Are you planning to run the Sheffield Half Marathon to raise for St Luke's on Saturday 12 May?
If so, we've spoken to personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach Ben Cobley for some advice on how to approach your training in order to get the best results on the big day.
Ben has worked with a wide variety of sportsmen and women and several elite level endurance athletes, including the Sheffield Half Marathon 2012 second place finisher Julian Lings. Here's his guide to the important areas to focus on in your training and preparation:
A stronger body will hold you in a better posture for longer, help you expend less energy per ground contact and reduce the chances of over use injuries occuring. Squats, splits squats and lunges are good examples of compound movements that work the entire kinetic chain and will improve your performance considrably. This is more often than not the most overlooked performance enhancer by most endurance competitors.
This can be from a trained therapist or from something as simple as a foam roller. Over use injuries are a common problem in repetitive motion events so massage will help break down any dense/notted areas and reduce the likelihood of injury .
A stronger core will make you a more efficient performer. Creating good stability around the stomach will reduce excess energy leaks, helping you save more energy for later in the race when you most need it. Try simple exercises like planks and side planks and aim to progress to roll outs and renegade rows.
Tight muscles can lead to injury and reduce movement quality which can have a big impact on your performance. Static stretching tight areas, such as the front of the thigh and hip and the calves and achilles, will help reduce the likehood of injury and maintain an optimal length of the muscles. Aim to stretch after each run and hold for a minimum of 30 seconds.
Important all of the time but particularly if you’re training consistantly throughout the week. Increasing the amount of protein consumed is a big thing for the majority of runners, because distance training can have a negative effect upon lean tissue retention. The high mileage will promote greater breakdown of lean tissue so the body will require a greater amount of protein to sustain and heal itself. Examples include chicken, fish, dairy and Quorn.
Hydration level is vitally important. A fluid loss of just 2% of bodyweight will reduce your exercise performance significantly. Good hydration practices during the day, focusing on the consumption of fluids and high water content foods such as fruits and vegatables should be the main goal.
Not to be confused with flexibility, mobility involes movement around a joint and not the length of individual muscles. Mobility work for the hips and ankles can have a good effect on keeping you running healthily and reduce the likelihood of nagging injuries, such as anterior knee pain. Try rocking ankle mobilizations and inchworm exercises.
Being really busy can often be used as an excuse to not eat correctly. Supplements are a really conveniet way of getting good nutrients and vitamins into your body consistantly. My top three would be a recovery/whey protein shake or smoothy, a good quality multivitamin and a fish oil tablet (between 1000 - 3000mg per serving).
Ensuring adequate speed work is in your plan will be a good way to increase overall pace. The old adelage of quality over quantity is very appriopriate here. More often than not many endurance sportspeople think more and more distance is the only way forward. Completing 1 - 2 runs per week that involve quicker than race pace intervals or tempo runs (5k or 10k) will do a lot to improve your race day times.
Rest days and tapering weeks should be placed into your plan to allow your body time to adapt to the demands of training. These tapering weeks should be roughly every fourth week and include lower volume runs. Sleep should be seen as the time when your body regains its strength to come back stronger than before. Aiming for 7 - 8 hours per night would be a good target for most.
If you'd like to run the Sheffield Half Marathon for St Luke's Hospice, visit our dedicated webpage and contact Fran Morley, our Community Fundraising Manager by email email@example.com or call 0114 235 7556.
Ben can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @ben_cobley, or from his website at www.bencobley.co.uk.