Ten Top Tips to Temper Taper Tensions

DCM Route

1) Reduce volume but maintain intensity and frequency of training.

Cut mileage by approx. 50-60% during the taper. Do not dramatically reduce the training pace or number of days training. Any quality sessions will focus on marathon specific pace.

2) Shorter visits to the dinner table

As the training load declines, the calorie requirement also drops. Amend portion sizes accordingly.

However carbo loading in the final 48 hours is very much recommended.

3) Avoid sick people. Period

Stay well clear of anyone who looks remotely ill. Work colleague’s, family or partners. They will still love you after the marathon is over… A flu or bug at this point is a catastrophe

4) Eat clean – Sleep loads

Tighten up every aspect of diet. Lots of vegetables, salad, fruit & green tea… all the good stuff.

Sleep is the best performance enhancer of all so make sure to get extra in the days before the race

5) Control the top 6 inches

The body is well trained from the shoulders down. From the shoulders up is where problems occur at this point. Focus on the positives. Avoid negative thoughts. Don’t worry about factors outside of your control. Positive Positive Positive…. Except your drug test.

6) Know the course

Get familiar with the route, in particular the hills. Know when to expect the inclines and aim to keep an even effort rather than even pace when negotiating the lumpy parts of the race.

DCM Route

7) Ice Bath & Massage

Ice baths, cryotherapy spa’s or a deep tissue massage are great tools to freshen tired legs. Any massage should be at least 4 days in advance. Cold therapy can be used right up to race morning.

8) Get in and out of the marathon expo ASAP

After picking up the race number it’s very easy to spend hours wandering around the Marathon Expo, wasting energy and exhausting your legs.

Any more than 30 minutes is too long. Don’t leave your PB in the RDS.

9) The First Mile – If it feels right, it’s probably too fast

Damage done by running the first mile too quickly cannot be undone. Be very conscious of starting slowly.

10) Be mentally prepared for something to go wrong

Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance…. But it does not prevent mini crisis along the way.

Be ready for all eventualities. At least one hiccup is guaranteed.

Forgetting your racing shorts, waking up late, unable to get the planned food, needing a mid-marathon toilet break or simply feeling crap early in the race. Be assured that something will go wrong. How the problem is dealt with will determine the magnitude of its effect.


Posted in Post Race Workouts

Dehydration is your friend

One of the great myths in sport is that dehydration, in any form, will drastically reduce performance levels. This notion has been pedalled successfully as a marketing ploy by the large sports drink companies. (Some of whom sound like Schmucozade).

While it is true that severe dehydration will negatively impair an athlete’s performance, dehydration up to 3% of body weight is actually performance enhancing. A body that is 3% dehydrated is also 3% lighter. Such a reduction in weight is particularly useful for endurance athletes. 1484marathon_training


Let thirst be your guide on how much to drink. South African sports science professor Tim Noakes, author of the famous Lore of Running book, is on record as saying “The idea that thirst comes too late is a marketing ploy of the sports-drink industry”. Noakes recommends “drink as your thirst dictates.”

Armed with this information, marathoners should aim for 2-3% dehydration during a race. In order to perfect this optimal dehydration, the runner needs to weigh themselves before and after long runs during training. The training environment should simulate the expected race day conditions to accurately estimate the sweat rate.

The net weight loss (minus any drinks consumed) will give an estimate of how much fluid is lost per hour. Therefore the athlete will have an idea of the volume of liquids required during the race. As a ballpark guide, 150-250mls per hour is generally required, although this does vary across individuals. Also, don’t push the boat by losing more than 3% as this may negatively impact performance.


Electrolytes are generally not required for marathons although there are some exceptions:

  1. Very warm weather (over 15 degrees)
  2. High humidity
  3. Heavy sweaters will require more specific re-hydration
  4. Extreme duration ( slower marathoners & ultra-runners)

Finally, it’s vital to practice fluid taking in training.

The most preferable time to do this is during the marathon specific sessions. That way, one can gauge the reaction to various fluids or drinking patterns while running at marathon pace.

Key Points on Hydration

  • Aim for 2-3% dehydration during a marathon
  • Weigh before and after training runs to gauge sweat rates
  • The average athlete will require 150-250ml of fluids per hour of exercise
  • Electrolytes are not required unless under extreme conditions.
  • Water and/or carbohydrate drinks are optimal fluid sources
  • Practice taking drinks in training while running at race pace


Posted in Post Race Workouts

Carbohydrate Mouth Rinse

Here is a performance enhancer that many athletes have difficulty getting their heads around.

Simply rinsing a carbohydrate solution in the mouth has proven performance enhancing effects. Rinsing the carbohydrate in the mouth for 10-15 seconds sends a signal to areas of the brain that are linked to motivation and reward.

