Novice runners make too many mistakes when they start out. Not only do they have unrealistic expectations from themselves, they try to incorporate a host of potentially dangerous advice from random runners. I was one of them.
“Sports drinks are better than water for races,” a fellow runner once told me before my first 10k race. I went all out in the beginning, ran as fast as I could and sipped energy drinks in between till 5k. A sudden heaviness and extreme exhaustion struck me down soon after.
Although I completed the race, the feeling of starting with the front pack and finishing with the last was disheartening. A severely parched throat and a bruised ego waited for me at the finish line. “People leave too many things to the unknown,” explains prominent sports scientist Shayamal Vallabhjee. Vallabhjee was a part of ‘Ignite Your City’, a global initiative by PUMA held in New Delhi. “The whole idea behind the Ignite event is to bring back fun into running, reunite running communities and influence more people,” said Vallabhjee. Whether you’re starting new or already a runner, these handy tips will help you separate fact from fiction.
1. Finish as fresh as possible
People put too much stress on themselves for shorter distances and get exhausted quickly. Start slow and build up gradually, advises Vallabhjee. Research also suggests that starting slow preserves glycogen stores for fuelling later in the race so you can finish fresh and strong.
2. Use the principle of periodisation
The biggest mistake we do is we don’t pick the races we run our best in. We try to overachieve. Periodisation helps you achieve a higher level of performance. This process divides your training cycle, of let’s say 12-14 weeks, into manageable phases, each with certain specific goals. It encourages you to plan your running and you’ll most likely be more successful when you plan.
3. Don’t leave too many things to the unknown
No matter what distance you’re running, your longest run should have been 70% of that distance at least. For example, for a marathon, the 70% should be 30-35k. This will give you an idea of what to expect on race day. People leave too much to the unknown when they prepare for races.
4. Know what fluids work for you
Traditional sports drinks have three components to fuel your body: water, electrolytes and carbohydrates. For a half marathon, water perhaps works, says Vallabhjee. But for longer runs, try sports drinks. It however doesn’t mean that water will work for you every time. Understand what kinds of fluid work for you. Point is to maintain an osmotic balance. Since water travels in our body via osmosis, knowing this process is important. Our body’s energy requirements vary, for instance your energy depletion at 10k will be different from a 42k.
5. Strength train twice a week
Strength training is a prerequisite for runners. It improves running performance, whether that’s running economy or time to exhaustion. Besides, it corrects muscular imbalances by training the oft-neglected smaller muscles in your body.
6. Interval training and hill sprints
Interval training essentially means alternating between intense bursts of activity coupled with fixed periods of less-intense activity or perhaps even complete rest periods. The idea is to shock your body. You can achieve more in 15 minutes of interval than slogging for hours on a treadmill. Through hill sprints you can build stronger muscles. Hill sprints hit your leg muscles with each step.
7. Rotate between two pairs of running shoes to reduce injuries
The tissue loading pattern is different in each shoe, says Vallabhjee. Different shoes distribute the impact forces of running differently, thereby lessening the strain on any given tissue at a particular time. Although not an injury prevention strategy in itself, this can significantly cut down your risk of an injury.
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