Spring Into Race Training While Avoiding Injury


Tips for Beginners and Winter Hibernators
By Rebecca Smith

In the dark recesses of my mind, lurks the phrase ‘working out.’ Working out has a dull plodding lifelessness to it. Instead, you, my friend, are in training. Regardless of if you are training for a 5K, half or full marathon, training puts a different spin on your sessions (Note: Sessions, not workouts. When I tell my body that I’m going to work out, visions of my early spandex-y, neon-clad self jumping about in an ‘80s era body pump class surface, and I am 37% more likely to avoid said session. That was and is a far cry from my training self, both 1.5 decades ago and now). Racing can be done by anyone, regardless of where you land in the spectrum of runners, and it helps you to level up in your own personal goals.

I take my training much more seriously than bygone workouts and find it easier to create a lifestyle centric to my racing endeavors. Training has a weight and focus that pulls your food intake, cross-training and mid-run thoughts into a different realm. Working out won’t necessarily help you say no to junk food, weekend benders or soda over water. Training however inspires and dedicates you to your goal. For me, it lessens the feeling of deprivation or loss over what I’m not doing (i.e. eating gummy peach rings for breakfast) and what I am doing (not humiliating myself at the next Law Day Run).

Whether new to the racing world or a veteran of Olympic proportions, find your personal bite-sized race several months out and register for it. Pay the money, sign up and put the date in your calendar. Now put a big fat checkmark next to Step One. Congratulations. You’re now officially in training.

Next, set a reasonable goal. For a newbie, this might be simply finishing the race on your own two feet, sans ride in an ambulance or cab. It might be working to shave a minute off each of the 13.1 miles you’re stringing together or to pull down your total marathon time by a full hour. The web is rife with pacing information, workout guides and advice for building your mileage base, speed workouts and strength training. Search your goal terms along with the length of race, and schedule your sessions in detail. I’ll spare you the childhood pet names, but in the quasi-immortal words of my father: Make a plan. Work the plan.

Get out and gut up. Goal-oriented training is levering yourself out of your safe spot, be it the couch or your steady state where you could literally run forever, albeit not quickly. Theories abound, but try one on for size and make it work for you. Subscribe to an online magazine, print publication or check out a few books. The sheer volume of information and advice available is staggering. This being said, please seek the advice of a medical professional who graduated from an accredited institution before ingesting or engaging in anything too bizarre that promises anything stupendous or otherworldly. For more ways to prevent injury, read our tips section on the next page.

In my racing regimen, there are several truths I hold to be self-evident. Take them or leave them, they work for me, but tell me yours since I’m always looking for more.

• Core strength: Gospel according to my high school cross country coach, Willey Cowden: The one with the strongest abdominals wins in the last cramp-inducing all out sprint to the finish line. I do mini isometric ab training in my car and at my office while on never-ending conference calls. Racing guru Dane Rauschenberg hones his competitive edge with a resistance training mixture of ab work outs and push-ups, but his philosophy is, “The best way to get better at running is to run. Basketball players do not practice their jump shot by hitting tennis balls for hours on end.”

•Orthotics: You. Probably. Need. These. Bring in your old running shoes and your friendly neighborhood podiatrist will tell you all kinds of interesting things about your strike pattern and the 33 joints in your foot. Rigid/semi-rigid orthotics are made from plastic, fiberglass and/or graphite. Flexible orthotics are made from cork, leather and open or closed cell foams that all impart different densities and cushioning properties. I have a pair and they’re a little slice of heaven.

•Food: I’m a pasta and grains kind of girl. In high school, I used to eat cold, slimy plain pasta for two straight days before a race. (Both gross and unnecessary.) While it’s good to stockpile your energy with carbohydrates in the week before your race, moderation is key. In the week prior to the race, increase your carbohydrate intake paired with moderate protein, but don’t stray wildly from your normal balanced dietary routine. This isn’t the time to try funky new foods. Be nice to the tummy. In the 48 hours before your race, increase your fluid intake. Avoid eating anything that will make you bloated and gassy or that your stomach will have to work overtime to digest, such as fried anything, broccoli, beans or bran. Watch the dairy intake, and obviously, alcohol is out. On the day of the race, have a light breakfast more than 3 hours before race time. Your favorite sports drink will help to hydrate you and increase your carbohydrate load. Again, don’t surprise your stomach. Mid-race is an unpleasant and inconvenient time to find out something doesn’t agree with you.

