How To Train For A Marathon: The LOOK Diary

How To Train For A Marathon: The LOOK Diary

Because training to run 26.2 miles is never easy, follow LOOK's Amie-Jo Locke as she prepares to run the London Marathon 2016. There might be tears...

London Marathon Training
Runners during the London Marathon

05.02.16 - 11 Weeks To Go

The ten miles last weekend? Nailed it. No really. I can't believe I managed it. It does feel like it's getting easier. Note to self though: charge phone overnight before embarking on a long run. Having to complete the last three miles without music was a bit of a pain.

The only significant thing to happen this week was that I experienced my first minor injury. To be honest, I'm a little embarrassed.

I pulled a muscle in my groin running for the bus. Lols. Oh the irony. So as you can see from my app, I've taken it a little easier these last few days just to let the strain recover in time for the 11 mile jaunt.

It did get me thinking however about what you can use (aside from the usual things like an ice pack or a warm bath) when you have a minor strain.

Also, I don't know about anyone else, but my complexion has has taken a bit of a turn for the worst. The combination of 'sweaty gym face' and 'winter exposure face' has played havoc with my skin. So much so that I've been looking out for specialist face and body products created for runners in mind.

Luckily for me, LOOK has a rather fantastic beauty team that are on hand to deliver expert advice. If you, like me, are having major face/body issues mid-marathon training, here are some fab suggestions to help ease the pain...

The Must Have Body Oil

AromaWorks' Purify Body Oil (£39) is full of lovely things like manderin, geranium, coriander and lavender to help soothe aching muscles after a long run. Not only is this treat 100% natural, but the ingredients also help detoxify the body and boost circulation. I applied some to my body directly after a warm bath and the results were quite remarkable. My skin was soft, my muscles were supple, and I smelled like a dream!

Purify Body Oil

AromaWorks Purify Body Oil, £39

The Soothing Bath Soak

A hot bath can be a real saviour for long distance runners, and adding a little somethin' somethin' to the water can turn a bog standard tub soak into a spa-like experience. I'm loving this Arnica Soothing Muscle Soak from The Organic Pharmacy (£38.95). Infused with sea salt, arnica and ginger, this organic treat helps to iron out any niggly aches and pains.

Arnica Bath Soak

The Organic Pharmacy Arnica Soothing Muscle Soak, £38.95

The Hero Lip Balm

We couldn't discuss marathon products without mentioning Vaseline could we? This renowned beauty staple is beloved the world over because not only does it lock in moisture, it also helps to minimise chaffing - particularly good for the *ahem* nipple problem that some long distance runners can experience. Slip one of the handy tins into your pocket or sports bra to keep raw skin at bay along the way. And at only £1.95, it's an absolute bargain!

Vaseline Lip Therapy

Vaseline Original Lip Therapy, £1.95

The Hair Saviour

Has running in the wind and rain left your hair in ribbons? Yep, along with severe 'hat hair' and split ends galore, training in crappy weather can leave you looking like you have a permanant thatched roof. Well, Oway's Moisturising Hair Mask (£19 - £36) is the one product guaranteed to get those unruly locks under control. Apply liberally and wrap hair in a warm towel for ultimate deep conditioning.

Oway Moisturising Hair Mask

Oway Moisturising Hair Mask, £19-£36

The Natural Face Peel

Finally, a face treatment that is gentle enough to use post-gym without leaving your skin dry and flaky, the Clear Skin Willow Bark Exfoliating Peel (£55) from Eminence is especially good for oily or acneic complexions. The active organic ingredients will help refine skin without irritation, whilst helping to combat any problem areas/clogged pores that can occur as a result of the dreaded aforementioned 'sweaty gym face'. It's a little miracle in a jar.

Clear Skin Willow Bark Exfoliating Peel

Eminence Clear Skin Willow Bark Exfoliating Peel, £55

Hopefully these products will give you some ideas about what to use during the training period. Let's hope my silly groin injury clears up before too long....

Until next time guys, keep running.

Amie-Jo xxx

27.01.16 - 12 Weeks To Go

So. I'm halfway there.

Yes, if you can believe it, I'm actually at the mid-point of my training schedule. The London Marathon is in 12 weeks, and do you know what? I'm actually feeling ok about it. I mean, I'm not saying that I'm going to pull a Mo Farah any time soon, but following a couple of recent long runs (8.55 being my furthest thus far) I'm confident that I will at least make it around the course alive. I've even entered myself into the North London Half Marathon at the end of March to get myself aquainted with the race setup. Who knows, perhaps I'll clock a PB!

