Despite months of rigorous training, runners may find themselves hamstrung with self-doubt, stress and anxiety as they gear up for the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 26 April.
Have you trained enough? Will you be able to break through ‘the wall’? Will you manage the full 26.2 miles? What if you can’t get to sleep the night before the big day from all the anxiety?
Holiday Inn’s Rest & Run experts, elite mental performance coach Andy Barton and acclaimed sleep guru Sammy Margo know how detrimental negativity can be to both mind and body. Their final tips focus on turning these negatives into positives and making sure that marathon runners are in top mental and physical shape on the day of the big race.
“It’s important to remember that the feeling when you’re nervous is extremely similar to when you’re excited,” explains Barton. “Take those feelings and try to turn them into beneficial positives; you’ve done the training so channel your nervousness as excitement to achieve your goal.”
The two Holiday Inn Rest & Run experts will be also be hosting a Q&A session on Twitter on 17 April, offering marathon runners some bespoke last minute tips before the race (#restandrun).
These final tips (below) are part of 20 Rest & Run tips developed by Holiday Inn in support of their role as official hotel partner of the Virgin Money London Marathon. See www.greenroom.co.uk/restandrun/ for more.
Sammy Margo, Sleep Expert & Chartered Physiotherapist
1. Take your bedroom home and away
For the best chance of a peaceful night’s sleep make your bedroom a safe haven, somewhere quiet, dark and cool. A temperature between 16-18°C is perfect, and certainly no higher than 21°C. Make sure your feet are not too cold though as that can reduce your chances of unbroken sleep. Bed socks can be a very wise investment. When staying in a hotel, especially before the marathon, try to replicate the calm of home by asking reception for a ‘soft’ or ‘firm’ pillow, an eye mask and ear plugs, and try to get a room with an eastern or southern exposure to benefit from some revitalizing morning sun.
2. Return to sleep
Although you may be able to get off to sleep easily, waking in the night is common especially in anticipation of the big day. If you wake in the night avoid ‘clock watching countdown’. Turn the clock to face away or cover it up. If you feel that you have been in bed for longer than 20 minutes without catching any zzz’s then leave the ‘sleepless zone’. Get up and do something light such as emptying the dishwasher, drinking a cup of chamomile tea or reading a magazine article, then re-enter your bed as if you’re starting your sleep again.
3. Breathe easily
There are several proven techniques to help you unwind if you’re worrying about your next run, one of which is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). PMR is a great way to help you unwind and prepare your body for sleep. It involves tensing and relaxing your muscles from your toes to your forehead. Squeeze each muscle group for a few seconds then release and relax for ten seconds before moving onto the next, all the while taking deep breaths in and out. Studies have shown that PMR can reduce cortisol levels, a steroid hormone associated with stress that can play havoc with your ability to get to sleep.
Andy Barton, Mental Performance Coach
1. Strike the pose
After only two minutes of power posing, effectively changing body language to make your body bigger, Psychologists at Harvard Business School found that on average the dominance hormone, testosterone, of subjects in a study increased by almost 20 per cent. At the same time, their stress hormone, cortisol, reduced by a similar amount. Incredibly, after only a couple of minutes you can feel significantly more confident and relaxed just by changing your posture. So if you want to feel confident before and during your run, all you need to do is strike the right pose.
2. Fire up your imagination – PR exclusive
When we imagine performing a skill, we fire up an almost identical pattern of neural responses to when we are actually performing the skill itself. By imagining yourself in the process of running the marathon you can train your brain to be more prepared for the race, so that it feels like it’s something you have already achieved. In fact, our imagination is so powerful that studies have shown that just by mentally rehearsing having a workout in the gym you can increase your muscle mass. If you want to be fitter, faster and stronger on your run, all you have to do is use a little imagination.
3. Stay in the present
Athletes perform at their best when they are in a state of flow or ‘in the zone’; a state where running feels easy and effortless. We get in the zone when we are performing and trusting our unconscious, learned skills without any self-consciousness. To get there, marathon runners must focus on the present, not the future and how far they have to go or what time they are going to run, or looking back to the past and worrying about whether they have done enough training. If you focus on what is in front of you, enjoy the atmosphere and even focus on your breathing, you are more likely to get into the zone.