Good things making me happy

Apart from the dark mornings and evenings, the cold and rain, things are quite happy in my neck of the woods! It’s always nice to take stock of a few things that are making me a happy Anna.

The ‘C’ word: What is this madness? Christmas stuff already out in supermarkets. This photo was actually take two or three weeks ago as well.img_4888Christmas cakes, mince pies, stollen… yep. It’s October. That said, I love all things Christmas, especially food-related items) so I’m happy with this state of affairs. More mince pies in my life can only be a good thing.

Tesco encouraging kids to eat more fruit: They’re offering a free piece of fruit to children coming into the supermarket. img_3917So they can chomp on something healthy as they walk round with their parents. What a great idea! Nice one, Tesco. We’ll let you off for your Christmas products 😉

New shoes: I bought some new shoes. They were really cheap as they’re of an older seasons but I really needed a pair of simple comfy shoes I could easily slip into and wear for quick errands or walking Alfie. img_5954I tend to have a lot of trainers, pumps, boots and then my gym shoes (Vans & Converses – ideal because they have flat soles for squatting and deadlifting which help me be more “in tune” with the ground and lifting) but nothing that I’d be happy to get a bit mucky. I had a previous pair of Skechers and I wore them to the ground. These were only £25 which I thought was a steal.

Unusual gel flavours: A lovely friend of mine (a triathlon legend it must be said – his training cycles make mine look very amateur indeed) sent me some gels as a good luck present for my marathon (though with strict instruction NOT to use them during the marathon if I hadn’t tried them first).img_5972Maple Bacon flavoured gels!! I know some (many?) of you will be thinking “that’s so gross” but I’m genuinely looking forward to trying them out. I quite like the GU gels (I still remember that salted caramel one I had once…so good. And the lemon flavoured one that tasted like a zesty pudding) so I expect good things 😉

Protein Porridge: I got a packet of this Mornflake Go! High Portein Porridge in my goodie bag from the Chester Marathon. Normally I will never use porridge packets because they always contain some form of sugar or flavouring and I can’t stand sweet porridge. For me the only sweetness I like is from the milk, so it’s very subtle.fullsizerenderBut this was different. It’s a pack of oats containing soya protein isolate and (other than a stabiliser) that’s it. No sugar, no fruit, no seeds…just oats and protein. One packet though wouldn’t be enough for me for breakfast as it was around 130 calories. So I used two with almond milk and it tasted almost identical to my normal porridge.img_5953Basically the same texture and it was really filling. I’m still regularly having scrambled eggs (with cheese, kale and olives – love it) for breakfast but I miss my porridge. The reason I swapped was because the porridge was quite low in protein but this is a great compromise. Though it is more expensive, so I’m looking into getting some unflavoured protein powder and playing around with that.

Woofins: These are adorable…even if I was disappointed when I first saw them as I thought “oooh cake” and then realised they’re actually for dogs.img_5987

Alfie isn’t a huge treat lover or chewer. For example, if I give him a dentist stick to chew on he puts it in his mouth then wanders around whimpering until I take it off him and cut it into four pieces for him (what a princess…). Although he will easily eat them normally when he’s around my parent’s dogs – but I think this is due to the fear that if he doesn’t they’ll eat it for him. Anyway, I digress, he wolfed down this mini cake – he loved it!

New car: OK it’s pretty much identical to my old car, just new.img_5968I love the Fiat 500 and wanted to stay with them. Unfortunately I did want a different colour (I quite like the mint) but they didn’t have it in stock for when I wanted it so I had red again. As someone who is rubbish with adulting, having a brand new car with no MOT or service to worry about for a while is a huge weight off my mind (especially as I was late with my last service by about 10,000 miles as I got confused <– story of my life).

But things making me nervous: A 10k obstacle course race (Chepstow Stampede) with my friends, Kate and Jamie, that’s happening Saturday. I did that obstacle course in Spain but I don’t think it can quite compare to a muddy obstacle course race in Britain during a rather wet autumn. I’m stressing a bit with what to wear as I don’t really have anything I’d happy to never see again if it got ruined… and I’m scared about being really cold and wet. But other than that, it should be a laugh. We’ll see…

Have you ever done an obstacle course race?