To help me understand exactly what kind of impact this marathon training is having on me, I took the time visit new gym Third Space at London Bridge to avail of their bespoke Lifescore service - a test that provides a snapshot of where your body is physically and mechanically.

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I arranged a meeting with Grady, who made his assessment by way of a nifty looking machine that compiled my own personal Body Composition Analysis. As you can probably imagine, I was more than a little nervous of getting the results. No one wants to be told that they have to lose weight right?

Lifescore Lifescore is just one of the services Third Space provides...

Luckily, my Lifescore wasn't TOO bad, although Grady was a little concerned about my weekly alcohol consumption...eeps. Interestingly though, he told me that while my PBF (Percent Body Fat)  could be slightly lower (just a few niggly % that I could realistically lose if I put my mind to it), my mineral mass, i.e. my bone density, is actually at optimum level. This, he told me, is fantastic because strong bones mean that I am less likely to injure myself during training.

He recommended that I try and lose 5kg over the coming weeks just to make myself a little leaner. We went through meal plans and alternative exercise ideas to help turn the excess pounds into muscle mass (strength training classes such as Body Pump are ideal), and he had plenty of suggestions to help make the most out of the Lifescore results.

Class exercise might be the answer... Class exercise might be the answer...

It really was an interesting insight into how my body is performing, and I'd definitely recommend getting one done. Plus, 5kg is a realistic goal to work towards in the grand scheme of things. I just need to lay off the pies! Check out the Third Space site for more info about booking your own Lifescore.

So, I have my first 10 miles to run this weekend. It's a milestone, and I honestly can't believe that we are at halfway point. Wish me luck!

Until next time, keep running.

Amie-Jo xxx

07.01.16 - 16 Weeks To Go

Happy New Year everyone. Here's hoping you all had a smasher!

Anyone else fall off the running wagon? Yep, I did. Not spectacularly, but enough to make me dread that first 5 miles back in the gym....

Needless to say, I'm back in the thick of it and the fundraising seems to be going well. So far I've raised around £600 - only another £900 to go!

I don't know about everyone else but I find it much easier to train in the mornings, running in the gym before work, and along the canal on the weekend. One thing I've noticed though is that I'm always STARVING after a run (especially a long one), and I'll admit that I've been struggling to find breakfasts that will not only fill me up, but aid my muscle recovery too.

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I spoke to Tom Stancliffe, co-founder of Tribe - a running community that curates Training & Nutrition Plans for runners - about what breakfasts he recommends, and how certain foods can help maximise your athletic potential.

Tribe Running Club Tribe runners take to the streets

'After a tough session, your muscles are depleted of glycogen - fuel the body converts from carbohydrate - and in need of protein', Tom states. 'It's important to give your body these nutrients after exercise, ideally within an hour. During this time period your muscles are still receptive, giving your body the best chance to repair and recover properly.'

Baked Eggs Shahshuka (aka Moroccan eggs)...nom nom

'Eggs are a great natural source of protein and our go-to for brunch. Our favourite right now is Shahshuka (aka Moroccan eggs), which is perfect for warming up after a freezing January training run. It originally hailed from North Africa and it's a fiery and warming medley of eggs baked in a pepper and plum tomato sauce, spiced with cayenne and paprika.'

'For an extra protein hit after a long run, you could sprinkle a Tribe Mineral Booster, such as our Fire Seeds, on top. If you are feeling more indulgent, you could always add chorizo or sprinkle some Feta on top!'

How yummy do these look? I'll definitely be trying these after my next run.

And what about during the week? Well, I admit that baking eggs at work probably isn't a realistic option, however, there are other superfoods out there that will make your post-workout brekkie more substantial...even if you do have to chow down at your desk. All it takes is a bit of evening prep.

Layered Berry Pots

How about a layered berry breakfast pot from Seasonal Berries, packed full of good stuff like muesli, fruit and yoghurt? Berries such as raspberries are rich in quercetin which may help increase exercise endurance, and everyone knows the antioxidant power of blueberries. These pots may look a bit fancy, but jars can always be substituted for normal plastic tuppawear to survive a hectic morning's commute. Click here for the full recipe.

SEE: Nutribullet Recipes: 5 Quick And tasty Smoothies To Try At Home

And for those of you laying off the dairy? How about some warming and restorative porridge - only this carrot and raisin creation is made without milk. Just place 90g of oats into a saucepan with 500ml of Alpro Oat Original. Add some cinnamon, a handful of raisins, a grated carrot and a peeled, grated apple. Warm for around 8 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Serve with lashings of lovely honey.

