Before celebrity trainer Ben Lucas sets off to train up 50 non-runners to complete in one of the world’s most iconic marathons, we sat down with him to get the inside track on how he plans to do it.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, leading celebrity trainer and former athlete Ben Lucas and trainer/athlete Camilla Bazley will be training up a group of 50 members to run the NYC marathon in 2018, and for some of them this will be their first ever endurance event.
After wrapping up his NRL career spanning a number of years, Ben went straight into the fitness industry, launching three incredibly successful personal training studios in the process, before selling them off to create his dream studio, Flow Athletic. During this time, he got into endurance running as a competitive outlet to fill the void after being involved in NRL for so many years. In fact, in the space of five years he completed 35 marathons and five ultras. He also trained 101 non-runners to complete their first marathon, and while he said he would never do that again, here we are!
So what does it take and how should you prepare to run your first marathon? Here are Ben’s top training tips.
When it comes to the actual running component of your training, there are a number of different types of training you should incorporate into your weekly program. Doing long runs on the same track every day is not going to prepare you for hills, sprinting around slower runners and the like.
Fartlek or sprint training
Fartlek training is simply defined as “periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running.” Essentially, it is a blend of continuous training mixed with interval training.
Sprint training, on the other hand, requires you to perform a quick sprint, say 80 to 100 metres, after which you briefly rest before sprinting again.
Both of these training methods stimulate neuromuscular changes that will, ultimately, help you boost your speed and improve your stride.
Long run day
A long run day is important if you’re planning on completing a long distance, such as a marathon, but it’s important to note that you don’t actually have to complete the full distance of the event during your training. In fact, doing so will most likely just lead to burn out or injury.
If you’re starting out maybe aim to run for 30 minutes, then the next week up that to 40 minutes. Each week add more time or distance to your long run day, to help you build up the kilometres needed to complete the race distance.
Make sure you taper off in the lead up to the event though, as there is no use being tired or sore when race day arrives.
Hill sprint day
If your course has hills in it, then it’s a good idea to practise hill sprints prior to race day, because the last thing you want is to burn all your energy on the hill simply because you weren’t prepared.
To do this, find a hill that is around 100 to 200 metres in length and sprint up the hill before walking back to the start. Do this around five times in your session when you are starting out, but then slowly increase the workload by extending the number of times you do it, and/or the length of the hill.
If you have access to a coach, they should include all of the above into your training program, as well as an individually tailored strength training day. I would suggest you follow the plan unless you have any issues or injuries to consider.
If you don’t usually run, then resistance training becomes even more important as it will help strengthen your ligaments. If your body is not used to running, the most common niggles and injuries are likely to occur around the Achilles heel, hamstrings and hips, so preparing correctly with good mobility exercises is key. Make sure you start slow and build up the strength in these areas by training in the weights room. This is also a great way to work on your weaker areas, which will ensure everything becomes balanced and strong.
The main muscle groups that you should focus on include glutes, legs and core, but you also need to work on your posture, as running a long distance with hunched over shoulders will ultimately lead to injury.
Completing single leg exercises is also helpful because when you run, you are only ever on one leg at a time. Good exercises for this include Romanian deadlifts, squats, weighted step-ups and one-legged deadlifts. Weight-bearing exercises are also important for strengthening your ligaments and joints, such as your ankle and knee joints.
Don’t go flat out in every session
This is a very common mistake. I hear of people signing up for an event and then thinking that preparation requires them to run flat out while completing around 22 to 42 kilometres in every training session. They think that practicing that distance in training will mean that they can definitely perform on race day, but that’s not really accurate.
If you haven’t run for a while (or ever), then it’s important to “build up” your kilometres gradually. If you try to go from “zero to hero” on day one, odds are you will hurt yourself by either pulling or straining a muscle or ligament, or from inadequate hydration or nutrition. It is really important to follow a safe and gradual running program – especially for non-runners.
Wear the right clothing and shoes
Rule #1. Always get the right running shoe for your feet.
When you are running a long distance, trust me, it really doesn’t matter what they look like! Despite what you may have been told, dressing for comfort is fine when it comes to running long distance.
Not all feet were created equal and therefore not every shoe is going to be suitable for everyone. When shopping for a running shoe, if you don’t know what works for you then I suggest going into a store that has experts who can guide you – or better still, have the capability to do the footprint test so they can point you in the right direction when it comes to brands and style.
In general, there are three types of feet: flat feet, high-arched and neutral. Your sports shoe expert will help you identify which category you fall into and help you find the right size and style. You also need to make sure you take your new shoes out for a test run, prior to race day. You need to get your feet used to them and wear them in, as the last thing you want is a blister on race day.
Recovery is important
Yoga, float tanks, infrared sauna, sleep, hydration and proper nutrition. All of these things will help to minimise your risk of injuries, and potentially aid your performance.
Over the past few years, yoga has become popular among athletes, with many incorporating it into their training schedules, especially for recovery purposes. It has also been seen to help you improve your strength, by having to hold the poses for extended periods of time (depending on the type of yoga class). The constant flow into the next movement is also useful for developing balance, flexibility, mobility and mental endurance, all of which are needed when participating in an endurance event such as a marathon.