up pushing home in the final km to clock 3:12:15, which I am actually really pleased with.  I can’t say that I overly enjoyed the twisty, turny nature of the course but finishing in Circular Quay at the Opera House was really really awesome and definitely iconic.  The crowds at that point were great and I felt tired but pleased with a job well done. Now to deal with the mental and physical aftermath…

Ali, my physio said to me yesterday “do you think that you have actually realised the magnitude of what you are trying to do?” I kind of lay there in silence whilst she jabbed needles in my legs and answered “probably not.”  You see, I live in Melbourne, the sporting capital of the world and in this amazing environment we are exposed to (and compare ourselves to) awesome athletes, amazing facilities, great races and more.  The standard in my opinion is incredibly high.  I have certainly never lived anywhere like it.  In fact, as I sat having a beer with three friends last night, it occurred to me that between us we had done a significant number of the half marathons, marathons and ultra marathons in Australia.  I have friends who are professional triathletes, exceptional sports coaches, and mates who are just downright amazing.  When did all of this happen!?  Couple that with the constant exposure to all the awesome, positive posts on social media with people achieving their lifelong dreams, personal bests and just being awesome, all this achievement can be pretty full on if you aren’t in the right head space to deal with it all.

Trust me, I really am happy for everyone who works hard and achieves what they are after.  I find that inspirational, admire it and I get my kicks out of being witness to that journey, but sometimes I don’t want uber positive or happy-clappy.  I’m from the North of England and ginger for Christ’ sake, we are the best at being dour, sarcastic and occasionally grumpy, so give me some of that this morning.  Let me be negative, whinge and get it off my chest.  I will break out of it.  I usually do by Thursday or Friday after each marathon.  This is the 13th time I’ve done this in 2017, so I should know by now shouldn’t I?

So… I need to snap out of these blues.  What am i going to do?

EAT, MOVE AND DO.

First stop: EAT. To the shops, to get some decent food in the house. I am an emotional eater and need to eat well to feel good.  The salted caramel Lindt balls I am currently tucking in to are not going to cut it for much longer. The bag is nearly gone.  Bugger.

Second stop: MOVE. I need to move but I can’t even walk the dog properly because this achilles is so swollen and tight.  I think the plan has to be to get to the pool and the gym over the next couple of weeks and do what I can.

Third stop: DO.  Just being productive is difficult in this type of head space, but working on my business and creating new opportunities, helping my runners and being useful helps me to feel better.

I don’t want to finish this post on a downer.  In the time since I drafted this on paper earlier today, loads of good things have happened and I now feel completely different, but I know these emotions will come back after the next marathon, and the next one, and the next one and the next one, so its worth writing about and sharing I hope.

I feel better for writing this and as a bonus I can hear that the Council have just asked the builders to move their enormous truck from the middle of the street outside and that has pleased me no end.  I also know that tomorrow is Thursday and in my experience, I go through this dip each time and that I come out of it by Thursday feeling way better.   It’s just this time I have put it into a blog and shared it with you.

Sorry for being a bit random in this write up and thank you for listening to my s**t.  I’m going to have one more Lindt ball then head to pilates.

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Injury Sucks – Blog by Bron Cameron – Ambassador and Triathlete

Our awesome Ambassador Bron has written about how much having an injury sucks. Some of us know this feeling some lucky members of our Glimmer Family don’t. Bron, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for sharing this and we KNOW you will be back out there at full capacity asap. We do 100% know that you have the best team behind you that anyone can have and we are proud to be here to support you through it all!

Injury sucks

Injury really sucks, and it can be really hard to stay positive in the face of adversity when told you can’t train, or do the things you want to do. I’m definitely no stranger to injury, but every time something new happens, it feels like a massive kick in the guts.

I have hyper mobility syndrome, which during our stretching sessions earns me lots of comments like “Wow! That’s freaky!” and “Holy moly you’re flexible!”, because I am super, super flexible. But it also means I’m really prone to injury – when ligaments and small muscle groups don’t cooperate, it gets left to the big muscles to do all the work. That creates problems…

But this isn’t new information for me. I’ve known for ages that I’m hyper mobile, and I’ve known that the only way to ‘treat’ the condition is by ensuring that all those small muscle groups maintain their strength, and activate when needed. This means lots of core strength classes, trying to get those lazy muscle groups working. So that was my plan, build strength in those key areas and remain injury free in the lead up to my first World Championship qualifier in October.

