If you’re anything like me, you will be in the final throws of the build up towards the Melbourne Marathon Festival. Running the half marathon was a goal that I set myself after having my little boy back in December last year. I didn’t start running again until March this year and it’s been a challenging yet rewarding journey ever since. I thought I would drop you guys a few lines on what I have been doing as part of my preparations.
I have used the last 8 months to gradually increase my pace and endurance. In the early stages, I started out with short efforts and lots of recovery. This gradually increased to being able to run a good 7-10km interval session. As a general rule, I tend to have two quality speed work sessions a week (Tuesday’s and Thursday’s) and one long run in the weekend when I have more time. The speed work involves one session with my running club at the track, which usually involves reps of anywhere from 300m to 1km. I started out running shorter reps than everyone else, until I built up the stamina to do the same session. Now I even chase a few people around the track! I love this session as you have the social element to it and I always run so much harder with other people, so you it always means I get a quality session.
My Thursday session involves one of my usual workouts of 1km repeats (90 seconds rest) or 3 minute repeats (with 1 minute rest). Either set is run at threshold pace. Threshold pace (also known as lactate threshold) is the maximal running pace you can sustain for approximately 45 – 60 minutes. Its effectively that fine line between aerobic training (when enough oxygen to meet your body’s demands) and anaerobic training (the point above which lactate begins to accumulate in your blood). It’s usually tough - especially the last few reps! But it really challenges my fitness and I have been able to improve my threshold pace as a result.
My long run will usually be anywhere between 15km and 22km. I built this up over time by adding an extra km to the run every week until I reached 22km. I usually run this at a nice steady pace (30-40seconds slower than my targeted race pace) but I will also throw in a few kilometres of race pace to see how my body copes.
The rest of the week, I will either cross train (cycling or Pilates) and do a few easy runs at a relaxed pace with my son in the running pram. It sounds so straightforward when you write it all down like that but it’s never really that simple…
Strength & Mobility
This is the first time (in 6 years) that I have focussed solely on running, rather than triathlon. I felt like I had more room to hide with triathlon due to the diversity of training and the non-weight bearing disciplines of cycling and swimming. In contrast, running exposes every weakness or asymmetry due to its high impact nature.
I had a good endurance background prior to having a baby as I used to race middle distance triathlon. But, even then, I have really had to focus on building up the strength that I had lost since having a baby. Pregnancy changes your centre of gravity and always wreaks havoc on your pelvic floor and transverse abdominals! Pilates has really helped me with rebuilding my core and strengthening my glutes, which have suffered because of taking time off running and strength work. Even if you haven’t had a baby, incorporating some strength work into your training is always a preventative measure to avoiding injuries.
In addition to Pilates, before each session, I have been really strict on doing activation and mobility work to ensure that everything is primed and ready to run. I have found that my pace comes so much easier after doing this. If I neglect to do this before a session, all I can feel is the stiffness and fatigue from the last session. Check out the video below for more on what I do.
I usually do my mobility work in the evenings, especially after a hard training session or if my body is feeling tired. My mobility sessions involve things like;
Working through my plantar fascia, which gets tight (especially on the left due to an old ankle issue).
Using a foam roller or massage ball on my thoracic spine and posterior shoulders (I am always bending over massaging, cooking, picking things up, sitting or studying).
Foam rolling my quads, glutes and hamstrings (the key powerhouse muscles that get super tight with all the training and sitting).
Both activation and mobility sessions helps me to prep for the session and aids my body to recover overnight. It also helps to develop good running patterns (a symmetrical, fast cadence with a for-to-mid foot strike), which generates a powerful stride and good, efficient running technique.
Throughout the day, my main focus is on staying hydrated. If hydration levels drop by as little as 2%, it can cause fatigue, which makes getting out for a decent session pretty challenging. If hydration drops as much as 10%, it can cause significant health problems (e.g. digestive, cardiovascular, immune and musculoskeletal issues), which I definitely want to avoid! This means I always have a bottle always to hand. I usually try to have more water at the start of the day to rehydrate after a night’s sleep and to compensate for my morning coffee. It then means that any afternoon or evening training sessions can be done without too much fatigue and sluggishness.
I also find that my thirst indicators are not always that reliable, so I tend to go by volume of water consumed. There is a simple equation for calculating your hydration needs, which is below if you’re interested;
Body weight (in kg’s) 30 = minimum number of litres you should drink each day
For every 250ml of diuretic beverage, you should add 350-450ml of water to your daily intake.
Don’t forget to add plenty of unrefined sea salt to replenish your electrolytes too. I add Himalayan rock salt liberally to my meals and then maybe to some water if I feel I need it. I also eat loads of vegetables to get a wide variety of minerals in my diet.
Soft Tissue Therapy
The final piece of the puzzle in my lead up to the Melbourne half is soft tissue treatment. Often a foam roller or massage ball can only go so far and even a remedial massage therapist, such as myself, needs a professional and objective opinion. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by excellent therapists, so I can book in for a session from one of these guys when I feel I need it. Recently, I have been getting a lot of treatment on my left leg, due to an old ankle issue that affects my running gait and often results in stiffness, especially after hard sessions on the track! I have also booked myself in for a couple of sessions in the 2 weeks prior to the race to ensure that my body is completely recovered from all the training build up and ready for racing.
I hope some of my journey is useful for you guys in your build up to the Melbourne Marathon Festival (or future races or events). In the meantime, happy training and all the best for racing your best on the day!