The net effect is that receptors in the mouth alert the brain that more energy is on board, resulting in reduced perception of effort and ultimately enhancing performance. The carb solution does not even have to be ingested for this effect to take place. Simply swishing the fluid in the mouth for 10-15 seconds and spitting it back out, produces the same positive result.

There are numerous studies to back the theory. Links are below. The benefits versus a placebo solution are in the region of 2-3% in events lasting more than 1 hour.




The use of this strategy should be added to the race day fueling procedure. Stick to the pre-planned strategy of consuming gels and drinks at designated points on the marathon course. When ingesting these fuels, hold them in the mouth for 15 seconds before swallowing.

At every available opportunity, take on additional fluids containing carbohydrate, swish it around for 15 seconds before spitting it back out.

Isotonic drinks, carbohydrate sports drinks or even a lollipop (careful with that one) will tick the mouth rinse box.

This is a simple, proven and effective technique to avoid hitting the wall. Try it out on your next marathon or endurance event.



Posted in Post Race Workouts

Dealing with running niggles & injury

There is a rattling noise coming from your car. Something’s not right. Drive to the local garage and the mechanic takes a quick look.

Something broken alright… go back out and drive it again for a few days, you might be able to drive it off. In fact, drive it really hard to properly test it out.

Sounds like crazy advice? Keep driving and it might fix itself. Yet how many athletes routinely try a similar approach when it comes to injuries.

Injury, ailments and niggles are part of running. 100% of athletes will breakdown at some stage of their career. The pivotal point is how these setbacks are dealt with.



Fr Neil Horan pioneered the use of compression socks for injury prevention

A Common Problem

Most runners have been in the situation where a pain or soreness has developed but they are scheduled to go for a run. It’s the Goldilocks scenario. Too sore to go running, not sore enough to justify taking the day off.

Its common place to try hopping on the sore leg, bounding up the stairs, striding up and down the road. Eventually deciding “it’s not toooo bad”. Off they go only to return (usually walking) shortly after. Head bowed and a long face. What was initially a minor problem, has now snowballed into a full blown injury.


Some simple and swift action can greatly reduce this downtime from training and speed up the return to fitness. Rather than “testing” the injury by running, try some or all of these courses of action.

  1. Rest – Take the day off. Rest will eventually cure all injury. Training will not.
  2. Physio / Massage – Most running problems are triggered by overuse and can be quickly treated with massage therapy. If the problem is more serious, the therapist will be able to advice on further treatment.
  3. Ice and/or Cryotherapy –Apply ice to the affected area as often as possible. Cryotherapy, bathe in cold seawater or even a homemade ice bath will speed up the healing process.
  4. Cross Train – Don’t sit idly by and watch hard earned fitness evaporate. Provided the injury is not aggravated, use alternative forms of training to maintain fitness and aerobic ability. Aqua jogging and the elliptical trainer are optimum for runners. Swimming and cycling a close second. Elevating the heart rate for 30-40 minutes in lieu of each missed running session will maintain the vast majority of fitness.
  5. Nutrition – The body will heal much faster with correct nutrition. Continue to eat clean and place emphasis on anti-inflammatory foods. In particular, increase the intake of ginger, turmeric, pineapple, oily fish. Vitamin C is a powerful anti-inflammatory supplement and your physio therapist may also recommend a course of anti-inflammatory medication for acute injury.


Prevention is better than cure

While injuries are inevitable, the frequency and severity can be reduced by following some general guidelines.

  • Build training volume and training intensity in a controlled and gradual manner. Large increases in the training load are at the root of most injuries.
  • Cycle the training load between hard and easy periods. Training hard all year round is not sustainable.
  • Run on softer terrain where possible. Ideally on a nice grass surface but trails are a good alternative.
  • A regular massage is invaluable. Prevents many injuries at source. Foam rolling is a cost effective substitute.
  • Go to your local running shop and get fitted for the correct running shoe. My strong preference is go to a specialist running store and don’t forget to replace the runners every 6-800 miles.
  • Stretching, good nutrition and adequate rest/sleep are other key injury preventative measures.
Posted in Post Race Workouts

Progression in Training – How & Why

Many athletes are guilty of doing the same workouts week-in, week-out with little variation or progression. How many of us head to the track and complete the same training session as last week or two weeks previous, while expecting an equal training benefit.

The body adapts to a training stimulus relatively quickly. Within 1 -2 sessions a large portion of the benefit from a given workout has taken place. After the initial 1-2 sessions, the difficulty of the workout must be altered in order to maintain the same level of intensity and provide the same training benefit.

A Simplified Example

An athlete preparing for a 10k may do a track session of 6 x 800m at 10k pace off 90 seconds recovery. At the end of the session the coach measures the lactate and finds it is 12 mmol. (Lactate is an excellent barometer of the stimulus provided by a session).

