Tag Archives: marathon training

Taper Week – Dos and Don’ts

Some say taper week brings out the worst in runners. They get grumpy, agitated, angry and frustrated because they are required to cut down on mileage (which means running a lot less than usual).

I don’t know where they come from but TAPER WEEK IS THE BEST!

Less running and more food, what’s not to like? I’ve been waiting for this week to come, since the beginning of training. It feels like a tonne of weight has been lifted off my shoulders.FullSizeRender

Taper week/s is just as important as your other heavy training weeks. Do it wrongly and you risk performing well on race day.

Want to do it right? Here are the dos and don’ts:

Dos

1. Get Enough Sleep!

These days, sleep is considered luxury! We’d be lucky to get in at least 7 hours of good sleep. But to perform at your best, the body needs rest!

As you’ll most probably be too jittery to fall asleep the night before race day, sleep and rest 4-5 days before is crucial!

Aim for some consistency in terms of bed time and sleeping hours.

2. Massage and Foam Rolling

Go for a nice body massage during taper week. This will help loosen up your muscles. It will also relieve your mind of any pre-race STRESS!IMG_4970

Aim to foam roll and stretch every other day to release any tension and tight knots in your muscles. I like to stretch before bed time because it helps me to sleep better!

3. Eat Enough

For most of us, we fear the weight gain by eating the same amount (If not more) and decreasing mileage.

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Just eat as you normally would. Eating the same amount but not running as much will help you fill glycogen stores that have been depleted during training.

Remember not to go to either extremes of eating too much or too little. Both will have an impact on your performance.

4. Carbo Load

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Do carbo load 3 days before race day. You can read more about it here.

5. Keep Your Body and Legs Fresh

It is a fine balance between doing too much and too little during the final week of taper. You don’t want to be doing too much that your body cannot recover and you don’t want to be doing too little that your legs feel stiff.

IMG_6835During the final week, do one short speed session and go easy the rest of the days. You can do a combination of strides, 100s, 200s and 400s. Keep reps to a minimum if you do them at max pace but you can do a little more if you’re going at interval pace. This should get your heart racing, blood flowing and legs feeling fresh.

You should feel strong after the session and not drained. Everyone is different so see what works best for you!

6. Stick to Your Routine

The final week is not the time to introduce anything new. Try not to eat anything new even though it may be seemingly healthy. You never know how your stomach or body might react.

Just stick with what you know and what you normally do.


 

Don’ts

1. No Last Minute Cramming

Unlike when you’re sitting for an exam, last minute cramming WILL NOT WORK!

During taper week, less is always more. Now is not the time to put in last minute lost mileage during training or any sort of key workouts. These will put you at risk for injury and fatigued muscles before race day. Weekly mileage is recommended to be reduced to at least 40% of your usual training week.

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It does require some effort but try to decrease overall volume and duration while maintaining intensity. For example, you can use the same effort for your 200m repeats but instead of doing 10 reps, do 5.

A key thing to remember is that any physiological adaptations require at least 4-6 weeks. Last minute training is not going to improve your performance. In fact, it will probably do more harm than good!

2. No Unnecessary Activities

This is not the time to be trying a new sport or workout. Anything from hiking to a spin class is out of the question. Do those AFTER the race.

At this point, you want to be well rested. Reducing overall stress on your body will help your body to function optimally. This includes keeping hormone levels in check which are responsible for many physiological activities in the body including sleep!

3. Don’t Overanalyse

During the final days, you want everything to be perfect! From the food you eat to the amount of sleep that you get. It can be pretty stressful!

FullSizeRender(1)Just relax. What is supposed to be done has already been done. No amount of worrying is going to get you to run any faster.

Even after putting in all the hard work, you cannot predict what happens on race day. A good performance is never guaranteed to anyone. Just smile and be happy that you’ve managed to put in all the crazy amount of running that is required of marathon training.

Have some confidence by knowing that you have given yourself the best possible chance of achieving your race day goals.


Tapering is serious business. It allows your body to rest and recover from the gruelling hours of training that you’ve put it through. Bodily functions from muscle glycogen stores, hormones, enzymes, the immune system and anything that have gone out of whack during training will return to optimal conditions. Any micro tears in your muscles or connective tissues (tendons and ligaments) will also have a chance to repair and strengthen.

Tapering prepares your body for peak performance on race day. So, TAPER AWAY!

All the best!

Fat and Running

Hello!

Hope you guys have been keeping well. I have not been blogging consistently. WHOOPS! I’ve got a lot on my plate right now and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed (in a good way!)! Please bear with me on this one. Life is getting a little bit more exciting and I hope to be able to share the good news with you guys soon!


If you’ve been following my posts lately, you will notice that I’ve been talking about FUEL and RUNNING.

Just a quick recap:

We talked about carbohydrates, how to maximise our stores (glycogen stores) before a run and how to reduce dependence on these stores during a run!

An important point to note is that carbohydrate stores, both in our liver and muscles, ARE LIMITED.


Thankfully, our bodies have another source of energy – FAT!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThis just spells F-A-T

Fat is basically UNLIMITED. You can’t run out of fat. If you do, you’ll die.

