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How low can you go?

Fitness expert Crosby Tailor explains how low impact training is key to avoiding injuries

With the London marathon taking place on 22 April, those who are in training for the big event may well be feeling sore from endless hours pounding the pavements. Injuries and joint pains can often be an occupational hazard for runners, which is why taking a low impact approach to fitness can often help. Here, Crosby Tailor, founder of the 30 Day Transformation workout series, offers some tips on how to avoid injury and get the best possible results from your training.

“Runners develop the stamina in their lungs to run for very long distances at a time, and they usually train very often,” says Crosby. “This high impact exercise slowly starts to break down the body, one muscle, one tendon, one runner’s knee at a time. The constant pounding on the pavement is inevitable during a long run, and most runners strike the ground with their heels, making it worse for the rest of the body. Heel-striking is believed to cause a higher impact than landing on the middle to the front of the foot, which contributes to an increased risk of injury. Therefore, runners should be conscious of the amount of force they are creating when hitting the ground, and concentrate on a soft landing towards the middle of their foot. Moving as gracefully and weightlessly as you can will soften the load and possibly reduce the risk of injury. Other studies have shown that injuries could stem from being overweight, over-striding or having poor running form in general, weak hips and core, as well as diet.”

Reduce your runs

It’s stating the obvious, but running 26 miles in one stretch requires training. However, instead of running six days a week, I recommend cutting your runs down to just three days and using some of the extra time to incorporate low impact workouts. You’ll be surprised at how effective these extra workouts are in maintaining your stamina and strengthening other muscles.

Get into high resistance cycling

High resistance cycling can work wonders for runners. If you have a bike, plenty of uphill rides will do the trick, or if you’re heading to the gym, opt for a high resistance spin class. This will improve the strength of your quads as well as help to prep your knees so they don’t buckle on race day.

Work your whole body

Since you’re already training your quads with all that running, pay some special attention to the muscles you aren’t working regularly, such as the glutes and hamstrings. Remember that these other muscles play a big role in the 26-mile run – different areas of the body will get tired at different times so each and every part needs to be prepared to maximise your success come race day.

Practise good nutrition

Making recommendations on food and nutrition requires a very tailored approach because we are all so different, and various forms of training require different dietary choices. Someone working out in a low impact manner all the time is going to have a completely different diet to that of a long-distance runner, but you can use both diets to your advantage leading up to a race. When you’re engaged in low impact workouts you don’t need to eat a lot of carbs and sugar. I would recommend eating more good fats like avocados, olive oil, grass-fed butter or ghee, MCT oil or coconut oil, fats from wild fish and some nuts/seeds.

Try the low impact lifestyle

For anyone suffering with joint problems, I would specifically recommend adopting low impact workouts as well as a low impact lifestyle in general. The key is ‘less is more’. Low impact training to avoid inflammation is going to be better in the long run but will still give you a cardio workout. Develop a strong awareness of your workout and consciously move through each rep with your breath, deeply focusing on the exercise at hand.

Fine tune your diet

Seven days prior to a long race you can start carb-depleting with a high-fat, low-carb diet and then two days before the race start carb-loading. This will deplete glycogen levels drastically and then refeed them for a super boost right before the race. Maintain a diet of about 35-40 per cent carbs and then two days before the race bump it up to 75 per cent, with the other 25 per cent being mostly protein. Eating these high sugar/carb meals right before will make you release a bunch of insulin and store all this glucose for energy later, which you’ll need to tap into during the race.

Concentrate on your core

Core plays a huge role in long-distance sport – if you have strength elsewhere, you can withstand force a lot longer as your body won’t break down as much. Strong abs, hips, lower back and pelvis can all help with long-distance sport, so to build these up opt for plank variations and lower back exercises.

Be smart about carbs

Make sure you are getting good quality protein to help the body to recover after training and, if you eat meat, be conscious of it being grass-fed, pasture-raised or wild. Cook green veggies all the time and drown them in olive oil. A pre-workout meal for a low impact workout could be something like a three-egg omelette or scrambled eggs cooked in butter or ghee, with a side of cooked veg, covered in olive oil and half an avocado. When you are doing high-impact, long-distance training, your body will need more carbs, but the right carbs. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can carb up with cookies, pastries, pastas and sweets in order to withstand this type of training – be smart about your carbs. Smart carbs are root veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots, beetroots, yeast-free sourdough bread, oatmeal and fruits like bananas and dates – the latter of which can be used to make your own energy balls.

Stay motivated

Staying motivated for a long race like the marathon has everything to do with your overall mindset. You have to have a vision of what this race is going to look like for you. Leading up to the race, meditate on yourself successfully performing, and start using mindful breathwork exercises to prepare yourself for the mental endurance you’ll need for such a taxing experience.

Crosby Tailor’s 30 Day Transformation is now available to buy on DVD from Amazon or to stream online from Vimeo (RRP £19.99).

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