Sunday, August 16, 2009

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Running

Wether you are training for your first race, running for fun or running to lose weight there are ten things that every runner should know to get the most out of your workout and to effectively improve.

1. Good Shoes. I cannot stress enough how much getting professionally fitted at an actual running store cannot only improve your running but will also reduce your risk of injury. Most runners who have not been professionally fit, especially beginning runners, are wearing ineffective shoes for their feet. Proper shoes should give adequate support for any possible weaknesses or imbalances in the feet. Also, keep in mind that a running shoe should be snug (not tight) at the heel and mid-foot but roomy at the forefoot and toes to allow for expansion during running. In fact, most runners may find that their running shoes are a half-size larger than their street shoes. Further, a runner should replace running shoes often, probably every 300-500 miles. If you are getting sore when you weren’t previously, your shoes could be the culprit. Visit your local running store and get fitted to see if that will solve your problem.

2. Setting Goals. Goals are a great way to improve running. Goals can be set in various areas: think distance, time, upcoming races, and days spent running. It is good to keep in mind short-term and long-term practical goals. A beginning runner may not want to set a goal to run a 5K by next weekend if they have yet to run a mile but, with some hard work, a 5K can be accomplished within a couple months. A great goal for beginning runners would be to stick to their running schedule, whatever it may be.

3. Focus on Distance or Time. It is hard to say you are going for an hour run one day and the next day to concentrate on running 5 miles, especially for a beginning runner. It is far easier to focus on either distance or time. It is great to track both, but focus on one for planning purposes. A beginning runner should start with something like: run two minutes, walk one minute (do this ten times) or run ¼ mile, walk ⅛ mile (do this eight times). I prefer distance because my goals have to do with running races for distance, not time.

4. Slowly Increase Distance. To advance your workout, a good rule of thumb is to increase your distance by 10% every week. So, if I run a total of five miles in week one, the following week I would target my total weekly distance to be 5.5 miles. This 10% increase dramatically decreases the chances of injuring yourself while also allowing your body to fully adapt to the distance. If 10% seems too small, consider if you are running a total of 50 miles a week and you increase by 10% the next week, that is adding 5 more miles!

5. Resting. Rest days are one of my highest priorities for runners. Rest days allow your body to renew for your next day of running. One to two rest days every week will be adequate for preventing injuries and renewing energy. According to Runners World Online , “A day off every seven to 14 days restocks glycogen stores, builds strength, and reduces fatigue.” Without sufficient recovery time your body will not be able adapt to long-term running.

6. Cross-Training & Walking. Cross-training can be done in many different ways. Some runners like to participate in yoga or weightlifting focusing on core, increasing power in legs and getting a little arm workout in. Cross-training prevents muscle memory and allows for a better, more well-rounded workout for the whole body. Some runners do not like to walk but walking is also a great exercise in cross-training. It works some different muscles than running and less stress on the body. If rest days are totally out of the question for you, consider adding walking instead.

7. At Least Two Runs Every Week. Some runners are taking part in running only twice a week when training, wether you decide to do this alone or with other runs, you’ll want to add one easy run and one distance run each week. Your easy run should be at a milage you feel comfortable with and a speed that is easy for you to maintain. Think of your easy run as your “back-roads drive” while your distance run is a “road trip.” Your distance run should be increased weekly and your goal should always be to finish. This is what will prepare you for the distance at upcoming races.

8. Hill/Incline Training. Running on an incline, either on a treadmill or on hills, can dramatically improve your running. Incline training increases leg strength, improves aerobic capacity and improves your body’s oxygen use. Try tacking short incline training to your running schedule, either by sprints at the end of an easy run or in as short run during the week. Just think of how easy flat course runs will seem after training on a hill.

9. Speed Work. Speed play, or fartleks in Swedish, is a method to increase speed and increase running efficiency. As with incline training, you can add some speed play at the end of an easy run or you can add a short fartlek run to your weekly training plan. Speed play can be accomplished by switching back and forth between sprinting (or any faster-than-normal pace) and your normal pace focusing on distance or time. On the treadmill, try jogging for two minutes and then running at a fast pace for one minute and repeat for a total of 20 minutes. On the street, do the same back and forth but use telephone poles, mailboxes or other landmarks as your transition points.

10. Above all, don’t push yourself too hard. If the training is too rigorous, consider scaling it back a bit. Running should be something to look forward to. If every morning you are waking up dreading your run or you have any lasting pain, listen to your body and reconsider your running routine. It’s all up to you so make it fun and make it yours!

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