Monthly Archives: November 2014

How to Prepare for a Marathon – Training Part 1

Disclaimer: This is going to be about how I prepared (in terms of Training) for the Marathon. Please note that I’ve only ever ran a Marathon once in my life. So, follow at your own risk.

For my first marathon experience, I was fortunate enough to be training under Coach Mark with Team Dirigo. You can say that we had it easy. Everything was laid out for us. Basically, all we had to do was execute (which was actually the hardest part).

Before I continue, I won’t be revealing anything from our training program in respect to Coach Mark. Sorry to burst your bubble but if you were expecting a detailed A-Z training plan for a marathon, you’re going to be a little disappointed. However, I will share a bit on what you can do, what qualities you should possess and what to expect during your training period (over several blog posts).

I don’t think our training plan is any (or very) different from those that you can get online (for free). Sometimes, it is just the case of getting it done. It is not about what we don’t know (we all know what it takes to run a marathon!). Just like how we know fried chicken is bad for health but we eat it anyway. We KNOW, we just need to DO IT (or not do it).10849889_10152967847101388_7325605152711666392_nI can tell you what these training programs require: HARD WORK. We live in a society that craves instant solutions and results. We crave for the quickest, shortest and most efficient way. Sometimes, we wish to achieve the impossible without putting in any effort. While you’re still sitting there looking for the fastest way out with instant results, someone else is out there doing all the hard work.nothing-worth-having-comes-easy-soar-like-an-eagle-by-david-fishNothing worth having comes easy – TRUTH.

Typical training process

Running, running, running and more running! Our training program was over 14 weeks. But these days, you can get training programs over 6-8weeks (of course, it depends on your current fitness level)! There are all sorts that you can find on the internet. 10846438_10152967854706388_3417336763464331437_nThink of the training program as a piece of cake. The cake (Long runs), layers of cream cheese filling (Tempo runs) with caramel swirls (Interval runs). Slice a piece off as the weeks go by. That’s the gist of it. Training intensity and volume would depend on your specific race goals.

Before you start any training program, you have to:

Set some realistic goals

Sub 4? Sub 4.30? You decide. Nobody knows you best but you. Always remember to set the bar high. Make the most of your current potential and triple that. A good tactic for you to make sure that you stick to your goal is to get into a buddy system or better yet, announce your race goal to the world. That way, you are accountable for what you said you would do.10308717_10152918953086388_9103945441158821353_nTo run a marathon, you need a strong mind and the right mindset. These are your must-haves:

Self-discipline

Once you’ve set a goal, be discipline to follow through. Dedicate yourself to it and stick to it. There will be days when you don’t feel like running, PUSH THROUGH THEM. Get the mileage in. This is going to be the determining factor that will set you apart from the rest. People usually give in when they don’t feel like running, DON’T!10734172_10152918952236388_1765638990880207031_nIt was hard for me too. There were days where I hoped for rain as an excuse, days where I laid in bed battling with my inner self, days where I craved for fatty foods and sugar (not advisable during marathon training)……

Determination

Keep your eyes on your goal. Remind yourself of it. How bad do you want this? You’ve got to want this enough to get you through your training. Find your motivation, write it down somewhere. Stick it on your mirror, on your notebook, set it as your mobile phone wallpaper…… anywhere, as long as you can see them.

10469867_10152918952396388_1723076991407226270_nFocus on the “now”. Live in the present moment and make the most of it.

Stay Focus

It is very important to stay focus during your training runs. When you’re training (alone especially), it can be very tempting to deviate from your set pace. Your long runs can easily turn into recovery runs if you don’t stay focus. Don’t defeat the purpose of your runs. Make them count, turn them into quality runs. Also, you’ve got to FEEL your runs. Identify all your aches and pains (side stitches, cramps etc.). Feel them, correct them or adapt to them if you have to. That way on race day, these wouldn’t come as a surprise to you.

I had side stitches after about 10KM into the marathon. I remained calm and knew what to do about it because I had them during my training runs.

