By Shannon Clark
So you may be looking for something to motivate you to keep getting out of bed in the morning and get to your cardio workout. A race, whether it be a 5-K, 10K, half marathon, or full-fledged marathon is the perfect solution. By giving yourself a goal such as this, it will feel like you are getting out of bed or off the couch to accomplish a purpose, rather than just log some more miles.
If you decide to enlist with a training partner, all the better. You two can work with each other, challenging each other and pushing the other past their limits. And remember that you don't necessarily have to be an all star runner to do events such as these. Everyday people can complete the races as walking is allowed in many of them along with very relaxed time allowances.
Many people just do it for the sheer experience and joy of completing the event. If you are new to racing you will probably want to start out with something smaller and then work your way up to a longer event. If you do have a fair bit of running background behind you however, you may wish to just jump into something more intense, you just have to judge what you think your body will be able to handle.
You can find many different types of training plans as well that are tailored for the event you plan to complete. Most will involve one long run each week where you will gradually build yourself up to or close to the distance you hope to compete at.
Depending on the length of the race, your weekly mileage will also keep increasing so you will be running on 3-5 days of the week and normally taking 2 or 3 days off to rest or performing some type of cross training activity (with the exception of some marathon plans where you will usually run most days of the week, some even having you run twice daily! - this is more for the advanced marathoner however).
Some tips for you to consider that will help you maximize your training and performance for the race are:
Start each day with a large, quality breakfast. You need a great deal of fuel to train for the longer duration events.
If you are trying to run on less than optimal glycogen stores you will find you are fatiguing quicker than you will likely have hoped for.
By eating a good balanced breakfast you will be able to top these stores of energy and be sure that you have enough fuel to get you through your afternoon or evening run.
One exception to this is if you are a morning runner. If this is the case you may find that you simply can't handle that large of a meal before you run. In this scenario, what you eat the night before will be critical for you.
You will want to make sure you have a healthy meal for supper and possibly have a good snack before bed containing some carbohydrates as well as protein. This will help you to wake up in less of a depleted state and will help you run for a longer period of time that morning.
It is still important however to try and get something in before your morning run, just find something light that you can easily tolerate. Some people prefer just a shake beforehand while others can tolerate something smaller like a banana or toast. Trying to go for a long run on an empty stomach however is not a good idea.
Eat immediately after you finish a long run. I can't stress this point enough. If you have just ran for a good hour plus, you have depleted a great deal of your muscle glycogen stores and your body is at its prime to replace them.
If you consume some good carbohydrates right after you finish running you will be able to recover faster after that run which will not only help you feel better for the rest of the day but will also help you be more prepared for your next workout.
Getting some protein in this post-workout meal is also a great idea as it will help to provide the muscles with the amino acid building blocks they need to begin repairing themselves.
The night after you finish a long training run, take a soak in a nice warm bath. This is a good therapeutic way to get the blood flowing through your muscles and help you relax and aid in your recovery. Also, since you just did such a hard workout, you deserve some good quality relaxation time!
At the end of an easier run, try and pick up the pace for a few 100 meters. By sprinting at the end of an easier run you will help train your body to get used to pushing harder during times of fatigue.
Since you are only partially fatigued (since it is an easy run) you can still force your body to work a little harder at the end, which will make your lighter runs seem that much easier in the future.
Don't do this on every easy run, as you do still need to have some days where you aren't pushing yourself or stressing your system otherwise you may begin to suffer from overtraining or burnout.
Play around with interval training. Doing some high intensity interval training is a great way to increase your speed and make your longer runs seem easier. You can perform shorter interval sessions, going maximally for a period of 30 seconds to 1 minute and then taking a 2 to 3 minute 'rest' period in between where you walk or slow down to a comfortable jog.
Or you can perform longer intervals of 2 minutes going at a more intense pace that you are used to (but not maximal however) and then taking shorter rest periods of 1 to 2 minutes (you won't need as much of a rest period since you not working quite as hard during your sprint).
The first method will really push you to your threshold and will help to improve your VO2 max level whereas the second method will help you become more comfortable running at higher paces for a longer period of time with less of a recovery.
Perform 6-10 of these interval sessions for 20 to 40 minute time period per session. Also remember that this type of workout is quite intense so you will need to allow yourself a good day or so to recovery from it (so don't schedule it right before a long run).
Plan out your race day before you go. You will be have a lot on your mind just thinking about competing the race itself that you don't need to have the distractions of worrying about getting into the hotel, what you will eat before the race, where the race is, etc. as well.
Ensure that you have all this figured out before you go to run so that when the day comes you can focus only on the race itself.
Get a good night's sleep two nights before the race. Chances are you will be pretty excited (with a bit of nervousness as well!) the night before the race and may not get the greatest sleep.
By taking the night before that night to really log some good quality hours you will help insure you will still be well rested come race day.
A few days before the race make sure to taper back your training as well and take some time to relax and allow your body to prepare itself
for the big day.
By following some or all of the above tips you will help ensure that your chosen race is an enjoyable event. Try and take in as much of it as you can, often they will have pre-race dinners the night before, and different social gatherings for the racers. Not only is the race a great time but the whole experience that goes along with it will surely go down in the memory books.
So if you've been feeling less than thrilled to perform you daily jog, look into a road race taking place near you and sign up for it. You may just discover a new passion in the process!