Paul decided to jump straight in at the deep end with his running, entering his first half marathon only months after starting running and now tackling tough ultra marathons. He talks to Sundried about life as a plant-based runner.
Have you always been into sport?
Not really! I played a lot of football, rugby, cricket and enjoyed running and athletics as a youngster but running has only come back into my life in the past 2 and a half years. It has helped me so much with my health, both physically and mentally.
What made you decide to enter the world of ultra running?
My “toe-dipper” was on November 11th 2018. It was a 30-mile race in the South Wales valleys and Brecon Beacons – you can imagine the hills!
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
The Cardiff Half will always be a special race for me. It was the first event I ever entered, skipping 5k and 10k events and going straight for it in October 2016 after only starting running 3 months earlier. I ran it again 4 days ago and smashed my PB, coming in at 1:33. The crowds and atmosphere there are just amazing.
And your proudest achievement?
Becoming a Sundried Brand Ambassador! Other than that, completing my first marathon. Running my first ultra marathon is going to be a catalyst for me to run more challenging races.
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
No disasters as yet, but the Merthyr Tydfil marathon in October 2017 was definitely my toughest race. It was my first marathon and I finished in 3:39, a week after achieving a personal best at the Cardiff Half. As I crossed the line, I had nothing left in the tank and was a slight shade of green!
How do you overcome setbacks?
I got injured earlier this year whilst training for the Newport Marathon. I was gutted at the time as I ended up missing 3 races in total. But I started to focus more on diet, switching to plant-based, and rebuilding my fitness. Once I was fit again, I booked the ultra and was feeling stronger and fitter than ever.
What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?
“Listen to your body”. You know when you’re injured, don’t force it because of a particular race you have booked. If you do, you wont be on the start line! Rest when rest is needed.
What are your goals for 2019?
I have no events booked as yet, but there are a few ultra marathons that I have my eye on starting with the RunWalkCrawl Brecon to Cardiff 43 miler in February. Last year it was -4 degrees Celsius and snowing at the start – challenge accepted! It’ll also keep me focused through the dark, wet and cold winter months
Who do you take your inspiration from?
I love Instagram. People’s journeys inspire me, whether it's weight-loss, mental health transformation, or the sheer mileage some people put in. It definitely keeps me grounded and focused that there is definitely more this body can do than I’m doing currently
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
Having switched to a plant-based diet early in 2018, purely for health reasons, I started to look more into the ethical and environmental side of veganism too. When I came across Sundried, I just had to work with you guys. The Grande Casse Running Jacket is made from recycled bottles, how cool is that! I also love the Grand Casse training hoodie.
Antonio is an American personal trainer who was inspired to pursue a career in fitness after his college track days. He talks to Sundried about life as a personal trainer.
Have you always been into sport?
Throughout my life, I’ve had the opportunity to play football, basketball, baseball, and track.
Tell us about your journey to fitness? Where did it all start?
The journey started back in college when I was competing in track and I knew that I wanted to compete at a high level so I had to learn how to get the most out of my body.
What are your training goals now?
I am currently training myself in order to run some 5k and 10k runs. I also want to be able to one day be in great shape where I can run some marathons.
Tell us one unusual fact we wouldn’t know about you:
When I work out, I always listen to 1980s rock music.
What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?
I would have told myself to enjoy the process and go at your own pace because it’s easy to compare yourself to others.
Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?
I practice intermittent fasting whereby I fast for 16 hours a day and eat in an 8 hour window. I also try to be mindful of what I eat day to day.
What do you do to keep your clients motivated? Do you have any top tips to keep motivated?
I tell all my clients that it is a process to get to your goals and every thing you do counts from when you wake up to when you go to sleep. I would tell others that even though you may not see the results right away, just know that you’re getting better every day you train.
Talk us through your training regime.
I go running 4 days a week and take off 3 days. Throughout the week, I try to run at least 10-15 miles to be sure my body is getting the right reps in.
How do you keep your fitness knowledge up to date?
I’m always taking time throughout my day to read articles and books in order to be able to learn from each day. I feel that it is important to be able to grow, you have to keep learning.
What are your top 3 trainer tips?
1. Have a goal.
2. Give your best effort in everything you do.
3. Have fun and enjoy the process.
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I would eat veggie burgers. They never get boring and they're delicious!
Sundried recently ran a poll and found that 80% of people felt nervous the first time they set foot in a gym. This statistic doesn't come as a surprise as the combined fear of the unknown and feeling self conscious can make going to the gym a difficult step for a lot of people. We're here with our top tips so that you can feel confident in the gym and enjoy your workouts more.