From the above statement, you can see why tapping into your fat stores would be an advantage. If you can train your body to increase its reliance on fat stores, you will be a fairly good endurance runner!

Fat is stored in adipose tissue (fat cells) and muscle.

FAT CELLS

Pinch the side on your tummy and you’d probably be pinching some FAT. Fat cells are found all over the body: abdominal area, buttocks, hips and under the skin. The more we eat, the more fat we store and it becomes our energy reserve.

However, storage fat is not essential for health and too much of it increases the risk of certain diseases.

MUSCLE FATS

Fat stored in muscle is known as intramuscular triglycerides. Found throughout skeletal muscles, they are available for immediate use during exercise [1].

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The story is not as straight forward for fat cells (compared to muscle fats). Storage fat needs to be broken down into fatty acids and transported to the muscles to be used for energy.

Free fatty acids (from fat cells) and muscle fat provide energy to fuel your running.

Which fuel you burn (Carbohydrates or Fats) during running depends on the intensity and duration of it (more on that later). However, how much fat you burn depends largely on your genes as well as training and nutrition.

Although genes wear the biggest hat, you can always train your body to burn more fat at higher running intensities.

Fatigue sets in when your body is low on fuel. As mentioned, fat is virtually limitless which makes it a very attractive source of fuel.


So, the question is: How to become a fat burner?

Becoming a FAT BURNER

The answer lies in endurance training. As you know, when you’re running a marathon, you’re running at a submaximal pace. At this intensity, your body uses more fat. Many months of training and running miles logged would mean that you will burn more fats as compared to carbohydrates at the same intensity. When the weight is off muscle glycogen and blood glucose, you delay fatigue. This ultimately translates to better running performance.

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As mentioned, for fat to be used as fuel, it must first be broken down into fatty acids, mobilised and transported to the muscles to be burned. Endurance training enhances the capacity of muscles to use fat. It stimulates the production of enzymes that would enhance all the steps required to use fat as fuel [2].

In the presence of oxygen, mitochondria are the factory that produces ATP (body’s energy currency). Endurance training increases the number of mitochondria in a cell which means that you can produce more energy from fat (fats are being ‘burned’ in the mitochondria) [2].

Running puts a certain amount of stress on the body. When you start running, the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) comes into play. The main energy fuel that is used to meet the sudden demand of energy is carbohydrates. Thankfully, humans are highly adaptable and we are able to learn and change to better handle that stress in the future. Training reduces this sympathetic response and puts a greater reliance on fat as fuel [3].

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Throwback to when I first started running.

Remember how hard it was when you first started running – your breathing was all over the place, your heart felt like it was going to explode and your limbs had a mind of its own – but you continued anyway? And then a few weeks later you realised that running is the easiest thing in the world. That is because your body adapted to the “stress”.

At the same running speed, a trained individual is a fat burner that relies less on carbohydrates to fuel their running at the same intensity as an untrained individual. IMG_0897

These training adaptations don’t take place overnight. There are no short cuts. You can see how training, hard work and effort are keys to unlocking the lock to becoming a great runner.

But if you happen to have a problem with committing to training, maybe there’s a way out. Ever heard of fat-loading diets? We’ll explore that next!

Till then, keep running! 🙂

Fuel and Running – Part 3 – Reducing Dependence on Carbohydrate Stores

I guess I should have posted this earlier in the week because this weekend was packed with races (MWM, Titi Ultra Marathon, Brooks Half Marathon etc)!

Anyhow, you can always apply this to future races!

Reducing Dependence on Carbohydrate Stores

Now that we know how to maximise our carbohydrate stores before a run, we need to know how to reduce the rate at which liver and muscle glycogen is being used to delay fatigue.

We are all pretty familiar with this one – the gels, the bananas and the sports drinks consumed during a run.Chiquita-DM2-minion-dave-bananas

 

Source: minionslovebananas.com

Consuming carbohydrates DURING a long distance event reduces the dependence on the liver for maintaining blood glucose concentration and provides the brain and muscles with an external source of glucose.

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Source: findwallpaperhd.com

The impact is bigger on liver glycogen stores and will prevent you from turning into a hypoglycaemic zombie.

zombies-cautionSource: https://unseenlibrarian.wordpress.com

When and How Much?

How much carbohydrates you need to consume during your run depends on the intensity of it.

Higher intensity = More Carbohydrates Needed

If you are running long distances, it is highly unlikely that you will be running at top speed long enough to deplete glycogen stores. With this in mind, the recommended range is between 50-60g per hour.

You can space out the amount of carbs you consume during that 1 hour, depending on what sports drink/gels you have at hand. If you are carrying along your own supply then it is easier to calculate the amount you need and when to take it. If you are depending on supplies provided during race day, make sure you know what they are providing (the brand, amount of carbs it contains etc).

For example, if your gel contains 20-25g of carbs, then you need to consume 2 packets within 60 minutes (at 30 minute intervals).

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI don’t have the habit of drinking sweet drinks (including sports drinks) even after/during a long run. I always drink WATER! I remember the first time I took an isotonic drink in the middle of my LSD and I realised how much difference it actually makes! Oh, the simple things you discover along the way.

