By Gina Pongetti Angeletti, MPT, MA, CSCS, ART-Cert. (pictured left)
and Caroline Yasuda, Running Coach (pictured right)
It’s warm again! Guess what that means? Flowers bloom, longer days, birds are chirping and people are…. running! There is nothing that motivates an outdoor endurance athlete quite like nice weather and sunshine. Getting fit and having plans is an excellent motivation (so is spring break beach body!). However, we all have to remember a few important tips!
Warm Up. Lacing up on the porch as your kids get on the bus and leaving your house running does not constitute warming up! Your body needs to be ready for what it is going to encounter, especially after winter hibernation! Even if you were the Elliptical Champion of the YMCA or did more steps than your entire office, if you were not running in the winter, then you were not running. Period. Allow yourself time in advance to get your heart rate up (try jumping jacks or 10-15 flights up and down your stairs). Then, perform dynamic stretching (inchworms, leg kicks, heel to butt kicks, calf heel drop stretching). After that, walk. Walk with the largest, longest steps you can do (you will look silly, yes!) This warms up the hip flexors, giving them a big stretch. It warms up hamstrings- allowing them to push you forward. It warms up the calves, as they need to propel you on!
Rome was not built in a day. Remember, running 5 miles a day for 5 days straight, coming off of nothing, will not make your 5k time next weekend any better! The endurance system, like any other, takes time to train, teach and maintain. The key is slow and steady. Do not start big, or you will hurt bigger. Overuse injuries happen with too fast of a ramp-up, no matter what shape you “used” to be in last season, last year, or last decade!
Time Before Miles. Milestones are the only good miles when you start to run! Time is a much better route to take when starting your spring training. This means that you will not be trying to see how many miles you are running, or what pace you are performing. Set your watch to a time that will be the half-way point to turn around, or you can set intervals between running and walking (see below).
A Wining Combination! You can get more out of your aerobic system with less pain and stress by combining a walk/run plan! When you start training again, pick a time that is double what you think can run. For instance, if you think you can run for 10 minutes, then your workout should be 20 minutes plus added time for cool down. Alternating between running and walking at 2 and a half minute intervals (longer as your training progresses) will help you ramp up your workouts safely. Adding in 10 minutes for cool down and you have now had a quick 30 session! Even though you may only be running for 10 minutes at first, that will begin to ramp up as your training continues!
Ten Percent is Good Enough. Each week, from your base, increase 10% in time. If you run 10 minutes one week, that means 11 minutes the next week total, not 20! Any more than that, many studies have shown, increases risk of injuries from categories dealing with bone density (Stress fractures), tendons (tendinitis) and fractures.
Happy Muscles are Hydrated Muscles! If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated! Did you know that? Waiting until your body tells you to drink is well past when your body is already not at perfect hydration and has already started to make changes in energy systems (like holding back from sweating, allocating hydration differently, etc.). Being dehydrated decreases your energy, the power in your muscles, and increases your soreness for the next day from a lack of lymphatic flow. Point being- drink water! If you know that you will forget, then set your alarm to go off every 5 minutes to remind you. If you like being a creature of habit, then drink every time you switch from run to walk. If you don’t like carrying water in your hand or waist pack, then run out and back from a central point, and leave water there.
Good Shoes or You Lose! If someone ever comes up to you and says, “I like those shoes, when did you get them?” Your reply should never be, “I am not sure, it was 1-2 years ago.” Why is this? Because you should not even own a running or workout shoe from more than 6 months ago, unless it is for fashion purposes only! Shoes last, in general 250-300 miles. This counts standing in them (which you really should not do to your running or workout walking shoes). It will assist them in wearing down faster because of static compression of the foam. What does this lead to? Lots of injuries, lack of ankle stabilization, sore feet, and in the end, time off. Spend good resources on your shoes. This does not just mean money. It means time, brains, planning, and money. Good running shoes are not cheap, but they are good. There is a reason that boutique running stores have well-trained staff and not just high school night sales help. The bigger box stores may have shoes that sit on the shelves for months if not even a year in the stock room. This allows the foam to start to break down, before you even get them! Spend the time going to the experts, even up to an hour to get a good fit (including sample treadmill walking and running). And the last bit of time involves tracking.
Track your Miles. Monitor how much you are using your shoes. Mark on the box when you bought them, and yes…keep the box. If you choose to recycle said box, just write it on the shoe (not on the bottom, duh!). Better yet, mark in your running mileage log when you got the shoes, and then simply add up the miles (there are even programs that will do this for you within apps and running software). Ramp up one shoe as you are ramping down another, to ease the transition. Remember, as much as shoes can be the same, even within the same make and model, materials may differ a bit. And more importantly if you are changing your make or model, this is ever so important.
Stand Firm. This means, do not give in to the peer pressure of your neighbor, a heated conversation, a group run or “just” an extra mile. Know your training and your limits. Your friends will be impressed at your organization. And, in the slight chance that they laugh at you, you can always bring them flowers when they are injured (and you can run them there because you will be healthy!)
Time After Time. Remember after you work out, cool down! It will help you to not be sore the next day, and help to prevent injuries. Don’t just run home into your house and start checking emails! A proper cooldown involves slowly lowering your heart rate while “in motion” not while standing and chatting away! It involves stretching (static meaning holding for 30 seconds) after. This can be done while talking to your friends and running mates, or while simply taking deep breaths and reflecting on your workout or your day to come. If you are pressed with time, it is better to end your workout 5-10 minutes early to allow yourself at least 3-5 minutes to cool down and stretch.
Enjoy your spring running season! Stay healthy!