If you are taking on a fun run this summer, then firstly, congratulations – what a great thing you are doing for yourself, and of course for the charity or organisation you are supporting. Now, whilst it is good to challenge yourself, you certainly don’t want to cause yourself any pain or injury. So here are some tips for training for your event.
As the on-site medical event team for all the Race for Life events throughout the Midlands – and taking on a run or five over the last few years, we know first-hand the best approach to preparation, and some tips for smashing the race but most of all having fun. The most common issues and injuries we see at fun runs, marathons and fitness events are: dehydration, heatstroke and ankle and foot injuries, so make sure you prepare and plan.
Consistency is key
Of course, your training plan and training approach needs to be based on your current fitness levels and experience, but if this is your first time, then you should start at least 2-3 months in advance and most importantly be consistent with your training. Start slowly then gradually build up to what feels comfortable, but be sure to add in some small challenges to push yourself. It takes at least 8 weeks to become a competent runner, so plan your calendar in advance and allocate regular training slots throughout the week (around 3-4 times per week) and keep to those times. The most important thing is to make each run count, even if you just start off with 1km, then you can build up the duration and the intensity. Be aware that many of these runs are done in local parks and some areas are uneven surfaces, this is something we see often – the ground dips and ankles get sprained and twisted, so practice on uneven surfaces too, but if you need to walk in these areas. Trying to do too much in a short space of time may just get you across the finishing line, however you increase your risk of injury and recovery time.
Invest in appropriate running gear
Get good running shoes – this is a deal breaker, as good shoes will help protect you from injury. However, make sure that they are ones that are “broken in”, so run in them daily throughout training, so that they start to work with your feet, pace and style. Never run in brand new trainers. Also, ladies, a supportive bra is an absolute must, as without it can be quite painful – we don’t want any black eyes. Also, the clothes you wear must be comfortable and not restrictive – make sure you do a couple of trial runs to check for labels, straps or any other potential wardrobe malfunctions that could cause you any issues. If you are dressing up in fancy dress, then again do a trial run (we promise no one will laugh), as you certainly don’t want to have something digging in, irritating you or restricting movement on the big day. Also, for any organised run you will need to attach your run number to your outfit, so again make sure you trial safety pins, or magnets and stickers and how they will fit to your outfit, and more importantly stay in place.
Warm up and cool down
Make sure you always warm up and stretch before a run – you can walk for 3-5 minutes and do some 100-metre strides, although you should avoid static stretches. It may seem unnecessary or additional time to spend that you just don’t have, however it will help to ease those muscles in and out of exercise and protect you from doing any serious damage, especially if you are a beginner.
Performing a cool down aids with your bodies transition from being active to resting. If you simply stop and lay or sit down after a run, then you abruptly halt what your body was doing during the run, also your heart rate can suddenly drop and you increase your risk of fainting. To cool down you could walk for 3-5 minutes and then do 5-10 minutes of total body stretches, this will help your heart rate and breathing get back to normal.
In the lead up to the run, make sure you get lots of protein for energy, and you should try to eat a snack around half an hour before your run – a banana is a good easy option. It may be a good idea to have a small energy snack with you on the run, especially if it’s a long distance.
Drink plenty of water before, during and after the run – drink a couple of glasses of water around 2-3 hours before the race, then another glass just before the run starts.
You will lose around 100 calories for each mile you run, so make sure you replenish your body after the run, and no that doesn’t mean heading to the nearest takeaway. A good snack to have straight after a run, is a banana as they will help to restore your carbohydrate balance. A little later, high-glycaemic index foods like potatoes, pasta, bread and rice (all the good stuff) paired with some protein such as chicken or salmon, will be great options for refuelling muscles.
Life is busy and often we can forget about looking after ourselves but you must make it a priority.
If you need some support or help to get you in the training mood, then perhaps join a casual running group, sign up with a friend or do it for a charity to inspire you to get out and run, even when it’s cold and damp and bed seems like a better option. Find what you love about running, is it getting fit, doing something for a good cause, just escaping and being able to switch off for an hour – whatever it is use that as your motivation to keep going. Remember the reason why you signed up to get you through, even on the days where life makes it hard.
Planning in advance, training appropriately and being consistent, plus focusing on your goal for signing up will all make the process before, during and after a much easier one. Good luck.