Before you tackle your first competitive run, it’s important to train properly. Here are 10 tips to get you off on the right foot:
1. Get the right gear: Head to a running specialty store (preferably later in the day, when your feet are swollen) to get fitted for the perfect pair of shoes for your feet and stride. Shoes should be well-cushioned, offer good stability, and have about an inch (or the size of your thumb) of extra space at the end of your toes. Many running stores offer treadmills for you to take sneakers for a test run. It is important to keep in mind that everyone’s foot and stride is different, so the shoes that work for your friend, may not work for you. Once you have the right sneakers, get the right clothes. Cotton won’t cut it for running. Instead, opt for layers that are made of fabrics that draw sweat away from the skin, such as Dri-Fit and Cool-Max.
2. Stick to a program: Develop a training schedule and be sure to stick to it. You can find training plans at coolingrunning.com. If you are looking for a walk/run approach to training, try halhigdon.com.
3. Consider the season and time of day: Because it’s easier to run in cooler weather, train in a warmer temperature than you’ll be running in on race day. So, for a fall race, start training in the summer. Since your body adapts to the time you generally exercise, train at the same time of day at which the race will take place.
4. Know your course: Train on hills if the race course is hilly; trails if it’s a trail race; etc.
5. Stay hydrated: Drink water during training runs so you’ll be accustomed to drinking and running on race day. If you are running a race longer than a 10K, it may be wise to practice with a sports drink such as Gatorade for extra fuel. It is also important to look at a course map before your race to notice where water will be stationed.
6. Eat right: As you work out more, you’ll need to consume more calories to repair muscle and build strength. Choose complex carbohydrates, proteins, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Practice with different pre-race meals before race day to see what works best for you.
7. Buddy up: Running with a friend or a group will help you stay motivated. Find running clubs near you at coolrunning.com.
8. Stretch: Stretch after every run, when your muscles are warm. It can keep you limber and injury-free for race day. Try this yoga session specifically made to target runner’s muscles that need to be stretched. You can find more yoga videos for runners at yogadownload.com. If you are feeling particularly tight and sore from running, you may want to invest in a foam roller to release muscle tension.
9. Cross train: This may be one of the most important tips, as it will help keep you injury free. Mixing in other exercises such as weight lifting, swimming, yoga, and Pilates will give your running muscles a chance to recover.
10. Rest: This one is also very important. Because your muscles build strength as you rest, it’s important to take days off from training and to get extra sleep.