While training you might have come across scores of people saying “running a marathon is 80 per cent mental”. It’s true that endurance sports that require us to push ourselves over a longer duration are mostly a mental game. But there’s only so much you can leave to the unknown and let your mind take control. Of course, you can’t be 100 per cent prepared for any eventuality, but you if know what you’re getting into and how you need to prepare for it, you’re less likely to run into a wall.
One of India’s prominent sports scientist and also a PUMA running expert, Shayamal Vallabhjee shares his insight into the art of running and how running can be adopted as a lifestyle with some minor tweaks in your routine.
Here are some practical tips on running a marathon from Shayamal:
Most injuries occur when you’re not feeling great
As a general rule of thumb, 99 per cent of running injuries are chronic-related injuries. Running injuries are all repetitive stress injuries. Even if you have incorrect biomechanics, you aren’t going to get injured in the first one kilometer. They come on as a by product of time. Its results from incorrect loading on incorrect biomechanics over a period of time. Here are some ways to limit injuries:
1. Progressive overload – Do not increase your mileage by 10 per cent weekly. Previously there was theory that said more mileage is better. Now, it’s about quality. Runners make the biggest mistake of clocking more miles, but their quality of running is poor.
2. Principle of specificity – Train specifically for what you want to achieve. For a half marathon, your weekly mileage should have been built between 8-10 weeks to about 42-45 k a week, which is a 2:1 ratio. Within that, 60-65 per cent of that mileage should be done at race pace. In the world of physiology, if you want to get faster you have to train faster. Runners make the biggest mistake of clocking more miles, but the quality of running is poor. Which is why they don’t see results.
3. Respect your body: We need to respect our bodies. Start being more attuned to how you’re feeling. When I plan a 10k run, sometimes I feel amazing and everything falls in pace. You are breathing properly and gliding as you run. So take advantage of a day like that and run more. On days when you’re not feeling great do a minimum number of mileage and stick to that. Most of the damage is done when you’re not feeling great.
4. Principle of recovery: You got to understand all the factors that go into performance and recovery is the most important. Specifically, sleep. If you’re not getting adequate sleep, you’re doing detrimental damage to your body. And if you’re going for a long run next morning, you need at least 7-8 hours of downtime. The fact that you don’t sleep you’re stressing the internal organs and your mind. Running is an art that is anyway a stress on the human body. If you don’t sleep enough you are going to bring on a serious condition.
Running doesn’t mean you have to diet
Everybody tries to carbo-load (loading on carbohydrates), cut down on food while training for a marathon. Get this, running doesn’t mean you have to diet or experiment with fad diets! Simply eat balanced meals. Remove saturated fat, include lots of fruits and veggies, lean meat and you’re well on your way to run the best miles of your life.
Post the race you have to start eating balanced meals. Your muscles are going through micro trauma. So protein is important because the amino acids in protein won’t help if you don’t get sleep. They work in tandem. Any alcohol in your system the day after the race will further slow down your recovery by 72 hours. Remember to avoid anything new, in terms of food or sports drinks/gels during race day. If you haven’t tried any sports drinks before, don’t try it on the race day. There’s something called as a Glycemic Index shock (GI Shock), which hits your body if you consume sugary drinks your body can’t handle. But if you don’t have a choice, then I’d advise you to use a diluted version of sports drinks/gels with water.
Mentally prepare in advance for a marathon
Everyone is going to be nervous at the beginning of the race. Those who prepare well will be nervous about the timing, but not about finishing the race. Be prepared for the race day, lay out your clothes the night before, put your tag on your running shoes, select your running clothes, don’t use anything new and use your old stuff, be it your shoes, T-shirt, shorts, socks etc for race day. Most importantly, get to the start line early. Be there by 6 am, because when 25000 people gather at one place, it is bound to be chaotic. If you’re running on Sunday, your most important sleep day will be Friday. That’s because on a Saturday, as with most runners, you won’t get sleep for the fear of over-sleeping. So people usually end up with no sleep at all because they’re nervous. On race day, just soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the feeling of running with like-minded people.
Know your race route
For the sake of simplicity, I’ve broken up the race route into 5 zones. Understand that preparation and knowledge of the race route is integral to your success.
Become a better runner with these usable tips:
Running streamlines your body
When you run, you are going to look leaner. We shouldn’t think that runners are not strong. In fact they are extremely strong because their tensile muscle strength is phenomenal and joints are strong. Of course, it’s not going to make your muscles bulge because the sport doesn’t allow it because running essentially streamlines your body to give it a leaner appearance and your muscles are going to look taunt.
Strength is a subjective thing. We objectively measure strength but to look at muscle size and determine strength is too subjective.
Running economy can improve efficiency
Running economy means being able to exert as little energy as possible in covering the distance at optimal speed. While there are some people who will require more energy to cover a particular distance, some will be very streamlined and smooth in their efficiency.
Throughout your training journey, your gait, foot striking pattern, muscles stride efficiency and the laxity of muscles keep changing. All these micro elements lead to an efficient running economy. Understand that running is an art that streamlines the body, where the body gets elongated. Most efficient runners who put most time in practice are the most accomplished. That efficiency is difficult for a novice runner who trains for one marathon a year or maybe runs an occasional 5k. He doesn’t have the physiology or the body type to be economical on the road. Economy and efficiency are the by products of the time and the number of years you put into training.
Running is a lifestyle, not an activity
Running requires a lifestyle change and it’s not an ‘activity’ that you do. It requires making small changes to your life such as sleeping early, limiting alcohol intake, eating balanced meals etc. In India, most people do 50 per cent weekly mileage over the weekend. For instance, you can’t drink on a Saturday night and run on a Sunday.
Instead of telling people to don’t eat this, don’t eat that, I tell them to live consciously. By this I mean, constantly look at how you are hydrating, check your intake of saturated food, eat your dinner at 7:30 pm instead of 10:30 pm, wake up early and eat a breakfast that’s clean and healthy. You can’t eat pasta the night before and think you’ll run perfect the next day. It has to be a holistic lifestyle change. That’s why we aren’t getting better. We aren’t sleeping, hydrating and everything else revolves around the mileage.
(Shayamal Vallabhjee is a sports scientist, EQ consultant, entrepreneur and an ultramarathoner. Follow Shyamal on Twitter @shyamalv for tips on running for ADHM)