Nutrition for runners: tips how to prepare for a Winter Run

Nutrition for runners: tips how to prepare for a Winter Run

Runners nutrition

Training and nutrition for runners

The Cancer Research UK London Winter Run is taking place this Sunday, 3rd February 2019. It’s the UK’s largest winter event. 20,500 runners participated last year in the 10k, which was long sold out. Started just four years ago, the winter run has increased its capacity and popularity extremely quickly to become UK’s biggest mass participation winter event. Not only Londoners but also people from different parts of the UK are travelling to the capital to take part. The event is raising funds to help beat cancer; this year the goal is £750,000.

Given the British weather, outdoor training can be quite challenging.

What keeps people motivated to train in the winter, how to avoid injuries and what is the right runners’ nutrition in the cold season?

Tom Marien, founder of One Element, an outdoor fitness company in London gives us his answers to these questions.

One Element, an outdoor fitness company, founded by Tom Marien in 2007 offers classes in different parks in South West London. Their concept is based on the very effective high-intensity interval training (HIIT). If you want to experience fast-paced, fun training with a friendly and social crowd, I can highly recommend them. I’ve been training with One Element at Wimbledon Park for a while and I always feel amazing after the sessions.

However, I must admit, I skip a session every now and then on cold and rainy days. I admire all the tough guys and girls who go out to train, come rain or shine and all the trainers who keep them motivated.

Interview with Tom Marien

Nutmad: A lot of people are respectful of outdoor training or running in the winter. Do you have any tips on how to stay motivated during the cold season?

Tom: There are a lot of benefits that can make you consider exercising outdoors. Being outside, in the fresh air, training with other people definitely makes you feel better. It supports mental health, there is evidence that it’s beneficial for memory and concentration, and because of the lower temperature in the winter the body burns more calories.

Nutmad: If someone who is at an intermediate fitness level, decides to train for a 10k in the winter, what kind of preparation would you recommend and how long in advance should they start?

Tom: Depending on the fitness level, I would recommend starting training at least two months before the run. In the best case, they should do two runs a week – a short one, up to 5k, and a longer one, over 5k. Additionally, the preparation should include also 10-15 minutes of HIIT, like lunges, squats, core work, to strengthen the different parts of the body. It’s important to look at the exact movements in running and focus on the muscle groups involved, such as hamstrings and glutes. Prior to the run build up a running distance of up to 8-9k.

Nutmad: How to avoid injuries when running outdoors?

Tom: Specifically, when running in the city, on a hard surface, one injury that can occur, is shin splint. It’s important to focus on graded exercise, starting with shorter runs, and build your strength and endurance gradually. Footwear is key, make sure you have good support trainers. Other than that, you don’t need any particular expensive gear. If you feel any pain during the run, make sure you see a medic straight away.

Nutmad: What are the biggest benefits of outdoor vs. gym training?

Tom: When training for an event like the Winter Run you’re better off if you prepare for it outdoors, where you have some lumps and bumps on the surface; they strengthen the joints and ligaments.

Nutmad: Do you have any recommendations regarding the nutrition for runners before and after the run?

Tom: Current data suggest that you should not change your diet too much if you’re aiming for a 10k. It’s different if you’re training for a marathon but for a 10k you need to increase just fractionally your food intake the day before. On the day you can have some sort of sugary drink if you feel exhausted towards the end of the run to refuel. Make sure you stay hydrated, especially, if you lose a lot of water through sweating.

Nutrition for runners: choosing the right fuel

For best training results a combination of exercise and a balanced diet is essential.

Nutritionally, protein combined with fibre-containing carbs and healthy fats are the way to go.

Our body can not use more than 25-30 grams of protein at a time, that’s why it’s good to stretch the intake throughout the day.

Some simple but high-protein nutritional snacks such as

  • boiled eggs,
  • nuts,
  • cottage cheese with fruits,
  • avocado
  • or yogurt

will help you feel full through the day and will give you enough energy while exercising.

Aim for 200 to 300 calories and 10 to 20 grams of protein per snack.

The most important part for any physical activity though is, it has to be enjoyable. If you find it hard to train on your own, join a running group, boot camp or any outdoor training group, and you will find it much easier to go out there. Set a goal and work step by step towards it.

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