Perseverance

It is going to be hard. Nobody said that it would be a walk in the park. If it were easy, everyone would have done it. I have this bad habit (or a fear) of not wanting to push myself to the maximum. I hate it. I hate that feeling. I like to remain in my comfort zone. If you want change, you’ve got to do something different. 1601253_10152918952631388_4647049890723274925_nThanks to Coach Mark for pushing me through each training session. It was crazy. There were times where I felt like stepping off the track to give up. But I knew that I had to hold it for just a little while more. Every session left me with jelly legs and a few stars dancing around my head.

I always hit a point in training where I hated running to the core and found myself asking: “What am I doing? Why am I even running? Is it worth it?” But yet, I love it enough to do it all over again.images

I love that feeling after a tough workout. But first, you gotta’ go through it!

Trust me, you’re going to have a lot of self-doubt. You’re going to want to give up. Don’t.

Sit down. Breathe. Think. Evaluate your goals. Talk to a friend. Get motivated. Trust your training and progress. And then jump right back! All the best!

Post-Marathon Recovery

You’ve just crossed the finish line, you earned that Finishers Medal around your neck, you’ve hit a new personal best, and you’re in a state of euphoria……and then what?

Many marathon runners make the common mistake of not recovering optimally after the race. Your post-marathon recovery plan begins immediately after you cross the finish line. I was no master when it came to post marathon recovery, having made many bad decisions and went against everything in the rule book. But we all learn from our mistakes (and now you can learn from mine).

Here are a few things that you can do to help your body bounce back into shape.

After Crossing the Finishing Line:

1. Cool down with a slow jog

A short cool down (slow jog) of about 10-15 minutes is essential. Depending on the race day set up, it may not always be convenient to do so. Just make sure you don’t stop abruptly after crossing the finishing line. I felt light headed and sick in the stomach because I came to a complete stop after having been running for a few hours which caused my blood pressure to drop.

2. Drink up (but not too quickly)

Remember to replenish lost fluids. Pick the ones rich in glucose and electrolytes (100plus, Revive, Gatorade, PowerBar Recovery drink). I drank too much too soon (1.5L in 30 mins) and ended up puking. This is dangerous as it would further deplete your body’s fluids leading to dehydration. Take in about 500ml every 30mins-1 hour. This will also help in flushing out waste products from the body. Drink up!

3. Eat something within 1 hour of finishing

Snack on something within the next 1 hour even if you don’t have the appetite for it. You have to get some food in your system as muscle glycogen is rapidly replaced within the first 1-2 hours. Most marathons provide runners with some bananas or apples at the finish line. Eat up to maintain blood sugar levels! You can eat a big meal after to replace everything else that you’ve lost during the run.

4. Don’t stretch too much

Try not to stretch your tired muscles too much as this may lead to injury. 1379973_10152903418911388_1817569158902519087_nIf something hurts, ice the area immediately for about 10-15 minutes to reduce the inflammation. Massage areas or the medical tent should offer everything you need to attend to your injury.

The Following Week:

5. Take time off running

The biggest mistake you can make is running too soon after a marathon. Scheduling in time for recovery is just as crucial as planning your next workout. After months of training and completing the marathon itself, the body needs time to return back to “normal”. It has gone through an intense session of physical stress and the last thing you want to do is to put it under more stress. Even during your recovery period, your body is not at rest. It is busy breaking down, repairing, refueling and recovering.

6. Go for low-impact workouts

You need to find the ultimate balance between activity and inactivity. Engage in an activity that would decrease muscle stiffness/soreness and encourage blood circulation. After a marathon, there will be an accumulation of lactic acid and fluid in the muscles. Increased circulation to the area will help to remove the excess fluid and built up waste whilst enriching the area with nutrients and oxygen. Jog post marathonFocus on low impact workouts that require minimal effort. For example, a light jog on a soft surface (grass, track).

Stretch post marathon

Post-Marathon Activities / Workouts

The key is to start slow! You will initially feel the pinch on your energy levels. Stop your workout if you have to. 10257110_10152903419141388_4054225727019881833_nDo a bit of light stretching for about 10-15 minutes every day. This will help to increase blood circulation and to loosen up any tight areas. My hamstrings were screaming in pain for at least 2 weeks post marathon. Try not to engage in any hard workouts by signing up for races in the weeks following a marathon. You can start to slowly build up mileage and intensity over the next few weeks if you feel good.