Wear the right activewear
If you look good, you'll feel good. If you're wearing old fitness clothing that doesn't fit properly, you are far more likely to feel self-conscious and constantly worry about how you look, distracting you from your workout. By treating yourself to good quality activewear such as cute sports bras and flattering gym leggings for the ladies and a well-fitting technical gym t-shirt for men, you will instantly have the confidence you need to go and do an awesome workout.
Go with a buddy
If you're too nervous to hit the gym alone, buddy up and take a friend with you. With a trusted pal by your side you will instantly feel protected from whatever it was that was causing you anxiety and you'll be able to workout together and enjoy your time. Having a friend to go with can alsoboost your motivation when you don't feel like going to the gym.
Get stuck in
The free weights area can be a daunting place, especially for women. One of the best ways to get over this fear is just to get stuck in and head over there. If the free weights area seems very busy and full of grunting men from afar, once you're in it and you've found your space you'll realise that it doesn't feel as busy and all the guys are just busy getting on with their own workouts and aren't paying any attention to you.
If it's the other people in the gym that seem scary, the best thing you can do is befriend them. They're just people after all! Not only this, they are like-minded people who have the same goal as you and so chances are you will get on well. Strike up a conversation by asking someone about their workout or their goals to break the ice.
However, make sure you don't interrupt someone when they are in the middle of a lift or exercise as you may put them off and annoy them. Save the chatting for when they are resting or finishing up their workout.
Ask a professional
If you're nervous because you're not sure what to do at the gym or how any of the machines work, go ahead and ask one of the personal trainers or fitness coaches. It's what they're there for! A member of staff will also be more than happy to help you out and show you the ropes, some personal trainers will even offer you a complimentary training session. Most if not all gyms also offer a free induction when you first join. If you missed this and are no longer a 'new' member, most gyms will still be happy to honour the free induction and have someone show you around.
Whether it's for charity, to prove to yourself that you can do it, or just for fun, running your first marathon is a huge milestone. We're here with all of the information you need in preparation for running your first marathon.
Choosing your marathon
Choosing the right marathon can have a huge impact on your success and enjoyment on the day. Most people opt for one of the six World Marathon Majors as their first marathon as they are the most renowned. These marathon majors are London, New York, Chicago, Boston, Tokyo, and Berlin. These are the marathons that have gained iconic status over the years due to being so well organised, having such great support, and being set in beautiful cities.
Due to being so popular, these marathons all have difficult entry processes and you cannot simply pay an entry fee to gain a place.
London Marathon Ballot Entry
There are three ways to enter the London marathon: enter the public ballot, run for charity, or achieve a Good For Age place.
The London marathon public ballot opens at the beginning of May of each year, about a week after the race, and is open for a week to give everyone a fair chance of entering. Results are then published 6 months later in October when eager hopefuls will either receive a magazine through the post notifying them that they have been successful or a commiseration email telling them they have not got a place. A record 414,168 hopefuls entered the 2018 ballot to run in 2019, making the London marathon the most popular marathon in the world.
However, this also means your chances of getting a ballot place are very slim. In 2016, almost a quarter of a million people entered the ballot in the hopes of achieving one of the 17,000 allocated ballot places. That means that each person only had a 7% chance of getting a ballot place. With nearly twice that many people entering the ballot in 2018, your chances of gaining a ballot place are pretty tiny.
One of the easiest ways to run the London marathon is by gaining a place through a charity. There are numerous charities who provide runners with places in return for raising at least £2,000 for their charity.
Finally, there are Good For Age places. However, you have to be very speedy to attain one of these places. For a man under the age of 40 you'll have to be able to run sub 3 hours and women will have to run sub 3 hours 45.
The Boston marathon is also famed for its strict and tough entry process. For this race, you can only enter if you achieve a 'BQ' or a charity place.
If you BQ, that means you have managed to run a marathon in a Boston qualifying time. For men under the age of 35, that's sub 3 hours and for women of the same age it's sub 3 hours 30. However, it is made even harder by the fact that entries are always over subscribed each year, meaning the actual BQ time is often lower than this target.
For example, those who entered to run in 2019 had to achieve a time 4 minutes and 52 seconds faster than the qualifying standard. Therefore a man under the age of 35 would have had to achieve a BQ of under 2:55:08 - very speedy!
