Wings for Life World Run Heroes: Training Secrets to Get You to the Next Level
by Wings for Life World Run Team
An annual charity event in which all entry fees and every penny raised go spinal cord research: this is what the Wings for Life World Run is all about. And this year it takes place around the world at 11am UTC on Sunday, May 5th! In preparation for the 2019 edition, four Wings for Life World Run heroes shared their training tips and nutritional advice to get you to the starting line. Meet the inspiring runners:
BLAINE PENNY: “DON’T SKIP THE LONG RUN”
The Canadian is inspired to dig deep in the Wings for Life World Run by his son Evan, who suffers from mitochondrial disease, a debilitating condition that has rendered him quadriplegic with a limited quality of life.
“Everyone is different, but I try to run between 90 and 130 kilometers per week during the build-up to a race like the Wings for Life World Run, as my race goal is about 65 kilometers. So, ideally I run six days a week: three key runs (intervals/hills, tempo, and long run) and three easy to moderate recovery runs. Scale back your distance according to the time you have to train, your fitness level, and your race-day goal.
I cannot stress enough DON’T SKIP THE LONG RUN! It’s the most important run of the week, so rework your schedule to make sure you fit it in. Hill sessions are great to get in shape: pick a hill that is about 4-7% grade and do three to five repeats; each repeat takes 2 to 4 minutes. This builds fitness quickly.”
ARON ANDERSON: “HAVE A BULLETPROOF DIET”
When he was nine years old, Aron lost the ability to walk following cancer of the pelvis but has gone on to become an inspirational wheelchair athlete – including winning the Wings for Life World Run – and motivational speaker.
“For me, variation is the key to staying injury free. So, I spend about two days a week in the gym, and I add other kinds of training, such as surfski kayaking, cross-country skiing, and swimming. There are also bits I don’t enjoy, like intervals; a really hard 1 kilometer with a one-minute rest. It hurts a lot, but I know how much good it does.
My number one tip is DON’T OVERDO IT DURING TRAINING. You don’t want to risk getting injured in the beginning by rushing things. Gradually work your way up towards your weekly mileage goal. Also, success in sports has as much to do with your mind as it does your body. Use these sessions to focus your mind while you strengthen your body.
Diet is also key; I’d say mine is close to a bulletproof diet with lots of healthy fats, vegetables, meat, fish, and some carbs. Since I started eating more healthy fats, I’ve seen improvements in my testosterone levels. I feel healthier and have more energy.”
DOMINIKA STELMACH: “DON’T OVERLOOK YOUR RECOVERY”
Dominika is a Polish marathon runner, who became the first woman to beat her male counterparts in running 68.21 kilometers in the Wings For Life World Run 2017 in Santiago.
“More than anything, you just have to give it a go, as this is an event for absolutely everyone, regardless of your actual running abilities. You don’t have to worry about making it to the finish line, as the Catcher Car will eventually get you. But use the Goal Calculator – it’s a useful tool to estimate the distance you might cover. And there is no such thing as a perfect training plan – I personally love variety and a workout schedule with lots of running and cycling (about three to six hours of spinning each week).
Sometimes, though, LESS IS MORE. I’m not saying you should necessarily skip a training session, but that from time to time we might have to modify our plans to adjust them to reality and our current situation (be that work, a cold, or whatever).
Make sure you don’t underestimate the importance of RECOVERY. After a session, I sometimes go to the sauna, take a brine bath or an ice bath. And let’s not forget about sleep. In my opinion, a good sleep is essential for success.”
VERA NUNES: “IT’S JUST ME AND MY SNEAKERS”
The Portuguese athlete knows just what’s required to rock the Wings for Life World Run; she was crowned the global winner of the event in 2018.
“Sadly, THERE ARE NO MIRACLES IN RUNNING. It takes hard work; you won’t see results without training. In the end it’s just me and my sneakers. Training with discipline and a routine provide me with the foundation I need to be successful. A typical day includes an easy run in the morning and then hard work in the afternoon.
I usually do a marathon in April to prepare for the Wings for Life World Run. Everyone’s distance is different and, if you don’t know how many kilometers you will cover in the run, I recommend just doing as many as you can. Try running twice a week at the pace you want to do on race day.
Nutrition is pretty simple – foods with healthy fats, quality carbohydrates, enough protein, and unrefined sugar. A good diet is key, as well as stretching and massage.”
About the Wings for Life World Run:
The non-profit organization Wings for Life started this unique running event in 2014. Their goal is to find a cure for spinal cord injuries. That’s why 100% of the event entry fees go to this special cause.