The secret ingredient for your marathon training

How important is it to rest during high mileage weeks leading up to a race such as the London Marathon? The answer is, yes you’ve guessed it, VERY important! In fact, it could be argued that it is just as important as making sure you are getting 7+ hours sleep everyday to be able to get up and work/train/perform the next day.

Recovery is the key to performing. It is sometimes abused and often not taken seriously enough. No matter what level and ability you are, recovering needs to be just as important as training. Us runners can be a stubborn bunch. For me personally my one day a week rest day couldn’t come soon enough, however once it’s here I’m itching to get out the door and run. I know though how important it is that I rest. I feel recharged, happier and stronger when running again.

Recovery isn’t just resting from running though, it’s giving your brain a break from training and giving your body a chance to refuel and absorb the vital nutrients your muscles need to recover and prepare for another hard week of training. Be smart and refuel cleverly.

Taking on vital the ingredients at times that matter will make a huge impact to your training. Protein as we all know has a huge benefit to recovering. Protein shakes, bars and meals will repair your muscles after training and help rebuild damaged muscle tissue. HIGH5 uses the very highest quality of whey protein isolate for optimal recovery. Post exercise nutrition can improve the quality and the rate of recovery after exercise. This is vital for reaching and maintaining a high level of fitness. Less muscle damage and better recovery can result in stronger more resilient muscle, lower risk of injury and more rapid fitness gains from your training. HIGH5 offer a range products that will compliment your recovery. You might also want to add a twist to you recovery drink – you can find some great ideas here.

Protein Recovery Smoothie

HIGH5 Running Nutrition Guides have been designed to help you run faster and to finish a challenge, like a marathon, feeling strong and with a smile on your face. High5 work exceptionally hard to ensure that you can perform at your best. HIGH5 nutrition undergoes rigorous testing in both the lab and with athletes in the real world. It won’t let you down when it matters most. Here you can find guides to support you on your running journey.

Enjoy your rest days, embrace them as they will make us runners faster and fitter. Without rest days we would run ourselves into the ground through over-training and increasing our risk of picking up an injury. Look after yourself, fuel yourself with the correct nutrition that will help you to replenish the vitamins and minerals that we lose through training… and lastly inspire others! There is always someone working harder than you out there but there is also always someone wishing they could be doing just as much as you!

Be clever – train smart! Your team from RunningWithUs

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Be a stronger runner this year

‘New Year, New You’! We’ve heard it loads before but what does it actually mean for you as an individual runner? The new year provides both a chance to start afresh, tackle new challenges and set new goals, review and consolidate the good training you may have implemented in 2016.

W13240603_1088938937846415_1548091568490348331_nhen thinking about 2017, runners can be broadly split into two categories: those who get majorly motivated by the statement and begin to plan this ‘New Self’ versus those who cynically think ‘yeah yeah I’ve tried it all before’.

The main reason many runner’s new years resolutions fail is because the goals are often too extreme and the changes unrealistic. However by choosing the correct targets for YOU and planning exactly how you are going to achieve them. By the end of 2017 you could find yourself smugly looking back over 12 months of new years resolutions having come true.

Here are some suggestions from HIGH5 running coaches Running With Us for different categories of runners who are looking for some new year inspiration or guidance.

The raw recruit

Park Blue 5354 croppedRunning has massively grown in popularity over the last few years and as running coaches we see a big influx of new runners into the sport each January. If you are a complete beginner and your New Years resolution is to take up running from scratch then firstly you need to choose an achievable target. A 5k is a great starting distance. The end goal gives your running focus and the training is manageable and not too daunting. Check out www.parkrun.org which might be a great place to start, plan your campaign to get to 5km to last 6-8 weeks and work with a structured plan if you can.

Work out how many times you can realistically fit running or exercise into your week and use this as a basis when choosing a training schedule. The number of training sessions can always be increased as fitness and motivation progress as the weeks go on, but beginning with an unrealistic number of sessions per week can often lead to demotivation due to this being unachievable. Too many people want to go from zero to hero in the first week!

Consistency is key, so if two or three runs per week fits in with your life balance right now and is an obtainable target then stick to this. Regularity of training over a few weeks beats binge training one week and doing nothing the next. If you can link up with a local running club or group who will help to motivate and inspire you to keep progressing. If you are not sure where to start check out www.runtogether.co.uk – there you will find details of groups in your area.

