I've run more marathons, half-marathons and 5 to 15K's than I can count. This year's 2013 New York City Marathon will mark the last notch on my fuel belt. Who am I kidding? I don't even own a fuel belt--they're hideous! But I do have valuable RUNNING & RACE PREP TIPS to share with you from many years and countless hours of pounding the pavement. It's my way of passing on the torch to you as I wrap up my own training for the last long race of my life.
I'M GOING INTO MARATHON RETIREMENT
WHY? Because my legs can't take it anymore. Last March, THIS HAPPENED to me at the start of a half marathon. I sprained the peroneal tendon in my left leg and couldn't exercise or walk normally for weeks. For a fitness girl, that's HELL! But I know why it happened...and I felt it coming on. I've run a lot in the past decade of my life and my legs need a break from the stress of running too much and too far. So this is it! No more marathons after November 3rd, 2013. I will continue to run but only comfortable distances. I guess we all retire from something we love at one point or another. And my day is fast approaching. Tear tear...sigh.
TIP #1: TREAT YOUR TRAINING GEAR LIKE RESEARCH AND STYLE IT FOR COMFORT
As I train for my last marathon, it's been important for me to make every step count. Literally. From the clothes I wear to what I eat and how I balance my weekly fitness routine--everything matters because this is the last time I get to do it. I was lucky enough at the beginning of the year to be chosen by adidas to represent them as an Ambassador for their Women's Training Collections. I've spent the last 5 months training in adidas sportswear and this is my conclusion: Clothes don't make the athlete, but they sure as hell make the experience.
If you're not dressed properly or comfortably, you better believe your athletic experience will be affected regardless of your performance. Taking the time to pick out your run outfits will help you enjoyably, smooth-sail through a run and keep your focus where it should be, not on something minor related to what you're wearing or not wearing. What I wear for cold weather marathon training has to be...
- moisture-wicking and help regulate my body temperature against the cold air and wind.
- lightweight and glide against my skin.
- made with compression fabrics that improve my blood flow.
- cut to my body (no hanging, no dragging and definitely no riding up!).
- completely free of cotton! Cotton slows you down when it absorbs and becomes heavy with your sweat.
I test everything I wear to meet these standards because a marathon isn't a catwalk. It's 26.2 freaking miles!
I'm hooked on the TechFit Climawarm+ 1/2 Zip that you see me modeling above. I love the color, the thermal fleece on the inside, the front zipper that gives me access to cool air when I heat up and the thumbholes that help keep my hands warm. I also own this TechFit Coldweather Funnel Pullover, a more fitted option with total neck coverage. I layer either one of these adidas tops over a moisture-wicking racerback tank with my all-time favorite TechFit Climawarm+ Tights.
These run tights make your butt look so good even though they're thicker than your average tight. The fit is really flattering especially for curvy girls (with a booty like me) and I absolutely love how they hit me right at the ankle instead of having excessive fabric that bunches up at the start of my shoe. If you're super tall, this style might not be ideal for you because I'm short and these tights were cut perfectly for my legs. Short girls, you need these!
Styling my training outfits for "performance comfort" makes every run a Zen one. My focus turns outward and I can appreciate my surroundings, like this view of the Hudson River as I ran along it the other night...
Experience is EVERYTHING and what you wear will affect it, so make sure you research and test out sportswear before Race Day. Spend some time laying out a few outfit options and check the weather report! Sometimes your running mood is just as fickle as the weather, so give yourself choices! This is my #1 Top Tip that I hope you follow and I can't emphasize it enough with my serious face, but I'll try.
TIP #2: LUBE UP!
Literally, cover your entire body with Vaseline. It's honestly the best way to avoid blisters, chafing and any other kind of irritation. I scoop it by the handful and douse my feet. This is a trick I learned early on to avoid losing toenails and it works! Yes, there are a other less greasy products out there to keep your feet blister-free like Glide. But the best is Vaseline and it's also the CHEAPEST.
Once you put your socks on, you won't even feel the Vaseline. Just take the time to get it between and at the tips of your toes. The more you "glide" within your socks, the less your feet with chafe against them and that means you can actually run 26.2 miles completely blister-free. I've done it! For the rest of your body just make sure you apply a thin layer. These areas are critical: armpits, chest, neckline and waistline.
TIP #3: LEAVE ROOM FOR SWELLING AND AIR OUT INNER SHOE SOLES
Don't wear your running shoes too tight or if you're on the cusp of a half size, consider going up to the next shoe size. The reason for this is that your feet WILL SWELL. And if your shoes are too snug, you're going to feel it half way through your race and that translates into PAIN!
The last thing you want is for your toes to hit the seams or for your feet to go numb because you laced up too tightly. Practice makes perfect so take your sneaks for a long run and test them out. Comfort is the key to endurance on race day.
I'll be wearing my adidas Springblade shoes that I've been training in for months on Nov 3rd. I tested them against so many other run shoes I own, and they are my FAVES even though they're not intended for super long distances. But they work for me...I like how they feel and I've tested them without fail over long distances. The bottom blades are great (I talk about that more here) but my favorite part of this shoe is actually the flexible TechFit upper that allows for swelling in the front of my foot without making the shoe feel tighter.
