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Marathon and Endurance Training; Building your mileage and shaping up
Running, swimming and cycling have to be some of the best forms of exercise around. It’s mostly free, other than a pair of trainers, a bike and some swimming trunks, you can do it anywhere and you can do it for life. 
Right now plenty of people will have signed up or gotten accepted for the London Marathon. Here’s some practical advice about how to train and eat to support your fantastic endeavour.
Sometimes though people struggle with little tips and tricks you can use to increase your mileage, increase your speed and training efficiency, and if you are doing an event soon to keep in shape the right kinds of food to eat in order to stay nice and lean whilst doing all the above and not getting too tired.
Getting as lean as possible before your marathon is one of the best ways to get around the course and also avoid getting injured during the training. If you imagine the 55000 steps or so and taking 4-5kg less impact through each of these steps then you can start to appreciate the cumulative effect of excessive weight on the joints in this type of extended endurance event. You can use the quick start fat loss guide to help with this which is on the blog section of the website
The first thing to do in this wonderful journey is to see where you are at. By this I mean how much are you currently training, how fast and far and what kind of things are going into the tank to get the job done. The simplest way to do this is to use a tracking device, combined with a food diary like myfitnesspal. So, for example you might be doing 2 x 5k per week, 2-3 weights and maybe a yoga. Some swimming and cycling practice on top. Or if you are starting out you might only be doing 3 x 5k on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Jot all this down, order a tracker, download myfitnesspal and get a weeks worth of data in the bank. 
When you do this ask yourself about your body composition. Most people could lose a pound or two and running is a great way to do this. A few key questions are;
  1. Have you been getting fatter on your current intake over the last 6 weeks?
  2. Staying the same?
  3. Losing weight. 
  4. How fat are you?
If you are losing weight, it’s worth doing body composition and making sure you are not also losing muscle. This is vital as you don’t want to lose muscle. Why? Because your metabolic rate, and functional capacity will decrease.
As far as that goes it’s essential to combine some strength work to prevent injury and keep your upper body, core and back strong as your legs become stronger from the training.
If you are staying the same and you are happy then calories are probably matched well, you can look more into the quality of your food rather than reducing the total amounts. 
For managing inflammation and potentially niggles, it’s a great idea to follow all the anti-inflammatory principles outlined here. You need plenty of vegetables, fish and fish oils, herbs, spices, collagen and building blocks to keep the body strong. The collagen I like is Great Lakes you can find on amazon. You can find the highest quality fish oils on my site.
Finally, if you’ve gained weight or want to lose weight you’ve gained even if you are the same weight over the last few weeks the answer is carbohydrate cycling or carb flexing.
Simplest way to describe this is to eat more starches on days you train and less on days you don’t. Plus lose excessive starches from other meals where you don’t need them. Obviously, you cut out the crappy foods and boozing 1st. you can always do dry February if January has slipped by. You can read about anti-nutrients here.
An example of this would be to go from 3 slices of toast to 1-2, and then add in some egg and spinach. Dropping starches from your evening meal is another way and some people also keep starches lower during the day and put them in at night after some training. For nipping and tucking and easy fat loss tips this is a great easy read.
There’s no correct way just find the way which works for you best and keep the deficit to allow the body to look elsewhere for fuel from your stored fat.
Studies show if you stick to 1200 (1 week)-1500 (3 weeks) for a few weeks then go up to 2200 for a maintenance phase of 4 weeks before repeating this was a highly successful way to lower body fat without disrupting metabolism. 
I personally prefer smaller micro cycles of carb flexing. So, you just eat more on training days (or less) and cycle on various patterns, including day on (carbs) day off, 2 days on, 2 days off. OR 5 days on and 2 off. Of course, keeping a track of body composition training intensity and progression, bloods and hormones as well as mood state all help fine tune this vitals and obvious approach to flexible dieting.
What really matters is you create a deficit through altering the energy density of your meals via carbs. You could also of course do this with fat or a combination – keeping your protein consistent is usually a good idea as it keeps you full and protects your muscle mass.
You can hit aggressive calories deficits for 3-5 days. Longer than this, outside of a medical based condition, isn’t a good idea as it disrupts the metabolism.
One of the easiest ways to do this is based on macro target for desired or actual lean weight. You base these on 2:1:1 protein, carb (CHO) and fat per kg. Then you flex in more carbs the more hours training you do. Generally, for each additional hour or proper intense training you’d add in 1g/CHO per kg per day.
By under and over feeding and using these strategies to go into some sessions depleted you also upregulate signalling mechanism which improve endurance performance. The key is not to do it for too long or you get tired and depleted and performance can suffer.
Most people don’t flex their foods as much as they should do. In addition, most people don’t train in a sufficiently progressive manner.