The seasoned campaigner

Training PlanIf you are a more experienced runner you have a choice. Churn out the same routes, runs and races or are you going to finally break that plateau and achieve some new PBs? If so then some changes certainly need to be made…

Sit down with a calendar; consider your goals, injuries, lifestyle and your current fitness and target a race that will allow you the time to peak at your optimum physical condition. For a marathon or a half this might require 12 months, for a 10km you might try to peak twice in a year but give yourself the time to incorporate some of the advice below. This is your macrocycle.

Within this period you should aim to break your year down into smaller chunks that give you the opportunity to develop different elements of your fitness: your endurance, your strength, your speed, your race pace, your taper. These smaller chunks are your mesocycles which typically last 4-8 weeks. Try some periods and races that will take you out of your comfort zone. For example, if you tend to focus on marathons and ultras look to include a phase in the year focusing on short distances and working on your 5-10km time or maybe even get onto the track in the summer. In the winter the cross country season can provide a great way of challenging your body differently.

Analyse what went right and wrong within last years training. Stick to the positive elements but change the negative. This may mean choosing a new and challenging training schedule, finding a coach who can give you fresh advice and structure or beginning training with other runners by joining a group/club.

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The Spring marathoner
If 2017 is beginning with a spring marathon target for you, then let’s get organised and ensure you are on the road to success.

  • Have you chosen a good trustworthy training schedule that will guide you through the next 12 to 14 weeks and is suited to your ability? We have some great training plans here.
  • Have you scheduled in your pre-marathon races? One or two half marathons along the way will provide short and mid term goals and will give you an indication of how your training is going.
  • Are you wearing the correct trainers that have been fitted properly and suit your running needs?
  • Have you found a good trustworthy physio to help you with sports massage, injury prevention and provide an MOT to check for strengths/weaknesses and advise on what to concentrate on in order to get to that start line in one piece?

Have a look at the points above and aim to have them all ticked in order to begin your marathon journey successfully. It is time to get organised and get motivated. You can’t cram for a marathon and it is a process of putting all of the correct ingredients together in order to achieve your 26.2 miles of success!

Make 2017 the year you take control of your running. For nutrition advice for running check out this section: https://highfive.co.uk/high5-faster-and-further/#running.

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How to train for a Half Marathon Part 2: Peaking

This is the second part of our half marathon special from HIGH5’s Running Experts, RunningWithUs. It covers the second phase of your training in the build up to the big day with top tips on running economically and staying healthy.

If you missed part one of our half marathon special you can find it here: https://highfive.co.uk/half-marathon-part1/

Peaking, specifically
The crucial phase 4-6 weeks from race dayPark Blue 5354 cropped is when you will start to really push your training forward as you see the fitness gains from those early foundation weeks bed in. Consider some of our top tips for these crucial weeks:

The economy matters
‘Running economy’ in simple terms relates to the energy demand and how much oxygen you need to run at your given race pace. Through careful training you can run your desired race-pace whilst minimising energy or oxygen consumption. Include some race pace efforts into your long run. Testing your energy systems by running your planned race pace towards the end of your long runs can be a great way to improve your running economy.

Try these sessions:
A) 1hr 45 minutes with the final 60 minutes run as 3 x 15 minutes at half marathon pace with 5 minutes recovery
B) 21km with the final 10km as a 10km race at half marathon pace
C) 25km run as a progression of 5km easy / 5km half marathon pace / 5km easy / 5km half marathon pace / 2km hard / 3km easy

Use your week
It can get tempting to focus on your long run as the key measure of your fitness before your half. In fact using your midweek runs cleverly in these crucial weeks will have as much of an impact as the long run. Break your routine of just easy and steady mid-week efforts by getting out and trying something with a bit more quality.

Try this: If you are short on time around work, focus on quality. A lot can be achieved in a 45 minute run! 15/15/15 is our favourite for a highly effective, short mid-week session – that’s 15 minutes easy, 15 minutes steady, 15 minutes at 3-4 word answer effort. Or 45 minutes with the final 25 at half marathon pace. You could even try an interval session, such as 8 x 3 minutes: run the odd numbers at a little faster than half marathon pace, the even numbers at 5km pace and take 75 seconds for recovery.Training Plan

Stay healthy
These crucial last few weeks can be a delicate time. You will be fitter and stronger but also carrying some fatigue and soreness from training. It can be tempting to keep pushing, adding more volume, but you may find that you are regularly picking up niggles, or getting sick.

