An Educational Blog for:
It’s an early summer morning and the day of your first 5k has arrived!
You’re rocking your new running shoes, you’ve got your fuel belt, your lucky running skort, everything is in order! You’re all set to do your 5k, but wait…did you remember to pick up your fitness along with the way?
So often, runners think all they need to do is run. Although that is very important, it’s not the foundation a successful program is based on. Before you can be fit for your sport, you just need to be physically fit. This approach not only ensures you minimize the risk of injury, but it also ensures you maximize your opportunity for a great performance and a fun race-day experience.
Follow the steps below to build your base of fitness for running and optimizing your performance.
Lose Body Fat
If you have any extra body fat to lose, losing it PRIOR to starting your running program will help tremendously. There’s no better way to get faster and reduce injury risk than for you to run with less of you pounding the pavement. Even if you reduce your weight by only five pounds, that by itself can reduce your running speed by up to ten seconds per mile. Further, losing that same five pounds will also reduce compressive stress on your lower body joints by 20 pounds! There are certainly some considerations when Running for Fat Loss, so please read more by clicking on the link.
Performing strength training might be the single most important activity a runner can undertake (next to running of course). Rarely do runners have an issue with their aerobic fitness, because they do so much running. The limiting factor to most runners’ performance is their muscular fitness. As strength and power improve, a runner will contact the ground less frequently, reduce their risk of injury, and ultimately run faster. For more information on strength training for runners, please click here: Train Fast to Be Fast: Explosive Weight Training for Runners.
Great mobility in your ankles, knees, and hips will allow for a more fluid running stride and reduce risk of injury. Performing daily stretches of the hip flexors, hamstrings, piriformis, and gastroc can greatly improve mobility and reduced injury. Each muscle can be stretched daily, 2-3 sets per muscle, holding the stretch for 10-20seconds.
Prehab the Ankle Complex and Knee
Two of the most susceptible areas of injury on a runner are the knee and ankle. Prehab (or proactive rehab) can be great way to strengthen these areas up ahead of time, to better allow them to accommodate the stresses of a running program. See the following videos for prehab exercises for the Ankle Complex and Knee.
Start with Low-Intensity/Long Duration Cardio
Building your aerobic base should consist of a variety of cardio, not just running. Using the bike, elliptical trainer, rowing ergometer, and even spinning and aerobic classes are all great ways to build your base of aerobic fitness for running. You’ll spend enough time running when you’re preparing for your race, so feel free to use different modalities prior to starting your race prep.
To summarize, your pre-race “fitness building” phase should include:
- Weight Loss through calorie reduction and increase activity
- 1-2 days per week of strength training
- Daily stretching of running muscles
- Prehab for your ankle complex and knee
- 2-3 days per week of 45-60min of aerobic cross-training.
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Thanks for reading!
Michael Stack, CEO and Exercise Physiologist