Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How to Train for a Race

I obviously have to start out by saying that I am not a personal trainer, I have no medical or professional training - this is based on my own experience. 

I think everyone understands to get a training plan so when I say how to train for a race, I'm not really talking about the actual what do I do to run thing. I'm talking about the ancillary things that you must do in order to not get injured. I'm bringing this up because my mom, who is training for her first half, is battling a tight right hamstring/piriformis tendon/tight back muscle and it's bothering her. I also always hear about people with shin splints, knee pain, ITB pain, etc etc. How can you make it through intense endurance training without this pain? I can't speak for others but when I have pains like the ones above, it's because I'm not doing the right things in addition to my running to keep me ready for the actual run part.

1. Warm up - so simple, so basic yet people don't do it. Your cardiovascular system nor are your muscles ready to just jump into a 10 mile run on an early saturday morning. You've been possibly sitting at a desk all week, sleeping wrong, blah blah so the idea of just running 10 miles at a 9:30 pace without any type of preparation is silly. Major athletes don't just jump onto the field without a proper warm up so we shouldn't either. (not that we're going to be playing 4 quarters of hard nose football but anytime you ask your body to do something out of the ordinary, you need to prep it first). There is a lot of debate on how to warm up but I personally like gentle movements that introduce heat to the areas of use. For running that's my legs (duh), my butt and my back/core. If i'm in a hurry, I may simply walk. If I have more time, I will try some targeted movements like circling my ankles, circling my legs at the hip, rolling my body up and down and maybe even some walking lunges. Then I'll walk to get my heart rate up a little and probably run a warm up mile.

2. Stretching - again, simple but people really don't do it. Honestly, I know why. Because stretching sucks. I'm normally in a hurry and don't have time for it. So how do I fix that?

3. Yoga - For me, yoga is better than stretching because it gets deeper. When I just stretch after I run, I don't get to the level that I need because certain muscles (my piriformis) tend to tighten up and need something much more than just crossing my foot over my knee. I have to attend yoga CONSISTENTLY through the week as I train for a long race. If I do not, I will get shin splints/tight hamstrings/pain everywhere. Let me repeat, it is imperative that I consistently take yoga in order to remain limber and not get injured. I think this is very important. I don't think enough runners do it because they don't think yoga is hard enough. Runners seems to have the mentality that if they aren't suffering when they're working out, its not worth doing. I know because I can sometimes have that mindset too. If that is your mindset, you may want to rethink why you run. Is it because you want to be healthy? That is why I run, to be healthy. Is it healthy for me to constantly beat my body up every day? no. it is not. So should every workout I do tear my body up? No it shouldn't. Ok, problem solved. The other benefits that yoga offers are strengthening your muscles, especially smaller muscles groups that you don't really do unless you take yoga/pilates and lengthening your muscles so they are not as prone to injury such as a pull. Why do the Pittsburgh Steelers take yoga, to keep them limber.

4. Massage - This is one that people don't do, I think, because of the cost and maybe not feeling like it's as important as it actually is. For me, I feel like it's a luxury and feel bad doing it. But really, I think it's super important because when I run, my muscles get tight and sore and torn up. A good massage therapist knows what to target and will get into those muscles to loosen them up and make sure they are functioning properly. What I have to ask myself is what can I forego during the month in order to have that extra money to use for massage? Do I need to eat out less, maybe not buy that shirt, etc? I think this is important because this is for the health of our bodies and if we're not caring for it properly, maybe we shouldn't be asking it to do so much, like running a marathon. If I want to challenge myself, I need to give myself the tools to do so. Otherwise, I'm setting myself up for failure. I'd rather do it right or not do it at all. 

So... those are my 2 cents about treating my body right. Any other suggestions? 

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