It’s that time of year again as thousands of runners will be pounding the streets of London for this year’s marathon. I was blessed last year to run the London Marathon and I was overwhelmed with the amount of support I received from the spectators and marshals cheering you on, giving ‘high fives’ and jelly babies.
If you are running the London Marathon, I would recommend getting your name printed on your vest/t-shirt and people will shout your name out in support. Later on last year, I went on to run my first ultra-marathon off-road. However, you don’t have to run long distances to enjoy running. We all have to start off somewhere and gradually build up. If the talk of the London Marathon has inspired to take up running, here are my top running and nutrition tips to get you started…
My top 5 running tips…
1. Correct footwear and running clothing
If you’re just starting running, it’s a good idea to buy a decent pair of trainers. I would recommend visiting a running shop for a foot analysis to determine if your foot strike is pronation (roll inwards), supination (roll outwards) or neutral. Buying the correct trainers will lessen the risk of an injury. I also recommend running in tights or shorts to make it more comfortable. Running in heavy tracksuit bottoms are very uncomfortable especially if it rains. Wear a breathable t-shirt or long sleeved top to wick any sweat away. When it’s cold you can wear gloves or a running jacket. In the winter, it’s a good idea to wear bright clothing and wear a light on your arm so you can be seen. Plus good running socks are padded and you’re less likely to get a blister!
Remember to warm up properly prior to exercise. I would recommend dynamic stretches that are running specific. Dynamic stretches use leg/arm movements in a controlled way to improve the range of motion and flexibility, increase the heart rate and body temperature and to increase blood flow. Studies have shown that dynamic exercise can reduce muscle soreness. Make sure that you brisk walk or light jog prior to dynamic stretches. Examples of dynamic stretching include, lunges, backward kicks, hip circles, running high knees. At the end of a run, I always walk slowly for five minutes depending on the length of the run, as this allows your heart rate to decrease gradually to your resting heart rate. After this perform static stretches. Hold each one for 20-30 seconds as they help your muscles to relax and encourage normal range of movement. Examples include hamstring, quadriceps, calf and upper back stretches.
To build up fitness and endurance, it’s a good idea to walk and jog. The walk will allow you to recover for the next jogging segment. For example, jog for a minute and then brisk walk for a minute. As you become fitter and it becomes easier, reduce the amount of time walking and increase the time jogging. Do this gradually and you’ll reduce the risk of injury and increase your endurance at the same time. Don’t increase your time, distance or number of times you run by more than 10% each week. Once you have built up a continuous running pace for ten minutes, start to add on 30 seconds per session. Eventually, you will reach 20 minutes. Once you have gained confidence, it’s a good idea to pick an event such as a 5k or 10k to give you something to aim for.
4. Training mix
I would recommend light weight training to help strengthen your muscles and to prevent any muscle imbalances appearing in muscles that aren’t being primarily used when running. Your legs will become stronger to beat those hills and improve your running technique. Don’t forget your core strength as this will help maintain good posture for running. Adding other sports into your routine can help with this too.
5. Join a running club
Clubs have different groups varying from complete beginners across the spectrum to 7min/mile or even faster! You can gain a wealth of experience by chatting to other runners and they tend to organise various runs throughout the week of all abilities. Also, it’s nice to have club support in running races. If that doesn’t take your fancy, visit the NHS couch to 5k for a little extra motivation.
My top 5 nutrition tips…
1. Calorie intake
As you increase the amount of training, your energy expenditure will start to increase. Eating too few calories could result in muscle loss overtime and tiredness which will hamper your running. Make sure that you eat enough to support your activity levels with a plethora of fruit/vegetables (rich in antioxidants), protein, healthy fats and slow releasing carbohydrates. Drink plenty of water too. Seek a nutrition professional to help you calculate your calorific requirements, if you’re unsure.
2. Pre run
When running for less than an hour, a snack beforehand is not necessary. However, it’s worth eating a snack two hours prior to the run if you haven’t eaten for over four hours to prevent a blood sugar drop which may cause you to feel faint whilst running. Snacks should be high in carbohydrate and slow releasing to help keep your blood sugar levels elevated. Try not to overeat on high fibrous foods as this can cause gastrointestinal distress. Fatty foods take longer to digest so stick with low fat foods. Experiment with foods that suit your stomach. I like to eat a natural energy bar before a run.
3. Post run
Ideally you should eat a carbohydrate rich snack with a source of protein to enhance glycogen absorption and protein repair within 30 minutes of finishing. With every step your muscles experience wear and tear and glycogen restores are depleted. So top up with a snack such as oat cakes with peanut butter, yoghurt with added fruit or dried fruit with added nuts. If you can’t stomach food, why not try experimenting fruit smoothies with milk and yoghurt. For example, almond and banana smoothie .
Dehydration can impair performance. The darker the urine, the more dehydrated you are. Pale coloured urine means that you’re hydrated. Make sure that you take a drink with you especially if it’s a hot day as you will lose water as well as -sodium, magnesium, potassium and chloride. I recommend buying electrolytes or tablets to add to water, or drink a glass of coconut water at the end of short runs.
5. Muscle recovery
Recovery is an important aspect of running. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant and is required for over 300 enyzmes in the body. It’s also vital for muscle contraction, energy production and aids in maintaining high oxygen delivery. Some people enjoy using the BetterYou Magnesium Flakes in the bath after hard training sessions alternatively you can spray Magnesium Oil onto those tired muscles. Recently I have also added the new Magnesium Body Butter and Lotion to my recovery routine as an extra little luxury.
I hope my tips help you to take on the rewarding world of running, enjoy and good luck to those running!