1. Increase your training gradually
If you’ve always been a cram artist, this is the time to change your ways. It’s not going to cut it to fit all your training into the two weeks before the race. Scale the training up in as many weeks as possible and stay consistent with your plan. Getting a trainer is also a good idea. They can programme your training correctly and include “deload weeks” where necessary.
If you look at the injuries that plague runners, almost all of them have the same risk factor: sudden increases in training. Your body can adapt to new demands, of course, but you have to give it time to adapt. Individual differences also play a part. The golden rule? Go off how you feel. If you feel sore or beaten up, ease up or substitute in some stretching or swimming.
2. Prioritise recovery
Exercise is a stress. Nature has made it necessary to go through some pain, so that you can progress…thanks nature! The key part of this relationship though is the progress. The body will cope with much of what you throw at it, but to progress, this requires some thought.
After you finish training, your recovery begins. This should include a hearty dose of sleep, coupled with good nutrition and recovery activities for the following days. These activities can and should involve stretching and mobility work, which will prevent the muscles from shortening and prevent movement dysfunctions that will hinder future runs. Other useful recovery exercises are swimming, walking and other low impact exercise.
3. Balance your training
Obviously, you should be looking to run as part of your training. However, your training should involve more than just increasingly long runs. Long runs are known as LISS training (Low-Intensity, Steady-State) and this will improve your aerobic fitness. But put in too many kms every week and you’ll find it’s easy to fatigue, get bored and get injured.
The other areas of fitness that you will assist your training are:
- Leg and hip strength
- Core strength
- Ankle and hip stability
- Technique drills
- Breathing mechanics and control
Correctly balancing all of these areas is difficult, but they all feed each other’s progress. For example, increasing leg and hip strength will improve your cardio and vice versa. So by spreading your bets, you’re maximising your fitness return.
4. Prepare for each session like it’s race day
Whenever I’m at the start line for an event, one thought always amuses me. I always look around at the runners frantically stretching their whole bodies and warming-up and realise how little I see this happening out on the streets and in the parks. When people are in training, it doesn’t seem as important to warm-up, and more important to rack up the kms and then get ready for work.
I’ve been coaching for many years so I know how ineffective the “you should stretch more” advice is, but consider this: when you mobilise your joints you create more range, more range changes the capabilities of your body, which changes your running technique. Because of this, I would even say that you should NOT stretch on race day, if you haven’t stretched in your previous runs.
I love the saying “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance” (or Piss-Poor Performance, depending on the coach who yells it). And, honestly, runners put so much thought into preparing for race day. But unfortunately, only preparing on the day isn’t really preparing at all. Work in 10 minutes before you train, every time you train.
This point could fill up an entire article, so I’ll keep it short. Longer runs are in the aerobic limit, meaning that you are using oxygen to fuel your body throughout. Therefore it’s vital that you’re taking in and circulating enough oxygen. Sounds simple, right?
Your breath is like a thermometer for your current intensity. Use it to gauge how hard you’re working. If you’re puffing and panting too hard, it means you’re working higher than the aerobic limit - your technique will start to fail and you’re building up an oxygen debt. This all means that exhaustion is inevitable.
Rhythm is key to both breathing and running. Take Avril Lavigne out for a second (just me?) and listen to your steps. Try to pair them together with your breath, exhaling after 4 steps, inhaling after 4 more steps. This will depend on running style, so change the number of steps accordingly.
… Beyond Running
Starting on Monday 24th July, Centennial HC’s running specialists Kai Brookes and Craig Baker are running strength and conditioning group sessions. These will focus on preparing the body for your event, as well as technique sessions to improve your running speed.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.