Getting fit is something that all of us should do regardless of age, weight or lifestyle. Getting just 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activities (MVPA) a week could lead to health benefits such as a reduced risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers, as well as improved mental well-being, reduced stress and anxiety.
That being said, pushing yourself to exercise regularly, particularly if you’ve had a long day at work, can be a huge struggle in itself. It might be easier to get into shape when you have a goal in mind, as this gives you the motivation to exercise and lead an overall healthy life.
Why not go for gold and target to run a marathon? The annual Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon is an ideal race to take part in as it has several race categories and distances. So, for instance, you could try starting with a 5km or 10km run, or you could go the distance (literally) and sign up for the full marathon.
If this sounds right up your street, we’ve got some expert advice to help you along the way. Fitness and performance coach Philip Snowden, an expert nutrition and fitness for over a decade, has completed many sports endurance events, including marathons and a trek through the Arctic. Here are his tips and tricks to ensure you clear the finish line with a smile on your face.
Give yourself a timeline
First-time runners should take at least eight to 12 months to prepare for a marathon. If you have some sort of experience running in general or have taken part in other races before, give yourself around six months. Do a substantial amount of research into what sort of training is needed and approach fitness experts if you can too.
It also helps if you take part in shorter races along the way so as to build stamina and confidence. And ensure that your schedule allows for you to train regularly as you need to put in the time and effort in order to achieve this fitness goal.
Train weekly and increase your distance with every week
Obviously, for a marathon you’re going to need to run every week to get your body into the right state to complete it. But rather than try run the entire 20km every week, break it down so you increase your kilometres upon every completed week. The maximum you need to run before hand is 16km - the crowd and the adrenaline will push you through the final 4km on the day.
Add on 1.5km extra with every week of completed runs. That way you’re building your body up to the required mileage without going in full-force and causing stress on the body.
Pick a buddy
One easy way to stay motivated throughout your training journey is to get a friend to take part in the race with you (or, at least, train at the same pace with you). Having a running buddy will keep you focussed on your goal as well as spur you on to not give up.
If you can't find anyone willing to commit to this, join a running group and share your goal with them so that they can give you tips or even offer to train separately with you too.
Seek advice from previously completed marathoners
Go to someone who has completed the endurance event you’re undertaking and take their advice. Why? Because these people will have gold dust insider information on the event that you probably can’t get from Google. There’s always that ‘I wish I knew this before’ aspect so try eliminating any surprises by seeking advice beforehand.
Get the right gear
Having the right pair of running shoes can make or break a race. Go to a reputable sports store and tell them what you're training for so they'll be able to recommend the best shoe for the job.
It's important that you break in to your shoes before the big race – you don't want blisters from your new shoes to slow you down on race day. The right socks also protect you from blisters, which can ruin your entire race strategy, so don't overlook them.
Just because you’re running a half marathon doesn’t mean you should only run and that’s it. In fact, it’s much better for you to do alternative exercises during your training period. Include weight training that’s both upper and lower body. Use plyometrics or explosive moment patterns. Go for different cardiovascular approaches, like circuit training, spin, boxing or martial arts, rowing etc. These will help with all-round fitness, prevent boredom (from running) and reduce the risk of repetitive use injuries.
Why not join some free classes to get this extra workout? Quick HIIT features short bursts of high-intensity exercises that build muscle and burn calories in minimum time, while the i-Run programme not only offers weekly runs, it also introduces you to professional trainers and pacers who will impart tips on topics like running techniques and how to improve your cardiovascular fitness.
Give yourself time off
Your body needs an adequate amount of time to recover from this intense training so don't forget to take some time off too. So, if you've decided to train three times a week, don't add extra days on some weeks because you think it'll make you more fit. Training harder isn't necessarily beneficial; in fact, your body needs those off days to recover and make your muscles stronger so don't overdo it.
Follow the right diet plan
Eat the right types of foods that will fuel your body with energy for your training as well as look after your nutritional needs post-run. Always aim to eat as fresh as possible. Just because you’re training more, doesn’t mean you can get away with eating more junk food that are high in bad fats and high in sugar.
Yes by all means ‘carb load’ as this is needed - which means you can eat up to three times more carbohydrates than you normally would do on a daily basis from four days before the actual event. But do not allow your extra training to become an excuse to eat junk food.
Ladies tend to do a bit better on higher fat diet when training for endurance based events such as a marathon.
Inspired? You should be. You can kick start your first race by signing up for the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 5km race which is a new category opened this year.
The National Steps ChallengeTM is the proud title partner of the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon National Steps ChallengeTM 5km Run. All National Steps ChallengeTM participants will be entitled to sign up for the race at an exclusive rate - find out more by clicking here.