Entering your first marathon
Due to the strict and often difficult entry processes of the World Marathon Majors, it may be an idea to run your first marathon somewhere that allows simple paid entries. Unless you are willing to take on the stress of raising a huge amount of money alongside the gruelling training, there are plenty of other marathons out there that are perfect for your first marathon.
Three such popular marathons in the UK and Europe are Brighton marathon in East Sussex, England, Paris marathon in France, and Edinburgh marathon in Scotland. Each of these races simply require you to pay the entry fee and you're in. They are equally well organised with fantastic routes in beautiful cities and still benefit from overwhelming positive support at the sidelines. It's certainly worth considering a less famous marathon to be your first.
What is a good time to run a marathon?
Finding the right pace for you is hugely important for your first marathon, but don't try to achieve an unrealistic time. Everyone is different and a good time for your marathon will depend entirely on your age, gender, body weight, how long you've been running, and your ultimate goals. Are you just running to have fun and enjoy the experience or are you competitive and looking to run as fast as possible? As this is your first marathon, you don't yet have a personal best time to try and beat, but having a goal in mind is a great motivator.
Of course, the previously mentioned Good For Age times are an excellent indicator of just that: what is a good marathon time for your age. However, so long as you enjoy yourself and get out of it what you wanted, your time really is irrelevant.
That said, it's important to train enough that you can run a sensible pace and not end up on your feet for too long. Putting your body under that much strain can be pretty dangerous and you want to be able to put up a good fight rather than having to walk most of the course. After all, the quicker you run the quicker it will be over!
Training for your first marathon
The most important factor in your success of running a marathon is your training. Whether you're a complete beginner to exercise or you've run up to half marathon distance, running a full marathon is a completely different experience and requires full dedication as well as knowledge on nutrition and hydration.
Finding a good training plan
Your first port of call should be finding a great training plan that suits you and your goals. One of the most popular places to find marathon training plans is Hal Higdon's website. An American writer and marathon runner, Hal has written over 30 best-selling marathon training books and guides and has contributed to Runner's World longer than any other writer. His training plans cover something for everyone from the beginner to the intermediate to the advanced. For your first marathon, it's recommended to go for one of the beginner training plans.
Fitting training around work and home life
Before you commit to running a marathon, it's important to know that you must remain dedicated over several months and put in the time to train. This means your social life will likely suffer and you may need to give up things like alcohol and tighten up your diet. Speak with your family and friends about your intentions to make sure they are on board as their support could be invaluable to your success.
You also need to make sure you have the time to fit training around your work life. There are plenty of ways to fit training into your daily routine, such as running early in the morning before work, working out at work such as at lunchtime, and incorporating training into your commute. Explore these avenues and find out what is going to work best for you.
Many of the popular UK and European marathons take place in spring time, meaning you will be training over winter. This comes with its own perils such as unexpected snowfall and freezing temperatures. Make sure you have the right activewear for winter running as this will make winter training more bearable. Your essentials should be a long sleeved training top with temperature control to keep you warm without overheating and a water resistant running jacket and gloves to protect you against the elements.
Many people who have run a spring marathon say that training through the winter is the toughest part. Dark evening runs after work and cold early morning starts can make motivation difficult, but if you keep your goals in mind and stay dedicated you will be able to enjoy working out and stay motivated.
Both Berlin marathon and New York marathon take place later in the year, meaning the bulk of your training will take place over summer. As we saw in 2018, a freak heatwave can really make a difference to your training and it's important to stay safe when running in hot weather. Be sure to carry extra water and be flexible with your training. Listen to your body and adjust your speed accordingly, as running at 100% effort in soaring temperatures and blazing sunshine probably won't end well.
Nutrition and hydration
Any marathon runner will tell you that you could put in endless miles and countless training hours but it will all be for nothing if you don't crack your hydration and nutrition strategy. As we saw in London in 2018 when a woman fell into a coma after crossing the finish line, hydrating with only water can be potentially dangerous and it's important to replenish your electrolytes and sodium as well.
Drinking a sports drink and taking sodium supplements will combat this easily so make sure they are a part of your hydration and nutrition strategy. It's also important to be able to adjust your strategy for the weather on race day, as you could have been training in sub-zero temperatures but will need more water than you think on an unseasonably hot April day.
Finding what works for you
There is no one-size-fits-all hydration and nutrition plan; you will have to devise your own. Some people are fine with a few litres of water and some energy gels while others find that fuelling with real food is much more effective. You can even make your own energy gels and bars for endurance training so that you know exactly what's gone into them; especially effective for those with a sensitive stomach or a food intolerance.
