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FITNESS: How to train, eat in week leading up to marathon

By Victoria Advocate
Jan. 14, 2014 at 8:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 13, 2014 at 7:14 p.m.


Well, it's almost here. Many runners have been training several months in preparation for the upcoming Houston Marathon on Sunday.

Runners have likely put in countless miles and hours of training as well as experienced a few injuries along the way.

Their preparations likely included some cross-training, strength training, stretching and a few ice baths over the past few months.

Training experiences and conquering workouts throughout the prep period go hand in hand with helping an athlete build confidence in conquering the task at hand: running 26.2 miles.

However, no matter how good training has been and how much those running paces have improved, runners can start to doubt their abilities - especially in those final few weeks before the marathon.

They question if they are prepared and if they put in adequate miles. They will start to pick up on any ache or pain that arises and wonder if that will be the "end all" to their marathon. Their legs feel heavy, and they wonder if they are going to feel up to the challenge.

Those that are going for a Boston Marathon qualifying time are under even more pressure, as they not only need to run the race but also do so at a fast enough pace to qualify.

My advice to all the area runners getting ready to run the Houston Marathon this Sunday is to just relax. You have put in the training. Regardless if it is or isn't adequate, it is really too late to worry about that or do anything about it now.

If this is your first marathon, look at it as a learning experience. If this is your 10th marathon, look at it as a learning experience. We can only do what we can do, and worrying accomplishes nothing.

You can use each race you run, whether it is a marathon or a 5K, to learn something so that you can tweak training in the future to get closer to those goals.

If you have trained adequately, meaning you followed some type of training program for the marathon, you have done what you needed to do, and now, it's time to line up and put that training to the test.

If you have suddenly developed some nagging ache or pain, and it isn't severe enough to cause you to drop out of the marathon, seek some treatment for it and then line up and give it your best shot.

My point in all of this is endless worry over things out of your control accomplishes nothing and, in the end, drains you of energy better spent toward focusing on the goal at hand, which is just to finish.

Now, for the things you can control:

Sleep and rest

You can control the amount of sleep (or at least rest) you get this week. Shoot for eight hours per night. Even if you can't fall immediately asleep, lay down and read a book - at least you are resting your body. Put your legs up any chance you get, especially if you have a job where you are on your feet throughout the day.

Diet

Three days prior to the marathon, start carbohydrate loading. I don't mean by adding extra calories - just simply switch the calories you are eating to a diet comprised 70 percent of carbohydrates.

This includes items such as breads, pastas, rice, cereals and potatoes. Simple carbohydrates include fruits and vegetables, and those citrus fruits high in Vitamin C are useful in fighting off illness.

However, you want to limit too many high-fiber and high-roughage foods in the final days before race day. I would choose fruit such as bananas and peaches when reaching for fruit in the days leading up to the marathon.

Also, limit caffeine and spicy foods - both are stomach irritants, and with the increased stress leading up to race day, this could further cause some stomach issues. Make sure you stay hydrated.

Also, limit alcohol, which contains empty calories and also can work to dehydrate you. However, one glass of wine or a beer the night before will not hurt you and may help to relax you a bit.

Workouts

The training is done. You will gain nothing this week in terms of fitness by pushing too hard or too long in a workout in these final few days.

No run should be more than about 4 to 5 miles and no hard running efforts. You can throw in a few "pickups" to get those legs loosened up and leg turnover going.

In place of a run, throw in an easy spin on an indoor bike instead to keep those legs loose while giving them a weight-bearing break.

Race day logistics

Figure out your morning game plan a few days ahead of time.

Don't let poor planning result in a race to get to the start line, adding to race day jitters.

Look at parking and shuttle information as well as the course layout, so you know exactly how you are getting to the start line and how long it will take.

You've put in the work; now, it's simply time to enjoy the journey.

Missy Janzow owns Fit4U, a personalized coaching and nutrition service. You can reach her with your questions at janzowml@yahoo.com.

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