In our second part of the Wiggle Marathon Guide 2019, covering weeks three to five of our training plan (below), we’re going to look at base miles and how they can help your fitness and technical development.
If you missed week one of the Marathon Training Guide, visit by clicking the link below.
What are base miles?
Running base miles is a way to gradually progress your running ability so you’re ready for the longer and harder training sessions needed for running a successful marathon.
If you’ve been sticking to our training schedule so far, you’ll have already taken significant strides toward establishing an effective base, and will be ready to tackle the challenges ahead.
The important thing to note about establishing a strong fitness base, however, is the need to increase your fitness and miles progressively.
Running 26.2 miles is a huge task, and if you’ve signed up to a marathon for the first time, it can be tempting to try and push yourself hard from the beginning.
The problem with that approach is that your muscles and tendons may not yet be ready for this level of exertion. You’ll be more injury prone, it will take longer for you to recover, and you may not yet have developed a balanced and steady technique that will produce an efficient performance.
By adding your strength and cardiovascular fitness gradually using base miles strategies, you’re creating a sturdy foundation onto which you can build a high-performing machine.
Base miles technique
In weeks one to four, you should be aiming to create this solid base, so when the heavy miles, hill runs, long runs, and speed training kick in from week 6, you’re ready for it.
While in the base miles training phase, the idea is to run at an easy pace that is around 75% to 85% of your total effort. This means you should not be completely out of breath and are able to hold a conversation with someone running with you.
This will ensure you avoid injuries and burnout, while creating that base of fitness onto which you build your race-day strength.
Time your runs
It’s important that from this point you are timing your runs. Once the base phase is completed, you will want to start quickening your pace, and that will only be able possible if you are accurately timing yourself.
It’s a mistake to focus only on the distance completed. It may seem like covering three miles requires the same amount of work whether it’s completed in 30 minutes or 50 minutes, but running faster requires different things from your body and from your mind.
Along with timing your run, you should also begin accurately tracking your distance ran and keeping a note of what you’ve achieved each week.
Methods of tracking your progress
You can track your times and distances ran with a simple stopwatch, a notepad and some know-how. Alternatively, you can get a GPS tracker which can do the whole thing for you.
GPS trackers not only detail your run, but allow you to combine the data with software on your computer or smartphone to visualise your progress, helping you stay motivated and focused.
Here are five of the best trackers available on Wiggle now.
The sleek Garmin Forerunner 645 Music was built for runners, but you'll probably find it indispensable in your daily life too. In addition to advanced running metrics, this smart bit of wrist-wear can be set up for contactless payments, stores and plays up to 500 songs and lets you keep track of all your smartphone notifications.
The Garmin Forerunner 935 Multisport GPS Watch with Integrated heart Rate monitor (HRM) can be paired with your smartphone for audio prompts based on your training plan to help you stay on track. The 935 also features live tracking and smart notifications. Wirelessly upload your speed, distance, and heart rate readings to create concise, easy-to-understand charts, graphs, maps, and more so you can view your activities, track progress toward goals and share data with your running buddies.
Loaded with more than 15 different sports apps, the Garmin vívoactive 3 Music GPS Watch not only tracks your performance but also gives you key performance indicators, thanks to the built-in HRM. Keep yourself motivated with your favourite playlist - this watch will hold up to 500 songs!
The Polar Vantage M records comprehensive performance data but don't worry about making sense of complicated metrics yourself. The simple Polar Flow app will help you to understand your training load so you'll know when it's time to push your training and when it's time to rest. For pro-level stats including wrist-based power output analysis, the Polar Vantage V is also worth a look.
The Suunto Ambit3 Multisport Black (HR) comes complete with a heart-rate monitoring belt. For its entry-level price, it's packed with features, including advanced run, swim and cycle functions, and is compatible with training apps like Strava and TrainingPeaks.
Stretching the truth
Stretching of the muscles is an iconic runner image, and the practice was once roundly recommended for improved performance and injury prevention.
As more tests are conducted on performance athletes, expert opinion is evolving on whether you should stretch before or after your training - if at all - and how it should be done.
In the past, it was advised that you stretch before activity, holding your muscles at the end of their range for 20-30 seconds to increase their flexibility. This is called static stretching.
That advice, however, is changing. Many professional running coaches have ditched the pre-run stretching of old, and even the UK’s NHS says that performing static stretches before exercise is unlikely to reduce your risk of injury, improve your performance or prevent sore muscles.
However, there’s no evidence stretching before or after exercise will do you any harm, either.
An increasingly common approach is dynamic stretches - performing gentle repetitive movements, such as arm swings, where you gradually increase the range of motion of the movement, but always within the normal range of motion.
This is more like the standard warm-up method: A typical warm-up will take at least 10 minutes and involve light aerobic movements that mimic the movements of the activity you’re about to perform, such as running on the spot, lifting your knees, and rotating your ankles.
Gradually increase the range of motion of these movements during the warm-up to prepare the body for more intense versions of those movements during the sport itself. This process will raise your heart rate and increase the blood flow to your muscles, thereby warming them up.
Warm muscles are less stiff and work more efficiently. Increased blood flow enables more oxygen to reach the muscles and produce energy. The warm-up also activates the nerve signals to your muscles, which results in faster reaction times.
While the advice is still evolving, static stretching directly after a run when the muscles are still warm and pliable is very common. It helps with the warm down and bringing your heart rate back to normal, but it remains unclear whether it contributes significantly to injury prevention or better performance.
Wiggle marathon training tip:
Chaffing and rubbing can be a real problem as you develop longer miles. It’s a good idea to have some anti-chaffing balms around to sooth any burning patches
Our next edition of the Wiggle Marathon Training guide will address the skills you'll need for when the really big miles start to kick in - week five and six. This period will see your first interval training session, and we'll discuss the importance of building speed and strength to help you make your 2019 marathon manageable.
In the meantime, check out some top advice from Olympic champion Steve Cram.