“Running” is no longer a simple form of exercise which merely requires a pair of running shoes and a lot of space to break into a sweat. Recently, running has become a major part of many people’s lives. Running involves milestones to be reached, personal development, strength and endurance training, as well as developing the mental fortitude needed to get out and train regularly.
All of this can help you progress to a level whereby you are confident enough to apply to compete in longer and longer races. Therefore, before you get out and start running, let’s learn more about the knowledge that is essential to those who are new to this increasingly popular sport.
It is for certain that a new runner will not be able to start running a marathon distance (42 kilometers) straight away. Even half marathons (21 kilometers), mini marathons (10 kilometers) or a fun run (5 kilometers) may be extremely difficult for some people in the beginning.
For this reason, choosing a distance suited to you personally is of the utmost importance. Consideration should be given to your safety, exercise capabilities, health condition and the amount of free time you have available for training. No less important is to understand what it will take to keep developing yourself, from starting out by running short distances to running a long distance race successfully.
Do we have to train? Can’t we just get out and start running to improve our technique, fitness and pace? The truth is that whatever the sport, a training schedule will help the participants understand more about themselves, including their levels of commitment and ability to improve their physical condition. In running, this will involve gradually increasing the distance and fitness levels until you are eventually ready to complete your target race distance.
Each week of training should include at least 1-2 rest and recovery days.
When you are truly ready to begin your training run, it is absolutely essential that you do not forget to warm up and cool down, as this will effectively protect your muscles against injury. Whatever form of running you are about to engage in, be it a run around the local park, a training run, or an actual race, warming up is crucial because it stretches your muscles and increases your temperature, signaling to your body that energy is about to be expended on running.
As for the cooling down carried out after a run, this will help the body return to its normal state, and you may begin by slowing down your pace as you approach the end of a run. Then, jog slowly for a short amount of time, followed by some arm swinging alongside slight hip rotations until you are no longer sweating and ready for your shower.
Even soldiers cannot march on an empty stomach. Before you go out running, you should have eaten in order to provide the body with the energy it will need. A main meal should be consumed at least two hours prior to a run, whereas light snacks, such as bananas, bread or crackers, may be eaten up to one hour before running. Additionally, be sure to drink 2-4 deciliters of liquids 30 minutes before your run, and then sip on water often throughout your session, particularly when running long distances, as this will prevent potentially dangerous dehydration.
You’ll notice that there will be aid stations located at various points along a race route which will stock liquids and food items that provide energy, especially in half marathons or full marathons, as these require hours of continuous running to complete. Therefore, ensure that you take on a sufficient amount of liquids to compensate for those lost through sweat, while remembering that the fruit offerings are entirely optional.
Don’t be afraid of hunger pangs. These aid stations will be located throughout the route, and such stations may also have power gels on offer which, while runny, do still have the potential to cause a stitch if consumed in large amounts.
Running at a slower pace does not necessarily mean that your running fitness will be decreased. However, trying to run too quickly in the hope of preparing yourself for your next race can lead to stress and anxiety which results in a lack of enjoyment. Jogging at a slow pace during your recovery days can be an effective form of stress relief. Additionally, if you can have a chat with friends while jogging, exchanging running secrets and knowledge, it may even help you to run faster at that next race you’ve signed up for.
As well as carefully selecting the right training shoes to buy, runners must also take good care of their footwear once they have them at home. Although running shoes can be quite expensive, having a spare pair of shoes to wear in order to prevent wearing out your main pair, or to wear while another pair is being repaired, is something that all runners should keep in mind.
Nevertheless, when a pair of shoes feels like they are losing their shape and form, this signals that it’s time to buy some new ones. This is to ensure that your feet are properly supported and protected against impacts, and that your shoes fit your foot shape.
Due to the fact that running is not limited to the leg muscles, undertaking cross training exercises can help you build and develop those other muscle groups that are used when running and may be getting exercised less regularly. On days when you have some free time, you may want to engage in some other physical activities too, such as cycling, swimming or yoga, as these can all build strength alongside improving flexibility.
With regard to weight training, it not only builds muscle and increases strength, but also improves cardiovascular health, reduces fatigue and prevents running injuries.
With this in mind, attempt to carry out weight training alongside cross training around 2-3 times per week.
Setting yourself realistic targets will help you feel more relaxed about achieving your running goals, such as increasing training load by around 10% a week or being careful to not attempt large jumps in distance or speed. A weekly 10%-increase is appropriate, especially in terms of preventing muscular injury and fatigue that could result from constantly running at high intensity.
Runners must always think positively and maintain hope that their body will hold out and become fitter as they train. Furthermore, when out injured, make sure that you give yourself enough time to recover properly before you start running again. Rushing back from injury increases the risk of exacerbating your old injury, potentially causing the condition to become chronic, meaning that an even longer time period will be required to recover properly.
Just remember that stopping your training to allow your body to recover is not the end of the world, nor will that race you’ve applied for disappear overnight. Even if you miss a race, there’s always another one before long. You’ll enjoy the race much more when you’re in good shape and properly prepared.
M.D., Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, 2007.