Preparing for the Flagstaff Marathon: Strength Training & Nutrition

Jesse Coddington in his studio at New Roots Personal Training in Flagstaff.

Jesse Coddington in his studio at New Roots Personal Training in Flagstaff.

The Flagstaff Marathon has the atmosphere of a popular road race, with its loud music at the start, great swag, photo opportunities, well-stocked aid stations, tons of volunteers, post race food and drinks, and finisher medals – with the grit, beauty, and tough-as-nails runners of an ultramarathon.

I have had the opportunity to run a handful of ultramarathons, which can all too often end with an anticlimactic finish. You suffer, you dig down deep, you push through the mental and physical challenges, and at the end you cross the finish line to the sound of crickets. And maybe you’re handed a pint glass. The Flagstaff Marathon is far from this experience. You can’t help but soak up the excitement around you as you take that last achy step over the finish line at the Flagstaff Marathon, and feel the weight of the gorgeous finisher’s medal placed around your neck by an encouraging, smiling face.

So you’ve signed up. You’ve been running, and running, and running, but what else should you be doing to make sure you are prepared? As a true trail running geek and certified personal trainer for almost 10 years, I have accumulated a bag full of helpful information to make sure you run the trails without the trails running you.

Strength Training

My first bit of advice is to make sure you don’t abandon your strength training. This shouldn’t be a shocker to you since I am a strength training coach. One of my biggest regrets while training for my first ultramarathon was kicking my strength workouts to the side, and replacing them with more and more miles. This was done out of fear. Fear that I wasn’t going to reach the aerobic fitness level I believed was necessary to run for more than three hours. What I didn’t realize is how much I was going to miss the strength in my core to keep my body upright through the ups and downs of the hills I was going to be traveling over. The strength training needed to keep your body strong does not have to be very much volume or intensity at this point in your race prep, but it does need to happen. I suggest two days a week, and around 15-45 minutes. Try this routine.

Day 1

5-Minute Dynamic Warmup

  • Side-to-Side Shuffle
  • Inch Worm Push Up
  • Spider Lunge
  • Leg Swings

Strength (3 sets x 8-12 reps)

Core (3 sets x 30-seconds each)

Day 2

5-Minute Dynamic Warmup

  • Side-to-Side Shuffle
  • Inch Worm Push Up
  • Spider Lunge
  • Leg Swings

Strength (3 sets x 8-12 reps)

Core (3 sets x 30-seconds each)

Nutrition & Hydration

Another important aspect of preparing for a race is nutrition (leading up to the race, during the race, and after the race). When you put good food into your body during the weeks leading up to your race, you are not only going to have better results in your training, but you will also recover better after each workout, leading to even better training, which leads to a better race! Make sure you are getting enough protein each day (about 10-20 grams per meal). Also make sure carbohydrates are coming from low glycemic foods, such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, fruit, and oatmeal. Suggested portions for carbs would be 20-40 grams per meal. Healthy fats are next: avocados, nuts, nut butters, and oils (olive, coconut, avocado). Suggested portions are 8-12 grams per meal. Vegetables: your goal is variety + quantity. Do not overlook the power of the veggies! They pack tons of nutrients that aid in recovery, and hopefully keep you from grabbing crackers and chips when the hunger from a long run kicks in. Last, try eating every 3 hours. This will help keep your metabolism high, as well as help detour any over-eating caused by long periods without food.

Sample Meal Plan

  • Breakfast: 2-3 eggs, 1-2 slices Ezekiel toast
  • Snack: fruit and nuts
  • Lunch: 4-6 oz. chicken salad, half of an avocado
  • Snack: Green Protein Smoothie (1 scoop protein powder, greens, fruit)
  • Dinner: 4-6 oz. salmon, roasted veggies, 1-2 tbsp. olive oil

Fueling Up During the Race

Now, during the race. Whether you are running the full, half or 10k, you are going to need some fuel during the race. This is something that I see people overlook all too often. I prefer to use running gels. Sucking down a gel every 30-60 minutes will make a huge difference in how you perform. Do yourself a favor and practice eating gels on your long runs. If gels aren’t your thing, try eating some fruit, or search the web for other “real food” options.

Next, do not overlook hydration. Try to drink 20 oz. of water every hour, even if you don’t feel like it, but don’t let the fear of becoming dehydrated push you to guzzle down too much. This can lead to flushing your system of its electrolytes, or a too-full belly. The last nutrition tip is post-race nutrition and hydration. Last year when I ran the Flagstaff Marathon (half), I got a little too distracted by the amazing GringoDillas food truck and New Belgium beer, and didn’t give my body enough protein, clean carbs, electrolytes, and water. My body did not recover the way that I knew it should’ve after that race. This is a lesson I hope to never forget. Pack yourself a protein shake, protein bar, chocolate milk, or a clean meal, and try to get this in you within an hour of finishing your race. Replenish your electrolytes with an electrolyte drink (I use Hydrate & Recover by Wilderness Athlete) or a sports drink like Gatorade. Don’t forget water! If you aren’t peeing within an hour of finishing your then you probably aren’t re-hydrated.

Conclusion

Hopefully these few tips will help you have an even better experience at this year’s Flagstaff Marathon. Remember that you are doing this to have fun. This saying has helped me through many trail runs: “RUN when it’s FUN, and walk when it’s NOT!” Good luck! Today Matters.

About the Author

NEWROOTS_updatedlogoJesse Coddington is the owner of New Roots Personal Training Studio in Flagstaff, AZ. He has over 10 years of fitness coaching experience. He enjoys spending his weekends getting lost (physically and mentally) on the trails winding through the mountains and woods of northern Arizona with his chocolate lab Daisy, and his ragtag group of trail runner friends, or pushing his two redheaded kids in the Double Bob around and around and around Buffalo Park.

 

 

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