3 May 2013
With summer on the way, race season is in full swing. If you’re looking to get in on the action, you need to start training as soon as possible to build your endurance up in time for race day. Beginners are advised to stick to five or ten kilometre runs until weekly mileage levels fall within the range of 20 to 25, while intermediate runners are in a position to tackle half or full marathons. Whatever your goal, here’s how to get started.
Settle on a programme
First, make sure you have enough time to commit to training. Plan to run five days a week, whichever suits your schedule best.
Next, go online or on the Google Play store to find a running programme that works for you. Smartphone apps like MapMyRun, RunKeeper, Nike+, and Endomondo make tracking your runs a breeze, so you always have a clear idea of how far along you are in your training programme. Some even offer feedback and analysis to make sure you’re keeping a steady pace on the pavement.
Get the right gear
A great running kit is essential for endurance runners. After all, you’ll be spending hours running, which is taxing enough in itself - there’s no need to add uncomfortable clothes and blistered feet in to the mix. Get the right pair of running shoes to suit your gait, whether you pronate (rolling your feet inward while running), underpronate (roll them outward) or have a neutral footfall. High arches will require a different type of shoe. Go to a licensed running shop where a trained professional will analyse your gait and determine which shoe’s best for you. Well made shoes can be expensive, but bear in mind you’re paying for technology - a quality shoe will maximise comfort and support while running, as well as prevent blistering. They’re worth the investment.
In addition, get some high visibility clothing to keep you safe on evening jogs. Running tights made with wicking fabric will keep you cool and cosy. Female runners will need to purchase a well-fitting sports bra.
Keep the climate in mind when choosing running gear. Prepare for chilly, rainy days with an insulated jacket and thick, ankle-length tights.
Mentally prepare yourself
This is a step many runners skip, when in fact, it’s one of the most important. Practice your breathing, making sure it’s slow and steady. Try to inhale through two paces, and out for the next two. While you’re running, focus on a point ahead of you, but not too far ahead, or you might feel like you’re running in place. Envision yourself speeding through the trail. Focus on your form but let your thoughts transcend the race track. Be prepared to stave off the negative mental voice that’ll inevitably tell you to quit. Suffering is a test of willpower and endurance - once you push past it, you have the runner’s high to look forward to.
Effective mental preparation involves a lot of motivational mantras and self pep talks. Find one that works for you and stick with it. Look to running champions like Joan Benoit Samuelson for inspiration.
Diet is essential during training. Runners get most of their energy from carbohydrates, so before you head out for a long jog, have a granola bar or a banana to keep you energised. You might even want to bring something along with you, depending on the length of your run. Anything longer than an hour will require a refuel. Energy gel packets are particularly useful for endurance runners.
Additionally, make sure you drink plenty of water. There’s nothing like a good, long run to completely dehydrate you. Bring a water bottle along for the journey, and drink at least eight glasses of water a day to keep your system well-hydrated.
Fartlek training (Swedish for ‘speed play’) is key to achieving your personal best time. While you’re running, try and speed up your pace for 30 second intervals, then slow down for a steady pace for 30 seconds or more, however long you need to recover. Alternatively, you can focus on something ahead of you, like a lamp post or road sign, and try and sprint toward it. This kind of speedwork is flexible, less demanding than interval training, and will help you adjust to a faster pace in a fun, relaxed way.
Should the worst happen and you suffer an injury during training, rest easy knowing there are effective treatments available that’ll get you back on the road in no time. Joint pain treatment can help reduce inflammation and sharp pains in the knees, a common problem for runners. If you notice a dull ache developing in your knees, take a couple days off. Don’t feel guilty - you need it. When you start training again, try to avoid concrete paths and opt for trail runs instead, as they’re easier on joints.
Throughout training, pay attention to how your body feels and take a break when necessary. Prioritise your health above mileage, and remember that much-needed rest and relaxation is one of the most effective ways to boost performance.
Posted by Jeanette Royston
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