How not to get left in the dust

Last week, I tried to get Portland State students, faculty and staff all fired up for the 20.20.20 mini marathon being hosted by Campus Rec on May 15.

Last week, I tried to get Portland State students, faculty and staff all fired up for the 20.20.20 mini marathon being hosted by Campus Rec on May 15. While only time will tell just how successful I was at encouraging participation, I want to help those readers I did motivate be as successful as possible in their mini marathon endeavors. Therefore, this week we’ll be looking at some possible strategies for improving overall performance in the marathon events.

Before we get started, let me preempt some hate mail: I do not claim to be any type of authority on marathon training. While I do have some training credentials (however modest they may be) my focus has always been on general health and body composition. The suggestions I’ll make in this article are geared toward relatively inexperienced trainees. Those of you who have been the game for a while will probably be much better off following a more advanced, specialized program. With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

First of all, I’d recommend training for the specific events. That is, special attention should be given to biking, swimming and running. While there is certainly considerable carryover between the wide variety of activities, given that we know what the events are, it would be advantageous to focus on increasing performance in those particular activities. In what little time there is leading up to the mini marathon, center your workouts around biking, swimming and running. While there isn’t much time to significantly increase performance, at the very least the novice trainee can improve technique. I don’t have the space in this article to cover basic technique, but trainees are encouraged to search the Internet for beginners’ guides to biking, swimming and running. Avoiding newbie mistakes will give a definite edge over other novices that haven’t taken the time to learn the bare basics of these activities.

Two weeks should also allow enough time for a trainee to gauge the peak level of physical output they can maintain for an hour. Since the mini marathon focuses on overall distance covered rather than pure speed like a typical marathon, trainees should try to find their “sweet spot” when it comes to pacing themselves. While contestants want to go as hard as possible, they also have to be cognizant of the 60-minute time frame. The goal is to cover as much distance as possible within the time frame without prematurely burning out. Some trial and error should help trainees find their optimal rate of exertion. When the big day comes though, contestants should be able to crank up their intensity just slightly thanks to temporary hormonal and mental changes that competition can induce.

Lastly, nutritional strategies can also be helpful. Consuming a protein and carbohydrate solution throughout training sessions can help maximize performance. A quickly digested source of carbohydrates, like dextrose or maltodextrin (corn sugar, but not of the high-fructose corn-syrup variety) will help keep blood-sugar levels from dropping too low and provide an almost immediate source of fuel for the body. I’d recommend 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate mixed with at least 32 ounces of water. A small amount of protein or branched-chain amino acids can be added to this mix as well. As little as a quarter scoop of whey protein powder will do just fine. This will provide the body with exogenous amino acids to work with, rather than having to break down its own muscle tissue to meet the demands placed on the body during exercise. For those who don’t want to pick up individual ingredients, adding a small amount of protein to a bottle of Gatorade works just fine.

While drastic increases in performance shouldn’t be expected in such a small window of time, these tips will almost certainly give a mild to modest boost in performance during the actual 20.20.20 marathon. Go get ‘em! ?