Marathon training week 3: The one where life got in the way

So I started my new job and new routine and with that I knew the marathon training was possibly going to suffer a bit. It did! I completely underestimated just how tired I’d be travelling to work (1-hour each way), being in an office again and taking in new information. I also had a particularly busy week anyway – I certainly hit the ground running. Unfortunately, I didn’t do much actual running. I exhausted myself instead and managed to pick up a chesty cough this week to boot. So I have massively increased my intake of vitamins, fruit juice, extra veg, and early nights.

What have I learnt this week?

  • Take your kit with you everywhere – if you have a meeting in London – run afterwards. It’s going to be very difficult with my job to not be prepared for last minute meetings. I’m going to need to seize every opportunity to train.
  • Prepare lunches – apart from Monday, I haven’t had an opportunity to leave the building for lunch. I am so glad I’ve been prepared or I would have been so hungry!
  • Run at lunch times – I have a couple of days with 3-4 miles easy on the schedule so those would be ideal.
  • Invest in dry shampoo – for the lunch time runs I plan on showering my body and dry shampooing my hair to save time.
  • Rest as much as I can – get in naps and go to bed early where possible.
  • Meticulously plan long runs at the weekend and organise them with friends in advance. I’m going to struggle to go beyond about 13 miles on my own.
  • Get fresh air and get away from the desk – being cooped up inside all the time is recipe for picking up the office cold.
  • Invest in some antibacterial/antiviral gel – it’s only January 26th and I refuse to get cold number 3 any time soon!

Monday: I went along to try out Crossfit at The Athlete Centre in Oxford with Nicole. It was bloody hard, but such a lot of fun!


Tuesday: 3 miles easy

Wednesday: 3 miles easy

Thursday: Exhaustion set in…

Friday: I felt really ill and was exhausted after a meeting in London.

Saturday: I needed to rest. I felt so tired I actually felt nauseous.

Sunday: I decided to man up and do 13.1 miles. I hauled my arse out of bed and dragged myself out in the pouring rain – I am feeling good and so proud of myself. 🙂 I killed it even with my cough and managed 2 h 16.



Next week is set to be even busier – it looks like I’ll be working all weekend so I may need to re-jig the training plan and get a long run in with running club again so that I can squeeze in shorter runs around work. I will also ditch crossfit next week as it takes a lot out of me and can be replaced with a run.

How’s your training going? Are you managing to fit in training around life?


#sub50project: Sports nutrition Q&A


Sports nutrition is something that is often greatly overlooked by runners, but how important is nutrition on performance?

The start line for any runner should always be to get your base nutrition right first, then utilise sports nutrition to provide you with what your body needs. If you ignore the fundamentals of nutrition for a runner then you will never realise your full potential, the same could be said for missing out any of the three pillars to success – training, rest and nutrition.

What types of foods should a runner include in their diet and what role does each of these foods play?

As a guide your meals should contain 60% of your calories from carbohydrates – the primary energy source for your body – from foods such as pasta, rice, potatoes and vegetables. Lean proteins, which are the building blocks of your body, should make up 15-20%, so consume foods such as chicken, mince and turkey. The remaining 20-25% comes from fats, which play a vital role in supporting the body’s organs, temperature, skin, hair as well as healthy cell function. Ideally avoid foods high in saturated fat and choose sources such as nuts, oils, avocado and peanut butter. You should also consume between 2-2.5 litres of liquid throughout the day, which when combined with your food will aid fuel and hydrate, making you ready for your race and training.

What would you recommend eating before a race or a training run?

The morning of the race you should look to consume a high carbohydrate based meal 2-4 hours before your race start time. Aim to eat a carbohydrate rich breakfast like porridge & toast with jam or honey. Keep your fibre intake low, and avoid high protein and fatty foods. You should try and drink 500ml of water during this period to ensure you’re not dehydrated before you start your race. For that extra boost 30 minutes before your race get your carbohydrate fix through sports bars such as the Maxifuel Viper Boost Bar. This also contains caffeine which will help with alertness and focus to help you get through your race.

Are there any macro/micronutrients that have been shown to improve muscle recovery?

The main nutrient associated with aiding muscle recovery is protein. When you do any form of exercise your muscles are used, and the longer and more intense the exercise, the more stress you apply on them. Protein acts as the building block for your body so not only is it beneficial for things like your skin, hair and nails, but more importantly it helps to support muscle growth and recovery after exercise.

How important is it to take on protein post exercise? What else might a runner need after a run?