10 days later the athlete returns to the track and completes the exact same session. This time the post workout reading is 10.5 mmol.

A further 10 days later the session is repeated for a 3rd time and the lactate reading comes in at 8 mmol.

The reduced lactate reading confirms that super-compensation has occurred and the athlete has adapted to this particular training stimulus. The training intensity of the 3rd session is much lower than the first time the workout was complete. In order to maintain the high stimulus from session 1, the difficulty of the session must be progressed in some form. Otherwise there is diminishing marginal returns from the workout.


Progression is everywhere

Methods of Progression

There are 4 main parameters used to progress a workout.

  1. Number of intervals
  2. The pace of the intervals
  3. Duration of the recovery
  4. Length of the intervals

Ideally, 2 or 3 of the parameters are manipulated together.

To use our example of the 6x800m session above, by tweaking only one parameter, the second session could be amended as follows.

  • 7x800m (increase number of intervals)
  • 6×800 @ slightly faster than 10k pace (increase pace)
  • 6x900m (increase distance)
  • 6x800m with off 75 seconds (reduce recovery)

However if the athlete handled session 1 particularly well, all 4 parameters could be adjusted.

Session 2 – 7x900m @ slightly faster than 10k pace off 75 seconds recovery

Session 3 – 8x1000m @ marginally faster pace off 60 seconds recovery


It’s extremely important that the progression of a workout is done in a controlled fashion. Gently increasing the difficulty will prevent injury and reduce the risk of over training.

There is no single best method of adapting a workout. Be creative and use imagination to alter the session in a way that best suits the athlete’s requirements.

Other manipulators to progress a session

  • Surges (within the interval to simulate race scenario)
  • Change the terrain (hills / flat / grass / track)
  • Altitude
  • The speed of the recovery (steady running or a slow jog )
  • Add strides or hill sprints after the session as a method of developing finishing speed

Sample Workout

The following table provides further detail on how a hill workout may be progressed over a number of weeks. This workout should be completed on a very long hill to allow the short jog back recovery.

Week Hill Session No. of Intervals Total Volume Total volume of work efforts Total volume of recovery Ratio of work to recovery
1  60 secs hard uphill / 60 secs jog down rec 16 32 mins 16 mins 16 mins 1 : 1
2  75 secs hard uphill / 45 secs jog down rec 14 28 mins 17.5 mins 10.5 mins 1.66 : 1
3  90 secs uphill / 45 jog down recovery 12 27 mins 18 mins 9 mins 2 : 1
4  2 mins uphill / 1 min jog down recovery 10 30 mins 20 mins 10 mins 2 : 1
5  2.5 mins uphill / 1 min jog down recovery 9 31.5 mins 22.5 mins 9 mins 2.5 : 1
6  3 mins uphill / 1 min jog down recovery 8 32 mins 24 mins 8 mins 3 : 1
Posted in Post Race Workouts

The benefits of training twice a day – Superior to a single run?

Athletes often ponder the dilemma of training twice a day. Is it more beneficial to split a single run into two smaller sessions? If so, what is the best way to introduce double days to a training schedule?

The idea of doing two runs in one day has long been part of elite training programmes.  The question is, are double days beneficial for younger athletes, novice runners or those on lower mileage? Here are some thoughts.

Maggie Thatcher pondering single vs double days

Maggie Thatcher pondering single vs double days

Physiological benefits of double days

  • Splitting the days training load into two, boosts the speed of recovery from hard workouts, without decreasing the overall workload.
  • There are 2 separate spikes in metabolism during the day rather than one. This increases fat burning and weight loss. 
  • The evening run is complete in a state of pre-fatigue (reduced glycogen stores) leading to better training adaptations
  • Two bouts of active recovery increase blood flow and return lactate (lactic acid) levels to base level more rapidly after hard workouts.
  • For lower mileage runner’s, double days are a new training stimulus.
  • Split runs often help the days mileage be complete at a faster overall pace
  • Elevated levels of HGH (human growth hormone) are produced 4-6 hours after an easy run. Better preparing the body for a hard effort during the second run.
  • Double runs are proven to boost mitochondria production, a physiological necessity for endurance runners.
  • Virtually every elite runner does doubles, ample evidence in itself

 We still need single days

Single runs are superior for building endurance. Every distance athlete needs to build endurance at some point in the training cycle. Regardless of the target event, the initial 6-10 weeks of a training cycle has the goal of building endurance. This base period will supplement and support the higher intensity work that comes later in the training blocks. Endurance gained from single runs of a medium to long distance is a vital part of this support structure.

For athletes racing over longer distances (half or full marathon) single runs over a medium/long distance will feature right throughout a training plan. 

Not everyone has the luxury of sufficient time each day to complete two training sessions. One training session rather than two is often more time efficient. Every athlete needs to make the best use of time and plan training accordingly. Single runs can help accomplish this.

