MMRF Endurance Events
Marathon and Half Marathon Q&A
Esteemed athlete Tom Holland provides answers to runners' most frequently asked questions.
1. WHAT ARE THE BEST RUNNING SHOES?
There is no "best" shoe. Everyone is different and thus have different needs. Different arches, different foot strike patterns, different body weight, training mileage and so on. Go to a store that specializes in running and have a qualified person help you choose the appropriate shoe for you, based on your individual characteristics.
2. SHOULD I CONTINUE TO LIFT WEIGHTS WHILE TRAINING FOR MY RACE?
I believe strength training is an essential component of run training, regardless of your distance or your goals. We all possess muscle weaknesses and imbalances and lifting weights will help fix these issues. A smart strength training program will not only help prevent injury, it will also help your performance as well.
3. WHAT SHOULD I EAT BEFORE A RUN?
One of the most difficult parts of coaching is the sports nutrition component. It is highly individualistic and varies greatly from one person to the next. What works for one person can be horrible for another. Know that you need to fuel your runs, especially the longer ones, and that we get this energy primarily from carbohydrates. Listen to your body: if you are lacking energy and feeling light-headed during runs, then try eating more pre-workout. Toast with peanut butter, oatmeal and energy bars are some easy options.
4. CAN I CROSS-TRAIN?
Not only can you cross-train, I encourage it highly! For running, cross-training would be biking, swimming, yoga, etc. If we only run, we can create imbalances and experience overuse injuries. Like strength-training, cross-training will not only help keep you injury-free, studies show it will also make you a faster runner!
5. I'M CONFUSED ABOUT STRETCHING...
You should be! There is so much contradictory information concerning the benefits of stretching out there it is mind-boggling. When you look at the science it seems we don't really need to engage in static setting before our runs, what is more important is that we perform a "dynamic" warm-up before we exercise, engaging in several minutes of any low-level full-body movement to warm our muscles, in increase the blood flow and raise our core temperature. For most of us this simply means going easy for the first mile or two of our runs, then picking up the pace if our workout calls for it. Running does shorten our muscles over time, however, so performing a few minutes of static stretching AFTER your run is a good idea.
6. I'VE SEEN THESE FOAM ROLLERS - ARE THEY GOOD FOR RUNNERS?
Very good! Foam rollers are an extremely effective form of self-massage, allowing the user to target and stretch muscles, especially those that become tight from running. Your quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves and especially your IT band can all be targeted and loosened by rolling on these inexpensive foam cylinders. They are also now being used to warm up the muscles prior to running as well!
7. DO I NEED TO EAT DURING RUNS?
Most people don't need to take eat additional calories during runs of 60 minutes or less. For runs longer than 1 hour, however, I recommend taking in some form of semi-solid or liquid nutrition. This can be a GU, PowerGel, Cliff Shot, etc. Again, everyone is different. You may need more or less depending on numerous factors - remember to always listen to your body.
8. DO I REALLY NEED A REST DAY EVERY WEEK?
I strongly believe in taking at least one day off from exercise each week. This means complete rest. Exercise breaks down our muscle fibers, and we need to allow these fibers to rebuild themselves. We get stronger and faster during these recovery periods, not during the workouts themselves.
9. HOW MANY RACES CAN I DO IN A YEAR?
That's completely up to you! Despite what you may have read or heard, there is no hard and fast rule concerning this subject. Some people may be able to recover from one big race per year, others can do a dozen or more. Once again, this all depends on the individual. Their age, fitness level, genetics, quality of training, goals, and so on. I personally do am large number of races per year, yet I remain injury-free due to a combination of all these factors. Listen to your body and remember that it's about health first and foremost.
10. WHAT SHOULD MY GOAL BE FOR MY RACE?
As I discuss in my books, proper goal-setting is crucial to both performance as well as enjoyment. For all the athletes I coach (myself included) my first goal is always to finish the race. Specific time goals are always secondary because things like the weather can wreak havoc on hard and fast time goals. Especially if it is your first time running the distance, setting time goals can be challenging due to the lack of experience. You can have a "best case scenario" goal, but I encourage you to keep it to yourself. This will help you avoid the stress both during the race as well as afterwards, of failing to accomplish the time you said you wanted to run. Focus on finishing and if you happen to run a great time, great!
11. I HAVE MORE QUESTIONS!
No problem! I answer these questions in greater depth and many more in my book The Marathon Method.