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Reflections on Training
What is best for me?
Do you wonder what the best training solution is for you and your running goal? Like me, you may have decided to run in a race this year. You may already be an accomplished runner looking to add to your personal best or increase your distance or just a beginner competing in your very first 5k or greater distance run, and your goal may be simply to complete every step from the start to the finish. You wonder if you have the stamina and the drive to compete; you wonder what the best training program is for the particular distance you have signed up for; and, you wonder what other runners do to get ready. Well, first – the internet is a great place to start your research. This site, Hubpages, is a good place to take your first step. From here research other running sites, like runnersworld.com, for similar useful information and tips. You’ll find that many professional runners and fellow ‘hubbers’ and runners offer great suggestions on preparing to run. I have read quite a few and incorporated some of their suggestions into my own training routine. I would just offer to make sure you develop your program to fit your running style; don’t try to copy someone else’s.
Get started. Okay, you have made the decision to run in a race. Great! You may have many reasons and each one has merit -- health, social cause, personal challenge, or bucket list item. There is no right reason; just the fact that you have decided is the right reason. So now, let's get training.
Preparation. I suggest the following rules to follow as you prepare to run your race. These are not written in stone anywhere and are just my suggested rules. I believe most runners and many running articles convey the same tips and suggestions.
Rule number one-Run. In order to achieve your goal, you must run. Any training program that entails running in a race is based on building endurance and mileage. You may see tips that say you have to run outdoors, a trail, track, or street, versus treadmill only. Personally, I disagree with that suggestion. Yes, outdoor running is a great way and offers many benefits that the treadmill doesn’t. However, I also have seen others complete a full marathon on a treadmill. So, if you are a treadmill runner, then continue to do it to prepare for your race. If you can, try to add one outdoor run a week to your schedule. This not only adds variety to your schedule; but, allows you to feel the effects of outdoor running before the race. For the accomplished runner, you already understand building your mileage base; therefore, for you, it now becomes adding speed and or distance.Many programs developed for longer distance runs; i.e., the half marathon and marathon, will add in sprints, or fartleks, and may suggest cycling and swimming to build endurance for those distances. Again, take into consideration your goals and your program to add other activities that will benefit adding mileage and endurance.
Rule number two-Hydrate while running. This one cannot be overemphasized. Your body needs fluids to replace those lost during the run. It doesn’t matter the speed or the distance, water and or sports drinks are necessary before, during, and after the run. Exactly when and how much to drink is something you will need to decide on. Make this an item you train in your program. Suggestions include carrying a water bottle or wearing a sports belt with bottles attached. The longer the distance, the more fluid you will need to consume. The race will more than likely have water and sports drink stations at established points along the route. You can use these to hydrate or supplement your own. Both are okay to include in your program. Once while training for a marathon, my running coach placed out bottles of water along our designated training route before we started. By doing this we didn’t have to carry the added weight while we ran. Again, the need to hydrate is a key component of your program, so don’t skip or exclude this rule.
Rule number three-Wear comfortable clothing. Depending on the time of year and your own preference, this one may take a little more effort on your part. It is also where the running industry has made great strides to bring comfort to running. Cotton or high tech clothing is an individual choice. Long sleeve, short sleeve, no sleeve shirts; shorts, capris, running tights or sweat pants; sweat shirts with or without hoods, jackets with or without zip-out layers; gloves, caps, visors, socks. So many choices, styles, and material; the choices are yours to make. Read the suggestions from other runners on the various websites; talk to runners in your group or you meet along your route; and sales clerks at sports stores. All of these will provide you with tips and recommendations on what is best. The final selection is yours, after you assimilate the information, and try them out while running. Just remember though, the conditions will change while you run; therefore, the one suggestion I’ll offer is to wear what is comfortable to you and layer according to the weather. Be prepared to shed clothing along the route in the colder months of the year. A side of this rule is running with an mp3 player. You decide if you are comfortable doing this. I train and run with an iPod. I caution you to be safe and be aware of your surroundings while doing this though. And, also be aware that some races will not allow you to wear mp3 players during the run. Train accordingly.
Rule four-Get the best running shoe you can afford. This is a critical rule that I cannot emphasize enough because all running shoes are not made alike. Running shoes are designed to assist you in the cushioning and stability of your feet as you run. The following article in Runner’s World, http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-240-319-327-7727-0,00.html, provides a great overview of this dynamic aspect of running. It’s important to find out which type of runner you are and buy a shoe that corresponds with the style to prevent injury. For the longer running distances, I agree with suggestions that you have two pair of identical shoes, alternating them on your scheduled run days. Inserts are also a good investment for your shoes. These will help cushion your feet, as well as extend the life of your shoes.
Building your miles. The only way to do this is to run as much and as often as you can. Find time in your schedule to add in your running program. Whether you run one to two miles a day, three days a week or you run six or more miles a day, every day, you need to set aside the time to do it. In the morning before heading off to work, at lunch if your workday permits it, or in the evening, if your body allows you; the decision is yours. Is one better than the other? You have to determine, based on you and your schedule. In the gym, on a trail, or on the road? Again, your decision based on you and your feelings. It could be a combination of two or all three, depending on location, weather conditions, or just personal preference. Remember rule number one-You have to run.
The Moments before crossing the Starting Line. Fast forward a moment. You’ve made it. All the training runs and workouts are behind you. You are now a day or two from the race. You have run and trained, building your mileage and endurance in preparation for the race. You are ready. Now what? You have read or heard the suggestion to eat pasta before the race. In fact, many races sponsor a dinner the night before the race. You must decide if this is what you want to do. It is not a golden rule. For myself, even for the marathons, I did not carb-up before the race. In fact, I barely ate anything the night before, nerves mostly; but, instead, ate a single banana the morning of the race. Your training and your body will tell you what is best for you. I offer only that you should not do anything different the night before the race that you haven’t done in your preparations for the race. Next, I suggest not arriving too soon, or too late. Many races require you park away from the starting line, causing you to take public transportation to the starting area. Build this into your schedule the morning of the race with the understanding that traffic and cue lines will take time. Use the facilties before you enter the time corrals, even if you don’t think you have to. The last thing you want to do is stand and wait to start, get started, and then have to pull out to relieve yourself. Lastly, enjoy the race. If you are with a partner, support each other as you run along the route with the other competitors. Run friendly and be aware of what is going on around you. When you finally get to the finish, smile big for the camera. You’ve done it.