Would you ever run a half marathon? We spoke to ultramarathon runner and co-founder of Flow Athletic gym, Ben Lucas about how to set the pace and hit your stride.
We know running isn’t for everyone—the monotonous, repetitive one foot in front of the other, the huffing and puffing, rushing nowhere in particular only to have to turn around at some point and run back.
Some of us here at Lifestyle are, however, fans of a middle distance run. It's one of the few great physical activities you can do on your own terms, wherever and whenever you choose. Slow, fast, for a long time, or just a short distance, it can be entirely your own time—to unwind, declutter, and de-stress.
For former NRL player, and now Sydney gym owner and fitness aficionado Ben Lucas, the good outweighs the bad when it comes to running. "It's great for your cardiovascular health," says Ben. "And it's a good activity to do both socially with a group or a friend, but also individually so you can zone out and think."
Running's also great for setting fitness goals—running a marathon or half marathon is a seriously rewarding challenge (typically you'll get a medal at the finish line too). "You can get competitive with [running]," Ben adds. "There are literally hundreds of events around Australia, and signing up to one will give you something to train for and keep you motivated too."
At Flow Athletic, Ben hosts morning running clubs that compliment the gym's philosophy of combining yoga with strength and regular cardio training. He also dreamt up 'Sofa2Surf', a program to train a group of non-runners to complete the New York City Marathon in November this year.
So for the running-averse, or for anyone interested and up for the challenge of marathon running, we asked Ben why it's totally worth chasing the runner's high.
According to Ben, running and cardio training should be a part of your regular fitness regimen, whether training for a marathon or not.
"The Flow Philosophy is all about balance, so in an exercise sense, we teach clients that for every strength session, they should also complete a cardio and a yoga session to balance it out and give your body a well-rounded approach," Ben explains.
The long list of benefits you'll see from regular running and a well-balanced marathon training program include weight control, improved cardiovascular health and overall cholesterol levels in the body. Your immune system will get a boost, you'll improve your bone health and your lung capacity as you learn to breathe through longer runs.
Running has also been said to reduce stress, fight depression through the release of beta-endorphins, and sharpen mental stamina by improving circulation and increasing blood flow to the brain. Once you start to run for longer, it's also a test of endurance—strengthening your mental toughness and, in turn, improving your ability to push through difficult situations.
Marathon training dos and don'ts
When you begin training for a long run, Ben advises to take it easy at first and build up gradually. "If you have not run that distance before, start training about 3 months ahead if you can and build up your kilometres gradually. This will help you strengthen your ligaments, work on your posture and get your body used to the weight distribution," he says.
Make sure you mix up your training too—you'll run better if you are stronger. "Make sure your strength training is specific to running though. For example, you are always on one leg when you run so you should be incorporating single leg exercises to help strengthen up your legs equally. This will help you work on any imbalances because usually, one side is weaker than the other."
As for what to eat, ensure you're getting plenty of antioxidant-rich foods such as bright coloured fruits and vegetables, as well as good fats, proteins, and carbs. "Keep hydrated in the week leading up to the event because the last thing you need is to feel dehydrated on race day. Also, make sure you hydrate during and after every training session and refuel with a protein-rich meal or snack."
Lastly, make sure you incorporate serious recovery time. "Train hard, recover harder," Ben says. "Yoga, float tanks, infrared sauna, sleep, hydration, and proper nutrition. All these things not only keep me injury free but enhance my performance."
Find a marathon or half marathon near you here.
A half marathon is just under 22km, a full marathon is a little over 42km.
What to wear:
Make sure you have proper running shoes, suited specifically to your foot. Cotton and breathable fabrics are great as tops, and you should pair with running tights or compression tights. Avoid zippers, ties, or any fashion detailing that might chafe 10km in.
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