Top tip: Cross trainers, rowing machines and aqua jogging can supplement your running and even replace sessions if you are injured. Maintain the same time and effort levels as your running plan. Use a heart rate monitor to hit the same efforts your would if you were out running. Also ensure you are recovering well immediately after hard sessions. Consider using HIGH5 Protein Recovery in the crucial 10-20 minute window after these harder sessions which will help stimulate and promote the recovery process.

Race
Don’t get daunted by the volume and the goal. 12-16 weeks of training can seem a lot, so try to break down your half marathon goal with intermediate target races. This will also allow you to get used to running around other people and learn the patterns and routines you will want to replicate on your main race day.

Top tip: Enter a 5km race, perhaps a parkrun, 4-6 weeks into your plan. Then try a 10km race, 3-4 weeks before your target half marathon. You might even consider running a 10km race at your planned half marathon heart rate, with 20-30 minutes easy running before, and 20-30 minutes easy after the race to make a tough, but confidence building long run. Racing in training is also a great time to practice your race day nutrition. Using HIGH5 EneryGels at the start and half way through your 10km, will help you feel confident and strong with your strategy on race day itself. Also check out our half marathon nutrition guide.

MR&WR_Running Pairs_Portugal052Sharper, fresher, faster
Tapering simply means cutting back your training in a planned way to ensure you arrive at the start line fit, strong and fresh. We recommend maintaining the pattern of training you have established through the last 10-16 weeks of your training. So if you currently run 3, 4 or 5 times a week, continue to run 3, 4 or 5 times a week in the final two weeks before race day. Combining a familiar pattern of training with a reduced volume and a drop in the intensity on each run, you will find you can build up your energy levels without getting rusty.

Try this: Aim to reduce the volume of your training by about 30% two weeks out from race day, and to about 50% in race week itself. Also check out our article on tapering.

Sleep your way to success
When you sleep, your body moves through different sleep cycles. The magical, deep sleep phase is when growth hormones are released. This will help you recover from your training, build more muscle and help cellular regeneration. However it takes several hours to get to this phase of your sleep so if you are regularly getting less than 8 hours a night you are limiting your body’s ability to adapt to all the hard miles you have put in.

Try this: Aim for 20-30 minutes more sleep a night during your taper. Banish smart phones, tablets, TVs etc from the bedroom. Limit big meals, alcohol and caffeine late at night and aim to get into a good, regular pattern of early nights in the final days before racing.

DSC4728 croppedGet sharp
Whilst you want to arrive at the start line fresh, it can be easy to cut back too much and feel rusty and sluggish when the gun goes off. Aim to maintain some lighter faster sessions in the final two weeks to keep the legs moving!

Try this: On the Saturday 7-8 days before your race, consider having a go at a parkrun. Aim to run hard and get the legs moving. This will build confidence and help you to remind yourself of your pre-race routine.

Fuel
You body needs good stores of carbohydrate to race well over the half marathon distance. Ensure that your not getting hungry at any point in the final 3-4 days before the race and digging an energy hole for yourself.

Try this: Monitor your fuel intake closely and aim to snack every 2-3 hours on high quality carbohydrates. HIGH5 Energy Bars can be a great option if you feel you are struggling to get solid carbohydrates in. HIGH5 Energy Source is another great option in the final two days before the race to top up those energy stores.

Take away tips:
  • Build up your strength
  • Include a threshold run once a week
  • Be patient with your training and increase gradually
  • Increase your running economy
  • Cut back in the last few weeks, but stay sharp

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How to Train for a Half Marathon Part 1: Building Foundations

Consistently voted the UK’s favourite race distance, a half marathon is a great way to bridge up from a 10km to a full marathon. However, it is a distance with its own unique characteristics that will both challenge your endurance whilst still giving you room to work on your speed and strength.

The first of this two part half marathon special covers some top tips on getting your training right and how to build your foundations. HIGH5’s Running Experts, RunningWithUs, cover some of the key sessions so that you can feel confident to take on 13.1 miles if you are new to this distance and help you grab that new PB if you are an experienced runner!