Carrot Porridge

Tom goes on to say:

'Everyone's needs are different, but as a rule of thumb a healthy post-workout meal should have approximately 3:2, carbohydrate to protein, with a good portion of veg on the side. What you eat after a workout will play a large part in how you feel the next day and your ability to train to your potential.'

To learn more about Tribe, check out their Facebook page where you can sign up for a bunch of fantastic running events. And guess what? Because the Tribe gang are a lovely lot, they've offered our readers the chance to try one of their Tribe Packs - packed full of natural energy and recovery Tribe snacks to help runners train stronger - for only £1!

Yep, just click here and use code LOOK at the checkout to avail of this whopper offer. Happy days.

So, until next time folks, take care and keep running!

Amie-Jo xxxx

12.12.15 - 20 Weeks To Go

Crikey. Can you believe it's less than two weeks until Christmas.

I've always thought about Christmas being like a kind of bench mark for my training - as in, I'll have to be mildly good over the festive period in terms of sticking to the training routine, eating (somewhat) healthily and not drinking too much *sigh* - but once January hits, that's when the excess has to stop and I'll have to completely dedicate ALL of my time to the job in hand.

My distances are increasing day by day, and while I'm still finding the early starts fairly laborious, I'm starting to see a real difference in both my body and mind. Oh, and I've lost some weight. Happy days.

So, because things are getting mildly serious now, I decided it was time to go and get my gait measured to check that I am running in the correct shoe. For those new to this business (as I was), your 'gait' is your natural running movement - not what you forget to close when you come home from a night out...

Up until now I have been training in a pair of my mum's runners (not ideal), and as every long distance athlete knows, it is ESSENTIAL that you get your gait analysed before purchasing an expensive pair of trainers. Not only will an understanding of your running style help to minimise any potential pronation issues ('pronation' is the inward movement of the foot as it rolls to distribute the force of impact of the ground as you run), but it will also allow you feel more confident buying shoes to best suit your individual style.

Plenty of specialist sports shops will offer an in store service to measure your gait but, because I'm using their app already to train, I travelled down to the Nike store on Kings Road to avail of their bespoke Nike Run Analysis service. Once you get over feeling like a bit of a twit running on a treadmill in front of a store full of beautiful Nike customers, you soon realise that the staff really do know their stuff when it comes to looking after your feet - so much so that I spent over an hour with the lovely Aimee discussing shoes, my running style, and what kind of support I was looking for.

Running Analysis

The analysis started with my running on the treadmill in a pair of neutral trainers, just so Aimee could film my natural gait on her iPad to get a sense of how I was holding myself. It turned out that my left ankle pronates slightly, which I could clearly see when Aimee played the video back to me in slow motion. She informed me that while it wasn't enough of a pronation to get seriously worried about, it was worth emphasising that 26.2 miles could take it's toll on this slight angle if I didn't correct it in these early stages. We then tried on a selection of trainers for me to try on the treadmill. Aimee filmed me running in each style, and we watched the playbacks together to see if my pronantion was affected.

Marathon Training Note: Here I am getting a lesson in gait from the lovely Aimee

The results were remarkable. Out of the three styles I tried, we soon realised that the Nike Flash Lunar Glide 7 trainers actually helped rectify the pronation on my left ankle. You could physically see my right leg straightening as it was no longer compensating for the inward angle on the opposite side. My posture was better, and my whole lower body looked a lot stronger and straighter. It was fascinating to see the difference. Oh, and apparently I'm a heel hitter. Boom.

So, I am now the owner of a pair of these fab trainers...and guess what? They only glow in the dark :)

Flash Lunar Glide 7 My new kicks

Nike Lunar Glide 7 Flash, £140

For any of you that are thinking about entering a marathon, or half marathon, I strongly recommend that you pop along to your nearest specialist sports store and get a gait analysis done. I left the Nike store feeling pumped about training, and I can guarantee you'll feel the same!

Until next time. Keep running folks :)

Amie-Jo xx

28.11.15 - 22 Weeks To Go

It's been three weeks now since the training started, and although I wake up most mornings feeling motivated, my legs are starting to feel it. Running every morning before work is certainly starting to take it's toll on my calf muscles - however, I am seeing a vast improvement in both my endurance and pace.

SEE: The Best Sportswear Buys To Motivate You

At the moment I'm averaging around 10:19 per mile, which means at this rate I'll be completing the London marathon in 4 hours 40 minutes...which isn't bad. I would like to ideally shave some minutes off that time, but right now, I'm happy that I appear to be surviving the training schedule!

Marathon Diary Week 3...

Today I have to manage a long run, 6 miles to be exact - a distance I haven't really run yet. I'll be honest, I am a little nervous.

