Being prepared for the weather and your activity with the right gear can make your outdoor workout pleasant and comfortable.
- Get yourself a good fitting pair of running shoes. Fleet Fleet Sports has top 10 tips for buying running shoes that you should read.
- Cotton is your enemy when it comes to sweat and exercise. Cotton soaks up moisture causing blisters and calluses. Unlike cotton clothing, synthetic fabrics, such as CoolMax or Dri-Fit, wick moisture away from your skin. Although the technical fabric running clothes may cost a little more, you'll appreciate the comfort, especially during long runs. It's also a smart idea to avoid wearing 100% cotton socks. Wearing running socks that are a synthetic blend will help prevent blisters
- How do you want to feel when you run - do you like to be toasty or chilly in the winter? Cool in the spring? Find the right running clothes to wear for the current weather condition by using this helpful GUIDE from Runner’s World, which provides suggestions on what to wear based on the weather conditions and how you want to feel in those conditions.
- For the ladies it’s important to find a bra that's going work for your activities. Women should be fit for a bra at least once a year to account for weight loss or gain and other life changes. The average life of a sports bra is 6-12 months (this is assuming you hand wash and hang dry!). A properly fitting bra can delay the stretching of the Cooper's Ligament, which is the primary cause of sagging as women age.
- Try using compression socks to stimulate blood flow and help legs recover faster from a hard run. You can wear them while running and after running, and even to bed to recharge for a morning run. If wearing them to bed, it is best to wear a full sock so that you are getting circulation to your feet as well.
As a runner, your diet is important not only for maintaining good health, but also to promote peak performance. Proper nutrition and hydration can make or break a workout or race, and also greatly affects how runners feel, work and think.
- During your training focus on eating lean protein, vegetables, and whole-grain carbs to power you through your workouts. In races keep it simple with a regular sports drink and gels.
- Remove any temptations that may cause you to stumble. If weight loss is your goal, throw out the potato chips. Replace soda with water or tea. Check labels for how much sugar is in your drink.
- The worst breakfast is no breakfast at all. If you are an on the go person have breakfast bars handy to jumpstart your metabolism.
- Eat small. Instead of grabbing a dinner plate, go for a smaller one, that way you aren't tempted to put too much on it. Remember, it takes an average of 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it is full.
- Look at healthy food as a reward for a hard workout. It's fuel that’s going to help you run harder and recover faster.
- Keep a running journal. The best way to know where you're going with your training is to see where you've been. Keeping a personal journal of your runs helps you track your progress, avoid past pitfalls and even inspire you to new accomplishments. Your journal can be as simple as a few dashed notes of the distance and time you ran each day, or more detailed with lengthier entries about your route, the way you feel, and the stuff you thought about on the run.
- Fun with Fartlek! A fartlek workout is a kind of informal interval session and a great way to incorporate speedwork into your routine when you want a change from the track. "Fartlek" is Swedish for "speed play" and consists of bursts of speed in the middle of a training run. After warming up, run at an easy training pace, throwing in bursts of speed for various distances throughout the run. Vary the speed and times of the speed sections, from as short as 15 seconds to as long as two or three minutes. Between these bursts, allow yourself enough recovery time to match roughly 2/3 of the effort time. The recovery pace, though, should be faster than the recovery jog you might do during intervals on the track; keep it moving at an easy training pace.
- Incorporating hill work into your weekly training will help strengthen your legs and ankles. If you live in an area without hills, consider using a treadmill or stadium stairs to simulate uphill running. Hill running gives you the strength to hold your form together when you're tired, like at the end of a tough run or a race. You can simply run over hilly terrain, or do hills like an interval workout — run hard uphill for a certain distance, jog back downhill, and repeat as many times as you want.
- Aim for Three. Do at least one short, one long, and one speedy run each week. This may be the simplest, most effective way to get and stay fit forever as a runner.
- Try incorporating more weight lifting and drills that give your body over all more athleticism. It has been shown to prevent injuries. If you only have 30 minutes to work out, sometimes it’s more important to run 20 minutes and take 10 minutes to stretch and do weights and build your overall athleticism.
- Find your mantra. In her book Kara Goucher’s Running for Women, Kara recommends having a keyword (hers is “fighter”) or mantra that you can repeat over and over when things get tough. Yours might be “Smooth, steady, strong.” These help bring you back to a positive mind set, overriding bad thoughts such as “I’m not going fast enough” or “I’ll never finish a half marathon at this rate.”
- Avoid injury by mixing it up. Make sure stretching, strength-training and cross-training are a central part of your training plan. Sure, runners need to run—but you’re not going to do yourself any favors if you’re sidelined by an injury, or worse, surgery. Experts recommend cross-training activities (cycling and swimming are excellent for runners since they’re low impact and use different muscle groups) a minimum of twice a week. Stretching should be done before and after a run, but on your off days, you should keep at it, too. Stretch when it works best for you.
Avoiding injury should be as important as proper gear and nutrition. Try these tips to get yourself to the start line of your race…injury free!
