There is no doubt that 2020 has been a unique year. For many of us, being stuck indoors has led us to falling off the bandwagon when it comes to our fitness goals.
The good news is that it looks like spring running season may still be going ahead with new dates being tentatively set for some of the major races. This is awesome for anyone looking to boost their fitness as there is nothing more motivating than an event to train for and a time frame to do it in.
Here are 40 times marathon runner Ben Lucas’ top tips for getting ready for the 2020 season:
1. Work your way up to your running distance
So you have signed up for a 10k, a half marathon or a marathon, but you haven’t actually been to the gym or gone for a proper run in months. Rule #1, work your way up to your desired running distance, don’t just come right out and do the full distance without preparing. If you are looking to run a half marathon, running that distance in your first training session is only going to lead to aches, pains or maybe even an injury.
Build your way up to the distance, ideally over a 2-3-month period and remember that even if you are training for a half marathon, you don’t actually have to run that distance during your training. You just have to make yourself strong enough to last that distance on the day.
In addition to building up your kms, get into the gym and strengthen up the muscles that are needed to keep you strong during your run. For example, when you run you are on one leg at a time. Therefore, single leg deadlifts and lunges are two good exercises you should be doing. You also need a strong core and good posture so push ups, ab work, even squats with the bar behind your shoulders are all good exercises to practise in the lead up to running season.
2. Have a plan
Getting out and just going for a run for your training is unlikely to help you run your best race. When training you need to consider what may be thrown at you on the course – from hills, to rough terrain, to having to sprint around other participants.
A good training plan should take into account the following:
A sprint training day. Literally just do some sprints on this day. 10 x 100 metres is a good place to start.
A Fartlek/ speed play day. This is where you change up the pace and tempo of your run so you may sprint or run fast for a few hundred metres, and then slow down for a few hundred metres.
A long run day. If you are just starting out I would aim for 5km and then build your kms up from there. If you need to both walk and run to get this distance done that is fine, especially when you are starting out.
Hill sprints day. Try to find a hill and sprint up it, walk down it and repeat a number of times. This is so your body, tendons and joints are ready if the track has a hill on it. If you don’t practise hill sprints you may struggle with muscle soreness, cramps etc. while you are doing them on the day.
Recovery sessions, and at least 1 rest day.
3. A recovery plan
Aside from stretching and foam rolling after your running sessions and workouts, I am a huge fan of infrared saunas and float therapy as well as leg compression using NormaTec boots. I also am a huge fan of yoga for when I am training for a big event as it is a great way to stretch out your muscles. If I am sore, I see a physio.
4. Your diet
Your diet will matter more the closer you get to race day. Ideally after every training session you would have a protein rich snack and as race day approaches, I would recommend having a diet that is high in protein, has lots of veggies and some healthy carbs such as brown rice or sweet potato.
One tip though is don’t change your diet or supplements up the night before the race. If you want to eat something different on race night, start adding it into your diet 2 weeks before. The last thing you need is a sore stomach when you are in the middle of the event.
5. Appropriate gear
This is an important one. Just because a sports shoe looks nice, does not mean it is the right one for you or your foot. I highly advise buying your running shoes from a store where the sales staff know how to fit shoes and choose the right ones for you. Also make sure you start wearing them to break them in a few weeks before the race. No one wants blisters on event day.
The same goes for clothes. You want to test out what you are wearing to make sure it won’t chafe you or be uncomfortable For a guy, I highly advise nipple tape if you are running a longer distance. I learned that one the hard way and the chafe was almost unbearable.
Ben Lucas is the Director of Flow Athletic. He ran 35 marathons in the space of 5 years and just completed his 40th ahead of his 40th birthday last year. Last year he trained 50 non-runners to run the NYC marathon with him.