This week, enjoy a guest post from my intern, Ashley, who is training for her first full marathon. She offers some excellent thoughts about the difficulty but necessity of training your stomach like you train your muscles.
I have run multiple races in my lifetime 5, 10, 15k’s, half-marathons. Now I am tackling training for my first full marathon. Previously my training regimen included hydrating pre- and post-run, but I never fueled during a run. I couldn’t tolerate eating/drinking anything other than water while I was exercising or even within an hour of exercising. After the Rock n’ Roll Chicago half-marathon didn’t go as well as planned; I knew that something needed to change in my training. Even though I did stomach Gatorade with water at a few of the aid stations during the race, but it was not enough fuel and I felt exhausted the last 3 miles. I needed to train my stomach to handle Gatorade and gels to fuel my body for my marathon.
I purchased different brands of energy gels (Gu energy gel, Clif shots, Powerbar performance energy gel), so I could try each to figure out which I tolerated best. I started out using 1 gel on a 10 mile run. I filled my fuel belt with a water bottle and a bottle with ½ Gatorade ½ water mixture. I drank a few ounces from my bottle of the diluted Gatorade every 20 minutes and drank a few ounces of water with my gel, which I took at 40 minutes. I felt a little nauseous for a few minutes after taking the gel, but it went away and I felt good throughout the rest of my run.
My first attempt with gels went well and I wanted to try again on my 12 mile run. This time loaded my fuel belt with 1 water bottle and 2 bottles with the Gatorade mixture and 2 gels. I tried to drink the Gatorade mixture every 15 minutes and take a gel at 30 and 60 minutes with water. During first hour I tolerated the Gatorade well and again felt a little queasy after taking the gel for a few minutes, but it quickly went away. After I took the gel at the hour mark I felt queasy again, thinking it would go away in few minutes like before I continued on. The remainder of my run did not go well, but I pushed on and finished. Feeling discouraged that I didn’t tolerate the gel I decided it was the brand and I wouldn’t use those gels again.
My next long run was 14 miles and I was determined to try the gels again. I had my fuel belt packed with my water bottle, 2 bottles of the Gatorade mixture, and 3 gels. I started off drinking the Gatorade mixture every 20 minutes and took a gel at 30, 60 and 90 minutes. I felt great drinking the Gatorade every 20 minutes and felt good when I took my gel at 30 minutes, but I was worried about the hour mark. I took my second gel and after a few minutes I still felt good. This made me feel confident and I bumped up my Gatorade to every 15 minutes since I was feeling extra thirsty. I took my third gel and felt great for the remainder of my run. I was so excited that I finally found a gel that I could tolerate and a fueling plan that I could follow.
Through testing I found that I prefer the Clif energy gels and Clif energy shot blocks. I alternate between the gels and shot blocks each time I take them to have variety If you don’t like any of the energy gels, chews or beans you can try other foods such as; Swedish fish, jelly beans, a PB & J broken up into pieces in a baggie, honey packets, or fig newtons would be good sources of fuel. I stick with the ½ Gatorade ½ water mixture in my water bottles and at least 1 bottle of straight water to take with my gels. I drink Gatorade every 15 minutes and have a gel or 3 shot blocks (1/2 of the pack) every 30 minutes with water. This has helped me to stay energized throughout all of my long runs and I have been able to improve my performance.
Top 5 take-a-ways:
· Test out different types and different brands of fuel to find out what you can tolerate; don’t give up!
· Drink water with your fuel to help it empty from your stomach and get to your muscles quickly
· Always test out your fueling plan before your race
· Never try new fuel on race day; you don’t know if you can tolerate itFueling your muscles and staying hydrated is essential for endurance athletes to improve performance.