When you get home from a race or training run, what's the 1st thing you do? Kick off your shoes, right? Here's a tip to save your feet: remove the inner sole of your running shoes and air them out near a window or leave them outside for an hour. The reality is that your shoes are just as sweaty as your feet after a long run. And the last thing you need is fungus forming in your shoes in sweat puddles...because you know what's gonna happen when you wear those shoes again! Blegch! People will vomit when they see your toes. Instead, spray your shoes or sprinkle anti-fungal powder in them. I'm pretty loyal to this powder.
TIP #4: WHEN YOU'RE SORE, SUBJECT YOURSELF TO EVEN MORE PAIN!
Soreness comes with training. You know what they say, "no pain, no gain". In the marathon circuit, it's your reality. I literally go straight from crossing the finish line to my bathtub at home because all I want to do is relieve my poor feet!
It's smart to recover with hot and cold therapy, i.e. hot baths and icing. But before you run the tub, I recommend stretching, massaging and smoothing out your knots. The longer you ignore them the bigger and more painful they get.
The best way to massage your tense and overused muscles right after a race is with a foam roller. You want to roll everything out from your buttocks down to your calves. A foam roller will do wonders and they're super cheap. If you don't mind spending a few extra bucks get the Trigger Point Grid Foam Roller, which is the closest a roller gets to a set of hands. I can't stress enough the importance of a roller for injury prevention. Running with tight muscles is dangerous! A foam roller will help pull the knots apart in your legs and lengthen your muscles out. It's gonna hurt and feel tender as you roll your body out, but the upside is that it will help your muscles heal faster in the following days. I promise!
Whenever I roll my legs out immediately after a run, my soreness goes away in 1 day. But if I forget to roll out, my legs are sore for up to a week! Don't make this mistake! Heal faster and smarter because the faster you heal the better you'll perform on marathon day!
Another product to seriously consider, made especially for sore feet, is the Reflexi™ Foot. Here's a video all about it. I like to multi-task with my Reflexi™ Foot since it doesn't require the extra effort of a foam roller. I massage every part of my foot on it while blow drying my hair and doing the dishes. It's a clever reflexology inspired tool that's immediately effective and easy to use.
After subjecting yourself to additional pain, you have my permission to jump in the tub and ice away! The trick, however, is to alternate between the two temperatures since each does something different. Cold therapy should always come first as it reduces pain and swelling. Heat therapy comes second because it opens up the blood vessels and increases blood flow which leads to healing in strained or injured tendons.
TIP #5: AIN'T NO HILL HIGH ENOUGH!
Hill training is a great way to build running strength and endurance for your long distance races. A good hill workout will also improve your tolerance to lactic acid buildup. Listen, no one's crazy about hills but if you avoid training on them, they'll slow down your pace on race day. Just make sure to include 1 to 2 hill workouts a week in your training and you'll be good to go!
TIP #6: DON'T RUN TOO FAST AT THE START, DON'T STOP IF YOU GET TIRED (ON RACE DAY)
A lot of people make the mistake of sprinting at the start of a race. Don't do that! You'll lose your steam. I get it...it's exciting to run your first marathon but you've got to slow your roll and save your energy for the long haul. Just start off at a comfortable and slower pace until you're ready to accelerate to a pace that you can sustain for most of the way.
Once into your run, don't take long water or bathroom breaks. You should be jogging even as you reach for a cup of water! If you must slow down or rest, at the very least power walk. Just keep moving! Stopping or resting for too long leads to lactic acid levels quickly building up in your leg muscles which can make it very painful to resume your gait…or even continue running at all.
TIP #7: WATCH OUT FOR BANANA PEELS ALONG THE RACE COURSE!
It sounds ridiculous because banana peels are widely known for causing people to slip and the last place you'd think to find them is on a race course! Every year that I run a marathon, I'm baffled by how many I see and have to hop over.
You'll see them along the course because spectators give them out to runners who eat them on the fly and then toss them aside, right on the path without any consideration to other runners behind them. All you can do is be on the lookout for them. By refusing a banana you're also showing spectators that giving them out is not in good form.
TIP #8: SCREW THE NAYSAYERS! YOU NEED MUSIC
I notice that every official race organization poo-poos the use of headphones. To me, it's a bunch of malarkey! Ha! I finally get to use that word. I believe that music pumps you up and elevates your mood. I tend to feel more in the zone with music than without it. So I could care less about what these organizations say.
They have no right to take away your headphones/iPod/mp3 player or stop you from participating in a race because of them. They can only suggest that you not use them. So don't worry about this rule. It was created by runners who don't appreciate the power of music and movement. Everyone's different...I respect their opinion but won't concede and neither should you. Music will move you and often times that's the extra push you need to get your ass to the finish line.
THOSE ARE MY TIPS. HOPE THEY HELP YA!
Check me out on the adidas Women's Training site where next month I'll be sharing more tips on cold weather training and sportswear. If you're a pinner, take a look at my Style Up 2 Shape Up in adidas board on Pinterest and if you aren't already, FOLLOW ME!
Brand statement: adidas Women designs innovative performance products to help women commit to their best self and conquer their fitness goals. We inspire women to look and feel their best - be pretty, be tough & be confident. Disclosure: Compensation was provided by adidas via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of adidas.