If you are training for your first event – good on you!
Whether it is your first event or you’re more experienced, I’m sure you’ll have a great time.
As with any event, preparation is important to perform at your best and also to avoid injury. For some of you reading this you’ll know that you can go out tomorrow and complete your event with no problems. For the rest of you, whether you’ve never completed the distance before, or you have a time in mind to achieve, there is a bit more uncertainty. Getting out of your comfort zone with this is a great challenge, but you’ll need to prepare. The best time to start your preparation is right now. Here are a few principles to help get ready to give it your best.
Running or walking places strain on our bodies, especially muscles and connective tissue. If your usual exercise only involves walking to and from the car and you leap into training then your body is in for a surprise. Increasing how much exercise you are doing rapidly can lead to these structures getting overloaded, not coping well and can result in injury.
The good news is that our bodies are designed to move, and once we start moving and challenging ourselves physically, these structures adapt really well. It does take time for us to adapt and improve our body’s ability to handle load. This is a weeks to months adaptation rather than a couple of days.
If you’re just starting out and you’ve never run before, head out for some walks and gradually build the distance up. Once you’ve built a bit of endurance then start to bring in a bit of jogging, it could be as simple as a couple of 30 second jogs interspersed into your walk. If you’ve done a bit of running before then aim to build up your distance over time as you lead up to the race.
Consistency is the key to your body adapting, aim to do a 2-3 shorter walks/runs during the week to keep loading the body, and a longer slower one on the weekend. If you need to change the days so you’re doing a longer slower one during the week then this is fine too.
Recovery days are important as well. These days allow your body to recover and repair itself. A recovery day doesn’t mean doing nothing, rather a rest from training for the event.
TIP – don’t take all your rest days at once.
Work on flexibility
Flexibility is important. You may never have been able to touch your toes before, however flexibility is something that everyone can improve with a bit of practice.
Increased muscle tightness in the lower limbs can lead to an increase in injuries or aches and pains as you increase your running and walking loads. These can often occur around hips, knees and ankles.
Focus on keeping the major muscles of your lower body flexible: your calves, your hamstrings, your quads, and your hip flexors. If you’re more flexible then it is easier for your body to get into good positions when walking and running which can lead to you being more efficient and using less energy.
Improving your stretching and flexibility is a long-term project. I’m yet to find a stretch that is going to keep you flexible forever. A regular stretching routine is great, you can do this on your recovery days. Alternately yoga or other flexibility based classes work well too. If you are in doubt come in and see one of our physiotherapists for some personalised advice.
Strength is an important component of running and walking, although it is often overlooked. If you are walking or jogging the average person takes about 1250 steps a kilometre, over the course of an event this quickly adds up. Every time you take a step (or stride if you are running) the muscles of your legs, torso, and even upper body are working.
Improving the strength or the muscles in your core and legs has multiple benefits for walkers and runners. Being stronger means that it can take you longer to get tired, so hopefully you’ll get to the end of the race without being all tuckered out. Stronger muscles are more effective at supporting our joints, especially ankles, knees and hips, which can lead to decreased injuries. Increased strength often means we are able to control our bodies better and absorb the loads more easily leading to us being more efficient on the day.
If you want some personal advice on preparing for the big event, come in and see one of our physiotherapists.