Make sure you trial different things in your training to find what works for you so that there are no surprises on race day. It's also important to be as self-sufficient as possible once you have found what works for you, as not all races will have what you need at the aid stations.
What to eat during a marathon
Some of the best foods to eat during a long endurance event like a marathon include:
- Protein balls
- Peanut butter sandwiches
- Pretzels (good for sodium but can be very dry, especially if you’re dehydrated)
- Pickles and pickle juice
- Dried or fresh fruit
- Sugar cubes
- Energy gels
- Sports/electrolyte drink
Top Tip: If you take on a lot of energy gels and sugary drinks during training, brush your teeth as soon as you get home to protect against cavities and tooth loss due to the excessive sugar consumption.
Cross Training For Runners
Once you have your training plan in place, you need to make sure you are also doing effective cross training. Putting in a lot of miles is a given for marathon training, but in order to avoid injury and perform at your best you will also need to cross train.
Cross training for runners is any other type of training apart from running that will supplement and enhance your training. Some of the best types of cross training are strength training at the gym, swimming, and cycling. All of these are low impact sports which will give your joints a chance to rest after pounding the pavements for hours on end while simultaneously working your muscles and increasing your power and strength, all necessary for putting in a good performance on race day.
What to expect at your first marathon
As the big day draws near it is completely natural to start to feel nervous. You will be wanting to know what to expect at your first marathon so that it doesn't come as much of a shock. Here are some of the most common things you're likely to experience at your first marathon.
Long toilet queues
If you've done a lot of races you'll already know the frustrations of a couple of portable toilets trying to accommodate thousands of runners and this won't be any different at a major marathon. The key is to join the queue early and be patient. So long as you get there with plenty of time, you won't miss the start and the time you spend in the queue would just be time spent pacing back and forth in your starting pen anyway. A top tip is to take a small amount of toilet paper with you as there probably won't be any by the time you get to the front of the queue.
A busy start
The start of a marathon with thousands of runners is always going to be busy and it may take a while to cross the start line. At this point you will be feeling pretty anxious and nervous but also very excited. Take this time to make sure you have everything you need and in place ready to run. Make sure your running watch is ready to go and switch it on early to make sure it can find a GPS signal among all the people.
Setting off too fast
All the excitement of the start may well cause you to set off too fast. Stick to your pacing plan and keep an eye on your watch to help you stay on track. Don't be tempted to rush off with everyone else; keep calm and start sensibly so that you can enjoy the race.
Hitting the wall
This is one of the most common fears among marathon runners and for good reason. Hitting the wall can take the form of anything from feeling a little lightheaded to physically not being able to move. The key to not hitting the wall when running is to stick to your nutrition and hydration strategy and to stay as hydrated as possible.
Read race reports
If you want to be well prepared on what to expect for the particular marathon you are running, it's a great idea to read race reports from people who have been there, done it, and got the finisher's t-shirt.
Experiencing the best day of your life
Even if you're hobbling along with sore feet, painful joints, and no energy, when you hit that finish line it will all be forgotten and you will remember this as one of the best days of your life. Running a marathon is a huge accomplishment and all of the long training sessions, dedication, and compromise will be worth it when you cross that line. The elation you feel will be like nothing else.
Getting to the start line uninjured
One thing you will hear from a lot of people training for a marathon, whether it's their first or their 10th, is that getting to the start line uninjured is a big deal. It can be all too easy to over-train and end up with an injury that hinders your chances of performing at your best or even running at all. Some of the most common running injuries are caused by pushing yourself too hard and doing too much too soon, especially if you're new to running.
In order to stay injury-free, always listen to your body during training and don't underestimate the importance of rest. Some of the best ways to deal with running injuries are not to push through the pain, learn from your mistakes, and don't rush your comeback. Rest up and ease back into your training gently. Ideally, you shouldn't get injured at all when training for a marathon. So long as you eat well, train smart, and listen to your body, you should be good to go.
Organising with family and friends
Of course, for your big day you will want your family and friends to be there to support you. There's nothing worse than running along wondering where they are and when you'll see them, distracting you from your performance. Before the race, make sure you all agree where they will be standing to watch you so that you know when to expect them.
A top tip is to see them towards the end of the race when you're needing some extra encouragement. Not only will they encourage you towards the finish line, but knowing that you get to see them soon could keep you going when the race starts to get tough at the halfway point. We recommend Mile 20 as the optimum place to arrange to see your supporters.
