Well the big day is coming up thick and fast so I decided to try and get as many tips into one blog as possible. Big topics that keep getting thrown at me are what should I eat/avoid coming up to the race, should I be drinking electrolytes? There’s no simple answer to this I am afraid as everybody is different but the is a few things I would say to have a go with but don’t leave it till the big day to experiment, nothing would be worse than cramping up or under-performing because you felt too full. Good luck to you all!
Fueling for a marathon
When planning your carbohydrate intake, think grams per day rather than percentage of total calories. Interval training and easy long runs will deplete glycogen similarly, but these workouts use substantially different caloric amounts. Your caloric need will vary even further between training and recovery days. For athletes in periods of heavy training, a good rule of thumb is to consume three to five grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day. Low-mileage runners and smaller people can get away with up to a third less. A 120-pound recreational marathoner needs perhaps 200 grams of carbohydrate daily. If this were a competitive athlete, the number would be closer to 400 grams daily. A competitive, 170-pound runner might range between 500 and 700 grams daily.
This may seem like a lot of carbohydrate. A pound of cooked pasta contains only about 126 grams of carbohydrate. A quart of Gatorade contains 56 grams. That’s a lot of food to still place you firmly on the low end of the scale, but fruits and vegetables, sauces, condiments and even milk all contain additional carbs. A cup of pasta sauce contains 14 grams; a serving of peanut butter seven grams; salsa and ketchup have about four grams each per serving, and at two tablespoons, a serving of salsa is quite small. Two slices of rye bread contain about 28 grams of carbohydrate, the amount in one performance gel. The bread in a large, thick sub has approximately 72 grams.
Fruits and vegetables are carbohydrate-rich foods that also contain a great deal of other nutrients, and it is widely known that you should eat them in plentiful amounts. But don’t cut potatoes, bread and pasta from your diet. The cult of carbohydrate cutting notwithstanding, world nutrition experts assembling recommendations for the International Olympic Committee advise choosing foods high on the glycemic index as your major carbohydrate choices, especially for recovery meals. The 24 hours prior to a long run or marathon are particularly crucial for building glycogen stores. Similarly, it takes 24 hours after an event to replenish those stores. Meals on a day of heavy marathon training should follow these guidelines:
Divide the number of hours prior to exercise by two to find the amount in grams of carbohydrate you should consume per pound of body weight. This ensures that you properly decrease the size of the meal as the time before exercise decreases. Ideally, four hours before exercise, you would consume two grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight. If you only have one hour to go, you should only consume one half gram of carbohydrate per pound. Again, as a practical matter, smaller runners may consume up to a third less and favor consumption over longer periods of time. A 120-pound runner would not be able to consume 17 slices of rye bread with four hours to go before a long run. Since this has much to do with the sheer bulk of such a meal, remember that sports beverages and juices offer a concentrated dose of carbohydrate before a race, while filling the stomach far less.
During any exercise lasting over 90 minutes, it is recommended to start drinking early and continue to drink often in an effort to stave off dehydration in the race’s latter stages. For some, consuming 6-8 ounces of water or sports drink every 20 minutes or so will do the trick, but for others that may be a bit much. The time to find out what works for you is during practice runs prior to race day. My own advice/a good tip is to take a few sips of something every 20 minutes for the first 60-100 minutes of the race and drink when you are thirsty the rest of the way. Although rather unscientific, I’ve found through the trial and error of experience that this is an effective way to prevent fast fluid loss and avoid feelings of fullness late in the race.
Now that we know when to drink, the question becomes what to drink. Again, the answer will vary depending on the athlete. Some folks will do fine with just water, most others will need a little bit more than that. Over the course of a long-distance race you can be sure that you’ll sweat, losing not only water but also important electrolytes that are necessary to maintain muscle function. While drinking water at regular intervals during your race will certainly go a long way in keeping you hydrated, to prevent cramping late in the race you may need to replace some of the electrolytes you lose through sweat. Scientists disagree about whether electrolyte depletion during exercise causes muscle cramps (there’s surprisingly little research investigating such a link), but many cramp-prone runners swear that taking in electrolytes helps them. The easiest way to do so is by taking some form of sports drink, which will contain a mix of electrolytes in the form of sodium chloride and potassium, as well as simple sugars that will help keep the muscles fueled.
If the sugary stuff doesn’t sit well in your stomach, however, there are plenty of other excellent options, including sugar-free, low-calorie electrolyte drink mixes, as well as electrolyte pills and salt tablets that, when combined with regular water intake, will keep your electrolyte levels up. If you don’t like the idea of straying too far from water or popping pills into your mouth, basic foods such as pretzels and bananas are chock full of everything you need to accomplish the same goal.
Post marathon care
Straight after the marathon you will be wanting to celebrate with friends and family but this is an important time to do a few things. Step one grab some food! Even if you don’t feel like eating grab bananas and cereal bars and snack away. Also profit at this time from the free massages being offered at the finish line. Nice and light to help recovery nothing too deep as this will not help in the long run. If you can’t wait around then some light foam rolling will also do the trick and an ice bath if you can bear it. I love them but some people just can’t stick them.
Next few days can be tricky so follow as below:
Cross Training: none
Recovery Tips and tricks:
1. Soak in a hot tub for 10-15 and stretch well afterwards.
2. Each lots of fruits, carbs and protein. The Carbs and protein will help repair the muscle damage while the fruits will give you a boost of vitamin C and antioxidants to help combat free radical damage and boost your immune system.
3. Light massage will help loosen your muscles. Don’t schedule a deep tissue massage yet, just a gentle effleurage massage or a light rolling with the stick.
Running: One day, 2-4 miles very easy
Cross Training: Optional – Two days, 30-40 minutes easy effort. The focus is on promoting blood flow to the legs, not building fitness.
Recovery Tips and Tricks:
1. Continue eating a healthy diet
2. Now is the time you can get a deep tissue massage if you have areas that are really bothering you or that are injured.
3. Contrast bath your lower body. To contrast bath, take large trash cans and fill one with hot (hot bath temp) water and the other with ice water (cold enough so some ice still doesn’t melt) and put your whole lower body into the cold. Hold for 5 minutes and then switch to the hot for 5 mins. Repeat 2 or 3 times, ending with cold. This helps rush blood in and out of the area, which facilitates healing. 4 Epsom Salt Bath. About an hour before bed, massage your legs out with the stick or self massage and then soak in a hot/warm bath with 3 cups epsom salt and 1 cup baking soda for 10-15 minutes. After the soak, stretch real well and relax. This always perks up my legs quite a bit and you’ll also sleep great.
Running: Three or four days of 4-6 miles very easy.
Cross Training: Optional – Three sessions total. One easy session and two medium effort sessions for 30-45 minutes.
Running: Begin to slowly build back into full training. My suggestion is four to five runs of 4-8 miles with 4 x 20 sec strides after each run.
Cross Training: 1 easy session, 1 medium session, and 1 hard session of 40-50 minutes. Don’t worry about losing any running fitness during this recovery period. First, it’s much more important to ensure proper recovery so you can train even harder during your next training cycle.
If you don’t let yourself recover now, you’ll simply have to back off your workouts when it matters and put yourself on the verge of overtraining. Likewise, you won’t lose much fitness at all. In my experience, it takes about 2-3 weeks of training to get back into good shape and ready to start attacking workouts and planning races.
Try not to schedule any races until 6 weeks after your marathon. I know you may want to avenge a disappointing performance or you’ll be coming off a running high and you’ll want to run every race under the sun. However, your results won’t be as good as they might be if you just wait a few weeks and let your body recover and train a little first. Patience is a virtue, but it will pay off in the end.
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