Tag Archives: training

Training tips for the St. Luke’s Half Marathon

24 Apr

This weekend is the St. Luke’s Half Marathon. If you’re participating, hopefully you’ve trained well and are in the best shape of your life. Good Luck!

st lukes half marathon runners, may 1, 2011

St Luke's Half Marathon, 2011

For everyone else, let’s go over the basics of training for a Half Marathon and some things to remember for the day of the race.

Training Diet

First of all, don’t make an amateur mistake. Years ago, runners thought that ‘carbing up” before a race meant eating piza or pasta, but that can be disastrous. Loading your GI tract with heavy foods like that will slow you down during the race and you’ll probably run out of gas before the halfway mark. You might also experience some GI discomfort which will be intensely uncomfortable when your body is in overdrive.

It’s true that your muscles need carbs before a race, but get them in the days leading up to the race, not directly before. Two days before the race start loading up on sports drinks and fruit juices and avoid any alcohol. Also avoid high fiber foods like beans and broccoli during this time and fatty foods like peanut butter and fried foods. On the day of the race, don’t eat any solid food for 3 hours before the race, but drink lots of water. The ideal breakfast? A bagel and fruit juice. After the race, replenish your body’s energy stores as soon as possible with light, healthy foods and more water.

Training for the marathon

If you’ve been sitting on the couch for the past year, I’m happy that you’ve made the decision to run. However, don’t do too much too quickly. You really should start your training 12 months before the race. If you’re in better-than-couch-potato shape, but not great shape, you should start about 26 weeks before race day.

Running doesn’t only involve the legs, it involves your entire body, especially your cardiovascular system. It’s wise to include more than just running in your training regimen. Olympic Gold medalist Rod Dixon recommends “strength training as part of marathon training or for that matter any running program… So often we rely on the power of the legs to get us through but there are so many ways we can get our whole body to share in the workload, and this means getting stronger. I’m a huge believer in cross training using our own body weight in exercise… I also highly recommend yoga for runners.”

One key to an endurance race is finding your stride, one you can maintain the entire race. Overstriding leads to quick burnout and understriding means you’ll finish in the back of the pack.

Former Olympic sprinter Samantha Clayton says that you can find your perfect stride length by focusing on your arm movement. “Run at 70 percent of your maximum speed with your arms bent at a 90-degree angle, driving them back and forth to a full range of motion. Over-reach your arms and watch your stride length increase; limit your arms’ range and your stride shortens.” Your perfect stride is somewhere in between. 

Correctly fitted athletic shoes are a must. They’ll offer proper support for your arches and ankles, will absorb the hard surface impact and keep you from experiencing fatigue early on. Proper athletic shoes are best bought at a store that specializes in footwear for athletes. On the day of the race, wear double layered athletic socks to avoid blisters.

During your training routine, don’t go for broke. Slowly increase your mileage and intensity until you’re up to the half marathon distance a few weeks before the race. Don’t forget to take days off from your routine, because resting is just as important as training, as it allows your muscles and cardiovascular system to recover and strengthen.

If you live in an urban area, train in the early morning when air pollution is at its lightest.

As a preventative measure, ice your shins or any other potential problem areas in your legs, ankles or feet for about ten minutes after a long run. Do this routinely, even if you aren’t experiencing pain, as icing reduces any minor inflammation that may have set in without you being aware of it.

And lastly, the best runners “clear the chute before they commute”.  Drink as much coffee as necessary a few hours before the event. I’m sure you get my drift. Your body will be working hard during the marathon and you don’t want to have to hunt for a bathroom during the competition.

Here’s an excellent half marathon training schedule from Shape magazine and a novice training schedule from author and runner Hal Higdon.

Running: How to safely make the surface transition from winter to spring

20 Apr running on an athletic field is best

Running injuries are most frequent in spring when your body must adjust to a new surface

running on bike path

If you’re a runner, the warm weather of spring is an invitation to switch your indoor routine (if you have one) to an outdoor routine and look at trees instead of a TV. However, just after moving to outdoor activity is the most likely time to experience an injury, as your body hasn’t adjusted to the demands of running outdoors. The most obvious and riskiest change for your body is the surface you run on.

If you run on a treadmill all winter, you’re running on a soft surface with low impact to your legs, ankles and feet. Once you switch your routine to the outdoors, you subject your body to a combination of surfaces with different impacts: paved streets, concrete sidewalks, gravel, grass, sand, etc. Each of these surfaces offers advantages and disadvantages.

While streets and sidewalks are generally even and free of hidden obstacles, they don’t “give” underneath your feet like grass, sand and even gravel do. That means that your body is completely absorbing the shock of your feet hitting the surface. Hard surfaces are great for your upward movement (you get a “bounce” when you push off), but torture for your downward movement. The energy created when your feet come in contact with pavement has to go somewhere, and if it can’t go down into a soft surface, it will go up through your body, starting at your feet and ending around your waistline.

Most of this kinetic energy is absorbed by a properly fitted running shoe and warmed up, conditioned leg muscles. If you’re in shape, this is no problem. But early in the season when you’re at your least conditioned, your body might react with shin splints, sore feet, sore ankles, or back pain.

Running on grass or sand has its pros and cons as well. While running on these surfaces won’t cause you any high impact injuries, they tend to be uneven, which puts your ankles and legs at risk of injury from a twist, roll or sprain. An injury of this nature will put you out of commission for upwards of 4 weeks, blowing your spring routine out of the water.

Running stretches to avoid pain

Beginner and expert runners alike can best protect themselves by doing simple stretches before and after their running routine. Make sure to stretch the muscles in your back by turning side to side, then move the routine down through your glutes, hamstrings, calves, ankles and feet. These actions warm up your muscles, tendons and ligaments, increasing blood flow to these areas, which make them better able to resist the impact they’re about to experience. Warming up should also include a few minutes of walking before running. Check this link for a simple stretching routine.

After your run, a cooling down period is also important for your body so as to avoid tense, strained muscles. Do the stretching routine outlined above, but in the opposite order: walk for a few minutes to reduce your heart rate, then perform stretches starting with your toes and working up to your back.

Warming up and cooling down are absolutely essential to a safe running routine. As we age, the warm up and cool down periods should increase by a few minutes every year.

running on an athletic field is bestAlways be aware of your body’s signals and the surface you’re running on, and keep your eyes open for any obstacles. If you do twist or roll your ankle or experience mild or severe pain in your ankles or feet, call East Penn Foot and Ankle Associates to be examined immediately. A thorough examination could be the difference between getting back to your running routine in a week or two or sitting out the spring.

P.S.: The best surface to run on is a smooth gravel or grass track at a high school or college when it’s not being used by the athletes.

Here are some excellent tips on running form your should read, which will help you create the proper mechanics for your body.

Here’s a guide for new runners.

%d bloggers like this: