Getting Race-Ready: A Runner’s Guide
By Pierce Adams
As we head into better weather, training for a race – be it personal, a Virtual 5k or a summer marathon, now is a great time to start a training regimen.
Now more than ever, our patients who are training for a race often ask us what they need to know to stay healthy through the course of their training regimen and on through race day.
So, we figured it was high time we shared our pro tips from Pierce Adams, an expert physical therapist and personal trainer here at BreakThrough.
Whether you’re running for the first time, occasionally hit the treadmill for the sake of staying in shape, or are an avid runner working hard to improve your time, these tips should help you stay on track so you’re able to hit the ground running on race day. Pun intended.
Some advice from Pierce:
“Maintaining your motivation is critical to sustaining your running habit. All our worlds have been turned upside down in 2020 and what lies ahead is a lot of uncertainty. Life probably doesn’t feel as structured as it did at the start of the new year and you’re finding it hard to run and exercise in your always changing schedule. These are the times where staying focused on your personal health and fitness goals become ultra-important because we all know how hard it is to stay motivated when you don’t feel like you have structure and every day brings new life challenges.”
EASE INTO A ROUTINE
Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or a first time 5K-er, it’s important to ease into it. Give your body time to react and adjust! Gradually increase your distance. Then, once you’ve got the distance down, you can work on increasing your speed.
TAKE OFF EARLY
Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus outbreak, you might be worried about running into other people while out and about. In order to avoid that mishap, we suggest taking off early to avoid other runners on the trail. If that’s not an option for you, you might want to bring a mask along.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
It can take your muscles time to adjust to the stress of running. Take a day or two off if you need it. It’s important to try to hit training program targets before race day, but don’t ignore warning signs and injure yourself. Recovery isn’t a break from training – it’s part of it. If you can’t bring yourself to take a day off altogether, cross-train on the AlterG, elliptical, or bike to give your legs a break.
FIND THE CORRECT COURSE
If you’re running a virtual race, you’ll need to map out your course ahead of time. On the plus side, you can make the course fit your needs! You can do this by choosing a loop to run continuously, running on the treadmill, or by using a GPS running device to map out the race yourself. Luckily, the options are endless for a virtual race!
BREAK IN YOUR SHOES
Wearing your race-day shoes a week or two before the race will give you time to break them in, helping you avoid blisters. Don’t change it up too much from your normal shoe – different shoes can cause changes in your running style that can result in unexpected pain.
PREP FOR RACE DAY
Make sure you are hydrating well for several days leading up to the race, including the night before and the morning of. A few hours before the start of the race, eat a simple, high-carb breakfast, like a bagel or oatmeal.
DON’T LET ADRENALINE TAKE OVER
Your energy levels are bound to be high on race day but don’t let it throw you off. Many runners get out of the gate too quickly – make sure you are sticking to your planned pace and not letting adrenaline take the lead.
STRATEGIES FOR PREVENTING AN INJURY
Now that you’ve got the tips down, what do you do to prevent or heal an injury?
In addition to helping you recover from running injuries, a physical therapist can also teach you how to safely train by advising you on proper form, training methods, strategies for preventing injury, and proper shoe selection. Seeing a physical therapist to evaluate your functional mobility and movement patterns can help you become a stronger, smarter runner that’s less prone to injury.
Starting a running regimen can often reveal inefficiencies or misalignments in the body. Improper foot alignment can cause hip pain, improper hip alignment can cause knee pain, and so on and so forth. A physical therapist can assess your gait and help you adjust your running technique, reducing your risk of injury before it occurs.
Some of the most common injuries runners experience include hip pain, knee pain, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, foot pain, and stress fractures. If you’re suffering from pain in any of these places, your physical therapist can help determine the cause of the problem and recommend effective cross-training exercises to provide the healing your body needs.
BONUS TIPS FROM PIERCE
Looking for even more ways to enhance your running regimen? Look no further! Here are Pierce’s top five motivational tips for maintaining your running habit.
- Run on Mondays! This could be a great way to start your week. Completing a run or exercising on a Monday will help you set the tone for the week. When you start the week with a run your starting the week the exact way you want the rest of the week to go. Getting a run in on the first day of the week puts you in a great position to finish the week having completed several runs.
- Commit to a race. Set an end goal. Sometimes this is all we need to find some motivation. Sign up for a race and pay the registration fee so you at least have some skin in the game. Look for a race that has a reward you’ll appreciate, whether it’s a route with beautiful view, a fun atmosphere(live music, color run, or people in costumes), a charitable donation to a cause you support, or a cool t-shirt or a metal once the race is completed. Commit yourself to an end goal so you find the motivation to START and FINISH something and everything that happens in between will be exercise!
- Find a running partner. Sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation to go run or even get to the gym because your tired and have had a long day. Finding someone who also likes to run or exercise to hold you accountable will be a great option for run success. If you make commitments to run with a friend, then holding up your end of the deal will have you running and not making excuses on why you don’t have the time. If you can’t find a partner, join a run club. Running in these groups is a great way to meet new people, find new routes, and add in elements of competition and motivation that weren’t there before.
- Track your runs. In the past few years, technology has brought new ways to measure how you run. From heart rate monitors to GPS wristwatches, quantifying our lives has become the new norm. There are great apps out there that give you a central location to store where you run, how far you’ve run, how fast and how high, and can also show you local routes and trails that you may not have known about otherwise!
- Run in the morning. We all live busy lives and during these times we are all living a life of uncertainty. With that said, you could have a plan to run one day after work and your schedule could totally fall apart and you not find the time. This is a scenario that happens far too often for everyone that plans to exercise after work. In my experience, there are so many things that could happen daily that could derail your plan for an evening run or workout. My solution has always been getting your run completed before your day has a chance to fall apart. Don’t let your day get away from you before you have a chance to have some YOU time. This could leave you feeling like your ready to take on the world as you start your day.