Four Ways to Prepare for a Race
Running is a great way to stay healthy. It helps you burn calories while exercising and allows you to expend additional calories even after your workout.
It’s also good for your heart. Some studies have shown that even a five to 10-minute run can reduce the risk of heart disease. But while running a lap at your local park or hitting the treadmill for a mile have significant health benefits, it’s important to protect yourself from injuries that many runners commonly experience, such as knee pain and hamstring issues.
Because of the great year-round weather in Central Florida, there are limitless opportunities to run outdoors and to participate in local races and marathons. Whether you’re running a 3K, 5K or a full 26-mile marathon, here are four things you can do to prepare for your race, prevent injury and stay healthy and active.
HydrateDrinking just the right amount of fluids is critical to a good race. If you’re training for race, in addition to water you may want to carry a sports drink to replenish any lost electrolytes. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests drinking two to four ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes for runs an hour or longer and 16 to 32 ounces of a sports drink per hour.
Before a race, keep hydrated and stay away from beverages that can lead to dehydration, such as alcohol. On race day, make sure to bring enough water and the preferred sports drink you used during training. If you’ll be running in hot weather, staying hydrated will be even more important because loss of fluids during the race also could lead to dehydration. However, if you’re running a long race, make sure you don’t over-hydrate. Drinking 16 ounces of water two hours before a race is best, because this gives the fluids enough time to pass through your system before you begin running.
Eat RightWhat you put into your body before a run can affect the quality of your race and how you feel afterward. If you’re running an endurance race, increasing your carbohydrate intake can give you extra energy. You can increase your carbohydrate intake to between 70-80 percent of your daily calories by eating foods such as whole grain breads and pasta. However, stay away from simple carbohydrates like cookies and pastries, which contain saturated fat and sugar that will slow down digestion and make you feel less than your best before a race.
Get Enough SleepSleep can restore your body and give you added energy. Several studies have shown that getting enough sleep improves athletic performance. When we sleep, our bodies release a growth hormone that repairs damaged tissue and muscles. It also helps to build stronger muscles and transform fat into energy. However, if you are sleep deprived this process doesn’t happen, making it harder for your body to recover from injury or soreness.
Lack of sleep also can make you exhausted more quickly, especially during a strenuous activity such as a half or full marathon. So, make sure you rest well and get at least seven to nine hours of sleep before race day (and every night, for that matter).
Good Form & Good Shoes
There are ongoing debates in the running community about proper form. Some argue that other sports have developed proper technique to avoid injury and improve performance, so the same should be true for running.
However, what we do know is that good posture and proper stride can prevent injury. Overstriding—when the foot lands well ahead of the knee—puts additional wear and tear on joints, muscles and tissues. Instead of overstriding, pay attention to your form when you run and make sure your lower leg is vertical when your foot first makes contact with the ground. Running on a hill also can help, since it’s difficult to overstride on an incline.
The right running shoes also can decrease injury risk because they can improve your form and reduce the amount of wear and tear on your body repetitive movement may cause. Research has shown that firm cushioning in a running shoe can impact leg stiffness and the level of force absorbed by your muscles, bones and joints. However, your body can adjust stiffness in the legs to compensate for thin shoe cushioning or thin ground conditions, so it’s best to find a shoe that suits your running style and the way you train. You even can rotate running shoes to reduce stress on your legs and feet by wearing a specific pair for longer runs and a different pair for sprinting.
Running is an effective way to stay fit, active and healthy, but as with all exercises, there is a risk for injury if you don’t take the proper precautions. Before you commit to running a 10K or incorporate running into your regular exercise routine, make sure you have the right shoes, know the proper form and always carry water or a sports drink with you to stay hydrated throughout your run. With running, every step is a move toward better health. So, if you’re able to, put on your sneakers and hit the ground running today. Your heart, body and mind will be stronger because of it.