Running your best run - top training tips and how to avoid injury
Whether you're new to running or preparing to complete a long-distance run, such as a marathon or half marathon, preparing well is important.
If you're doing a 10+ mile event, it can be a gruelling process, particularly in the training leading up to big day. To help, here's are our tips on how to train and avoid injury.
Fuel your body
Long-distance runs use a lot of energy, so it’s important you give your body the fuel it needs.
Try to eat foods high in carbohydrates before exercise, especially in the week leading up to the race. Potatoes, beans and brown rice are all good sources of carbohydrates. Your muscles need protein to grow and recover, which can be found in meat, fish, dairy products, nuts and legumes.
About 3 to 4 hours before the race, eat a breakfast high in carbohydrates with some protein, such as porridge with fruit. Take a sugary snack, such as a banana or energy bar, to the start line.
After the race, eat something high in carbohydrates, and have a high-protein meal 3 hours afterwards to help boost muscle recovery.
Make sure you’re drinking water whenever you feel thirsty and having at least a few sips every 15 minutes during the race. Use energy gels or drinks every 30 minutes during the race to keep your stores of carbohydrates up.
Warm up and cool down
There are different training programmes online to help you build up to a long-distance event. It’s important that you warm up before and cool down after exercise to avoid injury. A good warm up should include a mixture of exercises that stretch and strengthen your muscles, as well as work on balance and landing techniques.
Spend five minutes cooling down afterwards, stretching out your major muscle groups, particularly the hips, knees and ankles. Massage, compression stockings and a cold bath followed by a hot shower can help you recover too.
Listen to your body
If you’re thinking about doing a long-distance event, you ideally want to start your training around three months before. You’ll need to gradually build up how often, how hard and how long you train for as you could risk an injury.
You don’t have to give up other sports that you enjoy, you’ll just need to be careful not to over-train. If you start to feel excessively tired, or if your fitness or performance starts to decrease, you might have over-trained.
Get the right equipment
In the lead up to a big running event, it’s a good idea to go to a running shop to have your running style assessed and to get the right shoes. Having well-fitting shoes reduces the chances of blisters and other injuries and can help your running technique.
Wear tight clothes, such as running tops and leggings, as these are less likely to rub and cause chafing. Apply Vaseline to certain areas more prone to chafing, such as the groin, armpits and nipples.
Treating an injury
If all doesn’t go to plan and you do pick up an injury, there are things you can do to help yourself.
Small things like blisters are best treated by draining the blister but leaving the top in place to prevent infections. Blister plasters can be used over blisters to protect them and let them heal.
If you get an injury, follow the PRICE principles below to treat it:
- Protection – protect the area from further injury, using supports, splints, padding or taping.
- Rest – don’t train through pain or injury - avoid exercise and give yourself time to heal.
- Ice – use ice to reduce pain and swelling. Put an ice pack, frozen peas or similar, wrapped in a damp towel on the injured area for 15-20 minutes every few hours.
- Compression – reduce swelling by wearing compression bandages.
- Elevation – keep the injured part of the body higher than your heart, if possible, to reduce blood flow and swelling.
It’s a good idea to see a healthcare professional, such as a GP or physiotherapist, about any injury so you can get advice and start the right treatment as soon as possible.
Remember not to rush back to exercise before you’ve completely healed, as you could risk a repeat injury.
Running with arthritis
If you’re wanting to do a long-distance run and you have arthritis, it’s a good idea to speak to a healthcare professional about this first. They’ll be able to give you advice on the best way to train, and how to avoid injuring any affected joints.
Sometimes people with arthritis can find running or jogging hard, as it can put pressure on the joints in your legs. You might want to consider trying other activities, such as swimming or cycling.
Remember why you’re doing it
You might get an injury; you most likely get caught in the rain and you might swallow the odd insect but remember why you’re running!
Training for a half-marathon hasn’t been easy. It’s certainly taken a toll on me and I’ve had to pace myself a lot more than I thought I would, but I’m determined to persevere. By supporting Versus Arthritis, I have a chance to raise money for a charity that is helping people affected by arthritis and investing in research to, if not find a cure, help to further understanding of the condition.
Running for a cause you believe in, is worth every second of training. It’s not about winning the race; it’s finishing that race in any time.
Find out more about forthcoming events.