Peter Johnson, D.P.T.
Incorporating running into your life is an excellent decision for your health. Many people take this choice to the next level by participating in formal races like 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons and marathons. These runs provide structured goals and health benefits, and they tap you into a close-knit running community.
Proper preparation for any race is important, so here are a few tips to get you started:
Find a training plan that works for you.
Runners have their own preferences for how they run and train. It's important to pursue a personalized approach to training.
However, you need to make sure that you're staying healthy and getting positive results:
- Allow yourself adequate time to train.
You can complete 5K or 10K training in a few months. For first-time marathon runners, training often takes nine months to one year to appropriately and gradually build a tolerance.
- Cross-train to avoid injury.
This means combining weight training; plyometric; and other cardiovascular activities, such as biking, rowing or swimming, with your running routine. For rookie runners, a training program that includes a regimen that combines running and walking can prove to be beneficial. This allows you to gradually build up endurance and strength.
- Improve performance with an active warmup.
Runners may choose to perform five to 10 minutes of walking or light jogging, along with movements that cover the full range of motion, such as lunges, as part of their active warmup.
- Stretch your body.
Static stretching has not been shown to improve performance or reduce injury associated with running, but it can feel good after a run, especially if stretching is already part of your usual routine. You may choose to do this to improve range of motion, as well.
- Help your body recover with adequate rest in between sessions of exercise.
However, consistency is essential, as well, to continue to improve endurance. Novice runners will want to avoid the same exercise multiple days in a row until they build up a tolerance.
- Listen to your body.
As you increase distance running, continue to listen to your body. The idea of "No pain, no gain" is incorrect. While it's common to have muscle soreness after increasing distance, running should not be a painful activity.
Anticipate and prepare.
Here are some planning tips to consider when you run:
- Always prepare for the elements.
It may be cold, hot, rainy or windy on race day. It's helpful to train in different weather and have a plan for all weather conditions. Dressing in layers can help so you can dress appropriately.
- Familiarize yourself with your clothing.
Keep in mind that certain fabrics can cause chafing and other problems. Know what clothing works best for you and your body.
- Stay hydrated, and replenish your body with nutrients.
Drink plenty of water before, during and after a run. For longer runs, have a small snack after about an hour. Refuel your body 30 minutes to an hour after your run by eating protein and carbohydrates.
These are a few tips to get you on the right track to achieve optimal results throughout training and during your race. Running is a great way to stay healthy, and having a plan and goals helps keep you organized and accountable.