Jedi Checklist Before Training For Your Next Race
Posted on 16 Sep, 2014
So you're signed up for a race, a new distance maybe. The first instinct is to jump right into it, to rack up as many miles as you can before the event. Nope, nothing wrong with that. But we think there are some things you could do to get more out of your training.
1. Simulate Your Race Route
Do some research on your race route and condition your body and mind accordingly. If there is a killer slope in the event you're signed up for, find a slope that is steeper and longer that you can train on. So come race day, when you are face-to-face with that steep incline, you can smile and say, "I own you."
2. Pace Out Your Training
It is good when we launch ourselves into things with a generous amount of enthusiasm, as long as we don't confuse our body's target condition with its current condition.
When attempting a new, longer distance, start with what feels comfortable. Each week, increase your mileage, by no more than 10 percent.
Also, alternate your easy and hard training sessions. An easy session would usually involve a short, slow run, or cross-training. "Hard" normally involves a long run, tempo run or intervals.
3. Don't Just Warm Up. Warm Down
To not pull, sprain, tear or break any of the good stuff the good Lord gave you, you should limber up before any physical activity. One routine that often gets overlooked, however, is the warm down. This is why it is important.
During exercise, your heart beats harder and faster to supply blood to the working muscles. When the oxygen, nutrients and leftover Kit Kat are used up, your muscles push the blood back to the heart to get re-oxygenated and re-nourished. A perfect blueprint to a beautiful system unless we stop too abruptly.
Two things usually happen right after you've had a killer workout; you congratulate yourself on a job well done, and you start calculating the amount of chocolate cake you've earned. And you forget to warm down.
At the end of physical activity, the muscles stops dialing in for more fuel. The heart slows and with it the force that pushes blood and waste products like lactic acids from the muscles. This process is often referred to as "blood pooling" and can cause swelling and pain.
A proper warm down keeps your blood circulating. This flushes your muscles of waste products, and brings fresh oxygen and nutrients to your muscles for rejuvenation.
4. Know The Difference Between Next-Day Soreness And Injury
Ever wake up feeling like you just part-timed as a piñata at a children's party? This usually happens after a heavy workout following a long layoff from physical activity.
But how do you tell if you've injured yourself, or if you're just sore?
Well, there are no black and white rules on this, but sore is when you feel a dull ache when you do mundane tasks like putting on your shirt or climbing out of bed. Injured is when you experience a sharp pain that restricts a particular range of motion and causes bad language to leave your mouth.
In an attempt to smash the running goals we've set for ourselves, we sometimes forget to listen to what our body is telling us. If something hurts, give it time to heal. Take a couple days off, and then ease back into your training. Remember, it's always better to be out for a few days, than to be ruled out for a season.
5. Establish A Diet That Works For You
Ask the internet what you should eat leading up to a race and you will probably get a laundry list that looks like this: foods packed with quality carbohydrates, minerals and antioxidants, vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats... the list goes on.
An important thing to keep in mind, however, is that we all process food differently. Leading up to a race, it is crucial that we discover what foods work best for us. This is so that on race day, we can be assured our body will not reject our pre-race meal and cause us problems.
6. Sleep Like A Champion
Just as athletes need more calories than most people when they're in training, they need more sleep, too. Sleep is the time when your body repairs itself. If you don't get enough sleep, you won't perform well.
As race day nears, you may also want to adjust your sleeping and waking times to suit the time of your race. As a runner, you've probably learned that no race ever begins at a sane hour.
7. The Best Training For Running Is Running (But Not All The Time)
From the outside, running looks like a pretty low-risk sport. Just take one step, and repeat. No opponent to take on. No body contact with others. No fancy ninja moves to execute. But still, millions of runners get injured each year, mostly through the wear of repetition.
In your training, it is best to switch things up; with cross training and weight training. Engaging in low impact activities like biking and swimming does wonders for working other muscle groups and improving your cardio. And yoga is great for flexibility, balance and strengthening your core.
Always come ready to play. The great Dr George Sheehan made this statement, "Fitness has to be fun. Play is the process. Fitness is merely the product."
Smile as much as you can while running. It helps you stay loose, which is very important for good running form. When you run, don't clench your fists in a white-knuckle grip and don't bunch up your shoulders close to your ears. Be water. Or even better, be the wind.
Some Awesome Training Manuals For Runners
by John Bingham
by Peter Magill
by Joanna Sayago Golub