Want to get fit fast?
DOs and DONT's from Éilis Dolan, a Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist with Sports Surgery Clinic
LET'S START WITH THE POSITIVE
1. Planning your training in advance is a MUST!
“Slowly but surely” is how all successful runners began their running journey and it is best to walk before you run. Initially begin with incorporating walking into your daily routine especially if you’re a complete beginner. Start with as little as 10 – 15 minutes daily and gradually build up over a few weeks. Once you are comfortable walking 20-30 minutes you can start to include some walk/run practice. In doing so, you’ll reap all the healthy rewards of walking while slowly and steadily building up your pace and, in the meantime, reducing the risk of injuries.
2. Graduated training.
Once you get started, it is important to stick to the planned training schedules, avoid all the 2’s – too much, too fast, too soon. Do minimal training for optimal results. Be consistent and balance hard efforts with rest. Rest days are essential to allow your body to recover and keeping a daily training log is useful to monitor progress and check you are keeping to the training plan.
3. Include strengthening exercises in programme “don’t forget your core”
A good strength training programme should specifically target the glutei (buttock), back, hamstrings, calves and quadriceps and core muscles .including specific exercises for training these muscles will help improve posture, performance and resistance to injury.
4. Ensure adequate warm- up and cool-down
All of your runs should start with a warm-up and end with a cool down. Why are they so important? A Warm-up increases heart-rate, breathing rate, and blood flow to the muscles and it also raises body temperature for optimal flexibility to prepare the body for increasing activity. Most importantly it minimizes stress on heart when you start to run. It doesn’t have to be long and can be 5-10minutes of simple brisk walking followed by gentle stretches, shrugging shoulders, knee lifts and heel kicks to limber up the body and joints. At the end of your running stopping suddenly is not advised. A cool-down will effectively allow your heart-rate and blood pressure to reduce gradually. A sudden drop in these can cause light headedness. Again 10 minutes of a slow jog down to a walk followed by stretches is highly recommended.
5. Keep Hydrated
Why is this important? Water helps regulate temperature, lubricates joints and assists in the transporting of nutrients and waste around body. The longer and more intensely you exercise, the more important is to hydrate. Don’t underestimate how much fluid you lose on exercising through sweating and particularly if you have salty sweat you need more water. Make sure to drink plenty of water and particularly if it’s a hot day you may have to increase intake to keep hydration levels high. Always have a bottle of water at the ready.
WHAT NOT TO DO
1. Don’t do too much, too fast, too soon
Many people who start running for the first time become enthused in the sport. It is common to hear people refer to themselves as having been bitten by the ’running bug’ and as a result they go running as often as possible. Unfortunately the running bug can often lead to “The Terrible 2’s”. Too Much - Too Fast - Too Soon. It is a myth that running longer, further and faster enhances performance. This only increases your risk of injuries. For optimum results stick to your planned training program.
2. Don’t ignore the niggles
It is not uncommon for runners to experience slight niggles in the joints / muscles which are associated with running. Often being in tune with your body, identifying these niggles and resting /easing back off your training schedule for few days is all that’s needed to allow your body recover. Ignoring your body’s natural warning signals by pushing on regardless will more than likely make matters worse and can turn an innocuous injury into a more serious complaint such as a muscle tear or stress fracture.
3. Don’t run on an empty stomach. “Fuel Your body”
The human body is like an engine that needs to be fuelled to perform. Don’t underestimate the importance of good nutrition when embarking on running fitness. Having a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in your diet is recommended. Ideally, you want to try to eat something at least 1 to 1 ½ hours before running. Choose something high in carbohydrates and lower in fat, and protein pre running such as a banana or an energy bar. Afterwards it is important to replace lost fluids and nutrients in the first 20 minutes post run. It is a good idea to maintain a daily training and nutrition log. This can help you keep track your exercises and calorie intake.
4. Don’t get stuck in a rut!
Variety is the spice of life! Changing your running route daily by either running your loop back to front or adding a mild elevation, will not only help prevent boredom, but can also improve your running performance. Cross training (i.e. doing a gym session or a Pilate’s class) instead of one of your weekly running sessions would be beneficial to help build core and lower limb strength and enhance your stamina.
5. Don’t compare yourself to other runners!
There's always going to be someone who can run faster or longer than you. Don't drive yourself crazy by comparing yourself to them or being discouraged because you aren’t at their level. Instead, think about you and the goals you want to achieve. Ensure these goals are realistic and match your current abilities and training efforts. Once you get running and start achieving these goals, why not reward yourself for all your hard work (i.e. with a nice sports massage or new running top!).
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