Building your Foundations
The foundations of your half marathon campaign require planning and patience. Work back from race day and give yourself 12-16 weeks to build gradually. MR & WR _Stretch _A_Portugal007 croppedThink about some of the following tips in the early weeks:

Toughen up
Ask most runners what they found hardest in a half and they will mention how their legs felt in the final few miles. As you race fast your heart rate will creep up and you’ll have to work hard to maintain your pace. This is where your physical strength will have a critical role. A stronger frame will help you carry the engine you are building up through the weeks of running. We can do this by adding strength and conditioning into your training mix, ideally twice a week.

Try this: Focus on specific strength exercises that support your ability to transfer weight one leg at a time. Single leg squats, walking lunges, rowing exercises and pilates can all be great options to consider.

An upward curve
Building a periodic plan over the course of 12 weeks involves laying foundations in the early stages on which you will build the walls and roof of your half marathon performance. Including hill sessions into the first 4-6 weeks of your training plan is a great way to do this.

Try this: ‘Continuous hills’ sometimes also called ‘Kenyan Hills’ can be a top session to include once a week in your early training weeks. Find a hill with a gradient of around 6-8%. Run up the hill at an effort where you can only speak 4 words, but don’t sprint. After 60 seconds, run back down at the same 4 word answer effort and repeat: 4 x 6 minutes in week one, 3 x 10 minutes in week two and 4 x 8 minutes in week three. Include a short 90-120 second recovery between each block.

Half Marathon RunnerTipping Points
Included in the right way, sessions that add more intensity into your running week will make you fitter, stronger and faster. However, ensure that your sessions are as specific and relevant to the half marathon distance as possible by adding a weekly threshold run into your training. ‘Threshold’ refers to your anaerobic threshold, around 80-85% of your maximum heart rate. By training in this area you will learn to run faster, whilst still principally training your aerobic fitness, developing your ability to hold a faster pace for longer.

Top tip: Include a weekly session running longer ‘repetitions’ at a threshold effort. Use a heart rate monitor to run at 80-85% of your maximum HR or simply run to 4 word answer pace, a controlled discomfort taking care not to push too hard. In the early weeks this might be 4-5 x 5 minutes at this effort, with 75-90 seconds recovery inbetween. Over a period of 6-8 weeks this can build up to 4-5 x 2km, still from a short recovery as you get fitter and stronger.

A game of patience
As motivated as you may be, running is a high impact sport and must be integrated progressively into your exercise routine. Starting with 3 times per week or every other day, is generally a safe place to start and this can be progressed, as the body gets stronger.

Try this: Be prepared to walk/run if you’re building up your fitness and gradually reduce the amounts of walking in the weeks ahead. 20 minutes might be 1 minute easy run/ 1 minute brisk walk in week one, but by week 4 it could be 20 minutes continuous or 4 minutes run/ 1 minute walk. If you are more experienced, recognise that easy and conversational paced running has a huge benefit to your cardiovascular system. Don’t be tempted to push too hard on your easy runs in the early weeks – these should be at the speed of chat. That means you can still hold a conversation with your running partner.

Watch out for the second part of our half marathon special next week. This will cover the crucial phase leading up to the Half Marathon, as well as tapering and how to prepare for the big day itself.

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Understanding my training zones

Have you ever left the front door not sure how fast to run? You may have a training plan, but just how hard is an easy run and how should your threshold or interval training feel? Our coaching partners Running With Us explain the different effort levels and what these should feel like.

Easy/Recovery running
Gi_WomanOnTreadmill_RT2croppedFor those of you who are very new to running, we promise that this sport doesn’t have to be exhausting and each run shouldn’t leave you tired for days. The early runs where you are learning to cover distance and time should be completed at the speed of chat. That’s right, you should be able to still talk to the person next to you whilst running. We call this the ‘talk test’ and it is great to use to gage your effort level.

For those who are more experienced, running at ‘the speed of chat’ is how your easy runs should feel in a training week. You should feel totally in control, relaxed and able to talk whilst running. This is easier to check whilst running with a friend but if on your own, you may find you are running along the street talking to yourself. It’s not a bad thing as long as it helps you gage your effort! If you wanted to give this type of running a score on an effort level 1-10 (1 being the easiest) it should be 6/10.