As you rest and eat well post marathon, you may begin to feel ready and strong to take on the next race. I had back to back races the week after my marathon. Wrong call! For the first race, I felt strong and fresh. 5KM into the race and my hamstrings were already crying for help. It was a trail run and the hills were STEEP! It was the first time that I had to walk in a race. It was tough and I was completely drained after that. WARNING: Do not attempt. 10465499_10152648264306388_7470217386104035149_o

Cross train by engaging in different activities. You can do anything from swimming to cycling, as long as it doesn’t put too much stress on your legs. I did 20-30 minutes of swimming every other day to get my muscles warmed up.

Post-Marathon Nutrition/Fuel

Enjoy your favourite meals throughout the week. Make sure you eat well balanced meals with 3-4 parts of carbohydrates and 1 part protein to replenish your muscle’s glycogen stores and to rebuild damaged tissues and cells respectively. Choose good quality carbohydrates (complex) and proteins.10801528_10152903401346388_3665916727056616987_n

If you crave for particular foods, satisfy those cravings. Your body knows what it needs. And you deserve it. I was craving for foods that were high in fat (burger and fries) for 2 weeks! Eat whatever is pleasing to your eyes. Continue to hydrate well. 10368238_10152903419026388_1692792890374342481_n

Eat and drink to strengthen your immune system which has been severely compromised post marathon.

Post-Marathon Sleep/Rest

Sleep like a baby! Your body recovers and repairs itself when it is in full rest. You may feel as though your body has been hit by a truck! This fatigue may last over a week. 1240148_10152903401286388_5117757271586368252_nI cannot stress enough how important sleep is. I fell sick 2 weeks after the marathon because I suffered from insomnia. I had about 4-5 hours of sleep every day over the 2nd week and my body eventually gave up. 10366140_10152903419176388_1032711180761417043_nGo to bed early to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night.

Post-Marathon Pleasure

My ideal post marathon treat would be a full body massage. Source: Adele WongI went for a deep Thai aromatherapy massage a week after the marathon and it was the best thing ever. You may also want to indulge in a facial session as your skin has been exposed to the harmful UV rays over a few hours on the road. Just kick your feet up. Spend time with your family and friends. Go for that long awaited holiday. Do whatever, just TREAT YOURSELF!1966056_10152903419226388_5663874179444917341_o

Recovery and rest are the last things in any runner’s book. It takes a great deal to convince a runner to take off days. Many runners have this extreme fear that taking days off the road would severely affect their hard earned fitness (especially after training for a marathon).

After all the months of training, resting seems like a curve ball to their normal routine. However, if you’re going to be in it for the long run, it would be a good idea to take time off from running (to prevent injuries) post marathon, even if you’re faced with the reality of a decrease in fitness. Take it from me, REST!10393661_10152903419361388_8779876335544672797_n                                                               So TRUE!

Thanks to http://www.healthworks.my for featuring this article! Check out their page!

How to Prepare for a Marathon – Nutrition

Disclaimer: This is going to be about how I prepared (in terms of nutrition) for the Marathon. Please note that I’ve only ever ran a Marathon once in my life. So, follow at your own risk.

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Just to get your attention. 😉

Nutrition is essential for a healthy body. It becomes even more important when you’re training for a marathon. Eating proper foods can give you the energy and fuel you need to survive your training.

Before my marathon training began, I have always stuck to a relatively healthy diet. Some refer to this as the 70/30 rule (eating clean 70% of the time and indulging in your favourite foods in the remaining 30%). If you are aiming for a lean and mean physique, then maybe you can opt for the 80/20 rule (not my cup of tea and I don’t think I can survive that). Match them to your fitness goal/s and see which one works for you. Remember, it has to be sustainable.

Eating clean/healthy is something that comes naturally. It is something that I WANT to do. I’ve been practising this habit for quite some time now so it doesn’t come as a chore. I enjoy eating what I eat too!

The changes I made to my own diet:

Thankfully, I didn’t have to make any major changes to my diet. I just had to increase my carbohydrate and protein intake to go through the grueling hours of training and also to recover.