Whether you’re an avid runner, a recreational lifter, or a lifelong tennis player, you know that what you eat is key both for optimal performance as well as recovery. However, some people are so enthusiastic about fuelling their workouts with the right ingredients that they neglect the equally important role of their recovery. After all, this is when all of your muscle growth happens and the effects of your training take place to help you advance.
In addition to your macros, which are always vital for your health and well-being, taking care of your micro-nutrient intake will help you recuperate faster and restore your energy more efficiently. One mineral in particular deserves more attention for improving your post-workout healing – magnesium!
Magnesium’s main roles
Just like every other essential micro-nutrient, magnesium is a meddler – it plays many vital roles in numerous metabolic processes in the body. This minuscule mineral takes part in over 300 biochemical reactions, from how your body generates energy, how it utilises other micro-nutrients you eat in your food, all the way to protecting your very DNA.
Your vital organs such as you brain and heart heavily depend on your magnesium supplies to function properly every day. However, it’s also the building block of your bones, just like calcium, and it balances your cholesterol levels, allowing your muscles to relax and recover from physical strain. Even with just these several functions, it’s already clear how crucial magnesium is for everyone who leads an active life, since your energy and performance are based in magnesium availability, as much as any other essential macro and micro-nutrient.
Deciding on your needs
The general guidelines when it comes to this handy mineral state that an average man requires approximately 400 to 420mg of magnesium per day, while women need slightly less, in the realm of 310 to 320mg per day. However, these numbers fluctuate depending on your lifestyle, any pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, how active you are every day, what your diet consists of, and whether you are pregnant.
Then again, athletes – and endurance athletes in particular – may need more magnesium to help their bodies cope with muscle soreness and cramps as well as arduous routines. You don’t necessarily need to be a competitive athlete to find yourself depleted of magnesium, since you may need a higher dosage than someone who exercises significantly less in terms of both intensity and frequency – which is where your doctor should step in and check if you should up your intake.
Sources of magnesium
This crucial mineral is as hard to come by as it is essential to your well-being, making it one of those elusive dietary requirements that is hard to meet, especially through diet alone. Nuts and seeds such as almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and dairy as well as dark greens such as spinach and broccoli have high amounts of magnesium, although its bio-availability may vary. Typically, your body will absorb as little as 30-40% of the eaten magnesium, which often leads athletes to rethink their diets.
For those who exercise vigorously, it’s often recommended to take magnesium supplements in order to improve their energy levels and recover faster. They are designed to be absorbed more easily without causing any harm to your digestive tract, increasing your daily intake without increasing your calories through magnesium-packed foods.
Symptoms of a deficiency
Although some of the following symptoms are very commonly associated with other health issues and they can be seen as mere reactions to a stressful situation, it’s important to listen to your body and notice if these symptoms persist:
- General fatigue
- Muscle spasms and cramps
- Trouble sleeping
- Carb cravings
- Numbness in your hands and feet
- Irregular heartbeat
If you feel that your workouts are becoming increasingly difficult even though you’re resting properly and not increasing the intensity of your workouts, chances are that you are starting to experience a magnesium deficiency. It’s best to talk to your physician and do a few tests to confirm if you have this particular issue in order to find the best solution – your body will thank you later!
Key perks to expect
Finally, as difficult as it may be for some to believe that this one micro-nutrient is so priceless for your muscles, bones, and energy, you can begin by getting a deeper insight into how you’ll feel when you actually provide your body with enough of this mineral.
- Improved muscle gains – Since magnesium is one of those vital ingredients in the process called muscle protein synthesis, which occurs well after you finish your workout, it stimulates your muscles to repair and build new tissue. Without it, your muscles cannot repair and recover properly, making it very difficult to advance in terms of improving your physique with lean muscle.
- Better carb and fat metabolism – Yes, this little rascal also plays a key role in how your body uses carbs to generate energy, and how efficient you are at burning fat. So, if your goal is to improve your body composition and replace those love handles with lean muscle, magnesium is your body’s best friend.
- Quality sleep – As the third pillar of a healthy lifestyle, right next to diet and exercise, sleep is connected to your magnesium levels. Enough of this mineral helps your body relax after training, reduces inflammation in your body, replenishes energy stores, and soothes your entire central nervous system to sleep.
There can be no muscle protein synthesis, or restored energy without sleep, so magnesium is the ingredient that closes this recovery cycle and turns it into a powerful bodily process you need to advance in your athletic endeavors and stay healthy.
About the author: Luke is a fitness and health blogger at Ripped.me and a great fan of the gym and a healthy diet. He follows the trends in fitness, gym and healthy life and loves to share his knowledge through useful and informative articles.