But right now? Things are not going to plan. The past few months I’ve had a niggling pain in my left quad. Best way to describe it is that someone is stabbing a sharp knife directly into the middle of the muscle. Not fun. It started as I was doing our regular sprint session on the treadmill, attempting to build some speed. So it was off to the physio for me, and Felicity at Inspire Health Services in West End is the one to see. She identified that the problem in my quad is actually arising from my glute and back. Basically, they are both super weak and not doing their jobs, which means my quad has to take over and do triple the work, resulting in over-use stress pain. Nothing actually wrong with the quad, it’s just tired. But my glute and back, they were a mess…

So Felicity did some needling, I screamed in pain, she gave me some exercises to do that would isolate those muscles, and recommended I take the Pilates reformer classes they hold at Inspire Health. Yay, problem solved! Pilates is amazing, it really isolates those small muscle groups so they have no choice but to work! And I could definitely feel it working. But I was still getting that pain in my quad when doing the sprint sessions on the treadmill, and then last week, it started hurting on the wind trainer as well. Not good, problem not solved. My coaches laid down the law – no training until I saw Felicity again.

The earliest I could get in to see her was a week and a half later, and during that time, I could feel my back, and my quad, getting worse and worse, to the point where it was painful to stand, sit, lie down, walk, bend over, or anything really… But I was still optimistic that when I saw Felicity last night, she would fix me up and I’d be on my way back to training.

But again, that didn’t go exactly to plan. It had gotten so much worse that by last night I couldn’t bend more than about 30 degrees, and that’s coming from someone who usually can put her elbows on the floor… The discs in my back are really, really inflamed, which is not only causing pain there, but also down my glute, and the usual quad pain. After the usual needling and massage, it was obvious that it is going to take a lot longer to heal than I thought, and that the injury was a lot worse than I thought. And the killer… No training. No running, no riding, no Pilates or core even, no walking the dog. All I can do is swim with a pull buoy… Great. I don’t even like swimming that much.

As expected, I was pretty upset, and my mind went into that catastrophizing downward spiral that it does so frequently. How was I going to improve my running before my race in Yarrawonga? How was I going to learn to draft if I can’t ride? How was I going to function without being able to do the one thing I really love doing?

For me, it really does seem like it is one thing after another. Last year I had dreams of qualifying for the 2017 World Championships, but then I tore two ligaments in my ankle and was out for 9 months. So that didn’t happen. And then now, I’ve got that dream back for the 2018 World Champs, but this happens? How do I get past that and remain positive?

I’m really, really lucky to have such great coaches and team mates at SBR Triathlon. Michelle Cooper is amazing – honestly. She sat me down, we talked it through, she was honest and said yep, it sucks, but we can get through it. We talked about how we have a great team at Inspire Health to work with, and I know that they’re the ones who will get me on the road to recovery. We talked about different strategies of what I can do instead. Focusing on the can instead of the can’t. 

So this is what I can do. I can swim. And Yarrawonga had better look out, because by the time 21st of October rolls around, I’m going to be a shit hot swimmer.

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Product Review – Safety Skin

The amazingly awesome Triathlete Megan Nikakis wrote a review on Safety Skin as part of ATEC, which unfortunately won’t go ahead this year, BUT, that doesn’t mean you can’t read the review 😉 . Megan is also an ambassador for Skin Strong as it turns out, a product that I LOVE too and as you guys know I won’t sell anything I don’t use and love! Without any further preamble have a read of Megan’s review below.

PRODUCT REVIEW – SAFETY SKIN REFLECTIVE SKIN SPREAD IMPORTED AND SOLD BY GLIMMER GEAR

In the past couple of months I have been following the Aussie company Glimmer Gear on Instagram @glimmergearaus and admiring their safety gear, especially the numerous options for running or biking at night.

When I found out that as part of my duties as an ATEC Ambassador I would be testing one of their products I was super excited. So let me introduce you to Safety Skin Reflective Skin Spread. Its comes in an easy to use stick roll on and the substance inside has a chalky but smooth texture and is grey in colour. I must admit looking at this peculiar substance I started to have some doubt as to whether this product was the real deal.

But I pushed on and started rolling the skin spread on my arms and legs. It went on super easy and I could see grey parts all over my legs and arms. However, I was thinking “ok this is not working” and I haven’t put enough on” but then when the lights were off and the camera flash went BAM!!!! I was a Christmas tree!

So out the door I went off on my first night time run with my reflective skin spread. While I couldn’t see the skin spread lighting up myself, I am sure every car, cyclist and pedestrian saw me coming and probably thought to themselves….what the? Her skin is glowing!

I felt really safe running in the dark on my own and honestly believe this product is the best invention ever. Not only does it keep me safe but you cant even feel that you are wearing it. Sweating wasn’t an issue either.

The skin spread has certainly given me the confidence to train more late at night or early morning. I’ll  even be wearing it on my calves for my rides now as you can never be too careful on the roads.

If you train in the dark, this skin spread needs to become your new best friend/protector! Its now mine!

Thank you Glimmer Gear for stocking such an innovative product that keeps us safe.

 

You can follow Megan on Instagram here

 

 

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