In my opinion, you don’t need gels and sports drinks for any distance below 21KM. I don’t normally drink at all on my 10KM runs. But of course, every individual is different and I’ll leave that for you to discover what works best for you.

What to Take?

The best drinks/gels to take during a run are those that contain simple sugars (maltose, glucose and maltodextrin). These sugars are absorbed rapidly into your blood stream for immediate use.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetDo you guys take candies on your runs?

Avoid taking fructose. Fructose has been known to cause tummy upsets. However, studies have shown that when glucose is mixed with fructose, the carbohydrate supply to muscles is faster.

Remember to take gels with water. I remember choking when I took my first pack of gel during my first Half Marathon (2XU Compression Run 2014). It threw me into a coughing fit! Looking back, it is something to laugh about but don’t let that happen to you! It was not funny when it actually happened.

Take note on the dilution ratio. The dilution needs to be right for optimal emptying from the stomach and intestinal absorption. If the carbohydrate concentration is too high, you will have problems emptying it from the stomach and water will be pulled into the intestines by the concentrated mix which can lead to diarrhoea (every runner’s nightmare!).

We are finally done…

…with carbohydrates! Phew! I hope that you now know how to maximise your carbohydrate stores before your run and how to reduce dependence on it during your run!

Thankfully, our bodies have alternative sources of energy – FAT! Stay tuned because we’re going to talk about FAT FAT FAT!

 

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Oh, and HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!

Till then,

Keep Running!

I hope everyone had an awesome racing weekend! Time for some rest and recovery. Sleep tight!

Fuel and Running – Part 2 – Maximising Glycogen Stores

As mentioned in the previous post, runners use both carbohydrates and fats during a run.

We won’t be talking about protein because protein is only broken down during extreme cases.58d054bbb9c5b14b3eceef810e7bef0c

The percentage of which fuel a runner uses depends on the INTENSITY of the run (which will be discussed in another post!). For now, we will focus on the FUEL.

Carbohydrates

We are all familiar with carbs – the rice, the breads, the noodles. The very food group people try to avoid when they want to lose weight (Not all carbs are “bad”. You just have to find what is right for you!).

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They are stored in the body as glycogen and broken down to glucose when the body needs it.

There is a STORAGE LIMIT

There are limits as to how much glycogen you can store in your liver (about 100-200g) and muscle tissues (about 400-500g). It takes about 120 minutes of running to deplete your glycogen stores.

As discussed, low glycogen stores and blood glucose levels have ill effects on running performance which would either require you to slow to a walk or STOP completely.

Maximising Glycogen Stores

How?

In runner’s vocabulary, it’s called CARBO-LOADING. Carbo-loading involves significantly increasing carbohydrate intake a few days prior to a race. There is evidence that higher pre-exercise glycogen levels delay fatigue.

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Although there are a few limitations on the studies performed on carbo-loading, it is safe to say that runners will benefit from it prior (final 3 days) to racing or running longer distances (especially when it comes to speed and performance).

When and How Much?

Carbo-loading takes place during taper week, 3 days before the big day (NOT one week).

Some people begin carbo-loading a week before the big event and takes this opportunity to “EAT ALL YOU CAN” (not a good idea unless you plan to ruin your race day performance).

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The recommended amount is 8-12g per KG per day.

For me (45KG), that is about 450g of CARBS PER DAY, equivalent to about 40 slices of bread. BREAD MONSTAHHHH! Even if you’re a big eater, it is not easy to consume the recommended amount of carbs.

When I was preparing for SCKLM 2014, I wrote down every food and drink consumed. I had to have a sense of what I was putting into my mouth. I calculated exactly how many grams of carbs (in everything) to make sure that I ate the right amount. Even then, I was always on a mini binge at night because I hadn’t eaten enough. Runners can opt to drink (sports drinks, milk etc) their carbs if eating is too much to handle.

I did not practice carbo-loading before race day but I recommend that you try at least once to get the feel of it.

Does it Work?

In my experience, carbo-loading WORKS (for a marathon)! I did not hit the wall when I ran my first marathon. Training and carbo-loading done right? Probably. If anybody is interested, I can share what I had during the carbo-loading phase.

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You often hear people “carbo-loading” for every race regardless of the distance. Is it necessary? Carbo-loading is unlikely to be effective for events below 120 minutes. You would have sufficient energy to fuel your run and the excess weight gained during the carbo-loading phase will in fact SLOW you down.

Although carbo-loading during the final 3 days leading up to race day is needed to top off glycogen stores, how you replenish your stores on a day to day basis is probably more important. What you eat DURING training will allow you to recover and ensures that you reap the benefits of your training.

If you’re a serious hard core runner (training up to 2 hours a day), you are effectively depleting your stores during training. The amount of carbs needed on a day to day basis is near the amount required during carbo-loading.FullSizeRender

Runners NEED to EAT!

Now you know that it is important to start off with a full tank!

You wouldn’t drive your car on empty, hey? 😉

Next up, how to reduce dependence on your carbohydrate stores.

Till then,

Keep Running!