What kind of car do you have?

What non-workout shoes do you normally wear?

Chester Marathon 2016

If there’s one thing I know about marathons it’s that it never gets easier. I suppose after the first one you’ve completed there is a sense of reassurance that you can actually do the distance and not combust after mile 18, but it is never easy. And, at least for me, I’m never going into without feeling nervous and terrified.

On the morning of the marathon I got up at 6am, got dressed, had a quick black coffee and made my porridge to take with me in the car.img_5541My parents were driving me there and then supporting me. So at 6.30am we piled into the car and headed to Chester, which was about 1.5 hours away from where we were staying in the cottage. Thankfully a quick petrol station stop allowed the necessary pre-race toilet requirement to be achieved (whew – runners, you know what I mean!) and we arrived at Chester at 8am, the time that the Chester Racecourse car park closes. This didn’t matter as my parents were just dropping me off and then heading off to find breakfast and mile 15ish to wait for me. However, we were very lucky as the road closures were literally happening around us at that point (we didn’t realise the roads to and from the racecourse would be closed. Normal well-organised people might, but us chancers? Noooo).img_5543The temperature was very nippy and I was thankful for having a charity shop purchased fleece to keep me warm.img_5544The race village was quite cool being in the racecourse. There were several tented areas full of things to buy and the bag drop area but I headed out to the main grass area to get into the loo queue because really what else can you do when you have about 45 minutes to kill before a race?chester-marathon-race-villageThe grass was wet and my trainers were annoyingly getting a bit soggy. I noticed several people had blue plastic shoe covers on their trainers to keep them dry and wondered where they got them from. But I wasn’t bothered enough to hunt them out for myself. A loo visit was more important! There didn’t seem to be a huge number of mobile loos it must be said but I was able to go twice so I can’t complain! No bad loo experiences so that’s always a plus!

Eventually we were called to the start. I felt really nervous. For me, a marathon is never a proper marathon unless I have some sort of ailment to worry about beforehand and in true Anna-style I was worried about my calf. It had been feeling very tight and a bit, dare I say, niggly during the week. I felt it a bit at parkrun the day before…In normal circumstances a week off would have probably put it to bed but not possible when race day is that week! But anyway we started and it just felt a bit tight so I tried to ignore it.

The first mile is run partly on grass as you come out of the racecourse and then onto the roads of Chester. There were quite a few clusters of small crowds and local running clubs who cheered us on. It was a lovely atmosphere. I remember distinctly how easy that first mile felt and thinking how it would later contrast with the final mile…

I hadn’t really got a strict pace plan. I decided to see what felt comfortable and go with that – as long as it wasn’t under 8min/miles as that would be silly considering my training. I stuck pretty consistently to 8-8:10min/miles and felt very relaxed, if not a little bored after we came out of the main city (which happened fairly quickly). Don’t get me wrong though, the Chester Marathon course is beautiful. So scenic. The first bit through the city was cool because of all the old walls, the Tudor-style buildings and the Chester Cathedral that you run past.img_5590

Taken later in the day

To take my mind of the monotony I listened in to other’s conversations around me and checked out what people were wearing. One man amusingly had some sort of race finisher’s t-shirt that for some reason, amongst all the other writing, had the word “Male” printed largely at the bottom. I wondered why!?

As we got deeper into the countryside I decided I just had to take a photo. I was wearing my Flipbelt so my phone (and my gels) were easy to get out.img_5552It was just perfect. Or at least it would have been had the sun not been shining directly in our eyes for about 90% of the first 10 miles! I envied those who were wearing sunglasses.img_5551

But that blue sky! The temperature was still fairly cool, especially in the shade, so it really was perfect running temperature. The course was not entirely flat, with a few undulations here and there but nothing major.10kSo the first 10k went by fairly uneventfully. I chatted to a guy who was running the same pace as me (his 14th marathon) and we had roughly the same time goals, though he was more keen to get closer to 3:30 whereas I was more generally 3:30-3:45. I know it sounds a bit off but I didn’t really want to chat too much. I was happy to just sink inside my brain and not think for a bit rather than make conversation but we stayed in the same pace range and it was nice to have his company there even if we didn’t chat a huge amount.10-miles

