Marathons are not just for athletes

Trainer Simon Rhodes says focusing on small improvements is the way to prepare for the marathon....
Trainer Simon Rhodes says focusing on small improvements is the way to prepare for the marathon. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON
Starting small is the advice of a running coach as people get ready for the return of Emerson’s Dunedin Marathon on Sunday, September 15.

Simon Rhodes is the official training partner through his company Rhodes Runner.

With so much information available, first-time runners could struggle to make sense of running insights from elite runners.

"It’s very difficult when you’re starting out to even know where to begin, let alone how to progress."

He established Rhodes Runner because when he started running about 10 years ago he wanted to "try to make sense" of that information.

Starting small and not judging yourself is a good way to begin.

Running is one of those sports that almost everyone could do, he said.

"All you need is a pair of trainers, shorts, and a T-shirt at the base level."

He advised beginners to start training by running only two or three times a week.

Alternating running and walking is one way to gradually progress, such as a one-minute walk, a one-minute run.

This can then gradually increase to a two-minute walk and a two-minute run and so on.

"And you just build up slowly over time, but only for half an hour at a time."

"And then perhaps you build up one of your third runs to be a slightly longer run.

"So you go from half an hour to 35 to 45 minutes, but nothing too soon."

One of the biggest mistakes beginner runners make is running too fast, too soon.

"They get into it and they take off, and the trouble is the body’s physiology doesn’t catch up for about two weeks.

"So you’ve got to be patient."

A more managed approach will improve heart, lung, and musculoskeletal fitness, "which is really, really important because otherwise you end up getting injured".

Injuries such as pulling a hamstring or shin splints are often classic cases of over-training.

"Especially as you get older, you have to take even more care because the body takes longer to recover."

The good news, however, is that gains made by starting running are "phenomenal".

"It doesn’t matter how fast you are going, the point is you can suddenly run.

"And the self-confidence it gives is amazing."

When it comes to food, Rhodes recommended a standard balanced diet.

"The body needs fuel to run, and while you run, you lay down more muscle fibres, your metabolic rate increases, you’ll burn more calories anyway.

"The key indicator here is that you should never finish a run feeling like you’ve got no energy or you haven’t eaten enough."