As spring approaches, many people are starting to think about the upcoming road race season. Whether you are a recreational, a social, or a serious runner, it is time to think about your preparation for the upcoming races, and if running is not your ideal form of exercise, these considerations may make your preparations less grueling. But before embarking on any sort of training program, you should ask yourself a few questions:
Consider what type of race you plan to run.
If the race involves sizable hills, or is a mountain race, strengthening the glutes and hamstrings is important to give you the acceleration you might need, and to improve your explosive power as well as providing core strengthening for postural stability and stamina throughout the race. Obstacle course races will more likely require full body strengthening and cross-training to negotiate obstacles that require upper body strength. On the other hand, if you plan on taking part in a trail run, balance and stability are of greater importance so you can safely navigate the uneven terrain.
Where is the race located and what is the terrain?
If racing at higher elevations, try to arrive at the race venue a few days early to aid your chances of acclimatizing to the altitude, and stay active during that time to accelerate the process. Terrain will play its part in the run as well. For example, running on sand will require lower leg strengthening and endurance work, while running on concrete is considerably harder on your knees, so strengthening your glutes is a good idea. This will create more pelvic and knee stability to support the joints.
What is your experience level and what are your goals?
If you are running your first 5k, a generalized strength-training program focusing on glute and core strengthening is ideal to stabilize your gait. However, if you run multiple marathons annually, in addition to a generalized strength-training program, a plyometric, speed and agility program will assist with your power and your ability to explode with acceleration when you need to. You will also need to focus on core strengthening for postural stability, and to reduce fatigue on long runs.
Overweight and just starting to run?
Make sure your running intensity and the mileage you cover increases slowly. Some coaches recommend progressing your running program by no more than five to ten percent of your weekly mileage in order to limit any incidence of injury. This may involve intermittent walk-jog intervals to sustain activity for a longer period of time.
Any pain you experience when you are running should never continue into the following day, or increase in intensity the day after your workout. If the pain does persist, make sure you address the cause immediately before it affects your running program, or worse, lingers and results in an injury.