Many people like to start or substantially increase their running programs in the spring and summer. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you start putting in the miles.
Start your season with easier runs to build your endurance. Warm up for a run by walking or jogging easily for 5 to 10 minutes to allow your muscles to become loose then do some dynamic stretching and then continue on with your run.
To develop aerobic fitness, you should be exercising at an intensity level of 70 – 80% of your maximum heart rate. A Heart Rate Monitor can help keep you going at the proper intensity for the type of workout you want to do. During your workout you should be able to hold a conversation with someone. If you are breathing too hard to do this then slow down.
Speed work can be incorporated into your program once you are comfortable with your regular workout. A good way to introduce the speed work early in the season is with a progression run. Start off slower than normal and increase the pace slowly during the workout until you end up finishing at a fast clip similar to your 5km race pace. Don’t forget to stretch after your run as stretching keeps your muscles from getting too tight and helps prevent injuries.
Make sure that recovery is part of your program. This means having both adequate sleep as well as incorporating easy run days or days off into your schedule on days after a hard workout. A rule of thumb is to increase your mileage by no more than 10% per week. Don’t increase your mileage in the same week as you add / increase speedwork or hills in your program. Include some easy weeks in your training as well. Easy weeks can be included as often as each alternating week or as far apart as every 4th or 5th week. Easy weeks should have 30 to 50 % less mileage than your average weekly totals.
If you experience some soreness after a run apply an ice pack (or a package of frozen vegetables) wrapped in a thin wet towel to the affected area for 10 to 20 minutes to reduce any swelling that may cause the pain. Side pain or “stitches” as many runners call them can be common when you start a running program. If this happens try breathing with a focus on pushing the belly out when breathing in instead of expanding the chest and then pulling the belly in when exhaling.
Try to avoid constantly running on roads or paths that are sloped to the side. A sloped surface forces you to run with one leg striking the ground at a lower point than the other. This is very hard on your joints and can aggravate your iliotibial (IT) band. The IT band is a strong group of fibers that run vertically along the outside of the thigh. The IT Band is connected to the muscles of the lower back & bum at the top and to the tibia bone just below the knee. The primary function of the IT Band is to be a stabilizer for the leg and it is common for it to become irritated in runners from extensive use and tightening when stretching is not done.
It is also a good idea to keep a running diary to track your workouts. A diary tracks what you have done and allows you to plan what to do for the upcoming weeks. This reference is also a good spot to note each time you buy new running shoes so that you can see how many miles / kilometers you put on them. The general rule of thumb for the life of a shoe is 500 miles / 800 kilometers.
Remember that as the temperature warms up it is very important to keep hydrated when running. The body functions better when it is ‘lubricated’ with water.