Prior to starting on any new fitness program, seek a Doctor or health professional’s advice. Ensure that the goals you set are challenging, but not too far out of reach. Find an activity that you enjoy, whether it be a personal training one on one session or group session, otherwise your fitness commitment will be short-lived. Listen to your body and adjust your intake of nutrients to cater for the new activity. Ask any likeminded individuals for advice to find out what works best for you. Congratulate yourself on a weekly/fortnightly basis with small rewards; this will keep you focussed towards your ultimate goal.
A good mental training tip when transitioning from walking to running is to include a training session of continued slow running (no matter how fast, just keep running). This assists your mental preparation in that you practise knowing you can keep running, thus training yourself to eventually not needing to walk in an event. Of course, it is always essential to listen to your body, and walk if you have to, as everyone’s fitness levels and body make-ups are vastly different. This tip also assists in improving your speed and building endurance.
Ensure that your running/walking shoes are comfortable and well fitted, seeing a Podiatrist or Sports Shoe Specialist to get correctly fitted with the right type of shoe is a great idea. Shoes may also need to be replaced if they are used frequently or are more than a couple of years old. It is worth paying a little extra for the correct exercise shoe, as they may save you a lot of money on injury treatments in the long term.
Adequate sleep is crucial for recovery and it is the best way to get rid of nagging symptoms of fatigue or the onset of a niggly injury. It is recommended that athletes get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Short naps can also complement training sessions, although too much daytime sleep can upset night time sleep routines. Although it is difficult to fit training schedules around work, kids and other commitments, always ensure that you include relaxation into your training program to get the maximum benefit of each training session.
Don’t despair if you have a setback in your training for whatever reason, eg sickness, injury, life’s demands – all is not lost. For breaks of up to a week, simply resume training as before. If you have a break of one to three weeks, ease back into your training for the first week, then progress up to 75% of your regular training in the next week, then based on how you are feeling, resume normal training in the third week. It must be stressed that this is a general rule and a health professional may need to be consulted before returning to an major exercise regime.
A balanced diet is a crucial part of anyone’s lifestyle, but even more so if you want to increase your exercise program and get the optimum performance from your body. Being aware of any food allergies is important and may need to be investigated to discover what does/does not work for you. Prior to a training session, some runners like to have a small snack (museli bar/cup of tea) half an hour to an hour before they commence training, whilst others prefer to not have anything to eat until afterwards. If you fatigue early in the run, it may be that you do need to have a small snack and/or carry some portable nutrition so that you can refuel on the run. There are lots of sports supplements, eg sports drinks, energy bars, concentrated gels, gu’s etc guaranteed to do all sorts of things, but check out their ingredients before making a decision. Some can be quite expensive, so it’s best to seek expert advice or ask other experienced runners. Once again, as everyone is individual in their needs, nutrition requirements what work for one, may not necessarily work for you, so be prepared to trial a few options. It is a good idea to test these supplements in training, so come race day, there should be no reactive surprises or tummy upsets, etc. To aid recovery and retain the benefit of your training session, it is recommended that within half an hour, you should replace fluids and carbohydrates, eg fruit, sports drink, specialised nutrition bar, etc. By maintaining a good balance with food, exercise and rest, your training sessions will become more enjoyable when positive improvements/results are gained.
If you can’t get out of the house for that training run because of adverse weather conditions, kids, etc., try doing some static stretching, floor exercises and/or some deep breathing yoga style positions, which will assist your strength, flexibility and mental training. Be careful not to overstretch – hold stretches firmly, but comfortably for approx 20 seconds on both sides, release, then repeat. Ensure that when doing any exercises, be aware that you don’t cause an imbalance by overdoing a particular body part, eg too many crunches, situps could cause a weakness in your back, therefore, ensure you work the relevant opposing muscles. Exercises can be done in sets of three, and depending on your stength will depend on how many repetitions you can do. Always maintain good posture and if anything hurts….stop! Doing variations to your usual training sessions can add interest and be a positive to your usual running program.