So, what do I eat 70% of the time? Here’s a list of my everyday source of:

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Carbohydrates: Sweet potatoes, wholegrain bread, soba noodles, crackers (Yes, I don’t eat rice)

Protein: Tuna, eggs, beans, chicken, salmon, quinoa, beef (Occasionally lamb and pork)

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Fat: Avocado, egg yolk, nuts, olive oil, coconut flesh, Moocow (Yes, I made MooCow part of my everyday diet. Haaaaaaaa! Don’t judge)

Vegetables: Spinach, cabbage, tomatoes, zucchini (Whatever that is available)

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Fruits: Apple, orange, papaya, banana, kiwi, bluberries, mango, strawberries, cherries (Whatever that is available)

And the remaining 30%?

We were given a rough diet plan to follow. Basically, everything under this 30% section should be avoided. You wouldn’t want to be carrying any excess weight on race day!

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We all have our weaknesses when it comes to food. We’re all human. I am proud to say that I LOVE my CAKE and ICE CREAM!

The biggest change that I had to make to my diet was eating all cutting out the cake and ice cream. Of course, I didn’t eliminate them. That would be crazy. Always remember, everything in moderation.  I did, however, try to avoid other refined sugar and fatty foods. I don’t like how they make me feel (bloated, lethargic) especially during training. I don’t particularly like fried stuff so that was easy to avoid.

10615351_10152867994191388_1184139972430540353_nI allow myself to indulge on Fridays and over the weekends because that is when I spend time with my family and friends (and that always means with loads of FOOD!).

You have to find your own balance in life and what would suit your schedule. For me, weekend track sessions were the WORST because that meant I couldn’t be out eating my CAKE and ICE CREAM! Oh the pain.

Happy meals:

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Ice cream, cake, ice cream, cake, ice cream, ice cream, cookies, cake and uhhh, MORE ICE CREAM! With the amount of running that I do, I can have my cake AND eat it too.

Other meal ideas:

Breakfast:

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Typical everyday breakfast: eggs, toast, green apple and a banana (not pictured).

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On top of that, I have my oats/muesli with fruits, chia seeds and goji berries. Oh yeah, my definition of BIG BREAKFAST!

Breakfast is the first meal of the day. So, you gotta’ get it right, right?! Quick and easy to prep! I literally take 10 minutes (no time to waste) every morning to prepare and eat.

Lunch/Dinner:

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A tonne of vegetables and some protein with some carbs on the side. Don’t let the pictures fool you. Looks can be deceiving. I actually look forward to my vege meals! So fresh, so good!

Pre-Workout:

On top of your everyday meals, you may need an extra boost or pre-workout snack to fuel your training session. I trained mostly in the evening which meant that I had to snack during working hours. I needed something that was quick, easy and yummy. Thanks to one of our sponsors, Powerbar, snacking on the go was not a problem.

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Vanilla crisp! SOOOOOOO GOOD!

Other good pre-workout snacks (that I consumed as well):

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Banana, apple, yoghurt with oats/fruits, cheese & crackers, Chatime (OH YEAH!), coffee (rarely), peanut butter on toast, sweet potatoes, chocolate

Try to stay away from refined sugars (ooppps!) which would cause a spike in your insulin levels. Your body will experience the crash unless you continue feeding it with sugar. Opt for foods with natural sugars.

Post-Workout:

Your post-workout meal is just as important as your pre-workout meal. A good mix of carbs and proteins should do the trick. This would help replenish muscle glycogen stores and aid in muscle building. Try not to go too long without eating (within the next 30 mins – 1 hour after your workout when protein and glycogen synthesis is highest) as this could delay recovery rate and your body may start to breakdown muscle tissue.

It is not always convenient to eat within that time frame and you may not have an appetite to do so. The solution? Pack your favourite snack (healthy).

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I always have my green apples with me. If I am racing, I would pack some wholegrain bread and yoghurt. This would be sufficient to last me until my next meal.

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Water, water, water. Hydrate, hydrate, HYDRATE! Need I say more?

Supper:

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SUPPER! The most important meal of the day! End your day with a happily filled tummy.

Ok, I’m kidding. No supper. Go to bed.

No, seriously. NO!

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Ok, maybe some of this with some hot Milo?

Eating the right foods at the right time will compliment your marathon training. I hope that I’ve helped you in some way.

Now, fuel that tank and get back to your training!

Let me know what you guys think! How do you fuel for your marathon training?

Happy eating and have fun running!