Regular readers will know that we have assembled Team Yetu, a group of five amateur runners who would like to run the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon later this year. To help them get into a regular training pattern, we’ve enlisted the advice of Martin Keino, former professional athlete and sports marketing guru,to answer their questions.
D Conrad Ojiambo 34, lecturer
How do you deal with a lack of motivation, when you simply don’t feel like training?
Martin Keino: Most runners go through periods when they feel they need a break – both mentally and physically – from running. To avoid reaching that point of burnout, try some of these strategies:
– Run for fun, without worrying about following a training schedule. Don’t run for time or distance. Just go out for a run and stop whenever your mind or body tells you to.
– Give yourself breaks in training. For healthy, consistent training, your body needs regular recovery periods. Build rest days into your schedule, and plan for ‘recovery weeks’ (when you decrease your overall weekly mileage) every four weeks.
– Mix it up. You’ll get bored if you keep doing the same workout day after day. Change your routine by finding some new running routes or adding speed to your workouts.
D Cherotich Kenei 23, head of client and media relations
When running to build up your cardio strength, what time is it best to run to keep your heartbeat stable and build up stamina?
MK: Running in the morning is the best way to avoid hot weather, heatstroke and stifling humidity. Runners who exercise in a cool climate can often run longer and go further than those who work out in the heat.
Running in the morning can also help you to lose weight faster. A run will jump-start your metabolism early in the morning, so your body burns calories at a faster rate throughout the day. Because you go to bed earlier to have enough rest for the morning run, you probably will not snack as late in the day. The reduction in calories will help you to reach your weight-loss goals faster.
D Farida Kokita, 30, communications and research expert
What is a realistic training regime to prepare safely for a half marathon in just six months time?
MK: Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to training for half marathons. Plan plenty of time in advance, with steadily-paced but consistent training and a focus on total body fitness.
Be realistic and work out how many times you’ll actually be able to get out to run every week. Allowing six months for training is a more reasonable timeframe and will account for weeks in which you can run only once or twice.
Pace yourself. The most important component of training for a half marathon is learning how to pace yourself. Start each run, as well as your overall routine, at a reasonable pace, so you can get comfortable with your running routine. Your pace should increase as your run continues, but be sure to conserve energy for the final kilometre or so.
Build it up. Your weekly schedule should include a short, medium and long run, as well as a cross-training session. Start the first week with runs of 2-3km, 6km and 8km, and add roughly 2km to each category every two to three weeks.
Peak performance. Most experts recommend your longest training run be about 75-80% of the race distance, so complete a 16km run no less than a week before the race. Only go on a few short, gentle runs the week before the race.
D Jackson Biko, 35, Kenya Yetu editor-at-large
How important is diet in training?
MK: Eating a balanced diet is essential to fuel your body for endurance, recovery and race performance. The right foods provide essential nutrients, electrolytes and energy. What you eat also helps you learn what foods will work for your body on the big day.
About 60-70% of your calories should come from complex carbohydrates, which your muscles can easily use for fuel. Load up on carb-rich foods such as whole grains, fresh and dried fruit, vegetables and brown rice. Protein should make up 10-15% of your diet, and fats, which also supply energy, 20-25%.
Stick to fresh, unprocessed foods. Drink 100% juice, smoothies, tea (go easy on the sugar) and water. You should also plan to eat every three to four hours instead of only three times a day, to maintain steady blood sugar and muscle glycogen levels.
D Wairu Kinyori 29, lawyer
How does one run continuously for a sustained period of time without getting out of breath?
MK: Let your body decide when to start and stop. When you feel like stopping, just bring down the pace and start walking again. Don’t be surprised if you can jog for only one minute – you are trying to introduce your body to jogging. You don’t want to push it too far too early, and you don’t want to create an exhausting experience that’ll make you dread jogging again.
Catch your breath. Walk long enough only to catch your breath and rebuild your energy. This could take 30 seconds or up to 30 minutes, depending on your fitness level. (I was in the 30-minute category when I started, but now I recover very quickly.)
Slow jog again. When you’re ready, start jogging again. Run until just before you feel worn out.
Cool down. Walk for at least five minutes to slow your heart rate. This will also tell your body that it no longer needs to supply extra blood to those muscles involved most intensely in the jogging. Instead it will redirect that blood back to the internal organs.
Martin Keino spent ten years competing in 1,500m, 3,000m and 5,000m races, ranking in the top five in the world for 1,500m, mile and 2,000m in the late 1990s. From then until 2005 he was a middle distance pacemaker, helping to set seven world records.
He is the Managing Director of Keino Sports Marketing, an agency that manages sport sponsorships, event marketing and management, athlete services and other sport consultancies. He is a regular newspaper columnist, athletics commentator and presenter of Setting the Pace TV magazine show on Zuku Sports.
Team Yetu We’d like to thank all those readers who applied to join Team Yetu. The response was amazing! We are sorry there are no more formal places on the team, but we hope you will be part of a larger, informal Team Yetu, that you will benefit from the advice in this column and that we’ll see you on the start line come Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon day! (October 27, 2013)