Five weeks in to training for Edinburgh Marathon and I thought it was time for an update, especially because my training might not look like you'd expect. Before I started training with Chevy I had expected I'd follow a pretty standard training plan in the run up to Edinburgh - three to four runs a week, a strength session that I'd probably let dwindle as my miles increased, some foam rolling, maybe a bit of yoga and possibly the odd massage. Exactly how I trained for my last two marathons. What I didn't anticipate was spending the first month of training pretty much run free.
Yes, you heard that correctly, during the first month of my marathon training there has been no real running. I was given a free pass for London Winter Run, but other than that I've been restricted to the odd run around the block during my coaching sessions. I'm not injured, I'm just doing things a bit differently this time.
I've got some big goals - beyond Edinburgh marathon I've challenged myself to run from Brixton to Brighton, my first ultra, on 22 September 2018. Big goals need focused preparation and having spent the last couple of years glued to a desk as I studied for my masters there's a lot of work to do.
Through February Chevy and I have been focused on getting my running form nailed. This is a big undertaking, it's repetitive and meticulous work that requires focus and patience on the part of both the runner and the coach. It's been painful at times, and I've really had to master my mind to get through it - which is handy given what a headf**k marathon running is! Thankfully though, with a lot of practice (and hours spent standing on one leg) I am getting there. But it's not a quick win.
To nail form you've got to be strong and stable, so I've been putting time in at the gym working on the basics - my core, my glutes, my legs - using Nike+ workouts a few times a week. I love these workouts, they're so easy to follow and there are little videos so you can be sure you're doing things right. Through these workouts I've definitely felt stronger and more stable in my body. My posture is better, I'm holding myself more confidently.
Mobility is the next piece of the puzzle. I sit at a desk all day and my hips can get quite tight and 'glued up', so I'm working in lots of hip openers and working on opening up my core, which can get a little squished down during the day. Again, this takes time, and sometimes it is literally painful, but I am feeling a gradual improvement, and it's helping me hit the poses I need to master in order to improve my form.
Something I've been dabbling in is breathing and looking at how I up regulate and down regulate my breath and help my body learn to work more efficiently under stress. I sit on the train practicing breathing protocols and can often be found holding my breath while doing squats or rowing. It sounds weird, but the science is fascinating. You can read more here.
The final element I've been focusing on this month is rest and recovery. It surprises me how little people talk about rest and recovery in marathon training, just yesterday I was at a talk all about how to prepare for a marathon and rest during training wasn't mentioned once! I am obsessed with rest and I genuinely believe that we should all be resting more. I've been working really hard to make sure I get enough sleep, have proper rest days (not days where you go easy, actual rest days!) and commit to foam rolling regularly. I have to admit I've not always been great at this - last week was insanely hectic and both sleep and foam rolling fell away - but I promise I'm getting back on it (and paying big, because man foam rolling really hurts when you've put it off!).
Five weeks down, 12 to go and, soon, I'll start running again. Three sessions a week - fast intervals, longer intervals and a long run, alongside strength training and mobility so that I'm strong enough to maintain my form over marathon distance. The aim of the game is to work out where I break down, mentally and physically, and build me up, My goal for Edinburgh is to enjoy my race and feel good, this approach to training is going to get me there.
* Images: Anna Rachel Photography
** trainers kindly gifted by Brooks