Because of previous plans I have to run this evening, so will be following all the night training advice Nathan set out below - however, I can't help thinking that with a little forethought, I could have joined a running group to make the jaunt a little less painful. Training in a group is SO beneficial as not only do you feel safer, but pack running also helps with both your motivation and pace. Plus, they also give you the perfect opportunity to chat and exchange training tips with other runners.

So, because I really need to be doing this too (but haven't because I'm a useless planner), here are some of the best free running clubs that you can join to keep those buns moving:

1. Sweatshop

Sweatshop is the UK’s the largest specialist independent running store, and is a firm favourite with athletes across the country. They believe that run clubs should be free, and encourage even the most novice of runners to join one of their training groups. You can find a run in your local area by following this link. Also be sure to check out their hugely informative Run Hub for information on nutrition, product reviews and supported races.

2. London City Runners

Multi award winning London City Runners is the largest free running club in the capital, and is proud to cater for runners of all abilities. They also encourage the social side of group running by organising Club Social events to get their members talking to each other over a few drinks - a great idea for those people that may be new to the city. The club meets once a week to run along the river Thames from London Bridge.

London City Runners These guys make those long runs fun...

3. Nike+ Run Club

Super sports brand Nike have always been proudly affiliated with runners, and offer a huge amount of free training sessions and weekly run clubs to get you out there. Not only do they offer free run clubs in cities across the UK, but they also provide expert advice and support on how best to train for your marathon. I personally have attended more than one of their NTC sessions and Nike+ Run Clubs (dodging tourists on Regent Street - no joke), and can honestly say they are pretty great! Check here for a list of Nike+ Run Clubs in your area.

4. Parkrun

Parkrun organises free weekly runs in over 300 leafy parkland locations around the world. They are open to everyone, are safe and easy to take part in, and welcome both junior and marathon-hardened professional runners to their incredibly popular events. To find out more about Parkrun sessions, click here.

5. Nathan Run Club

Sports brand Nathan have set up a new London based run club that is completely free to join. Sessions are held every Tuesday, and alternate between 5k runs and technique and speed sessions. Plus, you get a free Nathan product each week, which is pretty great right? Check out their Facebook page here for more info.

Nathan Run Club The guys at Nathan know how to stay safe!

I also need to make a quick announcement. Just in case you find yourself in the Worcestershire area this evening (I mean, you might be right?), the first of my fundraising events will be taking place at The Red Lion pub in Stiffords Bridge. It's a pop quiz, so pop on down if you are local. I'm told there will be a raffle (thanks mum).

Once again folks, until next time.

Amie xx

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12.11.15 - 24 Weeks To Go

Right guys. I have a new contact in my life. One that sends me messages and gives me motivational words of encouragement.

Yep. My marathon training has officially started, and my Nike+ Running Coach has now become my most important phone friend. He/she (let's not discriminate) texts me every evening to let me know what mileage I have to run the following day. Not only are these messages a great way to get my head into running mode, but they also kind of make me feel like I'm included in something worthwhile. A bit like having a non-weird Tinder match that actually responds to your texts. Happy days.

Nike+ Running App Week 1...of 24

So far, I have been following the app closely, but I'm not going to lie - the 6am alarm calls to ensure that I'm up, on the bus, and in the gym for 8am have been tough. However, once I'm in the gym and on the treadmill, it doesn't actually feel so wretched. Endorphins? Is this why my fit friends are so annoyingly chipper all the time? Whatever these happy chemicals are, they seem to be working right now.

Running at night (this isn't me by the way)

I have to clock five miles (my 'long run') on Saturday which I plan on completing in the evening, however, I'm only too aware that running in the dark can present it's own set of problems to fledgling athletes. Sometimes prior commitments and family engagements can dictate when you train, so quite often, running at night time can be your only option. If like me, you feel a little apprehensive about this, don't worry. There are now loads of products available to runners that'll a) make you visible, and b) give you the confidence to run safely in the dark.

Nathan LightSpurs

Nathan Light Spur Sn62, £19.99

Active brand Nathan has a whole range of gadgets and essentials to kit out your night runs, including strobe lights, armbands and reflective gear that will allow you to see, and more importantly, be seen.

I'm particularly loving the super practical LED LightSpurs (because apart from being brilliant, they make me feel a little bit like a neon cowboy), and the lightweight reflective Bandolier vest is great to slip over my running jacket.

Nathan Bandolier and strobe light

Nathan Bandolier, £18.99

Nathan Orion Strobe, £27.99

Nathan Sports - Top 5 Tips For Running At Night

1. Carry a light to illuminate the path in front of you, to make sure you don’t trip. This could be a headtorch or a handtorch.

