So you witnessed the torrent of 50,000 runners pouring through the streets of your dear city for the 48th annual New York City Marathon. You were awestruck by their tenacity and grit as they braved 26.2 miles of New York City pavement and potholes. They represented a rainbow of ethnicities, a spectrum of shapes and sizes, a magnitude of ideas and beliefs but all with one shared mission - cross the finish line and declare themselves victorious.
For some this undertaking was one in a string of many athletic feats, for others transversing the boroughs of New York City was something they’d only experienced in their wildest dreams.
Seeing strangers cheer for strangers tugged at your heartstrings, in fact, you found the whole scene so inspiring that you decided you’d be one the brave souls in next years line up. You realized like all the others before you that closing the distance between you and superhero started with taking the first.
So, you grabbed your laptop, registered for New York Road Runners’ 9 + 1 , and ordered yourself some fancy ass Mizunos, but what’s next? Although, it is very tempting to simply grab a couch to 5k program from the abyss of the inters- of - net. I’d advise you to be slightly kinder to your body. If you want to make your first race an (reasonably) enjoyable experience. Take the tips below into consideration as you set out to own these New York City streets.
Tip 1. Start with Strength
In order to become a better runner, you do in fact have to run more, however, many miss a huge opportunity to enhance their running ability by failing to supplement their aerobic training with strength training. Running is a high impact sport meaning that it is by nature weight bearing and requires repetitive ballistic movements that over time may cause tremendous amounts of stress to joints, bones, and tendons. Millet et al. found that high-intensity strength training increased muscle-tendon stiffness (measured as running leg stiffness). Improving force transmission, due to a more optimal muscle-tendon stiffness, which could contribute to improved exercise economy. In other words, by supplementing your training program you make the process of running tons of miles more tolerable on your bones, joints, and tendons which in turn can increase the efficiency in which your body absorbs shock during your runs thereby reducing your chance for injury and ensuring you cross the finish line.
Tip 2. Start Slow
In the world of endurance training often times there’s a false equivalence between more and better. More mileage, more speedwork, more training days, equals “Better Runner”. It is this ideology that has running ranked as one of the highest sports for injury. Here are just a few of the statistics on running injuries according to research done by the Sports Medicine and Athletic Related Trauma Institute at the University of South Florida “ According to statistics collected 65% of runners will be injured in any given year. For every 100 hours of running the average runner will sustain at least 1 running-related injury. The average runner will miss out on 5-10 % of their training per year due to injury. Novices runners are significantly more likely to be injured than experienced runners. On average only 50 percent of these injuries are new, the rest are chronic and recurring.” (USF 2010)
The most common running injuries ( Runner’s knee, shin splints, stress fractures etc. ) are overuse injuries often resulting from overtraining. Overtraining typically occurs when an athlete progresses too quickly by doing too much too soon. The good news is overuse injuries are preventable by starting slow. Gradual is the name of the game when it comes to the body. Small changes over time lead to tremendous results. The same is true when it comes to your running.
Follow these pointers.
Aim to gradually increase your mileage, training frequency and even your speed.
Don't over stress your pace right away and aim to only increase your mileage by 10 percent on a weekly basis.
Make sure you are properly warming up and cooling down before and after every run. Gradually raising your body temperature before and gradually bringing your body back to homeostasis once you're done
Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for a race. Don’t try and overcompensate for training missed during the month or last weeks leading up to your race it's much too late and your body will not recover in time for your actual race. For a marathon, you’ll need at least 18 weeks of training to prepare if you are new to running.
Tip 3. Start with community**
If you have the availability of schedule and or funds consider joining a run club** or working with a coach. Being a part of a run group will expose you to seasoned runners as well as running culture. This will help you avoid many of the common novice mistakes like overtraining, inadequate nutrition, ill-fitting gear, poor running routes and much more.
Check out running Meet-ups in your area or take a look at one of these clubs:
** When joining a run group be sure to inquire about the training program the group is following and if their training is designed for a specific racing distance. If runs aren’t thoroughly thought out or planned this can also lead to overtraining or even undertraining, either way, you’re left ill-prepared for your race. If you can afford to invest in your new passion it is best that you work with a run coach as she/he will be able to develop a personalized program for your needs and relative training experience.
Tip 4. Start with Gear
Shoes can make or break you as a runner. Without proper support, you can be left overpronating. Too tight, too loose, or too wide and you’ll have a different stride altogether. The best way to avoid these challenges completely is to take a trip to a specialty running store and allow them to examine your gait and get you properly fitted for shoes. A caveat to this is that you have the final say on what shoes you leave the store with. You want to ensure that the shoe that you say yes to feels comfortable and that you're able to wiggle your toes freely in your training socks.
Lastly, be sure to change your running shoes every 300 miles or every 5-6 months whichever comes first in order to avoid excessive wear and tear and never put your shoes in the washing machine or dyer for this very reason. Stay tuned for our blog post where we focus on seasonal running gear. Since winter is right around the corner. Injury prevention encompasses a wide variety of topics from appropriate running gear to cross-training and adequate recovery
Tip 5. Start with Prevention
If you simply followed the last four tips you’d be doing a phenomenal job at injury prevention. Although, prevention isn’t really that sexy of a word it does keep you doing the things that you love more regularly and consistently than rehabbing or recovering would. Other preventative habits you can put into play to keep you injury free this training season are as follows:
Cross training - As mentioned earlier running is a load bearing ballistic activity that can be very taxing on the body. When done in moderation it can offer amazing health and cardiac benefits and improvements to your overall fitness. When done obsessively however it can lead to chronic and prolonged injuries. To mitigate these issues and still improve your fitness level and cardio performance for your races incorporate other forms of cardio and fitness related activities that have less impact on the joints and tendons.
Try to vary your running surfaces as not all surfaces are forgiving - Check out this amazing article from Runner’s World where the rank the best running surfaces.
Invest in restorative work. - Rather its a weekly or bi-weekly massage, a cold plunge or visit to the cryo-chamber, or spending 30 minutes a day of stretching and foam rolling on your own. Keeping your muscles relaxed and restored will do wonders for keeping you out and running.
Tip 6. Start with Fun
When the training gets tough, and believe me it will. Remember why you started in the first place. You were out in the streets of your city watching strangers cheering for strangers and desperately wanted to be a part of that celebration of triumph. Allow that esprit de corp to get you through the long and cold miles when everyone else is in bed or out at brunch. It’s this passion that is going to supply you with the discipline you'll need to get it all done