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Nutrition Tips for Runners

Marathon runner, Gemma Hockett provides an insight in to her nutrition; eating cleanly whilst fuelling herself sufficiently to train hard.

About Gemma Hockett

About Gemma Hockett

In the big wide world we reside in I am just a number. Like a lot of us I hold down a full-time job, working 9 hours a day Monday to Friday in a busy role in London. You're unlikely to have heard of me, in essence I am a nobody. However I am dreamer with an open mind, a passion and a drive with buckets of determination. My name is Gemma and I'm on a journey to breaking a 3 hour marathon.

Rewinding back three years to April 2013, I ran my first 26.2 at the incredible Virgin Money London Marathon and I'd set a goal of 4 hours. A few friends thought I was slightly loopy given it was my first marathon and I hadn't started training for it yet. I had no idea what was in store, or if this was even possible, however I am a pretty stubborn individual at times. 4 hours was my goal and I didn't want to budge on that.

Despite many training set backs (without going into too much detail it was a nightmare and I was a nightmare), it didn't matter, I flipping wanted it. I remember vividly a physio advising it was possibly best to adopt a walk-run strategy after I scraped a 1:59 something at the Brighton Half Marathon due to injuries. Laying on the bed in a pretty appalling state her advice went through one ear and out the other. It wasn't I didn't appreciate her advice, I did. The physio wanted the best for me and my long term health. I also remember being advised by another physio to stick to 10km as my body wasn't cut out for distance running.

I kept thinking back to the stranger I cheered on at around mile 20 the year before at the same marathon. The man that inspired me to 26.2. The man who didn't quit. The man who believed and went on achieve despite being in so much pain himself. It was a huge risk to take, but I wasn't going to quit my goal.

I arrived on the start line Rock Taped up like an Egyptian mummy, my legs were wrapped in the stuff. I set off, left foot, right foot. Repeat. It was the most painful challenge of my life, I went to hell and back, and then suddenly, it was all over. I believed and achieved. My finish time was 3:59.

To cut a long story short, after this marathon I got thinking. What if I trained smarter, recovered smarter and took my nutrition a little more seriously, could I run this beast of a distance any faster?! I trained really hard that winter and returned to the London Marathon the following year and ran 3:21. As I slumped myself up to recover, immediately I got thinking again. Could I run a sub 3 hour marathon?! YES.

I put my goal forward to my loved ones and work colleagues, and it's pretty fair to say most of them thought I was off my rocker. However they are starting to come round to it now 🙂

Fast forwarding two years and 3 marathons later, I was recently 10th female at the Edinburgh Marathon with a 3:07, in tough conditions too, I was delighted. This leaves approximately 8 minutes to go - an even, well rounded single digit wouldn't you all agree?! It also happens to be my lucky number.

With the help of my coach Colin Thomas, I am on the straight and narrow when it comes to what I eat. An ex carbohydrate convict if you like, I was consuming way too many and I was addicted. This lead to some unwelcome weight gain, sluggishness, heavy legs and constant out of control hunger. Colin has taught me to train light and refuel afterwards and it's working. I am leaner, my hunger is under control, I am running strong and my fat stores are burning. At the present time I have been been limiting my carbohydrate intake simply because I was so addicted, however as my marathon training steps up, my carbohydrate intake will increase so that I have enough energy to survive the sessions.

I have three square meals a day with snacks in-between if I'm still hungry. I eat as many different foods as possible in each meal so that I consume as many vitamins and minerals as I can. For example if vegetables were part of my dinner, I would try to have 2-3 different ones instead of just 1. My breakfasts can sometimes be random. I can easily combine a couple of boiled eggs, smoked salmon, baked beans, spinach and half an avocado with some fruit.

My snacks tend to be fresh fruit, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, apples. I am also pretty crazy on beetroot, and small portions of lean chicken breast and quinoa.

I love to cook and experiment with food. I don't follow recipe books, my ideas come from the different countries I have visited combined with my favourite herbs and spices, sticking to a healthy theme. When I food shop each week I try to pick up a different spice of herb. I have a whole cupboard full of them, their uses are endless!

Other basic food items I can't live without are: lemons, limes, fresh mint, fresh parsley, fresh chillies, garlic, kidney, cannelloni and aduki beans. These bits and bobs paired up with some spices/herbs can transform a boring piece of protein or sweet potato into a clean and healthy infusion of pure delight.

As an endurance runner and a female it's important I consume plenty of iron. I get through lots of spinach and try to eat leanest red meat once or twice a week depending on my weekly mileage.

Working long hours and training means I don't have a lot of time so my meals must be prepared and cooked quickly.

Here's a snap shot of some of the meals I love to eat.

GH - Pic 1

 

 

A breakfast bowl jam packed with goodness to help set me up for the day. Here's what in it: Raw spinach, tomatoes, kidney beans, cannelloni beans, pink grapefruit, oven roasted kale, a lean grilled pork sausage, paprika, turmeric, an egg, pure lime juice and chilli flakes!

 

 

GH - Pic 2

 

 

Tuna & Beetroot Salad. Perfect after a hard run. Here's whatin it: quinoa and wholegrain rice with raw spinach, cherry tomatoes, beetroot, pure lemon juice and chilli topped with a tin of drained tuna (in spring water).

 

 

 

GH - Pic 3

 

Another salad idea. Something like this to help my muscles repair after a long run in the warm weather is lovely. Here's what in this colourful potato salad: Boiled and chopped baby new potatoes, quinoa, turmeric, juice of two lemons, spinach, kidney beans, cannelloni beans, cherry tomatoes, smoked salmon, fresh coriander and black pepper.

 

 

 

GH - Pic 4

A simple and delicious dinner idea full of goodness. This is oven roasted pulled chicken breast, oven roasted kale cooked in a hot oven for seven minutes using chilli and lime seasoning and Fry Light cooking spray. Skinny sweet potato fries seasoned with Cajun and Fry Light cooking spray. No need to pre-boil. Simply leave the skins on, chop into fries, season and cook in a hot oven for approximately 20-25 minutes. I added courgetti to add a little more variety to the meal.

Eating right keeps me full of energy, helps me to recover quickly, keeps the colds at bay so I can keep my sub 3 goal in sight. You are what you eat as we hear often.

I am on a journey which tests me every single day, however I can and I will achieve my goal. Run with fight as they say. Find a way or fade away is what I say.

Thanks for reading everyone and happy running!

If you would like to follow Gemma's journey in more detail you can follow her training updates on Instagram, or on her website.

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