Prepare, run, recover. There are no shortcuts to long-term performance in this demanding sport.
The key to a great race or even a training run is often what you do before you hit the road or track. To maximize performance and prevent injury, it’s important to carefully prepare your body for the event—and to allow it to recover afterwards.
Running coach Cliff Matthews recommends a combination of light dynamic drills, stretching, proper hydration and active recovery.
Proper hydration is key before a run. Light yellow urine is an indicator of sufficient hydration. If in doubt, drink 400 ml of liquids two to three hours before a run.
Warm up preparation should include muscular activity specific to the event, Matthews says. This could be a slow, gentle walk followed by a light, low-intensity run lasting eight to 15 minutes. Include some specific pace-running in stride form. He recommends the following light drills to prevent injury:
1. A high-knee-action march accompanied by a toeing-up at the ankle with arm action, as in running.
2. A high-knee-action march, followed by a pawing down and back of the foreleg.
3. Butt kick or heeling drills—a modified running action with minimal forward progression, and lifting the heels high under the buttocks.
4. Leg swings to follow in sequence, bent leg, straight leg and across the body.
Dynamic stretches include light walking lunges; a hamstring stretch starting from a push up position and walking towards the hands; and finally, starting from an upright walking position, walk forward, raising a straight leg to the opposite hand with hands at shoulder height.
Mental preparation may be the most important component. Racing and training must be approached in a confident and relaxed manner. Discuss plans and strategy with a coach or advisor, going through a prerun series of mental rehearsal routines. Always think positively.
Post-run emphasis should be on recovery and then analysis. Recovery will be different depending on environmental conditions, the length of the race or training session and the physical toll on the body.
Matthews recommends a light cool down run, followed by a short walk and static stretching of the hips, hamstring, quads, calves and Achilles tendon. After an intense workout, ice baths can help the body to recover.
Rehydration is always key. Fluid replacement after a run should approximate 1 litre per kilogram of fluid loss. As most individuals lose fluids at varying rates, monitor your own rates by checking your weight before and after your runs to get a sense of your requirements.
Increasingly, runners and other athletes are drinking chocolate milk within 30 minutes of intense workouts. It is low in fat and helps to replace fluid and electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. It also adds carbs and protein to refuel and repair muscles; a 500 ml serving of chocolate milk contains an average of 16 grams of protein.
Follow these guidelines consistently and your runs will improve. Practice proper rest and recovery, and you will be itching to go back for more.
As seen in March April 2012 edition of OptiMYz Magazine