- Treat your feet by avoiding rock-hard surfaces like concrete sidewalks whenever possible. Aim instead for grass or dirt trails. Find surfaces where the ground will absorb more shock, instead of passing it along to your legs, but try to be consistent. A sudden change to a new running surface can itself be a cause of injury.
- Most running injuries respond well to the "RICE" treatment: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Ice the trouble spot for ten minutes on, then ten minutes off, repeating as necessary. You should ice as soon as possible after you have been injured, and immediately after a run if you are running with an injury. Combined with compression (with a cold pack, for example) and elevation, icing goes far to reduce pain and swelling. Heat should only be applied to an injury after the inflammation is gone, probably after about 72 hours. If your swelling has gone down quite a bit, but there's still a little bit of inflammation, try alternating heat and ice after a few days of ice-only treatment.
- Returning to running after a brief layoff? A general rule of thumb is that it takes about two weeks of "retraining" to come back from every week in which you do no exercise. Go easy on yourself during this period. Don't let your ego convince you that you should immediately be able to run as you did before. If you've been off the roads for only a week or two, start at about half the distance you were running before the injury. You should be able to build back to your former level in two to four weeks.
- Use cross training to rehabilitate injuries, improve fitness, promote recovery, enhance motivation, rejuvenate the mind and body during breaks from formal training, enjoy competing in other endurance sports, and even stay fit through pregnancy.
- Massage has so many benefits for your body:
- Provides faster recovery from micro damage and trauma from workouts
- Increases flexibility and range of motion
- Relieves fatigue and rejuvenates sore muscles
- Reduces the strain of repetitive motion
- Reduces the healing time of injuries
To become stronger, fitter, more toned and a better runner try adding one or more of these activities to your weekly regimen.
|Extrapolate workouts from running workouts. That is, do intervals, long rides, sprints, and hills, just like you would train for running, only longer on the bike. Cycling improves endurance and leg strength (emphasize the “up” stroke for hamstring activation, which is often neglected and deficient in runners). The cyclical nature of the stroke mimics running biomechanics in a non-weight-bearing environment. Studies show that cycling can improve 10K race times by 9%, 5K by 3%, 2 mile by 1%, and boost VO2 max by 3%.
|This is so much like running but without any pounding, as your feet never leave the pedals. So you can do pretty much all your running workouts on the elliptical. Elliptical improves endurance and leg strength, burning lots of calories, and protects you from injury thanks to its “gliding” aspect.
|Find some flat ground to cruise along. Increase the workout time to get the same benefits as running. Skating is a non impact way to strengthen all leg muscles, especially the often-neglected glutes and hips.
|Pilates and Yoga
|Find a local class at a gym or private session. Pilates and yoga improves strength, core stability, overall flexibility, and it’s relaxing and fun.
|Pool Running (or Aqua Jogging)
|Mimics the same workouts run on land, now in the pool. Use a belt to add buoyancy or go without a belt to increase the intensity. Pool running is a non-weight-bearing form of exercise that improves mental and physical endurance. A study showed that pool runners who totally abstained from running for 6 weeks were able to perform the same on race day as a second group that ran for the 6 weeks.
|Focus on the major muscle groups involved in running (quads, hamstrings, gluteus maximus), but don’t neglect core, hip stabilizers, and upper back. Research links strength training with a 4% increase in running economy (efficient use of oxygen). It may also reduce heart rate, and can improve race times from the 5K to marathon. Strength training protects against injury by providing a solid muscular foundation.
|Find a local YMCA or health club that schedules lap swims. Or join a masters swim team that incorporates interval and distance training. You get a total body workout, especially core and upper back. Swimming improves flexibility and endurance, and gives your joints a break because it’s non-weight-bearing.
Try these tips for improving running form
- Face forward. Keep your head level, eyes looking forward, and keep your face and jaw relaxed, with mouth slightly open. (You still sometimes hear that breathing through the nose is the best way. Not true! Simply breathe as you normally do.)
- Keep shoulders down, with arms relaxed. Don’t let your shoulders “bunch up” around your ears. Keep arms bent at the elbows at around 90 degrees, and allow your hands and wrists to stay supple and slightly floppy. Allow your forearms to come across your stomach when they come forward, as opposed to straight forward and straight back.
- Lean slightly. It’s best for your pelvis and butt to feel “tucked in” and forward, to guard against swayback. Keep your torso upright, with just a slight forward lean to help propel you forward.
- Land gently, leave quickly. Visualize yourself being light on your feet (hot coals, ouch!) and lifting each foot quickly after each step. After a while, you won’t need to think about it. Too much time on the ground with each foot will slow you down and make you a sluggish runner.
- Think short, efficient steps. Sprinting is all about taking long, powerful steps. With distance running, short and efficient is best, as it allows you to conserve energy. This also helps you land on the balls of your feet with each step, which is generally more efficient than landing too far back on your heels or too far forward on your toes.
Marathon Guide has a large, comprehensive list of running books…from general running tips, to history of running, and humorous and inspirational stories.
Fleet Feet Sports Bonney Lake
Running for Women by Kara Goucher