So you’ve decided to run your first race. Congratulations! It takes guts, determination, and a true focus on extracting every ounce of potential from your body to adequately prepare yourself for long distance running and racing. You’ll find a host of training tips available today – some anecdotal, some scientific, and some simply based in common sense. But there are some key race training tips that must be adhered to in order to safely and effectively complete your first race, and there is no room for shortcuts when it comes to these important activities. Instead of discussing the importance of buying the right shoes and making sure that you are outfitted head to toe in lightweight, breathable clothing, these tips are much more basic, quite necessary for the first time racer, and absolutely crucial to the veteran runner.
- Shortcut #1: ignoring the maintenance and care of your body – if you are new to the sport of running or have never fully prepared yourself for the rigors of a long distance race, you might think that aches and pains simply come with the territory. While running can cause muscle cramps, joint fatigue, and other common impact–related ailments, you should address the root cause of the pain instead of simply blocking it out through medication.
To minimize the chance for injury or training-related aches or pains, make sure that you conduct a thorough warm-up and stretching session prior to each run. You can also cross train in yoga during your race training to help improve your flexibility, strength, and balance throughout key parts of the body.
- Shortcut #2: Relying too much on supplements – whether you are new to running or are a seasoned pro, you’ll want to ensure that you don’t rely too much on supplements instead of ingesting the real thing. While training supplements are incredibly popular these days and are often targeted at those who want to incrementally improve their performance, it is irresponsible to rely solely on supplements to support your running performance or overall health.
Instead, you may continue taking a multivitamin or other supplement to help fill in the gaps or when you have taken a misstep in your diet routine. Then focus on obtaining those important micronutrients from real foods. It takes more effort and additional planning to ensure that you are ingesting enough fruit, vegetables, grains, and protein to meet your heightened dietary needs during training, but your body knows the difference. Nature generally provides all of the nutrients, supplements, and boosters that we need, and dietary supplements from a jar are best left to those times when you haven’t been able to eat a square meal.
- Shortcut #3: Trying to create energy, instead of conserving it – when you are at the height of your training regimen, you’ll need to do everything you can to conserve energy and battle fatigue. Many runners think that performance drinks that are laden with caffeine and other stimulants are the answer, but these ingredients simply mask the sensation of fatigue instead of actually helping your body.
Instead of taking an energy drink shortcut, try to rework your own schedule to ensure you get a full night sleep. Most sleep experts agree that the average adult requires 7 ½ hours of sleep per night, so work the math backwards and determine an appropriate time for you to go to bed. If you need to wake up at 6:30 every morning to get ready for work, you’ll need to make sure that you are in bed no later than 11 o’clock each night. Getting enough sleep means your body will be able to repair any damage from the day’s training, and it will be able to recharge for the next day’s activities.
When you are preparing for your first race it is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of supplements, energy drinks, and other running accessories that promise to deliver a pain-free and high-performance experience during your next run. Don’t feel compelled to cheat nature – make sure that you continually refine your posture and balance, eat right, and get enough sleep, and you’ll do everything you can to prepare your body for that first big race.