We ran over a mat at 10k so I knew my parents would know how I was doing on the tracker thing. My first main milestone was 8 miles as this was when I was to have my first gel. My watch was already out from the mile markers annoyingly so I made sure to wait until the actual 8 mile mark rather than my watch (because I’m neurotic like that). The gel was an SIS Red Berry with caffeine flavoured one which I hadn’t had before. I’ve had SIS gels before but not this particular flavour. I’ve never had an issue with gels before and I’ve tried quite a few and thankfully this was fine. Though the flavour was DISGUSTING. So pleased I have an entire pack of them at home…

At 10 miles I was grateful to final allow myself to listen to a podcast (the BBC 5 Live Film Review). The pace was still consistently around 8 min/miles and though the country side was beautiful I was a bit bored. The podcast really helped though as I lost myself in that until 13 miles, when I had my next gel. Oh the excitement! 😉16-miles

After my gel (one I’d picked up from an aid station – a High5 IsoGel – very liquidy) I started to look forward to seeing my parents. As I got to 13 miles I realised my parents wouldn’t be at 15 as it was a weird part of the course that goes off and does a big square before turning back towards the city at mile 15. So mile 13 and 15 are practically next to each other if that makes sense.chester-marathon-course

At this point you can see the super speedy people running back towards you as they’ve already done the square – I saw the sub-3 pacer storming along and realised that the square would take about 30-40 minutes. It was nice to see the other runners coming towards you so that amused me for a while.

As I got to 16 miles, around a small village called Holt, I spotted a crowd of people and scanned them to see if my parents were there. They were! I was so pleased to see them!img_5575

I went a bit crazy cheering and waving much to the delight of the spectators. I think they must have thought I was mental!img_5576Then I was off again. My next milestone was 18 miles for my final gel. This time it was a Honey Stinger Acai and Pomegranate flavoured one which was a bit thicker but so tasty; fruity and sweet.21-miles

There were so nasty short inclines around this point that were actually quite tough.chester-marathon-elevation

I tried to ignore how tired my legs were and just get them done. The nice decline afterwards wasn’t entirely welcome either because that still works the muscles pounding downhill!img_5554As I got to mile 20 I wondered if I had anything in me to boost up the speed for the last 10k. I didn’t feel I did and wondered if this was the difference between doing speed work during marathon training and not…But I decided to put on my “let’s get going” playlist and see what happened.

Well, it certainly helped boost me along! I thought to myself, just get to 23 miles and then it’s just a parkrun. It definitely helped. When I finally reached 23 miles I was smiling and feeling good and shouted to a marshal it was just a parkrun to go and he laughed and said I looked too happy.26-milesThere was a nasty hill around 23-24 miles but I could smell the finish line and just pushed on. I started overtaking people and several people cheered me on, one guy yelled with a lovely Northern accent, “You go, girl!”. I don’t know what happened but suddenly I was flying. The crowds of supporters got bigger and I kept a smile on my face and they cheered me through. I just kept passing people and it was such a buzz. We ran alongside the River Dee and loads of people were having lunch or coffee in little cafes alongside the river or standing and cheering and it really helped keep my momentum going. One more mile, the quicker I do it the quicker I can stop. The finish was in sight, we were now back on the grass of the race course and I just needed to get to the end. And I was done!

I checked my watch and couldn’t believe it: 3:28:22. Sub 3:30! My A Goal! I also couldn’t believe how I managed to pull out a sub 7 minute last mile. Over a minute faster than my first mile and about 100 times harder!img_3207I got my medal, a foil blanket, a technical t-shirt (very nice) and a goodie bag and then spotted my parents who were waving madly to me. Ahh so nice to see them so quickly after finishing!img_5566I was on cloud nine 🙂

My calf was a bit grumpy, I won’t lie, but otherwise I was feeling fantastic. The sun was shining and I was over the moon with how consistently I ran and how much speed I was able to pick up in the last 10k. It just felt fantastic running past all those people and hearing the crowds. I’ll never forget it.

