How to best prepare for your upcoming running events in the new year and prevent dreaded injuries stopping you!
The lighter nights and 'better' weather brings around a fresh batch of running races for the year: locally with the Thirsk 10 mile this weekend and Northallerton 10k in May. But also slightly further afield with The Great North Run and London Marathon also looming. Many of you will be regulars to such events but some of you will be competing for the first time and this can be daunting. However it does not have to be!
In your build up to these events, you will read and hear lots of information regarding how best to train and how to prevent injuries for the big day. I'll outline below some key evidence-based points that you can use to help you through.
Tip #1 - Don't Stretch before a run
This might sound a bit drastic and it is not the be all and end all. However, the research suggests that static stretching (holding > 10 seconds) is counter-productive as you want your muscles to be as springy as possible when running and not 'more flexible'. A 5-10 minute warm up may be much more beneficial. This could include star jumps, high-knees, leg swings or even light jogging.
Tip #2 - Rest
Probably the most important but most underappreciated tip. It is easy to get sucked in to the regular training sessions every day and feel guilty if you miss a session or don't push yourself as hard as in the previous session. However, the research shows that if you include rest days or even rest weeks into your training programme, then you are more likely to improve your long term running performance and reduce your risk of injury. Rest weeks may include some training within them but include less distance, slower pace and longer recovery times between sessions. I often advocate a rest or recovery week every 4-6 weeks.
Tip #3 - Build up your training over time
A lot of you enter a race months in advance and give yourself plenty of time to prepare for it, which is ideal. Your body will adapt well to the increased demands you put on it, like increasing distance and speed. However, this should be done over a period of time to allow your muscles and other tissues time to become accustom.
If you are new to running, then a couch-to-5k programme is a great way to do this and there are plenty of local running clubs to help you through this!
Tip #4 - Compression Socks?
This is one that I often get asked about in the injury clinic and the answer is not straight forward. Similar to other methods of recovery like foam rollers, there have been years of research into their effectiveness. The bottom line is that there is no strong evidence to suggest that they improve performance or reduce your risk of injury. However, if you can afford them and you feel that they make a difference to you, then by all means keep using them!
Tip #5 - Enjoy your training and your recovery
Like I have said earlier, it is easy to get swept up into a strict training regime in preparation for the big race day. This can be good for some to help them stay motivated but for others it can have the opposite effect. Your training should be fun for you or it will be like going to work twice a day! Train on your favorite routes, train with a partner or a club, have 1-2 cheat days every week, eat good food and get good sleep!
You can often over complicate your training and all aspects of your race day. The 5 tips above may only touch the surface but outline key points to bear in mind when you are training. If you would like more information regarding your training programmes or running-related injuries, give me a shout. You can book an appointment on the website.
Good look with your races!