Martin Yelling's Q&A 5 Feb 2016

Q. I'm running my first marathon at the Virgin Money London Marathon this year! What is the best warm up before running? Yoga based? Plyometrics? Stretches? I suffer tight calf muscles which can lead to shin splints.

A. Pre warm ups before running can (and should) be quite individual. Some folk just like to start their running with some brisk walking and gentle running. Others, like you, might have specific areas they need to mobilise and 'wake up' before getting going. Dynamic (moving) exercises are best and some yoga moves would probably work best to kick off, with a few gentle calf stretches. Nothing high intensity though.

Q. Any tips for avoiding injury during interval running? I'm quite clumsy and can be prone to falling over and I tend to run most comfortably at a ‘middling’ pace (not jogging or sprinting). My training plan includes some intervals from next week on and the idea of sprinting on the pavement makes me a little nervous...

A. Can you find somewhere safe for your footing and control? No traffic, flat, perhaps a park, trail or canal path? You don't need to 'sprint' for the intervals. Hold off the pedal and run fast but so you feel comfortably in control - and happy you're not going to hit the deck!

Q. I’ve never run before training for the Virgin Money London Marathon and I just ran 10 miles at an average pace of 10.30 minutes per mile. I feel great as I had a bad couple of days before it. My training plan has no longer run this week but I feel on a roll - should I go for another 10-mile run, try and up it to 12 or stick to the plan?

A. Follow the plan Denise! It's great you feel on a roll but upping it too soon could see you take a dip. Patience and consistency are vital. Easy tiger!

Q. I’ve been out injured for nine months but am now back running and up to eight miles only. How likely is it for full fitness to come back for London? Or should I defer?

A. Definitely don't defer! You've still got lots of time and are up to a great distance. If you're now injury free stick with it and build things up!

Q. Some weeks I find the running tougher than other weeks. I'm up to 13 miles but this week my legs are feeling heavy. On weeks when running seems tougher, is it best to keep aiming to push for a bit of extra distance on the mileage on the long run or is it best to do a lower mileage. It's my first marathon having never run previous to eight months ago and I'm worried about going backwards if I ease off.

A. It's perfectly normally to have some up and down runs, days and weeks when prepping for a marathon! When things are feeling tougher it's best to drop things back a little and not be hard on yourself. You might just need a little rest and recovery before picking it up again. So long as it doesn't become a run missing habit you'll be just fine!

Q. Is it possible to avoid the wall by sensible refuelling during a marathon? I faded fast and dramatically at my first (London) marathon two years ago and am focussing on getting a few more long, slow runs in than before but also on my nutrition, pre, during and post run.

A. The wall can be avoided by addressing three main things: Training - you've got to do it; Pace - get this right so you don't go too quick too soon; and nutrition and hydration. It's the balance of all of these things that will help your energy stay high and your pace bang on!

Q. What do you think is more important: hill training or speed work?

A. For marathon training, I'd say that hills are more important right now to build strength and stamina. Pure speed work (when you're proper nailing it and running as hard as you can!) isn't that relevant for marathons.

Q. I’m just looking to complete the marathon and anything under five hours will be a win! What is the maximum I should run in training? I’ve read that anything over three hours will help my head but wont help fitness?

A. When you're just looking to get around you're right to also try and target a time - in this case 4 hours 59 minutes or quicker! If you don't do that you can fail to get an understanding of pace and distance in training and risk Race Day going horribly wrong as you start too quickly!

Your long runs should now be starting to build up and indeed,  three hours is a good benchmark to aim at (although you'd still have a further two hours of running to do!). Ideally if you can complete an 18 to 20-mile run or so and run consistently you'll be in a really good place.

Q. Any tips for speed work training? I am struggling to keep up with it in the programme I'm following, especially longer distances like four miles at a faster than comfortable pace.

A. If you're struggling to keep up with the programme then change it! Perhaps the pace on the programme isn't right for you and you'd be happier working to effort rather than a fixed pace. That said, when you first begin to try faster work it does feel tough. The theory is the more you do of it the easier it becomes. What feels hard now might not as you get fitter and faster.

Q. what are your personal 'go to' foods while training? My nutrition is not nearly as good as it should be.

A. That depends on before, during or after training. I like things like scrambled eggs, real food (not packets), chicken, fish, quinoa. I'm not good with pasta and don't eat tonnes of white carbs. I'm also not that great with my diet either though! Biscuits are a weakness!