Right, I’ll leave it there as this post is already far too long. Chester Marathon is a fantastic marathon and I’m so glad I did it. It was well organised, well supported, scenic and just a joy to run. Top marks!img_5592Have you ever done Chester Marathon before?

What kind of course do you prefer: countryside, city, etc.?

How many gels (if any) do you take during a marathon and what’s your favourite?

A few things to talk about…

Impending marathon aside (THIS Sunday, Chester Marathon in case I haven’t said it enough times…), I’ve been feeling rather positive and upbeat lately. OK in general I’m a positive and upbeat person anyway so this really isn’t that much of a change.

I’m a very much “glass half full” kinda girl. This can definitely work against me at times though when I think things like, “Oh I’m sure I’ll find my way back from my run in this unknown-to-me place, I don’t need to check my route/map” or “I have loads of time before I need to leave for this important appointment…”. But in general I think being optimistic is far better than pessimistic. Just my two pence (pence? Cents? Don’t know but I’m British so “pence” it is!).

After that random tangent… let’s crack on with some stuff on my mind.

New trainers: What is better, right? Actually they’re not that new anymore really but I haven’t mentioned them on the blog I don’t think. As part of the Run Reigate blogging experience (check out my race recap; it’s a great event!), I was gifted Brooks trainers to help me train – the dream scenario right? Thankfully I got to choose which trainers as I’m quite sensitive and injury-prone. I went for the Brook Adrenaline GTS trainers, which I’ve had previously but have since retired due to too high mileage.img_4897

I love the colour of these – minty gorgeousness! These trainers are ideal for me as I need support for my rubbish flat feet to stop me over-pronating. I know people argue that pronation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I am very flat footed that I do need support. O’m continually working on strengthening my arches… though it is ongoing and painfully slow (though I’ve made a lot of improvements, hurrah).

Anyway, the trainers are very springy and supportive and I love them. I wear them alongside my Mizunos Wave Paradoxes. I’ve yet to decide which to wear for the marathon though…decisions decisions.

elete Holistic Hydrate electrolytes: I read about this initially from Lauren’s blog and was intrigued. The company reached out to me after I commented on the blog post so I happily got to try it out myself (for free, in exchange for a review).img_5435elete Holistic Hydrate is a zero calorie and zero artificial nasties product that is used to add to water in order to hydrate effectively. It contains a balance of magnesium, potassium, sodium and chloride, which are all key electrolytes, as well as over 60 other naturally occurring trace and ultra trace elements.img_5434Why are electrolytes important? Well in fairly basic terms, electrolytes help keep the body functioning as muscles use electrical impulses to do certain things and so we require a number of minerals in electrolyte form (ionical charged minerals) to help this happen. The electrolytes help keep the fluid and pH balance in your body. I’m not a scientist (obviously) so that’s about as far as I’ll go with this, but the website has lots more information. Basically electrolytes can help maintain hydration, prevent muscle cramps, sustain energy and endurance and enhance mental focus.

I’m a big fan of using electrolytes during and after running. I really like this product for many reasons. One because it has the decent line up of electrolytes and two because it’s practically tasteless. I say practically only because if you don’t dilute it with enough water it can taste slightly salty. However this is easily eliminated by increasing the amount of water you use (2.5ml teaspoon of elete to one litre of water is ideal, I can barely taste a difference). You can also add this to food!! It’s such a small dinky bottle as well that i can take it with me to races or in my handbag. Very very handy. Just a few drops and boom, your water is upgraded. Love it.

Getting the itch to speed train: This whole marathon cycle I really haven’t done any proper speed workouts. I’ve done some very informal fartleks and speedier parkruns, but in general I’ve just ran however I fancied. Now this has been fantastic and also sensible due to my hamstring niggle/issue that I was still feeling the effects of months after Boston. It didn’t hinder my running or cause me pain but it was definitely an echo and made me think twice before pushing things. (Incidentally, my hamstring is 100% fine now thankfully! *Touch wood*)

My times therefore haven’t increased dramatically. I’m minutes away from PBs in most distances. But I’m OK with that because I’ve enjoyed injury-free running and I’m not PB hunting anyway and, finger’s crossed, I’ll get to this marathon unscathed and hopefully finish similarly.

