This is me on New Year’s Day setting out my major goal for this year, which as you can see is pretty self-explanatory. I’m super well aware that over the next (cripes) 88 days I will have to train, eat and sleep better in order to make the most out of the Marathon des Sables experience. But what does this term that many people bandy about actually mean? Well, I think it’s very much a personal thing and what your personal #mygoal is.
For person A, this may equate to fewer kebabs after a night out and swapping that commute to work a mile away by car to walking. Person B, however, may be a runner with a beer gut which has been cultivated after developing a taste for ale of the “Craft” variety. This is not helping in terms of PBs. So it may be worth cutting down and revving the training up by more speed sessions.
My point is whoever you are and whatever you want to achieve, you need to take on board advice and realistically tailor it to your needs. Are you ever going to be completely teetotal? Hell no. But you can cut down on the booze a bit.
I believe (and I’m not an expert so please do bear in mind that this is my personal opinion) that you should set goals that are realistic and achievable. Break a huge goal such as a crazy race across the sand into smaller goals and set deadlines for yourself. If you race is in April and you want to feel confident that you can at least run 50 miles, aim to do a 50 mile run by mid-February.
Think of it like redecorating an entire house. You would be insane to try to get it all done in one go (hats off if you’ve achieved it though). Instead you do it room by room. And that is my approach (god I hope it works) to my Marathon des Sables training.
So how am I going to train better, eat better and sleep better without becoming a complete hermit?
I’ve created a POA or plan of action which alternates between completing a long run at the weekend and a X Country race at the weekend. During the week, I will alternate commutes between running (up to 20 miles twice a week) and cycling. I already carry half my life on my back in a rucksack so weighted running isn’t a massive issue. I will become inevitably one of those runners – with water bottles on either strap – plodding through the streets of London at the coldest, most miserable time of year. But I will still be smiling (I promise).
I’ve also added in a ballet fit class once a week and track sessions. Once a week, I will go to a half hour spin class at BOOM and fit in a faster 20 minute session on the days that are lower in terms of mileage. I’ve tried to look at the training in terms of four-week cycles with a lighter week on the fourth week to give my body time to recover. I will take part in one to two long ultra runs (up to 50 miles) and also do a rehearsal week at the end of January. I’m aiming for between 60 – 120 miles a week (I’ll do 120 miles a week twice before I head to MdS).
We’ll see how it goes. I’m well aware that sometimes, well, let’s put it this way, life does get in the way. But by trying to stick to my plan, I know that I’ll be more confident when I hit the sand dunes of the Sahara. Closer to the time, I’ll also be heading to the sauna to read a book during lunch. It’s not quite heat chamber training but at least it’ll get my body used to the heat and I’ll also have the chance to escape with some of my favourite authors.
My diet is a tale of two halves. On the one hand, I eat a shed load of vegetables and fruit. My main meal of the day normally consists of something vegetable-based. I also drink lots of water – around a litre of so at work throughout the day.
On the other hand, I also have a tendency to eat way more sugar than I should and have a habit of falling for all the “healthier alternative” spiel. I will snack throughout the day on “healthier” biscuits and “healthier” crisps which probably have no nutritional value at all. I’m also a sucker for sweets, I love a glass of decent white wine and don’t get me started on the cider. But my biggest vice is caffeine and Pepsi Max. I drink way too much of it to be deemed healthy.
So I have stopped. No caffeine, chocolate or alcohol has passed my lips since the New Year (OK around 1am New Year’s Day). It had to be done as I’m not going to find a truckload of Pepsi Max in the desert. And before you ask, I hate coffee. I’m going to make the decision closer to the time about whether to introduce caffeine in the form of Nuun tablets as there is discussion around caffeine enhancing performance. Until then, I will be living in a no caffeine zone.
While not cutting out the sugar completely, I have started to be more conscious about what I’m putting into my body e.g. thinking about the nutritional benefit rather than see it as a quick fix. Hard boiling eggs as snacks, slicing up avocadoes to have on rye and generally stopping the needless gorging on sweets (apart from at races as you need sugar sometimes). I’m tempted to try protein shakes on the go as they are easy to consume especially if, like me, you lose your appetite after running.
During my rehearsal week, I’m planning to consume my delicious menu for Marathon des Sables (I’m still working on that) but by cutting out and cutting down, I think I will prepare my body for both the race and the future.
There is only one thing that Margaret Thatcher and I (lefty feminist Liberal who believes the State can, in the right circumstances, enhance society) used to share: the belief that sleep is for wimps. Now, after many years of soldiering on, I know that sleep can make a whole world of difference. Honestly, good times in the land of nod make for good times in reality.
To ensure I am my best in April, I am setting myself an alarm clock for bed during the week (10pm rock’n’roll) with the aim of seven hours sleep a night, maybe more at the weekend. The caffeine clampdown has also helped. In the last few days, I have noticed how much my sleep has improved. Long may it continues as this is an area which will completely transform both my performance and my mood.
What are your goals for 2015 and your plans to achieve these goals? Let me know below.