While the running training for the Virgin Money London marathon is essential, it’s also important to take time to plan and to learn some tactics.
Going out for a run without thinking and repeating that over and over is not going to make you faster. The difference is made by talking to the experts (like my trainers Gary Spencer and Jamie Kerr).
Recently I got even more tips by sleep expert Sammy Margo and mental performance coach Andy Barton and things started to make sense further.
Here are their top 5 tips:
Sammy Margo, Sleep Expert & Chartered Physiotherapist
Wake up well…
If you’re planning a morning run, it’s important to wake up feeling good. During the night you go through cycles of sleep, typically lasting between 90 and 110 minutes each, varying between light and deep sleep. It’s when your alarm wakes you from deep sleep that you feel groggy. Use apps or wearable technology to monitor your cycles so you can set your alarm to wake you when you’re in a light sleep and therefore more likely to feel refreshed and ready for an early morning run.
Understand your sleep states…
The first few hours of sleep before midnight are when you reach a deep slow-wave sleep, where tissues regrow, bone and muscles build and the immune system strengthens. So getting an early night after a big run is ideal recovery for your body.
Andy Barton, Mental Performance Coach
Mental pain relief…
Pain is inevitable when putting your body through 26 miles of running, but there are ways you can minimise it. Firstly, changing the word from “pain” to something like “discomfort” or “a niggle” can make a real difference. Pain is highly subjective and we tend to feel it more if we expect to feel it. Secondly, when people experience pain they tend to let their heads drop, looking at the ground as they run. By doing this, you can end up focusing on the pain more. By keeping your eyes up and expanding your vision, you become more externally focused and it’s much easier to distract yourself from any niggles that may develop.
Fire up your imagination…
When we imagine performing a skill, we fire up an almost identical pattern of neural responses to when we are actually performing it. By imagining yourself in the process of running a marathon you can train your brain to be more prepared for the race, so it feels like it’s something you have already achieved. In fact, our imagination is so powerful that studies have shown that just mentally rehearsing a workout in the gym can increase your muscle mass. If you want to be fitter, faster and stronger on your run, try using a little imagination!
Stay in the present…
Athletes perform best when they are in a state of flow or “in the zone”; where running feels easy and effortless. We get in the zone when we are trusting our unconscious, learned skills without any self-consciousness, distractions, fears or concern. To achieve this, it is essential for the mind to be in the present, but instead marathon runners often find themselves worrying about how far they have to go or whether they have done enough training. If you focus on what is in front of you, enjoy the crowds, the atmosphere and even focus on your breathing, you are more likely to get into the zone and perform at your best.
Sammy and Andy have done a series of tips for The Holiday Inn, the official hotel partner of the Virgin Money London Marathon, which will be released on the Holiday Inn Facebook page in the run-up to the marathon.