The half marathon the other day did get me itching for the buzz of a speedier run though. I decided to head out the other evening and do some intervals on my own. I did a mile warm-up which gave me a chance to see how my legs were feeling and whether mentally I was up for pushing things. I was, so decided to do three fairly fast (for me at the moment) 1km loops, with 1km slower loops in between.1k-intervals

My speeds aren’t exactly crazy fast (for me) but it’s encouraging. After this marathon I’m going to be trying my hardest to put more effort into doing speed workouts. So going to the track workout sessions with my club and doing hill sessions. It’s not with a view to smash out PBs but rather to change things up as I feel like my running has become a bit stagnant and my paces all blur into one. It’s nice sometimes to feel that “omg I’m going to die” burst of speed and the feeling of satisfaction at the end of a session.

But, like I said, after the marathon and that very much assumes I’ll survive it uninjured! And we all know, that’s not a given for me!

Do you do speed workouts regularly?

What are your favourite speed workout sessions? I love a good hills session.

How do you stay hydrated?

How I trained for the Boston Marathon

One more day before I’m off to Boston with my mum! We get a taxi tomorrow morning and off we go. We’re both very excited. Before that though, I thought I’d do a post on how I trained for the Boston Marathon.

Like the Liverpool Marathon, I didn’t really follow a generic plan though I did use a few in combination to get a good idea of level of mileage and the long runs (how many, when, the build-up to them, etc.). In terms of running I decided to keep with running four times a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday usually). My mid-week runs would be 4-6 miles, then parkrun on a Saturday and the long run on the Sunday.

When I initially started training I was keen to include regular hills and possibly some interval training in my schedule. Ha. That didn’t really happen long-term. I kept it up to begin with but then lost motivation.

imageThe red highlight is where I had my niggle

This is probably because I was also juggling a lot of stuff at the gym. I was finding myself really enjoying my time strength training and lifting heavier weights (a lot heavier than I was during my Liverpool marathon training). This meant that my recovery was a lot tougher and if I went to the gym on Tuesday morning and worked on my glutes then that evening’s run would be really hard-work with heavy legs.IMG_8832

The gym

Of course I could have cut back my gym sessions or lifted less heavy weights, but the truth is I didn’t want to. The goal for Boston has never been to get a PB. Not every marathon for me has to have that aim. I enjoy them so much (when they don’t involve me getting injured…) that I don’t mind not getting a ‘fast’ time because the whole thing feels epic and an accomplishment anyway. (I don’t feel the same way about 10ks!). Plus it sort of takes the fun out of the entire process if I’m constantly worrying about speed sessions, hitting certain paces and goals. I much prefer to trundle through the training consistently, hitting the long runs feeling strong. And that’s what I’ve done.

So I usually went to the gym four times a week and generally split it shoulders/arms, glutes, legs and back with added running-specific exercises to keep injuries at bay for running (e.g. single leg work, balance and coordination focuses, plyometrics, core, etc.).

The running

image

Fortunately I only had one niggle-woe which disappeared after a week of rest. My foot randomly started causing me sharp pains during a planned 18 miler and so I cut it short to 12 miles. I then cut back my next long run to 13 miles. I was surprisingly sensible and didn’t panic. I’m almost certain the root cause was choosing an old pair of trainers to run in which disagreed with me. Other than that I haven’t had any issues (fingers crossed, *touches wood*, *does a rain dance*).

My build-up has been nice and gradual and my mileage around the level I like it (30 miles/week). My only slight concern is that I’ve only done one full 18 mile run that wasn’t broken up. Two of them I used half marathons and added on extra miles beforehand to get the mileage up. But it is what it is! I have two 17 milers which I’m really pleased with.

Food

This time around I was far more conscious of what I was eating. For Liverpool I’d refuel after long runs with afternoon teas, cakes and just general crap “because I’m training for a marathon”. This time around I focused on more balanced meals, especially post long-runs, and ate a lot more protein and fat. Especially with lifting weights I knew I needed to increase my protein. I didn’t want to lose muscle through running and I didn’t want to lose weight.

