The Olympic athlete, who competed in London in 2012, offers his basic tips on how to prepare for a race physically and psychologically
Lanzarote is an island that offers running enthusiasts the opportunity to practice their favourite sport in unique natural spaces all year round.
After the summer period, a good way to motivate yourself to get out there and train is to set yourself a competitive challenge. The European Sports Destination sports calendar has excellent trail and running events that are held in the final months of the year, such as the Haría Extreme, the International Running Challenge and the Lanzarote International Marathon.
We went out for a run with one of our great local athletes, José Carlos Hernández, the Olympic athlete who competed in London 2012 in the marathon distance, and who also has an extensive national record. Taking advantage of our workout with the athlete, we asked him for some advice on how to deal with the physical and psychological preparation required for this type of event, and we share his tips with you below.
1- Set yourself real challenges within your scope
The first thing when preparing for a competition is to work out how many months you have in which to plan your training and be aware of your personal fitness level to frame this new challenge. For example, for an event like the Haría Extreme, he recommends specific training of 3 months.
2- Progressively increase the intensity of your training sessions
José Carlos recommends training 4 days a week, increasing the intensity progressively. In the first part of the training it is important to combine running with strength work, as well as to practice changes in rhythm over shorter distances to increase cardiac and pulmonary capacity.
As the training sessions continue, you should increase the distance you cover, working on your stamina, before reducing the intensity of the sessions in the last few weeks in order to rest more and allow the body to recover before the race.
3- Measure the degree of effort required in any group workouts so as not to lose control
He tells us that there are three keys to knowing how much effort is being used in group training sessions: if the pace is gentle, the runner can run and talk easily, at medium level the runner will tend to respond with short phrases, and at a high pace, the runner will respond with monosyllables.
“Among professional athletes it is a common tactic to ask a question of the other competitors leading the race with you, or in a group that has run on ahead, so you can gauge how much effort they are putting into the race depending on their response.”
4- Vary the circuits in your running sessions and enjoy the island
It is advisable to vary your route during the running sessions and Lanzarote offers spectacular spaces where you can enjoy the environment during training. Some of his favourite places for trail running workouts are the beach of Famara with the run up to el Risco, La Vega de San José in La Villa de Teguise and the trails of the Natural Landscape of La Geria, where the Wine Run Lanzarote is celebrated.
However, he prefers to prepare for the Lanzarote Marathon on the hard asphalt circuit on which the event takes place, which joins the towns of Costa Teguise and Puerto del Carmen along the avenue, passing through Arrecife, since he believes it’s important to run the course you are going to face before the event in order to get to know the route.
5- Adapt your timetables to your availability
Your training schedule will depend on your obligations and availability. Ideally, establish a routine and respect digestion times. You can take advantage of your free days to put in more specialized or long-distance training.
6- Do not vary your routines on the day of the race
Nutrition is a very important part of training, as it is your body’s fuel. It is important to eat healthy meals and to get good advice from professionals who can adapt your diet to your energy needs.
To those runners who train first thing in the morning, José Carlos recommends eating a good evening meal (rice, meat, fish). On the other hand, those who do their training in the afternoon should control the amount they eat at lunchtime and leave a digestion time of about 3 hours to avoid feeling bloated.
The important thing for the day of the race is to maintain the same food routines and to avoid varying your diet, so that your body is in perfect condition.
“I think I must be the only athlete who’s taken gofio (a typical Canary Island food) to the Olympics.”
7- Water is your best hydration
He says that despite what many people think, it is not a good idea to drink isotonic beverages before starting to train, as they contain too many sugars and although they provide a rapid moment of recovery, this is quickly followed by a considerable energy decline.
“It is best to drink water or use gels of short and long duration depending on the race, provided that you have used them previously and that they have been recommended by a professional.”
8- Visualize the race scenario during your workouts
The runner must visualize the race he or she is going to participate in so that while training the mind can analyse the distance, any possible complications that may arise and be prepared to overcome the difficulties that may crop up over the course.
Motivation is another of the key points when preparing for a race. You must be aware of the challenge you are going to face and your reality.
9- Take care of your body to avoid injuries
You need to acquire a good running technique (strength work, monitoring of your gait) and occasionally go to a masseur, osteopath or physiotherapist, to check your body’s condition.
10- Enjoy the sport
For José Carlos “sport should be a tool that allows you to be happy while you do it” and every sacrifice brings its reward. For proof of this, just look at the happy face of any runner after crossing the finishing line.