Chantel Erfort-Manuel Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

On Saturday April 20, I’m going to join thousands of runners from around the country - and the world - who will be hitting the road for the Old Mutual Two Oceans Half Marathon and the milestone 50th occasion of the ultra-marathon.

As a novice runner, I’m leaving nothing to chance, and in addition to putting in the physical training with the Sport Science Institute of SA’s (Ssisa) OptiFit programme, I’m also filling up on knowledge about nutrition, strength training and the importance of rest. With two weeks to go until race day, I’m going to share some of what I’ve learnt so far.

Nutrition

Registered dietician Shelly Meltzer advises to match energy needs to training. “So, on higher volume days, when you’re doing more than 10km to 15km, and especially when those sessions include intervals and hard uphills, you can increase your calorie/kilojoule intake,” she says.

“Focus on nutritious options, for all your meals and snacks, as the quality of all your food and drinks can also impact on your overall recovery and immune function.”

During the race, she adds, you may benefit from consuming carbohydrates which you can get from sports drinks, gels, sports bars, fruit flakes or even baby potatoes.

Strength training

Strength training, sometimes also referred to as resistance training, can help prevent injuries, and enable you to become a faster, stronger and more efficient runner.

And if you consider that, when you run, two to three times your body weight is borne by one leg at a time, it’s clear why you need to focus on building leg strength to improve your running.

According to OptiFit director Kathy McQuaide, strength training benefits runners by increasing the strength and stability of the support muscles; strengthening tendons, bones and ligaments; increasing time to exhaustion; decreasing fatigue in the upper body and improving posture; and improving running economy - which is measured to quantify energy use while running.

Rest and recovery

On the importance of rest and recovery, senior consultant and running coach at Ssisa’s Sports Performance Centre, Rebecca Johansson, says: “When training for the Two Oceans Marathon or Half Marathon, the goal is to improve performance while keeping the risk of injury low.

“The key to keeping injury risk low is rest and recovery.

“Many runners think rest days and recovery weeks lead to a decrease in fitness. However, runners only adapt to training when they take a planned rest day or recovery week.”

Five tips for rest and recovery ahead of a big race:

  • You know your body best. Listen to it, and give it a rest day if needed.
  • Be adaptable. Not even the winners of Two Oceans will tick off 100% of their planned runs.
  • Confide in an experienced running coach. They can give you tips on how to plan recovery into your training programme.
  • Have fun. At the end of the day, that’s why we all run – to enjoy it.
  • In the week leading up to your race – try to accumulate some extra sleep. Good news is that poor or little sleep the night before the event is unlikely to affect your race performance.

* For the full articles on each of these topics, check out my blog, EditEating and follow @editedeating on social media.