Personal trainer Jeremy Johnson has been training our youngest runner, Erika Geraerts.
What does Erika’s training for the half-marathon look like?
It’s heavy and it’s various. I’ve written her a complete plan that sees her training almost every day. Erika is running three times a week on her own, doing different distances and different intensities (including long 22km jogs, which she’ll do two of before race day). We calculated that she will run about 100km between when we started and the event.
On top of that she’s doing yoga and/or a take home posture correction exercise program I wrote her as well as a fortnightly group workout with her Willow and Blake colleagues, where we go through a strength circuit followed by a HIIT finisher.
But the training I’m most excited about with Eri is her one-on-one PT sessions, which we do once a week on Tuesday mornings. In these sessions I start with foam rolling and mobility work, emphasising ankles and calves before we train a series of exercises based around the specific needs of long distance running: single leg stability, lower leg endurance, explosive power output, overall core strength and total body integration.
Has it changed week to week?
It has, we started lighter and worked more on creating structural integrity in her musculature. Now that she’s working from a stronger base we’re able to go harder and incorporate some new features, such as running with added resistance. And as with all fitness forms, her exercises have gotten harder week to week as her fitness, flexibility and skill level increase.
What does Erika’s meal plan look like?
Erika had an excellent diet before she met me and we haven’t made many changes to it. She currently eats three meals a day plus natural snacks (fruit, nuts, sometimes raw chocolate), consuming nutrients every 3-4 hours, and drinks at least 2 litres of fluids (water and coconut water, no soft drink, no sports drinks).
She rarely drinks alcohol and has only the occasional coffee and as a result is usually well hydrated. Erika gets most of her protein from fish and eggs, which she eats every day, but she also takes a hemp-based protein supplement and an iron tablet, all of which is very supportive of her active lifestyle.
Will it change each week?
It will and has changed in slight ways, mostly in regards to timing. I’m a firm believer that you should be eating and hydrating before, during and after a workout, so I have taught Erika to always have a water bottle and snacks on her. I have also steadily increased her carb intake by encouraging fruit and bread consumption, so that she has the liver glycogen needed to run long runs. There’ll be a small amount of carbo-loading in the days before her event too, and I have also introduced her to sports drinks to replace lost electrolytes and blood glucose.
What should young women aim for/avoid food-wise when training?
Never train on an empty stomach. Your body is a furnace, you need to fuel it to get the best performance out of it. Eat a good carb-based meal an hour or two before a session, and eat a protein-based snack within 30 minutes of exercise, then a meal within an hour after that with protein, carbs and vegetables.
And drink more water! Staying hydrated is vital to exercise and recovery. Sports drinks and coconut water are good options if you’re training for hours at a time, but good old fashioned water is where it’s at. Aim for 1 litre per 25kg of body weight. Make it a habit, be organised, keep a bottle in your car, a bottle in your bag.
Avoid soft drinks, they’re all bad and will make you weaker. Avoid excessive alcohol, it poisons most of the body systems. Smoking ruins your lungs, ruins your breath control – you pretty much can’t get that fit while smoking. Coffee has been proven to aid exercise performance, but it has pros and cons. The up and down energy levels might not work well for some, though it does encourage the body to burn more fats as the preferred fuel store.
Some heath product supplementation can be great too, but only as a supplement to an already healthy diet, as the missing ingredient. The secret is to analyse your diet, identify the gaps, and fill them with a combination of wholefoods and health products.
What is your advice for busy young women trying to squeeze in regular exercise?
Just that you need to prioritise your health. We’re all time poor. If it’s important to you, you’ll make time. If your body doesn’t work, then nothing will. If your health is sound, then life becomes easier. I’ve heard all the excuses and let me tell you, you can always find an hour a day to exercise! Barack Obama exercises everyday – do you have more time commitments than he does? You’ve just got to be organised about it, exercise won’t happen unless you make it happen. Keep running shoes in the car, have a spare change of clothes in a bag, make it a part of every day.
Jeremy trains at The Urban Jungle Gym.