How to Prepare for a Marathon: Final Steps before Countdown

Daisy and Elien at the finishline of the NYC Marathon



We are only one day away from the NYC Marathon and, all of a sudden, our lives look completely different compared to the summer months. The past weeks we have increased our km’s up to 38km per single run and to 70 – 90 km a week. That was the scenario up to last week when we started our tapering period. Tapering implies that you reduce your training volume by more than 50% while increasing your carbohydrate intake. Suddenly, our lives were dominated by rest and preparation. From everything to almost nothing…


During the past 4 months, we gradually increased our training volume, through longer distance runs and intense interval trainings. The increase in distance were added on top of our other workout trainings, Les Mills BodyPump, Les Mills BodyAttack, core-stability training. These alone count for 8 hours of weekly training per. The biggest increase we achieved was that of 38km in one single run. Aiming for this distance made us trust that we will be able to run the actual 42,195 km at the NYC Marathon. Simultaneously, by varying our other workouts, from power and core-stability to cardio, we helped prevent ourselves from injuries.

Nevertheless, to increase your training volume up to 70 – 90 km per week, combined with an additional 8 hours of workout does not come without a risk. There is a fine balance between being athletic training and over-training. Both of us are two energetic ladies, so from an energy perspective we enjoyed the increased training volume. Yet, despite the energy, we both received signals from our bodies that we had to remain careful.

One month ago, Elien started to suffer from shin splint. A typical runners’ infliction on the lower shin. On top of that, a few weeks ago, one of her toes doubled in size, making her last trainings rather painful. This forced Elien to balance her trainings in combination with sufficient rest to avoid further irritation.

Daisy, on the other hand, woke up a cool Monday morning, exactly two weeks before the marathon, with a horrible pain in her left foot, which left her barely able to walk.

Luckily, we belong to one of the greatest running clubs in Belgium, Club365 by Marathonman, which gives us access to an expert network in the medical world. Stefaan Engels’ connections are golden.


Jasper Timmerman - Kine Kwenenbos

A first visit to Jasper, from Kine Kwenenbos early September gave us a great insights in how our bodies try to cope with all impacts and imbalances incurred during trainings. We discovered that both Elien and Daisy have different imbalances. Elien’s ribs are higher on the left side compared to the right side, when lying down. Daisy, on the other hand, already knew upfront that her left leg is 1,2 cm shorter compared to her right leg, which causes her left shoulder to be lower than her right one when standing straight. To make up for this imbalance, Daisy wears anti-pronation shoes, as well as custom-made soles. Nonetheless, this still does not fully compensate for the imbalance.

Jasper is particularly special because he is the first one who explained to us that regardless of the correction done by shoes and soles, our body nonetheless still make up via other mechanisms. Jasper confirmed that Elien does not have structural imbalances in her body. For Daisy, the story is a little different. Other than the difference in leg length, Daisy also suffers from a cartilage injury along with partially damaged bone structure in her left ankle. Jasper explained that in Daisy’s case, her body tries to correct for the 1,2cm difference by rotating her left hip joint backward. This causes her back backwards, which pushes her shoulders naturally to come forward.

Holy Jezus! Finally, we got an answer to why it is so much harder for Daisy to push her shoulders backwards when working out. Jasper even explained that our bodies can cope with imbalances in 3 dimensions, sometimes even all simultaneously. Back and forward, left and right, up and down. Of course, ideally, your body doesn’t need to cover up for any imbalance, as in Elien’s case. Yet, if you happen to suffer from a specific pain or imbalance, it is very worthwhile to find out why and how by visiting Jasper, as we did.

That being said, Jasper does more than just talking. He has magic hands (keep reading you’ll find out why!) and… magic needles. The objective of dry needling is simple: to reach and pin deep into the core of our muscles, causing an immense contraction of the muscles, after which they can finally relax. Both Elien and Daisy have done dry needling sessions: Elien in her shoulder and shin, Daisy in her glutes muscles. A lot may be said and written about how much dry needling hurts, but in the end the feeling of discomfort quickly transgresses into one of muscle relaxation.


