Have you decided to start running or complete your first race this year? Are you someone who has been running but struggles with achieving milestones?
First up, congratulations! You have accomplished the most important step, that is the willingness to get out of the door!
Running well can be daunting, especially if you spend time scouring through the information available on the internet. However, it’s not all bad news. Did you know, for example, that five to 10 minutes of running per day can reduce cardiovascular risks by 45 per cent and increase life expectancy by three years?
Here’s my top six things that should help you ace your running and fitness routine!
1. Set Small, Realistic And Consistent Goals
Remember, each of us has diverse body compositions, metabolism levels and athletic abilities. Irrespective of what fitness level you are at, you will need an individualised training plan to improve your cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Here’s what you need to take care of.
Completely new to running? You must define your routine yourself. Begin with making running a habit — a few minutes per day, a few times a week. Set a 4-week goal like running your first 3 km. If you're someone who regularly walks or works out, your goal can be to run 5 km.
If you run regularly, you can think about setting a big goal for the year — maybe breaking a certain time or progressing to longer distances. Depending on your fitness levels or goal, you’ll need to follow a 12-week or 16-week plan. If you want to get faster, your training plan should help you prepare for exactly that.
It is easy to be all gung-ho about running and want to go as fast as you can. Don't! Go slow and steady. It takes some time for all the muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints and your lungs to adjust to this new form of exercise. Remember, a good warm up and cool down are essential too! This is applicable to all people, across all abilities.
Also, treat yourself when you achieve those smaller milestones!
2. Practice Makes Perfect
Your first step should be building a strong base, spanning at least four to six weeks. Over time, you will get less breathless and stronger.
Beginners, get into a running routine 3 days a week. Twice a week, do shorter runs (20 to 30 mins) and do a longer run (40 to 60 mins or longer) on the weekend. It’s okay to alternate between running and brisk walking, initially. Once you find a run/walk ratio that works best for you, gradually increase your running time and decrease your walking time.
Seasoned runners, break your week into 4-6 training days and include the following:
Easy Runs twice a week at a comfortable, conversational pace for muscle recovery.
Include confidence building Speed Runs at least once a week. Start with a warm up of 2-3 km of easy running and finish with a relaxed cool down of 2-3 km. Intervals can range from 200m to 1 km, depending on the race you are training for.
Long Runs to improve fitness and build endurance should be done once a week. Go for distance rather than time — slow it down, be patient, and don't worry about your pace.
Score free training plans on the internet (Hal Higdon’s plans are popular. I followed it for my first 21km back in 2010) or hire a certified running coach in your city or online (done this!).
3. Cross Train — Don't Forget Your Other Muscles!
Runners are prone to injuries related to glutes and hip flexor weakness. So, it’s important to build optimum strength, improve muscle power, eliminate any muscle imbalance and increase endurance. Activities such as swimming, Yoga, pilates, body/free weights or other functional training activities are great cross-training options.
If you're joining a gym or are already part of one, weight train two to three times a week. Use lighter weights, do more reps per set and focus on key body areas. Do a 4 to 6-week strengthening plan with a focus on your key muscle groups: core, glutes and hamstrings, shoulders, back and arms. If you’re unsure, seek help from a certified coach, fitness trainer or physiotherapist.
4. Nutrition And Hydration
What runners should eat and drink is the subject of many ill-informed discussions. Remember, carbohydrates and fat are primary energy sources for endurance exercises such as running. Protein plays the crucial role of recovery, as do vitamins and minerals. Consult a nutritionist for more information on a balanced diet.
Finally, staying well hydrated is VERY important to prevent dehydration and to avoid any negative effects towards your performance. Remember, your blood and other fluids help remove waste products and bring nutrients to tissues for repair. So, replacing lost fluids as quickly as possible after running, will speed up your recovery.
On an average, you should be drinking at least 1.9 litres per day. Depending on your training intensity and weather conditions, you need to drink up one and a half times the amount of weight you lost. Water and carbohydrate replacement drinks containing sodium are excellent for staying hydrated.
Top athletes like the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt, vouch that sleep is an extremely important part of training. Your body needs to recuperate and will thank you by being injury free. Dedicate one day per week for total and complete rest and consider investing in a foam roller. Foam rolling helps minimise your body's aches and pains by addressing the layers of connective tissues, called fascia, that surround all the muscles in our body. This helps increase your range of motion, lower risks to injury and improves recovery time.
6. Stay Motivated
The motivating power of running groups is incredible. Since runners are such social beings, a running group helps with training and sharing the joys (aches, cramps and sweat, too) of finishing that race. It is fairly easy to find one. I, personally, totally love the Adidas Runners- a global community currently in the cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore in India. It’s free, it’s fun and it’s wonderfully empowering.
In conclusion, remember to enjoy the process. Be patient with yourself and your body. Believe in the process, believe in yourself. Happy Running!
About The Author: Nivedita Samanta is a NAASFP Certified Running Coach, Brand Ambassador and athlete for Adidas Running and Unived Sports in India and founder of FitRabbits. All the information in this article is explained in great detail on the FITRABBITS YouTube channel.