With ballot entries for the London Marathon now known it’s time to get training under way.
And Science in Sport’s Chief Scientific Officer Dr Rob Child has some tips on how to prepare and the kind of products needed to achieve top performance.
Important factors that govern training and race performances are hydration, fuelling, avoiding illness and preventing injury.
Dr Child explains: “Training sessions should always be started well hydrated, especially if they are more than an hour long, because dehydration can prevent training sessions from being successfully completed.
“It’s an issue in cold weather because in the heat people see themselves sweat and think more about taking on fluids.
“Cold weather is quite drying, as you’re pulling cold air into the lungs resulting in significant fluid loss.”
Another problem for the aspiring London Marathon runner is the large training volume needed to prepare for the race, which often leads to immune suppression. Looking after your health in the build up to the race is very important, if you fall foul of winter illnesses it can seriously hamper race preparation.
Dr Child said: “SIS Immune contains high levels of vitamin C, which can reduce the severity and duration of colds when undertaking severe physical exercise, particularly in cold environments.
“The problems caused by getting sick and resulting disturbance to training should not be underestimated.
“One study reported the best predictor of marathon performance was the number of miles ran in the month prior to the race.
“The better runners will do a bigger training volume helping them to run faster, conversely people who get injured won’t be able to do the volume needed to reach their potential.
“So preventing injury, sickness and anything else that disturbs your training in the month before the race is of key importance.”
Keeping your body fuelled and making sure the muscles have the nutrients needed to recover and repair for the next training session, underpins scientific training.
Dr Child added: “Taking Whey 20 gel during exercise is a useful training strategy because it helps ‘kickstart’ the recovery process.
“Taking the Whey20 gel during exercise increases circulating amino acids in the blood. This helps fuel the immune system and allows the repair of muscles, tendons, ligaments and bone to start as soon as exercise finishes. “In contrast, if you take a recovery drink after a training session it stays in the stomach for around 20 minutes before it can contribute to recovery.”
Traditionally VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake) was considered the most important physiological factor for marathon running.
Though important the sustainable percentage of VO max is an even better performance predictor.
This measures the rate of oxygen utilisation that can be maintained during exercise and is closely related to running speed.
High intensity interval training is the most effective way to increase VO2max.
For the marathon, this translates to multiple flat out runs over 800 to 1,500m, with three to five minute recovery periods.
Flat out runs over distances of 5,000 to 10,000m provide the most effective way to increase the sustainable percentage of VO2 max.
Dr Child said: “Long runs, in excess of one hour, cause muscle adaptations that allow you to store more fat in the muscle as ‘intramuscular triglycerides’. This is extremely useful as your muscles can easily burn this fat as fuel. “It’s one of the key things you’re changing with endurance training and that means that you can burn fat and save carbohydrate. “The carbohydrate allows you to run at a faster pace and potentially having more intramuscular triglycerides can allow you to run faster.
“Intervals training burns carbohydrate at a very high rate.
“So its quite useful to take carbohydrates on board several hours before training. Twenty to 30 minutes into a hard or long session it’s useful to have an SIS isotonic energy gel to ensure your blood glucose levels don’t drop.
“SIS isotonic gels are very easy to digest and empty quickly from the stomach, so won’t make you feel sick.
“Although the ultra convenient format of the Whey20 gel allows it to be taken during training, it can also be used after training to help recovery.
“If you are planning multiple training sessions over a short time period it is usually better to use Rego Rapid Recovery because it provides the carbohydrate and protein needed for refuelling and repair.
“An additional benefit of SiS’s Whey 20, Rego Rapid Recovery and Whey Protein Isolate is they all contain protein-bound calcium. This is essential for bones to repair and recover, potentially preventing problems such as ‘shin splints’ and fatigue fractures.”