Marathon training - Christmas is over, what now?

Christmas is over and the New Year celebrations are just beginning to wear off! As we approach the beginning of January, you should be starting your marathon training if you haven’t done so already. For those of you new to marathon and half marathon training, here are some of my initial thoughts and suggestions:

Get yourself a training plan

It’s important to put some thought into your running - i.e. how many times a week? Where can you run? Who can you run with? Think about some long term, mid term, short term goals. Having some structure to your training is really important. It creates a sense of purpose to each training session, ensures that you progress in the right way and helps prevent overtraining. There are some really good plans available at:

Don’t try and rush your training. Have patience and faith in your training. The improvements will come but it is a progressive process.

Focus on building your endurance base

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a runner, cyclist or triathlete, your aerobic base training period will share the following characteristics:

  • Develop your aerobic fitness and improve endurance

  • The training volumes are likely to be high (but controlled)

  • The majority of your training will be at an easy/moderate training intensity

  • Predominantly involves the recruitment of slow twitch (type I) muscle fibres

  • You will get cold and wet!

Long ‘easy’ runs should form the bedrock of your marathon training plan. These runs help your body adapt and continued training will result in an increase in the density of mitochondria (the oxygen power house!) within your muscle cells and an increase in the muscle capillary network. Both of these changes enable the muscle to become more efficient at processing and extracting oxygen from the blood.

In addition, there chemical changes which take place as a result of endurance training that enable the body is able to increase the use of its fat stores and spare muscle glycogen at the same given work rate. The long training runs also result in repetitions of complex movement patterns which utilise the majority of major muscles and joints within the body. This may improve your running biomechanics and make you a more efficient runner.

The pace of your long, easy run should be a good 60-90 seconds slower than your 10k race pace and you should be able to hold a conversation.

Build up gradually

Your training, including your long runs, should be built up very gradually. Starting with a run 3 times a week or every other day, is generally a safe place to start and this can be progressed, as the body gets stronger.

If you follow a good training plan, it should aim to increase your training by about 10% a week. For your long runs, this will mean increasing the duration by approximately 10 minutes a week. Aim to build up your training by 10% a week for three to four weeks and then reduce or maintain the overall distance/time for a recovery week. This ensures that your body is able to recover and adapt to the increasing training load.


Make use of running groups and on-line resources like #ukrunchat on Twitter. It is a great way to share tips for marathon training and to encourage you through these next few months. Here are some final tips:

1)      Consistency is the key, it’s no good flogging yourself to near death on a long run and then being so shattered you can’t train the rest of the week.  You need to be out there a minimum of three times a week.

2)      Invest in your training – good shoes and a waterproof jacket are essential

3)      Get a regular sports massage

4)      Run with a buddy and remember to have fun!

Need help or advice?

If you have any training related questions then please feel free to contact me. You are more than welcome to make use of my Facebook page for training tips and updates or Twitter @PUREsportsperf - I will always try and respond as quickly as possible. Alternatively, if you want more specific, bespoke training advice then you can contact me via my website.

Elite & trained male cyclists required!

Is ‘brain-doping’ the future for endurance athletes? This is your opportunity to join a developmental and breakthrough research programme at the University of Brighton.

Neuro-doping (or ‘brain doping’) is a relatively new development in the world of sports science. It involves the modulation of brain activity using electric or magnetic fields with the potential for an improvement in the physiological and psychological aspects of sports performance.

I was involved in early pilot testing with some of the PhD researchers at the University of Brighton. It’s encouraging to see that the research to date has proved promising, with hints of performance improvements. Although these types of interventions may open up a number of ethical questions, more research must be carried out before it can be determined for certain that a performance benefit exists.

This is where the University of Brighton need your help! The researchers are looking for elite or trained male cyclists to investigate the effects of ‘brain-doping’ on cycling performance.

You will receive a VO2max test and a performance report which can be used to assess your current fitness levels and plan your next block of training.

If you would like to be part of the study, please contact



Marathon training support.....BECAUSE 26.2 MILES IS MORE THAN JUST A DISTANCE!