By the way, curious to hear how Jasper solved Daisy’s horribly painful foot that one cool Monday morning? Here we go… No signs of any injury or infliction had showed in the previous weeks. The day before, Daisy had even managed to run her last 30km LSD run before the NYC marathon. Yet she woke up and completely freaked out. Why now? Why me? Nothing went wrong! Training was going well, yet overnight her foot started to protest. Luckily, and as if by coincidence, she had an appointment with Jasper that very same day. He investigated my foot and the first thing he said was: "Daisy don’t worry, I think I can fix this".

Daisy looked at him with an "I don’t believe you" expression and told him to do whatever needed to get her walking normal again. The exact same minute she regretted having said that. The way Jasper pushed, pulled, moved, and manipulated her foot was more painful than any needle can ever be. It will probably be the one physiotherapy session in which, for once she was completely silent… because of the horrible pain. Minutes passed by, every one of which seemed to be more painful than the one before. Then, suddenly, Jasper asked her to get of the table and stand up.

Scared to death, Daisy got off the table on her right foot, and carefully put her left foot on the floor, followed by putting some bodyweight on it. That moment…. MAGIC! All the pain, all 100% of it, was gone. Jasper asked her to get on a treadmill, she had to walk with her feet straight, toes inwards and outwards, on her toes, on her heels, uphill... the pain was all gone, just like magic, due to Jasper’s magic hands. The only pain left, was just some awkward pressure in her foot.

Afterwards, Jasper explained to her that she was lucky nonetheless. He had been able to fix her foot because it had not been an inflammation but because of a small bone that had to endure much more forces and could only slightly move.


The last week of our training, we reduced our workouts by 50%. This is essential to allow your body to recover and prepare for the big day. After every run, our bodies adapt and grow stronger. You do not only build endurance and power, you also slightly damage your muscles. By giving your body enough time to recover, you also allow your muscles to grow stronger. The result being a stronger and fitter you on race day! Take this period of rest seriously and you will become a healthier runner.

We did not only reduce the running volume, but we also decreased our training intensity. We continued teaching our weekly 8h Les Mills BodyPump, Les Mills BodyAttack, and Core-Stability workouts, but we decreased the training intensity. In the BodyPump class, we reduced weights on our barbell, sticking with the starters’ weight or slightly above. In the BodyAttack class, we took the low impact options. Especially BodyAttack is an amazing workout that allows you to workout at any intensity level. In the core-stability workouts, we reduced the tempo and focussed on technique.

An additional benefit from reducing training volume is that you free up time in your agenda! We got a new haircut, went for a relaxing evening at the sauna, and as we are traveling to New York to run our marathon, we will – of course – do some shopping.


Yet, it is not because you are running less and training at a lower intensity that you should similarly reduce your energy intake. Nothing is less true. Your body needs to recover from the intense training period and get ready for race day. We even need extra energy to charge our batteries to the fullest. Technically, it means that one should maximize his/her glycogen storage of their muscles and liver. Practically, this means that one should increase their energy intake by consuming more carbohydrates.

We follow the below rules as we plan to run over 4h

  • 7 to 4 days before race day: 6 – 8 gram carbohydrates (CH) / kg bodyweight (BW) / day

  • 3 days before race day: 8 – 10 gram CH / kg BW / day

  • 1 to 2 days before race day: 10 – 12 gram CH / kg BW / day

In addition, we remove fibres as much as possible from our diet. This means we switch wholegrain bread, cereals pasta and rice to refined white bread, Choco Krispies, Rice Krispies, Coco pops, white pasta and rice… We eat less vegetables and, specifically avoid cabbage, sprouts, asparagus,…

And last but not least… we pay additional attention to hydration. To take in at least 10 grams of CH / kg BW / day, implies consuming over 600g carbohydrates a day. One of the tricks to reach that target, is to replace water by isotonic sports drinks.

We are READY and SET to GO!

Nothing can stop us any more from reaching the finish line!

With a big thanks to Jasper from Kiné Kwenenbos to help us stay more or less injury-free.

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