Some exercise examples to try:
- Abdominal/core (front and side planks, situps, crunches, leg raises)
- Running up and down steps
- Hopping on one foot (then the other)
- Step forwards/lunges
- Bicep/tricep curls (use full water bottles if you don’t have proper weights)
- Leg squats (can be done against the wall)
- Calf raises (stand on tiptoes on the edge of a step, raise and lower body using toes)
- Standing fold forwards to touch toes (bend from hips)
- Shoulder stretch (clasp hands behind back, then pull shoulders back, try to raise hands up at the same time)
Ensure that your running/walking shoes are comfortable and well fitted. Enlisting the advice of a Podiatrist or running shoe specialist to get the correctly fitted shoes will benefit you in the long term and is a worthy expense. Once you begin a regular running program, shoes may need to be replaced more frequently depending on how many kilometres you have been doing and on what terrain you may be training on. It is worth paying a little extra for the correct exercise shoe, as it may save you a lot of money on injury treatments in the long term, as well as less running downtime.
Many new and experienced runners find it beneficial to train with a friend or an organised running group, especially if they find it hard to stay motivated to keep training towards their goal. Mackay Road Runners and the Mackay Marina Run have websites where people can be directed to find a training group to suit. Don’t despair if you have a setback in your training for whatever reason, eg sickness, injury, life’s demands – all is not lost, try to stay positive, ease back into your training, only stepping it up when you feel ready, otherwise this may lead to injury and a further setback. However, it is crucial to be aware of how your body reacts to the additional training, so be aware of how you feel whilst running and also in the recovery stages in the next day or two.
Before a big race
At this point in your training, part of your race preparation should include worthy consideration of what you will wear on race day. Wearing a new pair of running shoes / socks / shorts / singlet / undies / sunglasses / head gear / deodorants / sunscreen, etc.. could cause havoc to your mental and physical state if they are not ‘tested’ in training prior to the event. For example, if you wear a brand new pair of shoes, even if they are the same brand that you usually wear, it is best to have a few runs in them prior to the big day. Be aware of clothes’ labels / tags, stitching, elastics and even external embroidery, as this could cause chaffing and subsequently a lot of pain! It might sound silly, but it may be beneficial to do a training session in the rain to see how your gear holds up, just in case it is raining on race day, at least you may have some idea what to expect and how to handle the situation.
As your training increases in distance and intensity, be mindful of any niggly injuries that could creep up on you. Be aware of these signs whilst training and in your recovery phase. Ensure that you take the time to warm up and stretch appropriate areas before and after your training sessions. Everyone has a different approach to stretching, ie how long to hold a stretch for, what muscle groups need attention, etc…. Stretching after working out can reduce muscle soreness, so hold each stretch for a little bit longer. Make sure that you stretch all the muscle groups otherwise this could cause an imbalance. Don’t bounce too vigorously or be too forceful, as you want to be able to feel the stretch in your muscle, but it shouldn’t be painful. Some basic good stretch examples are:
- Hamstring Stretch – lean forward with one leg outstretched and the other leg bent, keep your back straight. Bend from the hip, and keep your toe pointed up on the straight leg so as not to hurt your lower back (hold 15-20 seconds for each leg)
- Quad Stretch – standing on one leg, knee unlocked, pick up your other foot and lean forward like Superman with one arm in front of you, keep hips aligned and hold 15-20 seconds, swap legs.
- Glute Stretch – stand on one leg and pull the other foot up to your chest. Bend the other leg to increase the stretch (hold 15-20 seconds)
A balanced diet is a crucial part of anyone’s lifestyle, but even more so if you are increasing your exercise program. If you wish to seek optimum performance from your body, it is important to fuel and refuel correctly prior to and after exercise. All runners’ needs vary; therefore, it is best to be aware of any food allergies and/or vitamin deficiencies that you could have. If you do need to take supplements, it is best to test them out in training, so come race day, there should be no reactive surprises or tummy upsets. To aid recovery and retain the benefit of your training session, it is recommended that within half an hour, you should replace fluids and carbohydrates, eg water, fruit, sports drink, specialised nutrition bar, etc. By maintaining a good balance with food, exercise and rest, your training sessions will become more enjoyable when positive improvements/results are gained.