Variations of double days

Recovery: The most common use of double runs is as a recovery tool. Active recovery (easy running) is the best method of repairing the body after a hard session or race.

The Shakeout: Prior to an intensive session or race, an easy 20-40 minute run will loosen out muscles and elevate HGH levels, which better prepares the body for a hard effort. Shakeout runs should be complete 4-8 hours before the intensive run.

Special Blocks: So called by Renato Canova, special blocks are effectively two hard workouts in one day. Special blocks are used in the final pre-competition phase of training. The principle behind the double sessions is to find an extra training stimulus, as all existing training stimuli have already been exhausted throughout the training cycle.

For example, a track athlete may do a set of 10 x400 at race pace in the morning and another set of 10×400 in the evening. For marathon runners, special block days may be a medium distance run at slightly slower than marathon pace in both the morning and evening.  

It should be noted that these days are extremely intensive and carry an increased risk of injury. The athlete must be well rested beforehand and allow ample recovery time afterwards.

Do’s and Don’ts

There are many benefits to training twice a day but some principles should be adhered to.

  • Introduce double runs gradually. Respect the 10% rule per week when increasing mileage.
  • Keep sufficient time between the two runs. Without a minimum of a 4 hour gap (ideally 6-8 hours), a single run is a better alternative.
  • Ensure good nutrition, hydration and recovery time are scheduled for the athlete to fully benefit and create the super-compensation effect. 
  • As with any new training stimulus, be conservative rather than over ambitious with its introduction.


Posted in Post Race Workouts

Rupp and THOSE Mile repeats

On Saturday night at the Boston University indoor track, Galen Rupp clipped two seconds off the American 2 Mile Indoor record. Clocking 8:07.41, the performance propelled Rupp to 7th on the all-time list and within 3 seconds of Kenenisa Bekele’s world record which stands at 8:04.

This came just one week after Rupp claimed the US indoor 5,000m record, running 13:01 to eclipse Lopez Lomong’s previous mark of 13:07.

Impressive and all as these performances were, the majority of the post race attention focused not on the record breaking, but rather on the sizzling workouts completed directly afterwards.

Mens Two-Mile

On Saturday, after taking a few minutes to sign autographs, the Alberto Salazar coached athlete got back on the track and started a session of 5 x 1 Mile off a 400m recovery. Hitting the first 4 mile repeats in 4:21/20/20/16, the Oregon Project man really got serious for the 5th mile. Reaching into his kit bag and pulling on the spikes, much to the delight of the Flotrack commentators (the workout was broadcast live on flotrack.org).

The Flotrack crew were aroused. “Spiked Up, Psyched up, Guns out, and Shirt off… this is going to get uncomfortable everybody” and it did. Rupp stopped the watch at 4:01 for his final mile. The race, plus workout totalled 7 miles of running in a combined time of less than 30 minutes. Impressive by any standard. The Flotrack guys later called it “5 x WTF”.

rupp 3

Apart from “how”, the question on many runners’ minds was why tackle such an arduous workout directly after a race. Former assistant coach for the Nike Oregon Project, Steve Magness helps shed some light on the physical reasons.

Magness believes that the hormonal profile within the body after a race is different than at any point during training. The nervous system is primed, endorphins are released and adrenaline is still flowing from the race effort. He believes this allows athletes to hit surprisingly strong splits that would otherwise be almost impossible.

Furthermore, completing such a hard training session on the same day as the race negates the need to complete the next workout in the 3 or 4 days afterwards. This allows the athlete fit in extra recovery days prior the next race, without shirking the overall weekly workload.

A third reason for post race training is to bring the race day volume in line with a regular workout day. For athletes doing over 100 miles per week, the total quality volume of workouts would generally be much higher than 2 miles. Therefore, it makes sense to add supplemental training after the race.

Before everyone darts to the nearest track after the next race

It’s worth noting, that this is not a new concept. Sonia O’Sullivan often headed off for additional workouts after her early season track races. The Oregon Project athletes have been doing this type of training for some time. Despite the recent hype, Salazar is not reinventing the wheel.

Some points to note

  • Post race training sessions are designed for shorter distances only. Any race over 5k already has sufficient volume and therefore adequate fatigue.
  • The risk of injury is greatly increased. Remember that the Oregon crew have built up to these monster sessions over many years.
  • Rupp is an exceptionally robust athlete who has proven his ability to handle large volume and intensity. Large quantities of supplemental gym work under the watchful eye of Coach Salazar and medical back-up that is second to none help the Olympic silver medalist stay injury free.

Galen’s next race is at attempt at the US Indoor mile record next weekend. The athletics world will be watching both the race and what he does immediately afterwards.


Posted in Post Race Workouts