I can’t quite believe it has been two months since I last competed. While I have enjoyed the sleep ins and the flexibility to train when and how I want, it was with great excitement that this week I started my 20 week build to the World Triathlon and Ironman 70.3 Championships. Since my last training week of 5am alarms, the mornings have become darker, the air is cooler and for the last week the roads have been wetter. It’s definitely the end of summer and the end of triathlon competing season.
So what did I do for the last month? First port of call was re connecting with friends and family. Training can take up a lot of your time and you often become so focused on your next race that you neglect the people that support you through the ups and downs. So for the last month I have dedicated my spare time to seeing those people that often miss out on one-on-one time when training is in full swing! I have still exercised on a daily basis but I’ve exercised when I wanted, with whom I wanted and without any form of gadget to measure time, speed or heart rate. I have re discovered the joy of exercising without a target, and the gentle rides with friends and runs with my trusty iPod (which I had neglected for months during training) are friendly reminders of why I love to train and the happiness fitness brings me.
But after taking two weeks off exercise completely I began to wonder what it would feel like to return to running after such a long break (long for me anyway!!) With Melbourne coming into FunRun season and more and more running related injuries rolling through the doors at Beyond, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you 5 tips I wish I knew when I started running all those years ago. While it isn’t hard to get started running, once you get into the swing of things it’s easy to injure yourself or ignore little things that make you a lot better. So here are some tips on how to survive the upcoming running season:
1. Avoid Injury via Prehabilitation
I have said it before but prevention is always better than a cure and that brings me to my first lesson – Prehabilitation. We have all heard of rehabilitation (restoration of normal function and ability following an injury) but are you aware of the importance of prehabilitation? Prehabilitation refers to a form of strength training designed to prevent an injury before it actually occurs. The most common injuries I have encountered from recreational runners are shin splints, patello-femoral syndrome, plantarfascitis and hamstring strains. The majority of these injuries come down to a muscular imbalance, poor training habits, inappropriate footwear or pelvic instability. Your Osteopath can assess your biomechanics and prescribe some specific strengthening exercises to help you aid your overall stability and running technique.
2. Never race to train….train to race!
Easier said than done but training should never be a race. When starting a run program you need to remember that gaining fitness takes time and effort so you need to take it slowly. In the early stages, avoid running consecutive days to allow your body time to recover between sessions. A general rule to follow is to not increase your distance by more than 10% each time you run – your body takes time to adapt to changes in distance and effort so ensure you follow a strict program when starting to increase your mileage. Failure to do so will ultimately result in injury and a set back in fitness.
3. Stretch and recover
We often squeeze our workouts into a lunch break or early morning before the rush of the day begins, but this is no excuse to not take time to cool down and stretch. You should never stretch when you are cold – I would recommend a gentle 5-10 minute warm up followed by a stretch before you complete the bulk of your session, and a follow up stretch as soon as your run is over (yes before you jump in the warm car or visit the local coffee shop!) If you have any niggling injuries always remember to ice after a run – keeping an icepack in the work freezer or packing disposable ice packs in your car will ensure you never miss out on the post exercise ice therapy many of us need.
4. Be smart with your fuel – don’t over do it!
With the sports supplement market booming it is easy to seek ways to improve your performance, but be careful. In general there is no need to take energy bars or gels for exercise under one hour duration – carbohydrates may be of assistance in longer sessions but in short day-to-day runs there is no need to supplement during a session. If you are planning to eat before a session ensure you eat at least 2 hours prior to commencing exercise to avoid stomach upset and indigestion. You may need to trial a few different pre run meals until you find one that sits well for you – never try a new diet on race day!! And just because you ran 5km this morning this doesn’t mean you can eat what you like all day – basic science states that energy out needs to exceed energy in to avoid weight gain (yes even when exercising!). A 30minute jog does not give you free reign to eat the entire cookie jar at work! If in doubt speak to a dietician for guidance.
5. Make it fun
As the weather gets cooler it’s hard to find the motivation to get out and exercise so try to make your runs a social occasion. Meet with some friends for a run, drive to a new location and run in the great outdoors or load your iPod with your favourite tunes. By making running a fun task you are less likely to skip a session or find excuses to hit the snooze button. Exercise shouldn’t be a chore so do your best to make it fun!
So as I ease back into my routine I must remind myself to make time for the treatment my body needs, and the strength and conditioning required to avoid injury. I now have my team assembled for the year ahead – doctor, coach, dietician, osteopath and myotherapist – and I look forward to sharing with you the next few months of training in the build to Canada.