IMG_8642Steak with stir-fried veg and Brie

I haven’t had those nagging headaches I used to get after my long runs and I feel like my body recovered quicker. I didn’t stop treats or meals out though. As you’ve probably noticed I ate out a lot and ate a lot of ribs and more red meat. Life isn’t fun without the good stuff you love after all Winking smile

So I’ve just got to survive Monday. The hills and predicted high temperatures are slightly concerning me but I have to keep reminding myself of my main goals: don’t get injured and enjoy it. I just have a few nightmares that this was my goal for Bournemouth and I was injured for six weeks afterwards… But I actually have proper paces planned that I’ll stick to (whichever goal I go for – likely to be 3:35 or 3:40) whereas for Bournemouth I just ran off like an idiot without any plans. I’ve also got 15 solid weeks of structured training behind me. Have faith, Anna.

Afterwards…

After the marathon it’ll all be about the crucial refuelling process. I’m thinking this is going to be a feat in itself. I’m almost certain I’ll have burned about 10,000000 calories during the race and so to that effect I’ll need to hunt out adequate spots of good food. This is likely to include some cake, probably some ribs, more than likely fro-yo and, purely for medicinal purposes, donuts. It’s going to be hard work but I’m hoping the US will help me out with this. After the marathon I only have four days so it’s going to be tough, but I’ll try my best Winking smile

Do you strength train during marathon training?

How do you refuel after a big race?

How often do you like to run/train when training for a big race/event?

The Nitty Gritties–Recovery

Marathon training is relentless. It seems that as soon as you finish your long run on Sunday you’re back on it with a hard training session for the next week. And after each long run you can’t imagine running any further. But you do.

The most important factor behind this is good recovery. This covers such a range of different things: fuel and nutrition, rest, foam rolling, a sensible training plan and, the often forgotten or least prioritised, sleep.

Nutrition

I mentioned in a previous post about ‘good’ nutrition but here I’ll specifically talk about pre-run. Like with most nutrition (and marathon training in general – are you sensing a theme here?) it really is what works for you. I’d be wary of anyone saying, “this is when and what you should eat before a run and this is what you should eat afterwards”. There is not an exact science. Obviously there is science and research which can give good guidance on ratios of carbs to protein and fuel timing but in reality, you have to find what works best for you. Everyone’s tummy is different and everyone’s training is different.

Personally I find eating straight after a long run is actually quite hard. Oh sure I can spend a good amount of time before and during the run imagining all the amazing things I’m going to eat (platters of ribs followed by cakes dipped in chocolate…) but in reality as soon as I’m done food is the last thing I want to think about. I’ll rehydrate with water straight away and then probably take some time to let my body chill. It’s just run a fair distance and it needs to adjust to no longer being running anymore.

There seems to be this panic in the running community (and training world in general) that you must refuel immediately. There is a teeny tiny tight window and if you miss it you’re going to EXPLODE. I highly doubt this is the case. Your body isn’t stupid. If it’s telling you that food is not sounding good right now, don’t force it. Wait a while. But make sure you do refuel of course.

An interesting point that was made by Liz Yelling at the MarathonTalk weekend was that it is so important to eat good nutritious food. Don’t think “oh I’ve just run 18 miles I can now eat half of KFC and a jumbo chocolate bar”. Firstly, you probably haven’t burnt as many calories as you think you have (or that your watch/app is telling you). And secondly, you need to top your body up with vital nutrients in order for your body to repair itself (long runs take a lot out of our bodies, not just burnt calories). Macro nutrients are important but micronutrients are even more so. Treat your body like a temple and use food as a natural medicine. It doesn’t have to be complicated either, something simple like scrambled egg can do! Avoid crap and choose instead wholesome food. You want to be able to wake up the next day feeling good, not fatigued, foggy and with a sugar hangover.