Once you have crossed the finish line you need to think about recovery and protein plays an important part as it aids muscle recovery. Carbohydrates are also important to replenish energy stores that you have used up during you run. Aim to consume approximately of 1g of carbohydrate per Kg of body weight and combined with 15 to 30g of protein as soon as possible after the race. For example a 60 kg individual would consume 60g of carbohydrate and 20g of protein. Recovery shakes, such as Maxifuel Recovermax, use a blend of 3:1 carbohydrate to protein to consume after exercise. With regards to hydration, sip on liquid after you’ve finished for the first hour and ensure your urine is of a pale straw colour. This should then be followed by a meal a couple of hours later to continue the refuelling and recovery process.

There have been lots of reports of the benefits of beetroot juice on running performance. Why is this? What other foods/supplements might have a similar impact on performance?

Beetroot juice has had a reasonable amount of reports in the last few years about its benefits to exercise. The effects reported range from altering blood pressure, making the body more efficient at using oxygen and improving performance during anaerobic and aerobic exercise. Whilst some research has suggested possible physiological benefits of beetroot (nitrate) supplements, there is limited evidence linking this to meaningful performance benefits. One ingredient that has been shown to benefit performance is caffeine. Yes it may not be suitable for everyone dependent on how sensitive you are but the benefits of reducing the perceived effort of exercise and increasing mental focus & alertness in effect makes exercise easier.

What sports supplements, vitamins and minerals do you recommend runners should take (if any) over the long term?

Over the long term it’s more important to have a healthy balanced diet that contains a good selection of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and good fats. This will always give you the best foundations to work from and then sports supplements can be used where required to optimise your training and races. Sports nutrition to aid your performance during running comes in several formats and the most common are listed below:

  • Carbohydrate gels – most will provide around 30g of carbohydrates per serving and are easy to carry like Maxifuel’s Viper Active Gel.
  • Cereal bars – like the carbohydrate gels these provide fuel but as an alternative for when you want something a little more filling to nibble on.
  • Caffeine gels – as well as providing fuel in the form of carbohydrates, they provide a kick of caffeine for when the going gets tough.
  • Electrolyte tablets – these help replace the salts you lose when you sweat and combined with water.
  • Isotonic drinks – these come in liquid format and powder versions that you can mix with water. Providing carbohydrates and electrolytes to refuel and hydrate at the same time.
  • Recovery drinks – these normally come in a powder format like Recovermax from Maxifuel, which you add to water at the end of the race to support muscle recovery. They contain a combination or protein, carbohydrates and electrolytes to help replace what exercise takes out.

Coconut water has become really popular in the last couple of years. Is it all hype or are you better off sticking to drinking water or a sports drink?

Coconut water is a product that contains around 90% water, a small amount of carbohydrates and a couple of electrolytes and is derived from the water naturally occurring in coconuts. It is used as a hydration formula for this reason but the reported health benefits are not based on any research. If you are exercising at a low to moderate rate in normal weather conditions for less than 60 minutes, then just water should be ok for the majority of people. If you increase the length or intensity of exercise then the requirements change. The body’s carbohydrate store will start to deplete, meaning to keep going your performance will rely on fuel and fluid replenishment. You should try to drip feed your body with easily digested carbohydrates. A sports drink can help with this, by providing carbohydrate fuel, electrolytes and water to aid hydration. So as a rule, use water for low intensity/short periods of exercise but for longer periods and higher intensity use an isotonic drink, which are designed for the job in hand and provide the correct amount of carbohydrates to fuel your run like Maxifuel’s Viper Active.

Should runner’s carb load or are we better off upping our ‘good fats’?

Carbohydrate loading is not essential if the length of exercise is not too long or strenuous. If however it’s longer and potentially harder, then carbohydrate loading is an option to look at. It essentially involves increasing your calorie intake the few days before your race by consuming more carbohydrates. The reason you should use carbohydrates instead of good fats is because carbohydrates is the primary energy source for your body during intense exercise. This means your body finds it easier to use it for energy as and when you require it. Runners who recommend carbohydrate loading tend to report they have more energy and can go further before they start to struggle, meaning a potential personal best is on the cards.

I’d like to thank Maxifuel expert nutritionist, Eric Johnstone for his excellent nutrition help and advice. 


Marathon training week 2: Mixing it up a bit

I’m happy to report that my marathon training is going really well, although we’ll see how well it goes when I start my new job tomorrow. I’m feeling pretty dedicated and super organised – I managed to cook up batches of meals to take for lunch and make for easy dinners when I’m late back and have to schedule an evening run in. My Crock-pot has been working overtime with batches of freshly made chicken (made by boiling up the chicken carcass) and tomato soups bubbling away ready for next week.



