New Year - New You - New Challenge?

Sunderland's Aly Dixon taking on the 2016 London Marathon Credit: PA

With 2018 now upon us - many people are setting New Year's resolutions.

If yours is to get fit and take up running - maybe for the first time - we have been talking to Sunderland marathon runner Aly Dixon who is representing GB in this year's Commonwealth Games in Australia.

If you are thinking of attempting a 5K, maybe the Gateshead 10K, the Great North Run or even the London Marathon Aly's advice is to give running a go!

Take a look at her tips here:

Whether it leaves you wanting more or makes you never want to run again, embrace the process and have fun with it.

Aly Dixon
Runners in the Great North Run cross over the Tyne Bridge Credit: PA

Make a plan!Making a plan leading into your marathon can greatly increase yourperformance as well as your overall experience. Don’t forget, runningtakes time. Unless you are one of the few people who can run as if theyare a gazelle effortlessly trotting down the road, you are going to need acouple months of training before you can jump into a marathon. Pick arace a couple months away and develop a training plan or download onefrom a reputable running website. This will help you focus on training oneday at a time and get you closer and closer to your goals come race day.

Find training buddies!Misery loves company! Getting into running shape isn’t always the easiesttask but if you can find a partner or group to help you in your journey, youare one step closer to being your best come race day. Having a runningbuddy can help you to visualise breaking the tape of your marathon. Butmore importantly, they can be the ones to help you get out the door onthose days where you might not be feeling up to it! Having someone elseto hold you accountable for the days where you just might not feel likegoing for a run will help you stick to your plan and allow you to be thatmuch more prepared when the big day comes around.

Practice your race pace!Learning your “race pace” is a huge factor in ensuring that you are notcompletely whacked halfway through your marathon. Practicing your racepace once or twice a week during workouts can help you becomecomfortable at the pace you are going to be chipping away at during yourmarathon. A way to maximize the fun of practicing race pace is by joiningin on a local 5k, 10k or half marathon on a weekend. This is a great wayto add some excitement to your workouts, as well as allowing you to learnhow to run your pace while other competitors are around. One of thebiggest mistakes people make in a marathon is getting so caught up in allthe fun and starting too fast! Too often you see people spend all theirenergy in the first few miles, leaving them dragging behind in those final,crucial miles. Practicing your ideal pace the weeks leading up to your bigrace can help you to be the one leaving everyone behind on race day!

Practice race day fueling!Running a marathon puts a lot of stress on your body and knowing how tofuel yourself mid race can make the difference between a bad race and apersonal best. Mid race fueling can help keep you from shutting down inthe later miles of racing. During your training make sure you are practicingdifferent types of hydration and fueling efforts. Practicing during yourlonger runs and workouts can help you find what fueling sits well in yourstomach while still working out. Along with mid race fueling, pre-race andpost-race fueling is also very important. Find meals that you know you candigest and allow for you to optimise performance and minimise toilet visits(which will most definitely make your marathon experience a little lessfun!)

Long run!One mistake most people make is not getting the proper mileage in theirlegs before a big race. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope a bit. Thoughrecovery is important, so is making sure your body knows what it is aboutto endure! A marathon is not your casual sunday jog. A weekly long runwill help you optimise race day performance and help you not break downin the final miles of your marathon. Each week you can get a little longerin your long run and spend a little more time on your feet getting strongerand stronger with each mile run!

Recover!One of the biggest things that can happen once you get the marathon bugis wanting to make sure you are fit enough to do your best on race day!With that being said, we can sometimes get too fixated on working ourhardest every day to make sure we are ready to leave all the others in thedust. Unfortunately, without the proper recovery, all that hard work couldend up being for nothing. If your body isn’t getting the proper recovery,you open yourself up to injury and an entire world of running relatedproblems! Allowing yourself some down time and easy days won’t makeyou any less fit but will actually help you get faster! With a proper trainingplan, taking easy days will allow your body to recover and allow for allyour hard work to physically set in. Proper recovery gets you one stepcloser to optimal race day performance!

Trust your training!Finally, trust your abilities! One of the biggest deterrents for peoplerunning a marathon is that they simply can’t do it. Pre-race anxiety or lastminute second thoughts are totally normal! Even the best runners in theworld experience this sensation! Have confidence and know that all thetraining you put in has left you more than ready! Just always rememberyou are out there to run for you, to see what you can do, and to have funwhile doing it! Running is a process that is equally liberating andintimidating, but it is all worth it when you cross the finish line of yourmarathon knowing that you did your best.

Runners in the London Marathon over Tower Bridge Credit: PA