Martin Yelling's Video Q&A Tuesday 6 December
In the second of a series of live video Q&A sessions on the Virgin Money London Marathon Facebook page, top performance coach Martin Yelling gets you ready to begin your training plan after the Christmas period.
Q. How important is training off-road and on non-tarmac surfaces, especially during heavy mileage?
A. It’s really important to train both on and off-road for something like the Virgin Money London Marathon. When you train on the road you’re preparing yourself for the surface you’re going to run on, which is the road. That said, do some time off-road to give your legs a bit of rest from the impact.
Q. How do you get your breathing right when running?
A. The thing you’ll find with your breathing is that the harder you’re running, the harder you’re breathing. Therefore you need to take as much oxygen in as you can to keep up with that pace, particularly if you’re new to running as well. Get that oxygen in any way that you can.
Q. I’m struggling to get motivated and I’m worried I’m running out of time…
A. You’ve got loads of time. It’s still very early in terms of marathon build-up, so really don’t worry – you’ve got loads and loads of time.
Q. How long would you suggest a strength training session should be?
A. It really depends on what you’re using that strength training session for. My own personal view around strength training is that it should be used to compliment and support your running training. For example, you might have a biomechanical weakness or injury that you need to stay on top of in order to consistently train and run regularly, and if that’s the case you’ll be doing some strength work to help you stay strong and robust, so things should be related to that.
It might take you 10 or 15 minutes to do that – just some lunges or simple things you can do at home – or you could be devoting a whole hour, going to the gym and doing something very specific.
Q. I’m panicking – training has gone off-plan due to illness. How do you cope mentally when you can’t train like you feel you need to?
A. At the moment it’s ok. We’re coming up to Christmas, there’s a whole heap of different things we’ve all got going on – life is busy and spanners get thrown at your from all sorts of different directions.
What you mustn’t do now or at any point in your marathon training is hit panic. You’ve got to stay on track with that even if you miss a few weeks. It’s ok – you can claw that back over a long period of time, especially now. Just focus on getting yourself healthy, relaxed and ready to build back into regular training.
Q. What’s the best breakfast for the marathon and how long before the start (should I eat)?
A. That depends on what you’ve had in the build-up to the marathon. Nutrition is quite important, not only to support the training that you do but also just in the way that you fuel your training from day to day and the way it makes you feel.
Timings and content are very important with breakfast. Some people like to have a bowl of porridge 90 minutes before they run, other people will have some toast – something that they’re used to. Between now and the marathon practise what you’re going to do.
Q. How many times a week do you suggest training?
A. It really depends on what you want to gain from the marathon itself. As an absolute minimum I’d go with three runs per week. Ideally, I’d say, if you can hit four that’d be great, but three works really well. So you’re aiming for three runs a week, with your eye on four, but not letting it drop below two.
Q. What’s the best way to train to finish stronger in the second half than in the first?
A. As the weeks progress, place increasing extra demands on yourself; something like a fast-finish long run. When you get stronger and the miles in your legs get better and you get more confident, you might feel like you can do one of your longer runs later on in your training where you can really go for it and really pick up the pace and the intensity up to marathon pace in the second half of that run.
If you can do that a couple of times then that really gives you some confidence going into Race Day that you can feel strong in the last six miles, because they’re the ones that really, really count.
Q. Should preparation races be run at target marathon paces?
A. They could be if you choose to build them in at marathon pace. I think a 20-mile run is probably a bit too far at marathon pace and a half marathon when you’re fit and on it should feel manageable at marathon pace.
Why don’t you try and hit out a half marathon, perhaps in March when you’re fit and strong and built up some training? Hit it as hard as you can and you might find it’s faster than marathon pace, or alternatively use that half marathon as a disciplined pacing exercise and try and run it at your target marathon pace.
Q. How can I stop cramp?
A. There are a number of things that can cause cramp – from lack of appropriate fluid replacement and lack of training – particularly on surfaces – to poor muscle strength and flexibility after a long distance run.
How do you combat it? I would say train on tarmac, ensure that you’re optimally fuelled and hydrated, do some stretching and foam rolling and wear the right kit.
Q. How do you manage to train the mind to stay focused?
A. A trick is to just try and lock into your pace. Dial into yourself and teach yourself to concentrate. It’s a tricky thing to do but the more running you can do the better you get at concentrating for a longer period of time.
Q. Is starting in January too late?
A. Definitely not. Starting in January is just fine. I’m running London and I haven’t really started thinking about it yet and I won’t do until January. Start in January, but the key thing is when you start in January, start – and mean it – and continue. You can’t start in January and be sidelined in February.
Q. What’s the best way to fuel yourself during a marathon?
A. I would start tentatively thinking about how you’re going to fuel yourself now. When you’re going out for your shorter runs – anything under an hour – you shouldn’t need to take any fuel. As the duration goes up you are going to need to think “What can I take with me to make me feel fuelled?” Start now in your running to think about those things.
For some of you it might be some real food that you want to take in a little pack with you, like some malt loaf or a fig roll or dried fruit and nuts. For others you might want to use more traditional sports fuelling products and sports drinks.
Q. How can I slow myself down? I always go off too fast.
A. If you make that mistake on marathon day you are completely going to know about it. It’s going to be painful.
You have to be uber disciplined when it comes to setting out, especially on marathon day. It should feel rocket easy, really easy to control. If it doesn’t you’re going too quickly. Practise that in training. If you tell yourself “I can’t do it; I go off too quickly” you’ve really got to park your ego. It’s just about doing well in the second half.
Q. Is a treadmill ok for long runs?
A. A treadmill is just fine for any runs at all. I would say with that in mind that when you run on a treadmill your gait, your stride pattern and the way your biomechanics work is slightly different to when you’re running outdoors. The longer you go on the treadmill the longer those issues can surface, so you could experience little aches and pains you wouldn’t do outside.
I would say just try and break yourself into those treadmill runs. Don’t do them all without doing any other running leading into that race.