There’s no better way to inject some enthusiasm into your exercise program than to start training for a fun run. It’s also a good excuse to plan your training in advance and push yourself a little harder than normal. These events are usually open to all ages and fitness levels, and they typically include options for different course lengths and starting times. If you become a regular participant, you will then have your own previous record to beat each year. You could also involve friends, work associates or family, both in your training and on the day of the event. But how soon should you start training beforehand, and what sort of training is best? Read on for some practical tips on how to train for a fun run.
Before you jump straight into a new training program, you should consider several important details.
It’s advisable to visit your doctor for an “all clear” before you start running. This is especially the case if you’ve been inactive for some time, if you are over the age of 40 or if you have a family history of heart disease. Smokers and people with diabetes, obesity and hypertension would also be wise to check with their medical practitioner.
Use a good pair of shoes specifically designed for running. A great deal of force is absorbed by your feet during every foot strike, so protect and cushion your joints with suitable footwear.
A warm-up increases circulation and helps to prepare your muscles for exercise, making them more flexible and less likely to tear or strain.
Try walking fast or jogging very slowly for the first three to five minutes of your workout. And as your running speed improves, you may need to spend a bit longer warming up.
Start training at a level where you feel comfortable.
Train at a low intensity for two to four weeks so your muscles and ligaments can adjust to your increased level of activity. Beginners can start with walking or a combination of walking and running while building up endurance.
Aim for four days of running a week, and give yourself at least eight to 12 weeks to prepare for a fun run. Ideally, don’t miss more than two days of training in a row to help build your cardiovascular endurance.
Running is an intense activity, so make sure to include rest days that help your body to recover. Taking a few days off each week also helps to keep your mind fresh. Stretching on your rest days can also help keep your body supple.
If you have any doubts, it would help to consult a personal trainer or running coach. He or she will take into account any injuries or health problems you have and design a program that fits your specific needs.
To help maintain your interest in running, it’s important to continually challenge your mind and body with different surfaces, gradients, time challenges and intervals. You’ll be less likely to suffer an injury and more likely to stay motivated. Following are some helpful tips on how to stay on track and keep on running.
Different surfaces and gradients add intensity and place different demands on your muscles and joints.
Plot out a set course that you will enjoy repeating every week or two, and time the duration of your run. Now you have a measured time that you can improve upon.
Try alternating bursts of high-intensity exercise (sprinting) with periods of active rest (slow jogging or walking) to add variety and improve your results.
On a cold, wet or windy day, visit your local gym for a treadmill workout. Alter the speed and incline to a challenging pace and intensity.
Training partners and support groups are a great way to add enjoyment and accountability to your running. When you make a commitment to exercise with someone else, you’re more likely to stick with it.
With modern technology advancing at breakneck speed, there is a wide range of gadgets and workout toys available to make your running and training more interesting.
These allow you to instantly and continuously check your exercise intensity (heart rate) and make sure you are reaching the goal of a particular workout. They let you know when to increase or decrease your training load to maximise your chances of burning fat or boosting your cardiovascular fitness.
These nifty devices, which, like the GPS in your car, use global positioning system satellites to source your ever-changing position and transmit training information are a great tool for runners. They strap onto your wrist or arm and give you a variety of details about your run, such as the duration, current or average speed, kilojoules burned, elevation above sea level and distance covered. They are incredibly accurate, and most are simple enough for the novice to use.
A pedometer is a small electronic device that attaches to the waistband of your pants and measures movement by the forward or downward impact of each step. They are an inexpensive way to measure the distance you’ve run or walked, the number of kilojoules you’ve used and the total number of steps you’ve taken.
The feedback they give can help to keep you motivated and informed of the total amount of activity that you have done.
Listening to music while you run is a great way to get motivated, and new technology has made music more portable than ever. MP3 players are lightweight, reasonably priced and can store thousands of songs on a device not much bigger than a matchbox. Most mobile phones can also store enough music to last several hours.
While running is a great form of exercise, several important considerations can add to your enjoyment and can prevent injury. Use the following tips as a guide.
Make sure you drink before, during and after your run. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty, as you may already be partially dehydrated.
Little sips of cool water are best, while sports drinks are helpful if your workout is longer than 60 minutes.
Try to plan your training early in the morning or later in the evening, when the humidity and temperature are lower.
Avoid the sun when it’s at its most intense.
Follow the three Ss of sun care: slip on a shirt; slop on sunscreen; and slap on a hat. Sunscreen should be SPF 30+.
Early signs of dehydration include thirst, light-headedness, tiredness, grogginess, nausea, and a cold, clammy feeling. If you ignore these warning signs, you may develop more serious symptoms, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Wear as little clothing as possible to allow for greater heat dissipation. Choose clothes that are lightweight, loose fitting, light coloured (to reflect the sun’s rays) and made of a material that absorbs water.
Help your body adjust to a resting state by cooling down after your workout. Walk for at least five minutes, and stretch your running muscles such as the front and back of your thighs and your calf muscles.
No matter how much training you’ve done, you can fine-tune your performance in the last few days before the race. The following tips can make a big difference.
To maximise your energy reserves, avoid any vigorous exercise the week before your race. Keep your training light by sticking to walking or a very gentle run.
Eat a high-carb, low-fat meal the night before to maximise your energy levels. Include plenty of low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrate foods, such as whole-grain pasta, brown rice, vegetables and multigrain bread.
Get a good night’s sleep so you wake up refreshed and alert. Avoid caffeine before going to bed.
Drink plenty of water before, during and after the race, especially if it’s a hot day or if you tend to sweat a lot. There are usually water stations every kilometre or so along the course, so take advantage of them.
Eat a light meal between 60 and 90 minutes before the race. Choose high-energy, easy-to-digest foods such as toast, fruit, cereal or a skim-milk banana smoothy.
Do your best to stick to the portions and types of foods your body is used to.
And good luck.