Advice from experts not to derail your enthusiasm before spring.
The end is in sight. Spring is just around the corner - it's time to get out and feel the spotted sunlight on our skin and the wind in our hair! Even if you feel ready to kick off your workout, your body may take some time to get used to the idea. Running physiotherapists report a sudden spike in patients at this time of year, while runners intensify their training regimes or switch from treadmill to asphalt.
1. Build slowly
It's boring but true, rapid changes in routine are the most likely cause of a running injury.
Avoid abrupt increases in "load", such as jumps in the overall running volume, rapid changes from treadmill to outdoor running, or increases in faster or uphill workouts. As a rough guide, avoid consecutive weeks in which the overall running volume (miles or km) or the proportion of fast jumps is more than 15%.
It is a good idea to keep a training log and monitor how you react to changes in training habits. This can help you deal with problems before they become critical. Running monitoring applications can give you an idea of the amount you are running, but it is also important to keep a subjective record of how you felt during and after your workouts. Make a note of any stiffness or pain and recognize changes in mood or energy levels. If 4 runs a week make you feel nervous and stiff, take your workout back to a level where you felt most productive.
2. 2. Slow down
New or inexperienced runners tend to run too fast, running out of "gas" long before their bodies begin to adapt to the rigours of the race.
This is especially true for runners who have spent the winter hammering the treadmill. The key to improved running is consistency - a solid, consistent running routine builds overall strength and powers your aerobic engine. It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or an elite, most of the time you spend running should be at a pace you can keep up the conversation with a partner. If you run 'hard' all the time you can't run much - the more you practice, within reason, the better you become.
3. 3. Factor of time changes
Unless you live in the Bahamas, you still need to consider potential climate change in your preparation.
Spring rains can derail a race, so plan your routes accordingly. This is not always possible, but avoid races that end in a headwind. But, you don't really want to face the race with a strong cold wind when you're already sweaty and cold.
4. 4. Be aware of the different needs of outdoor running v treadmill.
Although running outdoors is biomechanically similar to running on a treadmill, there are subtle differences that alter the "stress" that runs through your body. On a treadmill, runners tend to increase their cadence, lower their knee lift and spend more time on the ground.
A change in outdoor running can mean increased impact forces, increased stress through your achilles and plantar fascia, and increased workload for hip/buttock extenders.
It is difficult for runners to stay completely off the asphalt, but there are some things you can do to prepare for change.
o Focus on increasing cadence outdoors.
In the first outdoor races focus on marginal stride shortening and increasing step turnover. Don't worry about which part of your foot hits the ground first, but concentrate on quiet steps where you apply your entire foot to the ground.
Warm up the hip extenders.
Before you go out for a run, loosen your hip muscles with a series of leg swings. Facing the wall, swing your leg back and forth like a pendulum from your hip joint. Hold the upper body still, with all the movement coming from the joint. This may also include a slow walking exercise - walk forward with your knees high, stand up and balance for 2-3 seconds on your toes.
Strengthen your foot and ankle.
Research suggests that just 2 weeks of simple foot strengthening exercises can have an impact on your susceptibility to nasty injuries such as plantar fasciitis / plantar tendinopathy. Try these 2 simple examples 4 times a week. It should only take 5-10 minutes.
Curls on your toes.
Standing or sitting on a chair put a towel under your bare feet. Slowly curl and relax your toes by pinching the towel underneath. Try 3 turns of 5-10 repetitions.
The calf rises with the towel. Roll up a towel and stand barefoot on the edge of the towel so that your toes are raised. Stand on your toes, pushing through your big toe. Start with 3 turns of 5-10 repetitions on both legs before doing this on one leg.
5. Tune in on your effort
Judging the pace and effort is harder than it looks.
We can use clocks or applications for "in-run" feedback, but we use this opportunity to go from "race to numbers" and listen to your body's reaction to training.
The easiest way to do this is to tune into your breathing. At this stage most of the running should be at a "constant" or aerobic pace - you should be able to maintain the conversation with a partner all the time. Adjust your rhythm and tune into this rhythm despite the variety of terrain, weather and topography.
Once you have established a good constant running routine you can start experimenting - learning how different levels of effort affect different areas of the body. Stimulate your heart to pump more oxygenated blood with a weekly timed run, maintaining a rhythm where your breathing begins to become tense, or increase your lung capacity with a 2-3 minute interval session where your breathing reaches its maximum rhythmic range. Why not also do a series of hill sprints and feel your legs start to burn? Breathing goes out the window!
6. Don't do it alone.
Running with others has a number of advantages.
Research suggests that you are more likely to stick to an exercise regimen if you commit to doing it with others. Your workout performance improves itself, resulting in greater fitness gains.