With only a few weeks to go until race day be aware of how your body is feeling. If the extra training is leaving you tired/fatigued, hard to find motivation, experiencing niggly injuries that won’t go away, it may be an opportune time to have a couple of days off training, maybe even seek assistance from a therapist, ie masseuse, physio, etc…. to have these issues sorted before they escalate. One of the benefits of training with others is to talk about such things, as they may be experiencing the same problems. On the other side of the coin, if you are feeling great, running and training well, keep it going, but be careful not to overdo it. It is easy to get caught up in doing more kilometres too early in your training, especially if you are in a group situation, so carefully monitor your sessions and recoveries. All athletes, whatever age or ability, should take adequate fluids and energy foods pre and post training to assist energy levels. If you intend on using an energy drink/food on race day, you must ‘test’ it in training, so there are no surprises come race day. Even with the cooler weather, it would appear that you don’t sweat as much, it is imperative that fluids are an important part of your training schedule.
The ideal week of training should include a longer run to build up endurance, a hilly run to improve strength, a scenic or social run that injects some fun into your routine and if you want to run faster, include a speed workout. The variety of training allows you to run every other day which gives your knees, feet, or hips time to heal if there are any weak links. A rest day in between your running day allows essential recovery processes to occur, especially if you are a beginner or returning from injury. It’s when you’re not running that your body rebuilds and gets stronger. Many runners find it difficult to take a rest break, especially when they’re running well, however after a while, this could compromise your recovery and lead to injuries. Enjoy your downtime – you’ve earned it. Whilst you don’t have to exert yourself on a non-running day, doing some form of gentle activity, ie water running, walking, bike riding will energise your mind and burn fat. To boost your motivation, seek alternate routes, swap morning runs to afternoon runs and vice versa, training partner/groups/go it alone, etc…
Your race goal is only days away and you’re getting pretty excited or you’re getting very worried….”have I trained enough?”……”that niggle in my knee, glute, foot, back, etc…is still there, hope it goes away or am I imagining it?”…..”little Johnny/Jenny has been doing lots of kms and looks great, maybe I should add more kms in the last week so I’m fitter?” ……etc…etc….. Mental training is regarded as just as important as the physical side of training. It is normal to get nervous, even the most experienced runners suffer from ‘butterflies’. Race day, whether it’s your first or your hundredth, will always have its personal challenges. Each race whatever the experience, will be a learning curve, so take all you can from it and use it to your advantage. You know you have done as much as you can to achieve your goals, so think about what you have done and not what you haven’t. However, you must also be honest with yourself…..if you are injured or sick…..it is imperative that you give yourself time to rest/heal before subjecting your body to an endurance event.
Competitors who have not nominated can still do so, online until Friday 1st June and up to 5pm Saturday 2nd June at the Mackay Surf Club. To secure your Event T-shirt, entries need to be lodged ASAP. However, if you have already nominated, runners need to collect their Race Kit, including their race number/timing chip from 12pm to 5pm on Saturday 2nd June at the Mackay Surf Club from the friendly Mackay Road Runners volunteers. This is also an opportune time to ask any last minute questions, ie what time to arrive, where to park, course map, etc. In this last week, you should also be tapering your training schedule so that you feel refreshed and ready to run on Sunday. This includes getting enough sleep and eating appropriately. Ensure that you have tested any race drinks, supplements, race gear, etc. If you have any niggly injuries or feeling a bit unwell, it is imperative that you seek advice from a health professional before you get to the start line.
NOTE TO SELF: Enjoy -you’ve trained hard; congratulate yourself whatever the outcome; thank the sponsors and volunteers; smile for the cameras; say hi to the many musicians, water stop attendants, spectators and supporters – it has been a massive job from the Mackay Road Runners and the local branch of the Leukaemia Foundation to stage such an event for everyone to HAVE FUN and most importantly raise much need funds for the LEUKAEMIA FOUNDATION!