Our expert, Dane Rauschenberg, has a myriad of pre-race meal plans, all dependent on the type of race he’s running be it a 5K or an ultra marathon. Dane competes in upwards of 50-plus races a year, in addition to coaching other runners and motivational speaking. With his hectic schedule of traveling, racing and speaking, he makes and breaks course records while admitting that his pre-race meals aren’t always up to his ideals, but they work for him. Quoting the great running philosopher George Sheehan, Rauschenberg said, “’We are all an experiment of one’ meaning that we have to find what works best for us through trial and error.” Rebecca Smith lives in Salt Lake City and is an avid runner who is currently training to improve her 5K.

Tips from TOSH to Reduce Your Risk of Suffering from a Running Injury

As spring bulbs begin to blossom and tree buds begin to pop, runners everywhere abandon their treadmills to take on their favorite streets, trails and tracks once again. But fresh starts often equal fresh injuries for those who take on too much, too fast.

Joel Nuttall, MSPT, a physical therapist at TOSH-The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital, says that a hard day/easy day approach is the safe way to train. “Whether you are a casual runner or training for a marathon, your goal should be overall running fitness,” he says. “Fitness gains are realized on your easy day, not your hard day.” Nuttall also says improving hip and core strength will help prevent against the most common running injuries. Besides strength training, he suggests adding cycling and elliptical training to your routine. This will help to improve muscle fitness and give your joints a break.

Street runners who follow the rules and run against traffic face a unique set of problems. Unlike treadmills, streets are crowned, which means you are running on a slanted surface. This puts extra stress on the uphill hip and forces your right foot to roll outward and your left foot to roll inward. Dr. Jim Walker, PhD, Director of Sport Science at TOSH, suggests searching out the flattest streets in your neighborhood and varying your route to even out the stress points.

Dr. Walker also says that runners who are training for long distance events are often too focused on mileage. Working on speed, instead of distance, can help you achieve that balance.

“Throw in some faster bursts of running to increase intensity and training effort,” he says. “This will force you to use different muscle groups. As your fitness improves, you should be able to increase your speed as well as your mileage.”

Other recommendations include the basics: Gradually increasing running time and distance; getting plenty of rest between workouts; maintaining good sleeping and eating habits; warming up and cooling down and stretching after every run. And, Dr. Walker says, don’t forget about your sneakers.

“Change out your running shoes every 300 miles. Better yet,” he says, “if you train every day, get two pair of shoes and alternate between them to protect your joints. It takes a full 24 hours for the mid-soles to decompress—regardless of the shoe’s brand or price.”

Nuttall says the reason physical therapy is the finish line for many runners is because they believe they can work through the pain. Taking on high-mileage weekends without developing proper fitness first is the reason 40 percent of first-time marathoners don’t even make it to the starting line.

Dr. Walker says pain is an indicator that it’s time to take a break.

“Don’t wait until injury limits your running because by then it might be too late to meet your race goal,” he says. “I’m not saying ‘stop training,’ I’m saying ‘change your training.’ It’s better to be underprepared and healthy than to be fit and watching from the sidelines.”

For those who are experiencing pain, TOSH offers a free injury assessment with experienced therapists like Nuttall. Runners who want to advance their form and technique might consider signing up for the TOSH Acceleration Training Program. You can find out more on each program by calling 801-314-2300.


About Author

Jenny Willden is the Managing Editor of Outdoor Sports Guide and a self-proclaimed gear and grammar nut. She's a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association and the Adventure Travel Trade Association. A lover of adventure and travel, she's happiest when riding horses or snowboarding in Utah’s mountains. Follow Jenny’s exploits on Twitter @jennywillden or Instagram @jlwillden.

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