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Marathon Training Lessons - Pre and Post Long-run Strategies


Hey Hey readers! I cannot believe it is May already! It has been pretty sunny and warm here in Alpharetta, GA. If you've been following my content, you are probably well aware that I have been in training for a marathon in Green Bay, WI on May 19th, 2024. This is the second full marathon I will have run. I did a lot more half marathons through my running years. I honestly didn't think I would do another marathon after my first one, but something in my intuition just knew that I was ready for another. From my other content, you probably also know that I injured my knee pretty badly in 2018. It took me out of running completely for some time, but I slowly healed and repaired and began running once again. There was a definite situational depression that I felt when I couldn't run at all. Honestly, it took me some time to be able to walk one mile comfortably. But the time passed, and my body healed. It's different now - my knee, gait, and entire body really - but in a beautiful way. I think this marathon, for me, is a symbol of my dedication to myself and my wellness, and to the ability to heal and change, to rise above, to try again, to believe in something great for my body. Through my training, I learned to take care of myself. It really matters. What I eat, how and how much I sleep, my mind, and my breath, my ability to be flexible and to listen to my body. All of these variables, and more, become even more important when doing a long-run.


So, the long-run... For marathon training, I would say this is anything longer than a half-marathon distance (fyi - a marathon is 26.2 miles, half is 13.1 miles). For me personally, my long-runs included a 16, 18, 20, 22, and 24 mile training run. And also for me personally, I found that any long-run above 20 miles really required a very strategic approach to the entire event - the night before, the morning of, and the rest of the day after (the "pre" and "post" strategies). I actually ended up having one really tough training run - my 20 mile - because I did not do hardly any of the things described in this post. I did do the post-run activities, but I didn't do any of the pre-run strategies. I hit the literal wall on that run. And omg it was so tough! I quickly learned that when running more than 20 miles, you definitely need to be strategic and have some well thought-out plans for nutrition, sleep, physical mobility, and breathing. I mean - your body is running for hours, so it definitely takes a more planned-out approach. That 20-mile run was a disaster, but I am so thankful for it. Not only because of what it taught me about preparing for the run, but also because it taught me that I can push through something really hard. Even though every step from mile 9 onward hurt all over, I continued to take one more step, one-at-a-time, until I finished it.


So, I thought I would share the plan of action I created for myself through my trial-and-errors during training, including the actions I took the night before the run, the morning of the run, and the during the day after the run. I wanted to share it in case it was helpful to other runners, recreational athletes, and wellness warriors. No matter the movement practice you engage in or whatever other challenging event/task you might be working towards, this information may be helpful for you. So, feel free to read more about what I do before and after my long-runs.


Night Before Strategies

There are three main things that I have learned are really important for me to do the night before the long-run - dinner/nutrition, yoga and rolling, and sleep. For my dinner, I definitely carbo-load with pasta, vegetables, bread, and usually a vitamin water to drink. I personally prefer the vegetable fusili noodles with brocolli (usually with alfredo or scampi sauce) and a breadstick or piece of sourdough bread. I do a zero-sugar vitamin water. For the yoga and rolling, I go through a slow-flow type yoga practice, with sun salutations, hip openers, and some balance poses to start warming and activating the legs. I almost always roll my trapezius muscle - the muscle on the upper to mid-ish back. This helps with my breath and arm swing during the run the next day. After the nutrition and yoga/rolling is satisfied, the last night-before trick is to get adequate sleep. The amount, and quality, of my sleep makes a huge difference in how the run feels to my body, and it allows me to run more safely and mindfully.