Fresh batch of homemade Thai prawn and salmon curry.

I also decided to mix the schedule up a bit – normally you do a long run at the weekend, but I decided to give myself a weekend off and instead tacked on a few extra miles to my normal club night – that way avoiding the dreaded boring long run alone.

Mon: Rest

Tues: Running club – 1.2k warmup, 3.5x 600m @ 5k pace and 7X 300m @5k pace (with 30 sec rest in between) – I actually ended up running at nearer 6.40-7 min/miles for the most part (approx 6 miles overall)

Wed: 3 miles easy plus Crossfit (ouch) – it still hurts, I still suck at core, but I did manage to do loads of burpees and some 30 kg deadlifts.

Thurs: Hiptastic yoga session from here and a 12-mile run. I ran to my running club (approx 1.5 miles), did the 6-mile circuit and then tacked on 4.5 miles on the end.

Fri: 3 miles easy in my lunch break. I ran up the Iffley road 1.5 miles there and back. The slightly annoying thing about that road is that it appears to be hilly both up and back. The whole thing actually ended up being a faff as I had to take in 3 sets of clothes because I went straight out afterwards, but I did get to carb load with some pizza!


Sat: I was lazy – I do wish I’d run, but I needed the rest.

Sun: I worked and was too tired for a run, but I have crossfit tomorrow and I start my new job so I’m not going to be too hard on myself!

How’s your marathon training going?



Cool beans

I’ve been very lucky over the last few weeks with lots of amazing presents, exciting things to look forward to and cool new gadgets to try out. There are so many things I thought I’d lump them all in to one post.


  • Rich’s parents got me a lovely WorkPlay hydration backpack for my long training runs and I cannot wait to try it out.

merc pers

  • My second new gadget is one I treated myself to – it’s a TomTom multi-sport watch for running (road and treadmill), swimming and cycling. So far I am really pleased with it and I’ll be reviewing it in more detail shortly.

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 21.07.55



  • The first trip I have in store is a weekend in Exeter for the Rock Solid Race immediately followed by a week in the Algarve on a running training camp with Full Potential. Think private beaches, coastal trail runs, track sessions and sports massages.

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 21.10.36Source: Full Potential.

  • I’ll be staying for a weekend in Edinburgh (my first time there!) for the Edinburgh half marathon.
  • Once again we are heading up to the lakes in June (my favourite part of the UK) this time to stay in Keswick for the Karrimor Great Trail Challenge for the second year running (last year’s race report here).


  • The next big trip is to Russia in July to climb Mount Elbrus. We’ll be staying in Moscow for one day and then heading to the Caucasus mountains (on the border with Georgia) to climb the tallest mountain in Europe.

Intrepid Sian Kneller


Think -20 degC, crampons, ice axes. It’s going to be awesome!




  • Finally, we are hoping to squeeze in a yoga, kayaking and hiking retreat in Montenegro later in the year.




To say I am a lucky girl is an understatement. Exciting times ahead!


2014: The year of cross training


I wrote off the first week of January as I was recovering from a cold, but I am pleased to report I am well and truly back on track now.

The reality has finally hit me though – I am actually running a marathon in April! It’s quite terrifying and exciting at the same time. I also start my new job a week on Monday so I’m going to have to be extremely disciplined and make the most of all the time I have to slot in training. I plan on getting up early for 3 mile runs, making the most of my lunch breaks and squeezing in long runs in the week if and when I have business trips/races.

Last year I ran and I successfully added yoga to my training to help loosen up my stiff leg muscles, but this year I’m also adding in some strength training. I have a core like jelly and I  could really up my overall strength so I’ve decided to add Crossfit to my schedule.

Now Crossfit is HARDCORE! To say I struggled in my first class would be an understatement – burpees were actually invented by the devil and the instructor never seemed to let up for the whole hour. I’m going to keep at it though because I’m sure I’ll start seeing results really quickly. The first class involved dead lifts, static squats, burpees, kettle bell swings, shoulder presses, press ups and planks (and many other exercises I’ve forgotten!).

Here’s what my week looked like:

Monday: 3 miles easy

Tuesday: Ashtanga yoga + 6 miles (3xmile reps at between 9 min/mile and 8.5 min/mile)


Wednesday: 3 miles easy + 1 hour Crossfit

Thursday: Rest

Friday: 3 miles easy

Saturday: 9 miles @ 9.5 min/mile pace

Sunday: 3 miles easy (planned tomorrow morning)

How’s your marathon training going?