If experienced and running before breakfast, your easy runs could become crucial in your half, full and even ultra marathon training. Running at 6/10 or around the 60% of max heart rate will ensure much of your energy comes from stored fats. In events where you will be working for longer than 90 minutes at a consistent effort, becoming efficient at metabolising stored fats as a fuel source will become crucial in your quest for a new PB, even when you take gels and have a good breakfast on race day. It is therefore very wise to make some of your easy/recovery runs pre-breakfast moments, stimulating this stored fat system and preparing the body to use both stored fat and carbohydrate on race day.

Effort level: 6 out of 10 or around 60% of your maximum heart rate (MHR)

Top Tip – The key to this zone is making sure you can hold a conversation easily at anytime and feeling totally in control.

Steady Running
The next level: this is steady running and the backbone of training for the more experienced. It isn’t complicated but does require honesty. You can push this area too hard and run junk miles that leave you too tired for the important sessions that we will talk about next. This area is perhaps a 7/10 on your scorecard and is still conversational, although the chat is slightly strained.

Effort level: 7/10 or around 70% MHR

Top Tip – Many runners run or drift along at a steady effort on their easy and recovery days never allowing their bodies to regenerate in an optimum way. Be careful not to compromise your next harder day or key session by running steady all week!
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Threshold & tempo running
If you really want to train like a pro and begin to see your heart get stronger, stoke volume improve and ultimately your running economy progress then this is the magic area. We call this ‘uncomfortable running’ or ‘controlled discomfort.’

The real key though is that you can still talk between each breath but it’s only 3-4 word answers. If you can utter a couple of distressed words, you are working too hard and conversely if you can say most of a sentence you are not working hard enough. This is running uncomfortably but with control… just! It is certainly not sprinting or running to exhaustion.

Initially, you might only be ready to include a few 3-minute blocks of this in a run each week but it can grow and you can build the volume over the months. We call this type of running ‘the bedrock’ and it is vital when becoming a better runner. Sessions could grow from 4 x 5 minutes with a jog recovery to 3 x 10 mins and ultimately 20-30 mins all controlled and cruising at a consistent pace but still just in the aerobic zone.

Our 3-4 word talk test is pretty accurate but for those of you wanting to get this spot on and nail the marginal gains, we suggest a lab test to establish lactate levels against heart rate and even your current VO2 max. Your heart rate monitor will then guide you perfectly with training zones that match your personal running DNA.

Effort level: 8/10 0r around 80-85% MHR

Top Tip – The key to this magic zone is keeping it feeling like 3-4 word answer pace and not progressively harder. You shouldn’t feel like you are in the final stages of a 5k or 10k. Keep that control… just!

Warehouse GrayPink 9074Interval training & VO2 max/high lactate sessions
It’s time to visit the hurt locker! To a point, how a 5k/10k effort or intense interval training feels is up to you. You could be wise and hold back slightly letting the pace and intensity prescribed build the pain for you, or you could be the head banger who loves to hit it harder and hang on. The choice is yours but remember to be consistent in this zone. It is meant to hurt and sessions such as 6-8 x 1km or 6 x 4 mins off 75-90 seconds recovery can really hurt and require focus.

Runners often prefer to train in a group when doing these sessions, hunting as a pack and helping to push each other on. These sessions will certainly boost your VO2 max though and make that engine of yours (the heart) a few cylinders stronger but you can’t visit this zone too often. Maybe once a week in a thought out training plan but only when you are already running threshold each week and feeling good.

Effort level: above 8.5/10 or higher than 85% MHR

Top tip – Join a running group, club or friends to complete these sessions. Completing weekly interval sessions with others adds competition, company and disguises the true pain and mental strength required to nail the moment.

Training PlanSo the next time you leave the front door have a planned route and know what you want from your training. Have a purpose and listen to your body as you run.

Remember these 4 key levels/zones:
• Easy run – fully conversational at the speed of chat and about 6/10 (60-65% max heart rate)
• Steady run – conversational, controlled but slightly strained and about 7/10 (70-75% max heart rate)
• Threshold running – controlled discomfort and 3-4 word answer pace or8-9/10 (80 – 85% max heart rate, but get tested to be sure)
• Interval training & 5k/10k effort or quicker – No time to chat here and 9/10 or more as the session progresses. It’s 1 or 2 word answer time and perhaps more of a grunt (85% -over 90% max heart rate…ouch!)

Do you have any run related questions? Ask Nick Anderson from Running With Us on twitter @nickandersonrun

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