Next spring might seem like a long way off but if you are planning of running a marathon then it makes sense to start planning your training now.

Although a lot of training plans may not start until December/January, I would really recommend starting some easy runs now in order to build up a base level of fitness. For complete beginners, this may mean bolting together small blocks of running and walking until you are able to continuously run for say 40-60 minutes by mid-December. Even if you are an experienced runner, it is always sensible to start your planning early and include other aspects like cross-training and strength work.  

If you are planning on following a set training plan, do you know your 'threshold runs' from your 'interval runs'? How fast should a 'hard' session be?  Do you want to make sense of your training plan and customise it with bespoke training zones and paces? #pimpmytrainingplan

If so, the marathon training support package can help you answer these questions, ensure you get the best from your training and achieve your full potential.....BECAUSE 26.2 MILES IS MORE THAN JUST A DISTANCE!


Sports science has many elements!

Sports science is often associated with high profile Olympic sports such as marathon running, triathlon and track events. However, elements of sports science can be used in a variety of ways across a full spectrum of sports. Over the last three years, I’ve been involved in helping champion Motocross rider, Mel Pocock prepare for his winter training with Sol Gilbert.  With a relatively small training window of 6-8 weeks, Sol has the job of getting Mel and several other riders ‘race ready’ for the forthcoming season.

These guys are highly trained athletes. Motocross requires the active involvement of the entire musculoskeletal system and the utilisation of both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. The sport places unique performance demands on the athlete due to the varying factors such as course terrain, obstacles, forces from the bike and the impact of landing. During a competitive race, heart rate, oxygen uptake and blood lactate are maintained at a level around the second lactate threshold which is comparative to running a 10,000 m race (Konttinen et al, 2008). Determining the physiological profile of a rider is an essential part of a structured training program geared towards improving the rider’s ability to withstand the rigours of competition.

In addition to strength and power, motocross riders must have a high maximal aerobic capacity that physiologists would associated with maximal oxygen consumption (V̇O2max), a good aerobic endurance or capacity to sustain a high percentage of their V̇O2max for a long time, alongside good skills and technique so that they can perform with minimal energy expenditure.

My role is to focus on one aspect of Mel’s physiological potential, namely aerobic endurance by using blood lactate profiling. The information from the treadmill test we carried out last week has been used to set training zones for his high intensity and threshold run training. These accurate and bespoke training zones help to ensure Mel’s training is optimised and mitigate potential overtraining.

Blood lactate profiling can help customise your own training plans and, when performed more than once in a season, are a good indicator of your training progress - CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS

Monitoring your training

I think we all know that athletes  need to hard in order to improve. However, many athletes new to endurance sports may not appreciate that adaptive training gains can only be maximised to a threshold point.

Beyond this point, additional training will not produce further performance gains and could lead to overtraining and athlete ‘burn-out’.

A certain level of fatigue is needed in order to activate essential physiological repair mechanisms. With adequate recovery, the fatigue will disappear and adaptation will occur making your stronger and fitter! Sometimes, as we begin to increase training, we may find ourselves trying to balance an increased training load and inadequate recovery which could result in overtraining. Your training load is influenced by the amount of training (volume) and intensity.

There are a number of different ways to try and quantify training load including real-time observation/measurements, physiological monitoring (heart rate, blood lactate concentrations and oxygen consumption) during training sessions and obtaining a subjective estimate of an athlete’s training load. A quick and easy way for us all to track our training load is to use a diary to record how we felt after each session.

Using a simplified exertion scale, where 0 = rest and 10 = maximal effort, rate your effort (how hard you thought you were working during the session) and multiply it by the length, in minutes, of your training session.

This will give you a session rate of perceived exertion (s-RPE) which can be added to all your other sessions that week to provide you with an overall training load for the week. This can be used as a tool ensure that you are adhering to a periodised training programme and benefiting from the cyclical recovery weeks. It can also you detect when you may not coping with your training because you tend to submit higher s-RPE scores for similar sessions carried out in the previous week or month.

This is such a simple way to help ensure you are optimising your training you'd be silly not to give it a try!