Martin Yelling's Q&A 19 Feb 2016

Q: Are there any motivational techniques that can be employed in training to reduce start line nerves?

A: Sure, lots! One of the biggest motivational boosts that you get from training is enhanced self-esteem/belief that you can actually do the task at hand. Try writing a brief weekly review of 3 things that went well during the week. A quick flick back over it and you'll realise you've come a long way.

Start line nerves specifically can be reduced by developing a 'keep me calm' mantra, by breathing slowly and deeply, by acknowledging how far you've come to get to the start and truly appreciating the fact you're actually there!

Q: Is a sports massage worth it at this stage in training - I have tight calves and it's hampering my training but always had them since starting running

A: Some people find that sports massage can work really well for them. If this is you then it's definitely worth it. It's probably also worth getting to the root cause of the tightness as well as treating the symptoms.

Q: I've had a set back in my training and only on 10 miles have I got enough time to train for it? What’s the max distance I should aim to cover in one go?

A: You've still got a decent amount of time left to prepare especially as you're up to 10miles. Assuming that you're now back on track then continue to build up your longest distances over the next 6 weeks. The max distance in any one go will depend where you are in your training.

Q: This is more a concern than lack of motivation but still hope you can answer. Looking to do the marathon in 4.45-5:00 hours. So race pace just under 11min per mile. I am trying to do Long Slow Runs slower than race pace but always seem to naturally and very consistently come back to that just under an 11 min mile pace. Feels comfortable, can chat, sing a bit to music etc. I’m ending up doing all my long slow runs (now at 16 miles) at ‘race pace’ – really struggling to slow it down. Is this a problem or should I just go with the flow on these long runs?

A: I think is really telling you that your 11min mile pace is very achievable! You have a choice whether to up the ante a bit (e.g. a faster target time?), or be comfortable where you are with your sub 5 goal. Your fitness is obviously improving well and you could go quicker - but take care with goal creep! If you can run 20miles at 11min miling then it's game on for your current goals!

Q: I'm an experienced vet marathon runner training for Boston. I've lost 3 weeks of my training plan due to injury and illness. Any tips for how to manage that?

A: If you're injury free and healthy now then I'd say take a week to get back into regular running and try and pick the plan back up again in the right week. Review the plan and tweak it so you can jump back into miles without risking injury repeat again. Once you're healthy and injury free you should be spot on to get cracking again.

Q: Is it advisable to change my running style - by increasing my gait - to reduce injury? I feel like I would go backwards with training with this as I wouldn’t last distances but long term would be more beneficial?

A: It depends what you want to gain from changing your running style and why you are doing it? If you are getting regularly injured as a result of your biomechanics and running form and this is impacting your ability to consistently train then a running style tweak could be worth it (and necessary).

Q: If the weather is so bad that I can't run my 20 or 22-mile long run in one go, can I split it (on the same day), run about 12 miles and then the remaining 10?

A: You can split it - but I'm not sure how this makes the weather experience any different? Once you out - even in the foulest weather - then you're out in it and might as well stay out. That is of course assuming you are prepared with regard to your kit to face the elements. Don't risk getting cold (if it's the cold/wet that's bad!).

Q: I started running from scratch last January and did my first half marathon in October, and I'm noticing my recent longer training runs have been quite a lot slower than the ones for my half were. I'm still just short of the distance target your training plan recommends. I wonder if slowing down is my body's way of adapting to the idea of running a Marathon distance, as well as being slightly nervous about fatigue/injury. My main motivation is running for charity and to boost my mental health, not for time, but I know I've run better in the past than I am at the moment. Is this a common thing? Do most people feel like this at this stage and improve later?

A: That's certainly pretty common! Training for a marathon does have its ups and downs and these can be realised physically with feeling great or rubbish! It also takes a while to get into new paces and adapt to the training you're doing. You could throw in some faster running to change things up, or take a few days off resting just to freshen things. Just be sure to maintain a healthy enjoyment of your running and don't place pressure on yourself. It's all good!

Q: This is my first marathon and I've been following the LM's beginners programme from the magazine. Been feeling really positive, until yesterday... I woke up with "lurgy" and haven't left my bed since, so missed last nights tempo runs and likely to miss the 1hr 45mins on Sunday!!! Do I just pick up the programme again from the date that I'm fit? Or should I try and put some extra training in?

A: Don’t run when ill, you'll only go backwards. Wait until you feel like you can run again, then wait 24hrs and then go for a run. Suggest kicking off with 30mins or so a couple of times just to make sure you're okay then ease back into the plan. Really don't stress about missing a few runs. You won't loose fitness.

Q: I’m training for my first marathon in London this year and have three 20 mile runs planned between now and 4 weeks before the day. Is that ok or too much?

A: That sounds bang on! Assuming you've progressed your running gradually to reach the first 20 then you'll be able to run each of others with more focus and confidence!

Q: How far into a marathon would you start taking gels? They tend to cause me stomach cramps.

A: That depends Doug. You don't have to take them at all! A gel is just one way of your body taking in the energy required for a marathon. Just how much energy you need and how often depends on your training history and general nutrition. If gels don't work for you then you could try and source an alternative fuel that you can take with you that you do like.

Q: I've completely lost motivation.... Having serious issues with quads/core muscles! Am receiving sports therapy, and am doing strengthening exercises. I struggled with a 3 mile run Tuesday.... Can I still catch up? My longest run was 11 miles 3 weeks ago

A: It's okay to feel down. But don't be hard on yourself. Running is actually amazing and I expect if you look back at your awesome 11miler you quite enjoyed it! I'd say try doing some different running, keep it short (under an hour) and easy paced. If you're really just not feeling it then take a week off totally. You've still got time. A little break can make you miss your running and actually do your body, mind and spirit some good!

Q: I am running North London half on the 20th of March and London Marathon. Going to miss a week of running (March 5th-12th due to skiing). I have done 3 20 miles run in training already with another to follow this Saturday and next week. My question is: do I race the half marathon/run it at marathon pace/treat it as a long slow run?

A: You're right on it in terms of miles with the completed 20's and the ones to come. (a 22 next week wink emoticon so, I'd say have a go at racing North London. It'll do you good. (be careful skiing!)

Q: I’m aiming for sub 4 hour marathon. Average pace on last week's 13 was 8:17. Should my long runs be slower? I tend to be faster than target marathon pace at the moment

A: Wow, that's well within 4 hour pace. (9:09). How does it feel when you hit 13? Remember you have that to do again? Realistic? I'd say the even you dropped your long run pace to 8:45's you'd still feel pretty strong - and hopefully for longer and this would see you well under 4hrs. Time for target rethink?