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10 expert tips for runners

Marathon season is looming, so whether you’ve signed up to a 10km, half or full marathon, here are a few tips to boost your performance…



Sammy Margo, Sleep Expert & Chartered Physiotherapist suggests…

1. 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.

2. 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.  

3. Use rest to help recovery

You risk injury if you increase frequency, duration or intensity of training too quickly – your body’s tissue tolerance to loading can only be pushed so far. Too much training with too little recovery is not a good thing. If you are recovering from an injury or overtraining, you will need to take some time out and embrace a little “active rest”. Active rest is an activity that keeps you moving but at a greatly reduced intensity or duration, like running a shorter distance on a softer surface, or swimming a few lengths and then gradually increasing distance and speed over time until you’re back to full training pace. Dedicate some time to working on your core too, as this will make you less prone to injury.

4. Indulge in snooze foods

Foods that contain Tryptophan can help to promote restful sleep as it’s the catalyst to the hormone, Melatonin, so try to include some of these foods as part of your evening meal. Bananas,turkey,Marmite, almonds, oatmeal and warm milk are also effective, particularly when combined with carbohydrates. This means something like Marmite or bananas on toast are great evening snacks if you’re struggling to get to sleep. 

5. Breathe easily

There are several proven techniques to help you unwind if you’re worrying about your next run, one of which is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). PMR is a great way to help you unwind and prepare your body for sleep. It involves tensing and relaxing your muscles from your toes to your forehead. Squeeze each muscle group for a few seconds then release and relax for ten seconds before moving onto the next, all the while taking deep breaths in and out.Studies have shown that PMR can reduce cortisol levels, a steroid hormone associated with stress that can play havoc with your ability to get to sleep. 


Andy Barton, Mental Performance Coach offers his advice…

1. 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.

2. 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!

3. The power of enjoying yourself

Don’t take it too seriously and forget about the fun side of the run. Thinking that the only way to improve is to be serious and piling pressure on yourself will lead to and get frustration if things don’t go to plan. We’re actually far more resourceful when we are happy; we have greater energy, we think more clearly, we sleep longer and even digest our food better. Just putting a smile on your face can make a significant difference in the way you feel before and during a race. Ensure you find the fun in what you are doing and you are far more likely to stay with training and get better results.

4. 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.

5.Tell the world

You may be tempted to keep your goals to yourself. Research, however, shows a real benefit to sharing your goals with as many people as possible, partly as there is an incentive to avoid the embarrassment of not achieving it once you have told them, but also because it helps to increase motivation, focus and energy towards training and the event itself. One of the great benefits of social media is that you can share your goal and your progress and reviece positive support as you gradually increase your training regime and reach new milestones. So, if you have a goal in mind, make sure you tell everyone.

Holiday Inn have more Rest & Run expert tips for the weeks leading up to the Virgin Money London Marathon.

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