Rev Your Engines - Race Season Is Here!
As the weather is getting warmer many of us have signed up or are thinking about signing up for one or more races come springtime. For some this may be in the form of a 5K, a 10K or a half marathon. For others it might be an open water swim competition, sprint triathlon or, for the more adventurous among us, an obstacle race such as Tough Mudder.
The point is that setting a race goal for ourselves provides the motivation needed to shed that winter weight and clear out the cobwebs that so many of us accumulated during the winter months. So the questions are: How do we take this responsibly while minimizing the risk of injuries? How do we set ourselves up for fitness for the entire race season and not just the first planned event?
“The point is that setting a race goal for ourselves provides the motivation needed to shed that winter weight…”
As we take the first steps back in the gym, on the track or outdoors, many face the harsh reality that it seems to take twice the effort to crank up the engine and get the oil flowing again. So here is a simple plan to get started, to get to race day and to meet and exceed your objectives.
Stick to these steps:
1st: Properly hydrate.
The importance of hydration for our muscles, fascia and internal organs cannot be overstated. Fitness professionals suggest that you drink at minimum 32 ounces of water a day. As you progress in your training and increase the frequency and intensity, keep an eye on your electrolyte intake as well. Regular sports drinks or electrolyte tablets are a simple and effective way to keep the electrolytic balance of the body in tact. The best way to hydrate your body while you are training is to drink smaller amounts of water while walking. This has a two-fold effect: you hydrate your body and, more importantly, your fascia while you are still moving.
2nd: Add focused and functional stretching before and after your workout.
Your muscles and connective tissue shorten as you exercise, which increases the risk of injuries. Think of the fascia as tissue that functions like a body glove. This body glove tightens not unlike what happens when you put your jeans in the dryer. As the fascia and muscle tissue tightens the body becomes less flexible, which translates into additional load. Therefore be as disciplined in your stretching as you are in engaging in your workout. AIS (Active Isolated Stretching) was developed by Aaron Mattes and is a well-respected system of stretching practiced by professional athletes.
3rd: Start slowly and gradually build.
This is key to a successful race season and overall health and fitness. So many of us start with the actual race distance on our first practice day or, worst yet, show up at the starting line with no preparation at all. Both scenarios are a sure recipe for injury. Many articles have been written about how to responsibly increase your frequency and intensity of exercise. Suffice it to say here that at no point should you increase your load by more than 10 percent during any week of your training regimen
4th: Add training that conditions the hips.
Pilates is great cross training for runners. It also brings an awareness to core stability and allows the spine to move in multiple planes, which is so important, as runners typically move in only one direction…forward!
5th: Taper a couple of weeks before your race to allow your body to rebuild itself and to establish the necessary reserves.
Again a common mistake is to train hard until the very last day before your race. Not only do you rob your body of a chance to recoup before a hard racing day, but you will not be able to peak on the day that you have been working toward for the past several months.
Have fun while you are engaged in your training preparations. So often we lose sight of the fact that it is the journey that brings the fulfillment we crave as human beings while the race is simply the icing on the cake.
Society Magazine - April 2014