Morning Of Strategies

I like to do the long-runs early in the morning, if my schedule allows. So, I typically wake up about 5am - 5:30am, with a start time of around 7:30ish. I eat my breakfast first, so it has time to digest and work through my system, but not too much time to where it wears off before I begin (which I made the mistake of during my 20 mile run). For breakfast, I usually have something like an egg-and-cheese sandwich, or a bagel, or toast with a fruit and/or greek yogurt, with a glass of Acai juice. Sometimes I add a mozzarella cheese stick. After I eat breakfast, I use my coregeous therapy ball to roll and open the trunk muscles. I essentially lay in supported fish on the ball and add "rib cage crunches," which are sort like an abdominal crunch mixed with cat-cow movements of the spine. I also lie on my side with the coregeous ball under my side rib cage, and I do some breath work from this posture. Specifically, I do the contract-relax (aka 4-part breath) while side-lying with the ball under my lateral (side) rib cage. The contract-relax breath involves taking a deep breath in, holding the breath for about 1-2sec, exhaling completely, and holding the breath at the bottom of exhale for 1-2sec. All of the rolling and breathwork helps opens the rib cage, chest, diaphragm, and shoulders for better posture and breathing during the run. A better breath equals a way more pleasant, efficient, and enjoyable run. After the coregeous ball work, I do dynamic stretching. I wrote a blog post on the different types of stretching earlier, so click here if you want to know more about dynamic stretching. I typically do bridge lifts, lunges, bodyweight squats, lateral lunges, a few sun salutations (from the yoga world), 6 moves of the spine (click here to read an earlier blog post I wrote about this), and sometimes plyometrics, like squat jumps. Then I get my water and gatorade bottles all ready in my hydration belt, grab my AirPods, and walk to the start point of my run.


The Rest of the Day After

After the run is over and I savor the amazing feeling of achieving that physical task, I generally focus on two things - mobility/stretching, heat, and nutrition. For mobility, I go through a series of gentle stretches and massages for the feet, ankles, legs, hips, spine, and shoulders. I use my coregeous ball again, but this time I put it under my sacrum (i.e. the part of the lower back that is south of the low back proper, but north of the tailbone), putting my body into supported bridge pose. From here I add a supported waterfall pose and hip flexors stretches. I also allow my body to rest in a savasana-like resting place for a few minutes to help with my recovery. Re: heat, I do this in my shower. I have one of those detachable shower heads, so when I take my shower after the long run, I hold the faucet head against my major joints (e.g. knees, low back, etc.) and make the water temperature a little hotter, and just hold it there for some time. This helps to increase blood flow to those tissues to help with moving new cellular items into cells, and removing waste products from cells. For nutrition, I focus on replenishing my hydration, calories, and nutrients. I often drink a Propel and eat a granola bar not too far after finishing the long-run. Then for dinner, I eat something with higher amounts of complex carbohydrates with vegetables of some type, and usually another vitamin water. Getting adequate sleep is actually pretty easy to get because your body is so tired after the long run, so it is usually very easy to fall asleep and to sleep deeply.


Summary

Thank you so much for reading this post! Long-runs during marathon training tend to go a lot better when there is thought put into factors like nutrition, rest, breathwork, and tissue mobility. Making sure to attend to variables like the aforementioned really helps to run to feel better, stronger, and more peaceful. I wanted to share the factors and strategies that have helped me to optimize the long-run experience, in case it could help someone also training for something or working towards something. I am super excited for my marathon on May 19th, 2024. I will do some social media posts about my race, leading up to it and after it's completed. Thanks for checking it out!


**Also, just a reminder that this will be my last blog post until September, as I will be taking the summer off to rest, recharge, and prep for my next big blog series (yoga for dementia).


As always, the information presented in this blog post is derived from my own study of human movement, anatomy, and yoga. If you have questions about marathon training for your body, please follow up with your physician, physical therapist, personal trainer, or running coach. If you are interested in private yoga and/or personal training sessions with me, Jackie, email me at info@lotusyogisbyjackie.com for more information about my services. Also, please subscribe to my website so you can receive my monthly newsletters (scroll to the bottom of the page where you can submit your email address). This will help keep you "in-the-know" about my latest blog releases and other helpful yoga and wellness information.  Thanks for reading!

~Namaste, Jackie Allen, M.S., M.Ed., CCC-SLP, RYT-200, RCYT, NASM-CPT, NASM-CES, NASM-SFS

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