2. Drivers can more easily recognise the human form when runners wear multiple points of light, such as the clip on Pulsar Strobe or LightSpur for your shoe.

3. Wear high-visibility reflective colours. Runners who wear effective visibility gear can be seen from 6x the distance than those runners who don’t.

4. Always run against the direction of oncoming cars- do not run with traffic and if you’re wearing headphones make sure you are still aware of what’s going on around you.

5. Consider your personal safety- let someone know where you are. Run with a group, and carry a mobile phone, or personal alarm, such as the siren on our Zephyr Fire handtorch.

It goes without saying that women have to be a little more vigilant, so I'm definitely going to look into joining a running club. Running alone in the dark is just silly right? Nathan have their own run club (which I am definitely going to try), but there are many others that I've yet to look into.

So until next time, if you are running at night, please follow these tips and try to invest in some gear that makes sure you are nice and bright!

Be safe.

Amie x

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22.10.15 - 27 Weeks To Go

So, I joined a gym.

And guys, as much as I joke about not being a natural runner, the concept of Amie-Jo Locke joining an actual gym, for fit people, is a pretty alien one...as alien as you can get actually. Star Trek proportions almost.

However, with the clocks going back this weekend and the weather behaving less than kindly, the gym is going to be the only way that I'll get my training mileage up without having to run three times a week in the dark.

And when it comes to gym vs the great outdoors debate, I remember having a discussion with a friend of mine who ran the London Marathon last year, and she told me that while running on a treadmill will never be the same as training outside, the gym can be a great alternative for those struggling to achieve the perfect work/training/life balance. I figured that this was good advice, especially in these early stages.

Marathon training

Luckily for me, my gym couldn't be handier. It's right underneath my work building, and has all the equipment and classes I need to make my membership worthwhile. Plus, I can hardly make excuses about sacking off a session when it's only five steps door to door right?

So, this week I have been trying to hit the treadmill before work. My aim is to run three times during the week on a treadmill, then try a longer outdoor run over the weekend. Last Sunday I managed 4.6 miles along the canal, and have been knocking out on average 2.2 miles per gym session. I have to admit though, it's taking some time to get used to the treadmill as I'm constantly looking at the timer. A good friend suggested listening to podcasts - any suggestions?

I've also decided to go with the Nike+ Running App for my training schedule, which will officially begin on November 9th. Until then, I will keep running regularly - I don't want to get a nasty shock once the hardcore stuff sets in right?

More updates soon folks,

Amie-Jo x

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First things first. I feel I need to open this marathon training diary by making the admission that I'm not a natural athlete, and am most definitely NOT a keen runner. I know. Hilarious. 

I was the girl at school that did anything to skive off PE. I was the girl that won class prizes for papier-mâché sculptures - not for being a county track champion. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I actually hate physical activity. I get exhausted carrying my shopping up three flights of stairs to my flat for heaven's sake.

So, how has it come about that I am now running the 2016 London Marathon? To tell you the truth, it started as a (slightly drunken) bet that escalated rather quickly, then before you could say Paula Radcliffe, a big fat London Marathon welcome pack drops through my letterbox, and my life for the next six months is pretty much set. I'm not going to lie; excitement wasn't the first feeling I experienced thumbing through the wedge of sponsor forms. I'll tell you what it was - terror. Absolute, blind white terror. What on earth had I gotten myself in to? Well, I guess you guys are about to find out...

SEE: The Best Sportswear Buys To Motivate You

Marathon Training The extent of my physical activity thus far = the occasional Nike NTC session

SEE: The Best Fitness Apps To Improve Your Workout

Over the next few months I will be checking in and letting you know how the training is going, and if you are (crazy) like me and are preparing to run a marathon yourself, well,l maybe we can learn some things together. At the moment, I am consciously aware that this 26.2 mile endeavour WILL be happening in a little over six months, so have been doing a little running (no where near what is required, we're talking one or two miles...when I feel like it...if it isn't raining) to get my head in the game before the training well and truly kicks off.

So. Baby steps guys. It's happening. What do I need to achieve in the next week to get myself on track?

1. Set myself a (realistic) time

2. Choose a training programme

3. Set fundraising goals (I'm running for charity organisation Kith & Kids)

4. Join a gym

These I feel are a good set of tasks to get my teeth into. I've heard that a standard marathon training programme kicks in at 24 weeks, so I have time to get these basics established before the preverbial wotsit hits the fan. Plus, let's take some time to get to know each other before it gets really hard right?

So, by next week I aim to have these four things nailed, and then we can start talking business.

Until then folks,

Amie-Jo x