Foam Rolling

Ahh the nightmare that is foam rolling. As most of us are mere mortals and can’t really afford the luxury of weekly physio appointments and massages we have to make do with what we can. The foam roller. It’s a painful, it’s awkward, it’s a chore, it’s boring… we never do it enough. I personally find it a great way to keep niggles at bay and help keep my legs fresh.

Foam rolling

Obviously I’m not an expert but I believe it’s to do with self-myofascial release. It can help with increasing the blood flow throughout the body which can help reduce muscle tension and help decrease muscle tightness. You can also use it to warm-up the muscles before a run as well.

After a long run I always find a good foam roll session the next day can do wonders for helping me recover ready for my next run. Here’s a great list of tutorials for foam rolling different areas from Kinetic Revolution (a great resource for injury-prevention and running in general).Foam rollers

I mainly use my trigger point foam roller (not an affiliated link) and a tennis ball, though there are lots of ‘interesting’ rollers out there for more aggressive and specific targets (see above). I use the trigger roller on my calves, hamstrings and quads and a regular tennis ball on my glutes, hips and more specific calf focus. I tend to do it watching TV or listening to a podcast to keep myself entertained. It takes 10-15 minutes if I’m really being thorough, but if I only have five minutes I’ll focus on my glutes and calves which are always my trouble spots. I tend to foam roll the day after a long run and then maybe once or twice more in the week depending how I feel.

Another great way to help my calves recover are compression socks/sleeves.

Compression socks

I find after a long or hard run wearing my compression socks feels wonderful. I can’t say I notice a huge difference during the run if I wear them but I do wear them during 18 milers and all my marathons. I find they can help reduce cramp (though this is highly anecdotal on my part). I used to take ice baths post long run but I don’t anymore. I just didn’t find it helped enough to go through that trauma, but there are lots of people who swear by them.

Sensible Training

Granted this is a bit vague but what I mean is: don’t be a slave to your training plan. You don’t have to follow every single workout it’s got written down. It’s a generic plan – it doesn’t know you personally. It’s not an actual coach where you can feed back how you feel. If you’re really struggling, miss a run or swap it round. Honestly, it’s not a big deal.

What does this have to do with recovery? Rest. If you’re really struggling, take a rest day. It’ll be far more valuable to you then a sub-par run that you’ve forced yourself to go on just to tick it off the calendar. You’ll feel better resting and then smashing out your next run on rested legs and mind.

Sleep

This is the big one. Out of most things this is the thing that people let slide or prioritise over. “I’ll get up an hour earlier so I can get in another run” or “maybe just one more episode tonight…”. Or the uncontrollable and unchangeable issues that invade our sleep, such as young (or old!) children. But honestly sleep is one of the most important things you can do to help your running.

It’s where most of the recovery is going to happen. Liz Yelling said that when she was training as an elite she’d get at least 10 hours a night! And a nap in the day! Steve Way agreed (he’s a childless “house husband” so can have that luxury). Liz also said that Paula Radcliffe would usually have 12 hours a night! This is crazy but also makes a lot of sense.

As someone who has a fulltime job and a long commute, getting 12 hours sleep would basically be impossible for me unless I slept at work. But I do make sure I hit the pillow no later than 10pm every single night. As I get up 3-4 days a week at 5am, I don’t find it a struggle at all to fall asleep early. Sometimes even 9pm and I’m ready to snooze. At the weekend I can obviously sleep a bit later.

If you’re feeling tired and training is getting harder and harder, honestly do yourself a favour and go to bed a bit earlier if you can. This isn’t for life, marathon training only lasts for so long. I run four times a week and go to the gym through the week, but if I have a crap night’s sleep I won’t go to the gym or I’ll postpone a run. Sleep is more important. It’s like your whole system becomes a powerhouse of recovery, repairing muscles, smoothing out kinks, flushing through your system and mind.

I heard a very interesting MarathonTalk podcast a while ago about the importance of sleep and it said very few people can last on less than six hours of sleep. Yes people are different and some need less than others but generally speaking most people really do need around eight hours. Don’t kid yourself that you can survive on less. Don’t use coffee to get yourself going. Use actual sleep. Your training will feel the better for it!

What are your key recovery tips?

How much sleep do you usually get?

What do you eat after a run/tough workout?