Before you take on your next challenge, I suggest you think about the 3 P’s:
Preparation, Planning and Practise are the keys to success. I believe if you have covered these three bases your journey to the start line will be more enjoyable and you will stand on the start line of your race confident in the knowledge you have done all you can to complete the challenge to the best of your ability.
Footwear – Treat yourself to a new pair of shoes. You will become rather attached to this particular item and it will help to know they are giving you the support and cushioning that you need to perform the training. There is a myriad of choices when it comes to shoes, so I’d start by visiting a running shop to discover the best place to start. They may even be able to analyse your gait and thus decide whether you need shoes with pronation support. They can also give you advice on the perfect shoe for the terrain you will be training on.
Kit – Our gorgeous country is known for its wet and windy weather. Failing to prepare for all conditions would be rather short-sighted! Buy yourself a good waterproof with taped seams, and make sure it’s breathable – this will keep you confortable when the elements turn unfavourable. Another two items which are vital in your running armoury are a hat/buff and gloves. Use these to regulate your temperature on colder days. Putting on too many layers which need to be peeled off as you run and hung round your waist doesn’t work well. You can use a pair of gloves to keep you warm, if you feel you don’t need them as you warm up, they fit nicely in a pocket. Similarly, you can regulate heat with a hat or, even better, a buff which can be wrapped around your wrist so is out of the way when not needed!
Know yourself – You will need to run a lot before your race – perhaps more than you ever have before. If you aren’t the sort of person to push yourself out of the door when your ‘to do list’ is long or when it’s raining, organise to meet a friend to run with you. You’re less likely to cancel if you are meeting someone else. What about organising a lunch time run at work with some colleagues? Hey, you could even have a running meeting and kill two birds with one stone! Another suggestion is to run to a location (preferably a pub!) and treat yourself to a pint/lunch when you arrive.
Organise your time – Ask yourself, when do I prefer to run/when is it easiest to find a window of time? Then plan your runs in accordingly. Some people enjoy night running when the day is done. For others, running in the morning is the best start to a day. Endeavour to plan your runs for the week on a Sunday so that they are set in stone as far as is possible. If you leave it to the day and try to fit it in when you can it won’t get done… life has a way of becoming very busy. Getting in a running routine will help with consistency, which we talk about later.
Think about your training plan – There are a multitude of one-size-fits-all plans on the internet. If you choose to use one of these, make sure it starts at the right level of running experience for you. It would be demoralising to start on a plan which is too advanced and which pushes you too hard causing injury. The other way to approach training is to get a coach – these aren’t reserved for the elite runners! People of every running level use coaches to give them the confidence that the time and energy they’re putting into running yields the best result with the minimum of damage to their bodies. A coach also works as a motivator and guide – you will invariably have questions and concerns and they are there to guide you.
Consistency – This is the key. Gains won’t be made by running 4 times one week, 1 the next and none the next. ‘Training’ means you are getting your body used to performing the action you are asking of it. Your body can’t build well if you don’t run regularly enough or in the right way. So, before you start be honest with how many times you can get out running each week and then stick to it. There will always be weeks when you don’t get it all in but try to get it right most the time.
Strength, conditioning and stretching – By embarking on a running training program you are asking your body to repeat a singular motion repeatedly and often. This is not just about your leg muscles and heart. It is also about your ligaments, tendons and core. Without strengthening and supporting these you will be susceptible to injury. There are great exercises for runners to strengthen these parts of your body. Yoga, Pilates and a foam roller are great for working on these areas.
Recovery – This part of training is often overlooked and it’s the best bit! Resting is crucial It’s not until after you have pounded the pavements or charged over hills that the fitness gain are made. It’s during recovery that muscles grow stronger. How you eat and drink after a session, coupled with having the correct amount of rest, matters hugely in how well your body will adapt to the stress you put it under. Remember: More is not better, training wisely is the key.