Do not forget invisible training!

Training how to run well is not just all about clocking up miles and sessions. At home, when eating or even in bed, invisible training plays a key role. Coach Suzanne Cariant explains.

Staying hydrated is essential
It is a basic but sometimes neglected principle for marathon runners: “It is vital to maintain a fluid balance in the body,” warns Suzanne Cariant, a coach and a marathon runner herself, who has been involved in developing the training programmes for the Marathon for All. It is all the more important as dehydration is a threat in summer. So, as an essential reminder, “you should always have a flask or a water bottle at hand, close to you, to allow you to drink regularly, because drinking during training is not sufficient, you need to do it regularly throughout the day, before, during and after training”. The problem is that not everybody remembers to do it and many find themselves lacking and in a situation of fluid insufficiency, when training has wrung them out, both literally and figuratively. “Drinking regularly and seeing the fluid level in your bottle go down should become a goal for runners,” smiles Suzanne.

Adapting your diet
Summer and its weather conditions can have an effect on your appetite, so you need to adapt. “Sometimes you are not as hungry as you would be in winter and you do not feel like eating as much,” admits the coach. “However, you should try to maintain a balanced diet and in particular avoid skipping meals even if you may be tempted to do so”. In fact, it is better to adapt your diet so that you eat lighter, perhaps, but regularly. “It is a chance to be in tune with the season, to eat grilled vegetables, fruit, salads, etc.. It is a question of following your desires, in the end, in tune with the season”. You also must continue to provide your body with the fuel it needs to carry out training, not forgetting, since the need for hydration has already been mentioned, that a large part of this comes from solid foods which also contain plenty of water.

Sleep enough and sleep well!
Look no further: sleep is still the best imaginable way of recovering. “Sleep is fundamental to assimilating and recovering from the work done in training,” points out the coach. “Nothing can replace it. Everyone has their own rhythm, but they also have a base level below which they cannot go: everybody should get their minimum quota of sleep”. This may involve, where feasible, “taking a twenty to thirty minute nap which allows you to recover,” every day, while bearing in mind that most rest takes place at night and that you should go to bed at a fixed time, if possible.

Adapt your schedule
The first heatwaves in France at the end of June were a reminder that running is hardly compatible with high temperatures. It is therefore necessary to re-evaluate training methods as soon as conditions change. “With sudden, intense heat, the body needs to adapt and this will take some time,” reminds Suzanne. “You should not try to do too much, so consider moving your training sessions around, running early in the morning or a little later in the evening when the temperature drops. Postpone a session and replace it with a jog, and do not be surprised if you do not keep to the times or rhythms you had hoped for: it is perfectly normal. Be careful: if you train when you are tired, this will generate more tiredness, which will continue to build up. It is therefore essential to rest”.

Explore other avenues
Progress also involves discovering and developing other preparation techniques that might not readily come to mind. For example, breathing exercises are extremely important for runners. “As a Pilates teacher, I can only recommend such classes, as they are bound to be an asset for runners”. Yoga, cardiac coherence, belly breathing and sophrology are all techniques that can be easily researched on the internet. “They help to strike a balance between the intense effort of running and gentle breathing”. The same is true of “mental visualisation, which brings balance and reduces stress by visualising success and avoiding feeling in difficulty”. In a different vein, muscle strengthening – including core strengthening, abdominal exercises, bodyweight training for the lower limbs, etc. – is also a form of exercise that you can do at home “and is an integral part of training: those who do it are bound to be better runners”. Invisible training may, as its name suggests, not be visible, but it is a very clear factor in progress.

This article was written in association with the French Federation of Athletics.