Women’s Health Digital Editor, PT and first-time marathon runner Amy Hopkinson shares how she’s trained for the long run.
One look at my Instagram and you might assume that running races comes naturally. But until 2018, I was much like the 75% of women who – according to Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign – want to be more active but aren’t, because of a fear of not being fit enough. I was afraid that even if I conquered 20 gruelling weeks of cardio training I might not complete the 26.2 miles. At least not in the average time of 4 hours 17 minutes.
I’ll openly admit that I was scared of being a Women’s Health editor whose running stats didn’t stack up with her CV. So, what changed? I committed to training for the joy that’s in it. And with that, I refused to run for a time.
When competition and clock watching goes out the window you zone in on how you feel. It no longer matters how fast you move but how you move. And this, in my mind, is the most important aspect of any training plan.
But, re-wind to 2017 for a moment. This was the year that I focussed my fitness on learning how to move; I built a strong, stable body and ironed out any imbalances and kinks that put me at risk of injury. I mastered moving well, which really did set me up for moving more in 2018. With that in mind, here are my marathon non-negotiables. Embrace these now and you’ll be ready to race come 2019:
Get strong for speed
The easier running feels the more you enjoy it, so embrace strength training. Weighted single leg strength exercises build muscle and improve neuromuscular coordination and power where you need it most. You’ll notice the benefits as better coordination, less wobbling and increased stride efficiency.
A typical running cadence, that’s your number of steps, is somewhere between 145-185 per minute. But fast tempo music can alter this and without realising, you begin to run more like Radcliffe. This is fine on 5KMs but hard to maintain over long distances. My hack? Switch to podcasts. They still entertain (and distract when things get tough) but are less likely to play with your pace.
Buy a ball
Feel-good endorphins are hard to find when everything hurts. But a thrice-weekly session with a tennis ball changes this. Roll it on your calves, glutes, hips and hamstrings for self-style myofascial release, which reduces soreness.
Tiredness and headaches from dehydration are the fastest way zap a Sunday Runday high. So start hydrating the night before by sipping a pint of electrolytes. Do the same straight after your run when stretching. The potassium and magnesium in these tablets (that you add to water) ease muscle cramps, while brands with added Vitamin B12 boost energy too.
Now, as running begins not with the feet but with the mind get inspired by this year’s runners – a quick scroll of #LondonMarathon2018 should help.