Today we are so thrilled to have the ever inspiring Nicole Avery from Planning with Kids join us to share her top tips for endurance training when your house and your heart is full. Nicole is living proof that when you put your mind to something and do the work, the outcomes can be simply amazing. We are all long time fans of Nicole and her work here at Operation Move. Read on, we think you’ll be joining the fangirl movement pretty quickly too.
I ran my second marathon a couple of weeks ago, the lovely Great Ocean Road Marathon. At about the 30km mark I wasn’t thinking it was so lovely! But a couple of weeks have passed and so has the soreness in my legs and my love of long distance running is still there.
I am not a running expert or nutritionist so I am sharing these tips from the basis of my experience. I have trained for three marathons, but have only run two. (For the record I ran Melbourne in 03:11:28 and the Great Ocean Road in 03:30:56.) In my first attempt to run a marathon in 2012, about six weeks before the event, I pulled up terribly after a 30km run. It took a second opinion and two weeks to find the cause. Long story short, I had put a crack in my inferior pubis ramus. You can read a little more about overcoming the injury here.
In hindsight now, this injury was one of a classic novice runner. I was running too much, too fast for what my body could take. I had only been running distances beyond 7km for eight months and it had put undue stress on my body (I have since been introduced the more sane approach of Train slow, Run fast).
I was quite devastated and in a lot of pain. I couldn’t even stand on one leg to put on pants. The physio said it would be a minimum of six weeks before I could start running again. The reality was I did not start running until after Christmas. But this experience taught me a lot and in some ways was the turning point for making significant changes in my life. I found CrossFit, which led me to taking a wholefood clean approach to my diet and I have never been stronger, fitter or healthier in my life.
So from a relatively newbie marathon runner here are my tips for successfully training for a marathon:
1. Be prepared to make sacrifices.
For background, I have five kids aged 15 to 5 and run a small business from home. I also have a husband who works reasonably long hours and isn’t home until around 7pm week night and who is also very active himself. He completed his first Ironman in March, is currently still playing local footy and intends to run the Melbourne Marathon this year.
In deciding to run a marathon by default I am deciding to sacrifice other activities. I love this quote from Seth Godin and think it applies to all aspects of life:
To fit my running in around family life, I run very early in the morning. For the longer training runs I have my alarm go off at 4.30am on a Saturday morning so I can be out and back by the time I needed to get the kids off to their sporting activities. So invitations for a fun Friday night out with the girls are something that I decline.
I watch no television, not because I am a TV snob, but because running takes up time and energy. I either don’t have the time to sit and watch it or some nights I don’t have the energy, as I need to go to sleep.
I also have pretty much given up alcohol. I don’t like how I feel running even after one or two drinks and for the one rest day I have a week, I don’t want to wake up with a foggy head.
2. Have a plan.
Running a marathon places a huge stress on your body and isn’t something that should be taken lightly. When I ran my first marathon last year, as I was approaching the MCG, (where the Melbourne marathon finishes), I ran past one unconscious runner who has being attended to by paramedics and then inside the MCG a runner just in front of me staggered and collapsed less then 100 meters before the finish line. It was unnerving to witness and while I don’t know their exact stories, the most common reasons for non-finishing in marathons is lack of preparation.
Having a plan makes sure you are adequately prepared and you can find many excellent free ones online for whatever type of runner you are. Having a plan takes the thinking out of it for you too. You can just check in with it daily to see what you need to be doing. If you have to think too much about what you need to run, it is less likely to happen.
I uploaded my plan to Google Drive and then shared it with my husband so he could add his training plan to it. We had a number of months of cross over when he was training for an Ironman and I was training for the Great Ocean Road marathon. As the Ironman was the bigger of the two events and a first for him, he had priority on the available training times. He would enter in advance for a couple of weeks at a time to the Google spreadsheet what he was doing, where he was doing it and the time needed. I would then work out when I could fit my long runs in.
3. Look for opportunities.
Sometimes family and/or work life gets busy and can interfere with the great plan! This is where you need to be flexible and open minded to find opportunities. I have grown used to attending the kids sporting activities in my running gear! This might be because I time my early morning run for maximum sleep. I get up to give me just enough time it so I run, stretch, make a refuel smoothie to go, apply deodorant and get to the kids’ sporting event on time.
