Another month gone. The weeks certainly are going by quickly – somehow they always do when a marathon is approaching! After a successful January, I had three main targets heading into February: maintain consistency, keep up my conditioning work and manage my nutrition properly. So how did I do?
Despite one or two hurdles to overcome, I did manage to maintain my consistency. For the most part I ran well throughout the month and on any occasions when I felt a little under par, I understood the reason(s) why and was able to address the issues easily. I successfully built up my long run mileage, got VERY excited about my new long distance shoes and smashed my Parkrun PB not once, but twice, achieving the previously unimaginable goal of a sub-24 minute 5k and surprising myself along the way. Perhaps I can even shave a few more seconds off that time as the weeks go on. At the end of the month I not only scored another 100% in Jantastic, I also logged 115 miles of running, beating last year’s total by 2 miles. Definitely a successful month of running!
Furthermore, I was able to continue with my conditioning work. This has been one of the trickiest sessions to fit into the week as I have had other commitments on Wednesday evenings which eat into my time and my window for exercising didn’t fit with Steve’s availability most of the time. For this reason, I often found myself working on the exercises alone, but did manage to fit in a couple of sessions with Steve to progress them and increase my range of motion. Oddly enough, this is also one of my least favourite sessions right now as although useful in helping my legs to recover and supporting me in my increasing mileage, I find it tough to keep pushing my body and extend its range. For largely static exercises, they are hard work and leave me quite tired! Since I know they make a difference, however, I will persevere!
And then there was nutrition. One thing I’ve learned over the last few years as I’ve trained for marathons is that as my mileage increases, especially once my long run gets beyond 16 miles, I have to keep a careful eye on my nutrition to ensure not just that I am eating enough, but that I am eating foods which will give me enough energy to train effectively. I have quite a small frame and if I get this wrong, I start to noticeably lose weight and people tell me I look thin (and not in a good way). An almost enviable problem, perhaps, but also a clear signal to me that something isn’t right in my nutrition and if I don’t resolve it, I find myself experiencing not the “good” kind of hunger where I can eat just about anything with impunity, but the “bad” kind of hunger where my body just doesn’t have enough fuel in it to keep me going. This leads to me feeling totally drained, sluggish and unable to think about anything other than food. I enjoy the appetite I have when training for a marathon, but I definitely don’t enjoy feeling like someone pulled the plug out, so eating more to maintain my energy levels is vital.
Generally, I’m pretty good at listening to my body and fuelling it properly, but that doesn’t mean I’m perfect all of the time and I did experience a day or two of “runger” during February. Not enough to be debilitating, but an early warning from my body that it was time to add in some extra snacks during the course of my day. I’m now trying to eat a little bit more throughout the day to make sure my body is not only fuelled properly to train, but also to recover.
This is because recovery continues to be a crucial part of my training and I need to do what I can to help my body recover after each session. For me, this means compression tights for my longer runs, compression socks after my Sunday run, a post-run recovery shake, proper stretching and foam rolling, a Sunday evening bath, plenty of hydration and quality sleep. And now, in the 24 hours after my long run, I need to ensure that I eat enough to replace all the energy burned during the run, not just to keep me alert, but to help my muscles recover ready for the next session. As well as all that, I have regular sports massages and am still mixing up both my routes and my shoes throughout the week to lower the chances of injury. So far, this has been successful.
And so now it’s time to embark on The Monster Month. With my longest runs ahead of me in March it’s absolutely crucial that nutrition and recovery are at the forefront of my mind. Yes, I need to still be consistent in my training, but with a really solid base under me now, missing one or two midweek sessions across the month is not going to be the end of the world. Instead, I need to prepare my body for the miles it has to cover and provide a little TLC afterwards. I need to listen to my body, eat well and recover well in order to have a successful March. Let’s do it!
How was your training in February? Any setbacks or smooth sailing all the way?
What changes do you make to your nutrition as your mileage increases?