Fasting is popular these days and you can fast and do marathon training, but it needs some careful planning in my experience. Fasting is where you don’t eat for a period of time either daily, weekly or monthly. You can fast each day for say 16 hours and eat for 8 (really easy) 18 hours and eat for 6 (easy) or go 20:4 – harder. Best to ease into things starting with the 18:6. You can do your training at night then go to bed fasted which helps with fat burning and endurance but can affect someone’s sleep. Or you can wake, train then fast for 3-4 hours but you tend to eat hungry cause you’ve trained. You can also wake, fast then train and eat directly afterward which many people find more preferable and sustainable. You can also mix things up.
Using aminos for fasted training can help with energy and also protecting muscle mass. I make an excellent Amino Complex, called Metabolic Amino Complex (MAC). I’ll be talking more about supplementation for running in the next instalment you can read more about MAC here.You can use brochure20 for 20% off everything in store.
If you train depleted or train then fast it’s good for training adaptations, meaning it can make you fitter as part of a controlled under and regular feeding strategy.
To get better and fitter at training you need to follow a couple of simple principles;
Build your base first – then work on intensity.
Building your base means, moving, walking and starting a running programme. There’s plenty of good ones out there. From couch to 5k or something like this one.
Key things are building your longer run on the weekends up gradually. Running 4-5 times per week. Taking time to stretch and strengthen for some of your other training. E.g. Yoga + weights. Doing something harder and more progressive as per below;
It’s also important to chart things out – I like an old fashioned calendar on the fridge where I can see what’s coming for the next few weeks and give a gold star system for good accomplishments and sticking to the routine.
I’ve spoken about this a few times, it’s an excellent way to build lactate tolerance and fitness capacity.
Progressive over load and threshold training, here’s a couple of ways you can do this on treadmill if you are starting from a low level of walking-based fitness. If you are already fit, then start this cycled ‘wave’ training at 10km/h. Example below is for running but you can use the same for cycling and swimming.
  1. Building the base. Build up speed gradually to 6mph over 5 minutes. Then each minute try to go 0.5mph faster. Stop when this gets too hard and go back to 6mph. Then build again. Do 4 ‘waves’ over 20 minutes. 
1. 3mph 6. 6.5mph 11. 6.5mph 16. 7.0mph 21. 7.5mph
2. 4mph 7. 7.0mph 12. 7.0mph 17. 7.5mph 22. 8.0mph
3. 5mph 8. 7.5mph 13. 7.5mph 18. 8.0mph 23. 8.5mph
4. 6mph 9. 8.0mph 14. 8.0mph 19. 8.5mph 24. 9.0mph
5. 6mph 10. 9.0mph 15. 8.5mph 20. 9.0mph 25. 9.5mph
Note for the 1stfew times you might only get to 7.5mph – and keep repeating 6.0-7.5mph. That’s fine, just keep a note. Do this twice per week.
Another session is as follows. Warm up build to 6mph. Set incline to 5%. Run for 30 seconds at 5% - rest for 30 seconds. Repeat for 15 minutes (or as many as you can). If you get tired do less time on the incline e.g. 20 seconds on, 40 off. Each week increase the incline by 1%. Once you get to 15% then work on building up the speed.
In terms of mileage try to increase your weekly mileage by about 10-15%. Do this across a few of your runs and allow time between running sessions to fully recuperate. This is best added to your longer run each week or by 0.5km per week onto your longer runs if other sessions are also longer. 
Let’s take an example then of someone following these principles. Week 1; 3 x 5km runs each week on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A 88kg male amateur triathlete with an ideal weight of 79kg. Gained weight steadily after getting married and now sit consistently at 88/89kg. Dropped starches out of meals on non-training days to build a weekly deficit of 3500-4000cals. Increase weekly training volume and intensity by 10% OR 1.5km on Friday’s run and added in one upper body calisthenics session on a Sunday morning, using outside training bars in the park. 
Increased weekly mileage by 10% for 4 weeks and then on 4thweek began ‘wave’ training as additional session in gym on treadmill, bike and in the pool. Progressive attention to diet and keeping carbs higher on training days kept energy levels up to train and keep pace faster as well as allowing enough of a deficit to burn fat. Lost 4.5kg in the 1st5 weeks of following these principles.
Ideas for what to eat on an Average day for training; Goal = fat loss
Granola porridge with berries + plant protein
Green Tea
15 almonds
Protein salad with chicken, spinach, tomatoes and olives
15 Almonds or lean ham / chicken as a snack
Cooked vegetables and steak or fish for dinner
1 glass red wine
Track everything and make sure you are hitting 2:1:1 Amino Man Magic Macros ™ 
Add in some extra training calories when your miles stack up over 6 miles.
Non-training days;
Protein / vegetables smoothie
Fish complex salad
Almonds and an apple
Chicken stir fry for supper
I’ve had one client lose 15kg of fat in the last 4 months making his marathon training a whole lot easier!
Please do share this if you’ve found it helpful or if you know anyone who would benefit from the information.
They can sign up here for future instalments – next feature is on performance supplementation for running and other activities.