Other times it is because I will run while they are playing sport. During the boy’s soccer or football games, it can provide an opportunity for a pace run or interval training and still squeeze in some time to actually watch them play.
I am now a devoted lover of CrossFit, so finding time for both has required adjustment. I will run to CrossFit (4.25km each way) 3 or 4 mornings a week to make sure I have enough kms in the bank and make the best use of my time.
I can almost measure time in terms of runs. Have 30 minutes up my sleeve? Can run some hill intervals up and down my street. Got 20 minutes before school pick up? Take the dog for a run around the block. 10 minutes before the kids wake up? Work on planks for core stability. Once you are switched on to looking for running opportunities and have some go to running exercises, it is easier to fit in everything you need to do.
4. Incorporate strength training.
When training for my first marathon I didn’t incorporate a solid strength-training element to my plan and it is something many runners leave out. CrossFit now fits that slot for me and increasing my strength has been incredibly beneficial for my running. The improved stability in my core has allowed me to run more efficiently and it helps me keep form in the later stage of the marathons when fatigue really starts to set in. (See this post on Runners World for core exercises for runners.)
5. Have a recovery plan.
I have actually made the mistake of not having an adequate recovery plan twice! I am going to nail this part after Melbourne 2014! I sought advice on my recovery a week after the Great Ocean Road as my legs were still sore and I wasn’t performing at CrossFit as I usually would.
I have learnt that a proper recovery plan doesn’t just look at physical activity either. It takes into account the need to refuel your body adequately and not just for just the day after the marathon, but for the immediate week following.
I also think massage is an essential part of recovery too. After the Melbourne Marathon, free massage was offered to all runners and the difference I felt before and after the massage was incredible. After Great Ocean Road the only massage available you had to pay for which I was happy to do, but after lining up for 45 minutes and then being told it would still be another hour, I gave up. I think this played a significant part (along with the hills) in my longer recovery after the marathon. I did however have a remedial massage booked in for the following Tuesday which helped enormously.
You cannot underestimate the toll running a marathon has on your body. The type of recovery plan you need, just like your training plan needs to meet your individual needs and I can highly recommend creating this before you run the marathon.
Training for and running a marathon does take commitment and sacrifice. It does also change you and it is worth every bit of the sweat and tears you invest in it.
What tips would you add for training for a marathon?
Nicole Avery is a Melbourne mum to five beautiful kids aged 15 to 5. Nic is slightly addicted to spreadsheets, tea, running, CrossFit and currently on a journey to improve her diet and run her third marathon. She blogs at planningwithkids.com.
Great tips! Thanks Nicole 🙂 I start training for my second marathon this morning so this is very timely. I am following the Run Less, Run Faster FIRST plan which includes cross-training and strength-training something I left out the first time around. I love your tips for making time. I work full-time, my husband leaves for work at 4am and I have toddler so squeezing it in can be challenging some days.
All the best with your training LMG. Agreed it is challenging to fit in in, but it is always worth the effort 🙂 .
Mandy Ferry says
Constantly intrigued by this cross fit business. Every time I take the opportunity to look at it, it just seem so expensive. Sigh! However strong is good, strong is something I want to work toward. I’m impressed that you run to and from crossfit too I might add.
Thanks Mandy. CrossFit is more expensive than a regular gym, but you receive much more attention from the coaches than you do at a regular gym. It isn’t for everyone of course and it has its critics, but I love it!
Hi Nic, I saw this and shared it with a friend whose husband is training for his first marathon. Having read this article, I have great admiration for you and others who work so hard to make their running goals become a reality. Congrats and all the best for training for the MM in October. x
Trish MLDB says
Thanks for sharing this Nicole. I am only going to stick with half marathons this year and i found this information helpful.
I think you are amazing Trish! Glad the tips helped. Nic x
Thanks Vanessa! Look forward to catching up in August. x
Thank you very much for your inspiration and tips. I read your article thinking… That is me in someone else’s shoes. I’m training for my first half-marathon and understand what its like to have the stress of kids (x2), husband works away, full time job, injuries ect and the energy at the end of the day to train. Tv is also non-existent for me lol. I use the Nike+ training app for my strength exercises and I’m blessed to have a treadmill so I usually train when kids are asleep. Best of luck with your next marathon!