Fitness & Wellness

What I wish I’d known before: My Advice for marathon training

March 20, 2018

The London Marathon is now only four weeks away. By now, I’d expected to be firing on all cylinders, smashing PB’s and feeling super strong and psyched for my first ever marathon. Instead, I’m now in my third week of not running and still experiencing pain when I walk. Whether or not I’ll be able to run next month is anyone’s guess. Such is life…

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Like all things that are sent to test us, I’ve learnt a lot and I want to share some of the most important pearls I’ve picked up because I wish someone had told me before I started my marathon training. I’m sure I wouldn’t be injured now if only I’d known. If you’re already a knowledgable runner then I hope that this will remind you not to cut any corners with training and if you’re a newbie I hope this advice will help keep you strong and injury free.

Running is the best sport there is in my opinion. It’s also a great privilege if your body can carry you for miles and stay strong. Never forget that. Respect your body always and give it the TLC it needs. Most of all – enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! Running is everything! x

1. Get a run coach

This will be your best investment for marathon training. A plan will be tailored to you and any imbalances or strengths you may have. This will help you to avoid injury and run the strongest marathon you can. It will be well worth the investment.

2. Get your gait measured and your trainers prescribed to your running style

This will give you the correct support and help avoid injuries.

3. See a Physio 

In my opinion you should do this at the start. If you have any imbalances or issues (you may not even know about them) believe me, they will only get worse if you leave them untreated. If you have any imbalances or weaknesses then a physio will be able to give you exercises and a plan to minimise them and get you to your strongest. I highly recommend Pure Sports Medicine who I am currently with. (NB I am not sponsored by PSM).

4. Build your mileage gradually (<10% pw)

The VLM website has three training plans for beginners, intermediates and advanced runners. If you haven’t got a running coach then I recommend you follow this plan and increase your mileage very gradually each week. No more than 10% increase in mileage each week. This is known as the 10% rule (10PR). There are NO exceptions here. Even if you feel you could run further – DON’T!

5. Don’t neglect your strength sessions

It is crucial that you build your strength to support your body through miles. You should be predominantly focusing on your glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings and core. Make sure you have at least two strength sessions per week. It is so easy to neglect these sessions but if you cut corners then your body will recognise it and your risk of injury will be much higher

6. Foam roll

Before and after every session; foam roll. I used not to give foam rolling enough credit but I’ve now realised what a massive difference it makes and I actually enjoy it. It plays a massive roll in easing tight muscles and getting rid of lactic acid. Take just 5 minutes at the beginning and end of your session to foam roll and you will be grateful for the release of tension.

7. Get regular Sports massages BUT make sure to rest the day after

More than a treatment for injuries, sports massage produces overwhelming benefits for athletes physically, physiologically, and psychologically. Sports massage is designed to prepare you for your best performance, reduce fatigue, and relieve muscle swelling and tension. However, make sure you rest the day after because your muscles will be repairing. If you run too soon after you risk overwhelming your body and increase the risk of injury.

8. Join a run club or run class

It’s always motivational to train with others and you’ll find it a comfort too. The marathon training process will raise a profusion of questions and it’s good to be able to talk about them with fellow marathoners!

9. Your aim for your first marathon should be simply to complete it without injury 

I set myself some ambitious goals when starting out on my training. I’ve always loved running and I was feeling fit and strong. I didn’t appreciate howler that the marathon game is so much more than just your mental attitude and cardio finesse. It’s about ensuring your body is strong and balanced and this takes time to build. Don’t underestimate what goes into the miles of a marthon. It is a great challenge and assault on your body. Be proud to just take part. If you manage to complete it – then even better.

10. Nutrition and hydration has to be on point

Your body requires a lot of nutrients, minerals and water to repair and rebuild the muscle that is constantly being broken down. Your diet has to be on point. This means no boozing or processed food but plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit and whole grains. I eat mostly plants and have found that I get everything I need from this diet. Occasionally I’ll have free range eggs and wild fish. If you doubt that a vegan type of diet can fulfil your nutritional requirements then just look at Rich Roll who completed 5 ironman’s over 5 days on a vegan diet! I’m not saying you have to be 100% vegan – I even find this too restricting to do 100% of the time – but I do really believe the bulk of your diet should be from fresh, high quality plant based foods.

11. Get enough sleep

Minimum of eight hours a night. When you’re training you’ll probably need an extra hour. Sleep is crucial to maintain a strong immune system and optimise recovery and performance.

12. Have a role model for inspiration

It’s always good to have someone to look up to and get inspired by. I’ve enjoyed reading about different runner’s journey’s like Paula Radcliffe and Chrissie Wellington – multiple Ironman world champion and author of A Life Without Limits 

If you have any questions about training for a marathon then please feel free to leave your question in the comments below! x


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  • Reply jm March 20, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    Poppy – Big fan love, your travel pictures. You are spot and the big one on your list is strength. From the pictures you’ve posted since your VS training it was obvious you had lost some muscle which is easy to do when running. As a pure runner, strength training seems to be so much work, but it is so necessary. Running in a club or with a partner or two is mentally important as it can get lonely. I would add two more to your list.
    1) Core – Work the core as your body tires around the 20 mile mark your whole body mechanics start to change and it only gets worse if you have a weak core.
    2) Mental – Training 40-60 miles per week and then running 26.2, you must have a good mental game established. There are a number of strategies, just pick the one that works for you. Mine was doing math problems. I think it is also important in training to pre-run a marathon. My running partners and I completed a 20 mile training run and then ended up at the start of a 10K race, about 2 months before the actual marathon. Having finished that pre-marathon under no pressure to finish, made the actual marathon seem much easier. Good Luck!!!

    • Reply Poppy March 28, 2018 at 12:47 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words and advice. Both your points are very important to master and you certainly need to have practise and a game plan for how you’re going to tackle the 26.2 miles mentally. Kudos to you for doing maths problems whilst in motion! If only we could get a sneak peak into the minds of all runners huh?! What we’d uncover!
      Best wishes to you.

  • Reply Dino Tassigiannis March 25, 2018 at 8:06 pm

    Regarding nutrition, making sure you get enough carbohydrates the days prior is a big one I find. On the day itself too some simple carb gels can help you going, as well as electrolytes to help stay hydrated.

    • Reply Poppy March 28, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      Hi Dino,
      Yes you’re absolutely right. Are there any gels and electrolytes you recommend to consume during the race itself?

  • Reply Martinnoila April 26, 2018 at 10:57 pm

    Hi All im noob here. Good post! Thx! Thx!

  • Reply esther June 1, 2018 at 10:39 am

    Hi Poppy – love your blog it’s fantastic and very inspiring too! I think your marathon training could also benefit in future from Vit Stix! They are a refreshing vitamin drink that contains Vitamin B (for energy), Vitamin C (for immunity that dips during exercise), Vitamin D (for muscle and bone health) and Zinc which is great for healthy hair, skin & nails along with muscle recovery. They are a great way to combine health and hydration in an easy to use, on-the-go manner!

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