On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

What you should be doing to prep for your next race.

If you’re a runner or an aspiring runner, races are what it’s all about for you. Running a race can give you a sense of accomplishment and motivation to keep running. At the same time, preparing for a race will require lots of training and practice. Whether your goal is to run a 5K, 10K, a half marathon, a full marathon, or longer what can you do to get your body and mind ready?

To run your fastest and farthest, use these tips.

Find a Race

If running a race is something you want to work towards, first you must find a race that fits your skill level. Make sure the date of the race gives you plenty of time to get in shape. Once you have the date, time, and location, it’s time to start working towards your goal.

Get Doctor’s Okay

Before beginning any training, you’ve got to make sure your body can handle it. While you may think you have a good understanding of what your body can do, getting an expert’s opinion first will ensure your safety. So check with your physician or another medical professional for a thorough physical examination – particularly if you have not had one in several years or if until now you have been fairly sedentary. This exam should include an exercise stress test (preferably done on a treadmill) to check for obvious heart problems that strenuous exercise would bring to the surface.

Running is one of the best solutions to a clear mind. – Sasha Azevedo

Stay Accountable

The best way to train is with someone else. Having a running partner, especially someone who is at your running level, will help keep you motivated to reach your goal. Another option is to join a runner’s club to keep you accountable and find inspiration.

If the Shoe Fits

Running shoes are the most important equipment for a runner. It is recommended to leave a space of about a thumbnail’s length between the end of your shoe and your longest toe. It may be helpful to shop at a sports specialty store where the staff can professionally fit your foot in a quality shoe. It is best to wear synthetic socks since they are made of material that keeps moisture away from your skin, thereby lowering your risk of blisters.

Train Correctly

The amount and intensity you train will depend on your current fitness level as well as the distance of the race. A baseline of 10 to 20 miles a week should be established before seriously training for a specific race. How much time do you need? Training for a marathon usually takes six months to a year.

Pace Yourself

To lower your chance of injury, it is important to build up your speed and distance slowly. Each week increase your mileage, but not by more than 10 percent of the week before. To avoid overdoing it, you may want to keep a daily record of your progress.

Speed and Distance

To best train your body for a long distance race, incorporate different types of running. For speed training, sprint for a stretch, then jog for a short interval, sprint, and jog. This will help to prepare you for your best race performance.

And while you may think running every day as hard as possible is the best training you can get, think again. You shouldn’t push yourself as hard as possible every day. Instead, run hard one day and go at a moderate pace the next. Regardless of how hard you push yourself on any given day, warm up your muscles with stretches and a light jog before running and do the same to cool your muscles down after your run.

Rest Up

It is not healthy to run every day of every week. Your body and feet need to rest at least one to three days a week. If you’re not running but still want to exercise, try non-impact workouts such as swimming, cycling, or elliptical machines. If you experience soreness or aches from running, take over-the-counter pain relievers. Just avoid ibuprofen, as it can block blood flow to the kidneys, which is not safe during exercise.

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