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Are you marathon-ready?

Whether you’re running 10k, a half marathon, or the full 26.2 miles this spring, here are some top tips to help get you race ready in time...

Taking part in a marathon is a goal for many, but with the demands of leading a busy life, it can be all too easy to fall behind on your training. To help make sure you are prepared, Lindsey Pasaic from VitalityHealth has put together the following top tips:

1. Start with the right shoes

Always be sure to visit a quality running shop and speak with a specialist about finding the best shoes for you. Your feet can grow up to half an inch in length and splay 15% in width while running. The right shoe is about fit, not snazzy design. And don’t forget – if you need a new pair, buy them now and train in them rather than having new trainers for your race.

2. Get a training plan in place

Having a training plan in place means you can make small incremental changes to your daily routine, slowly building up to the big run. Try going for a lunchtime jog, running to work or taking a Sunday morning run around the park. Events don’t need to break the bank either, you can sign up to free runs like parkrun with Vitality to get those vital training miles in.

3. And stick to it…

Busy workloads, social lives, and even the typical British weather can make it tempting to skip sessions. We’re all guilty of letting time get ahead of us even when race day is fast approaching. Training plans are designed to facilitate specific physiological adaptations to running, so that when it comes to the main event you’re ready to achieve your goal. Not meeting your weekly training mileage could set you back. It’s also important to avoid going further than planned. Those days of feeling extra fresh should be enjoyed, but don’t let your enthusiasm derail your plan. Going rogue could result in doing too much too fast, making you susceptible to injury.

4. Don’t skimp on stretching

Stretching not only reduces the risk of injury, but decreases muscle soreness and increases flexibility at the same time. Before you start a workout it is good practice to take your joints through their full range of motion by doing a dynamic (active) stretching routine. Dynamic stretches (for example high knees or twisting lunges) increase your core temperature and prepare your muscles for exercise.

When you’ve finished a run be sure to make time for static (passive) stretches. These are more appropriate for cooling down as they relax the muscles and increase extensibility. Using a foam roller will also help your body recover, improve circulation and reduce muscle soreness.

5. Eat well and drink water

As the distances get longer and more physically demanding, you need to leave room before and after your run to eat and drink properly. Training is the time to test what works and what doesn’t, and to learn which nutrition combination fuels your body best. Two hours before running, opt for 500-600ml of water and a small snack high in carbohydrates but low in fat and fibre such as half a protein bar, a slice of toast with peanut butter, or a banana. Post run aim to drink plenty of water, while focusing on consuming carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes of your session. Every two hours for four to six hours after running, aim to replenish your water, carbohydrate and protein intake.

6. Workout with a friend

Going on the journey with friends, family or colleagues helps keep those motivation levels up. Whether they have signed up for the event with you, or simply want to get fit in 2017, training with other people will not only benefit your health but make the experience more enjoyable. It will also serve as a good time to catch up or de-stress from the pressures of the office.

7. Set realistic goals and celebrate your success

It’s important to recognise success and remember that you don’t have to do everything in one go. Don’t be too ambitious when setting targets - remember slow and steady progress is key. It's better to reach your end goal slowly rather than increasing the chance of getting injured. Setting achievable and attainable goals that can increase over time will help you reach the marathon target more quickly, while also contributing towards a happier and healthier lifestyle.

. Practice makes perfect

One key tip is to practice your race day game plan on one of your longer training runs. Put on the same clothes and trainers you’ll wear, and eat and drink the fuel you’re planning to consume. This test will make sure you’re comfortable and ready to go. Doing a practice race day run also means waking up at the same time you’ll need to for the actual event!

9. Distract yourself from the distance ahead

As the distances ramp up it’s a good idea to have a few ways to distract yourself from the mileage ahead. Listen to music if the race allows, and think of how far you’ve come rather than how long is left to go.

10. Think laps not miles

To make the distance more manageable mentally, break it down into shorter segments such as three mile sections. A 26 mile run will soon become just over eight and a half laps, and suddenly the prospect of a marathon doesn’t seem quite so daunting.

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