Zooma 1/2 Marathon - How are you training? Some tips...
Thursday, May 28, 2009
If you have been staying up to date with the training calendar, you should now have a good base to your training for the Zooma ½ Marathon. Since this month the scheduled long distances are 4, 5 and 6 miles, now is the time to start paying attention to HOW you are training. I am going to give you basics that work for walking, jogging or running. Since I am a walker I do not pretend to know the infinite ins and outs of training as a runner which is why I’m aiming for basics such as body position, footfall, breathing, stretching/warm-up, changing up your training, and finally strength training.
Body position: Whether walking, jogging or running body position is important to prevent back problems, keep you breathing at an optimal level and keep your speed. First is posture – you should keep your head up and look anywhere between 10 and 30 feet in front of you. If you look down any closer than that you lessen your ability to take in deep breaths because your neck is bent; having your head down also pulls on your neck and back muscles causing muscle strain. Shoulders should be down and relaxed; your back should be straight and your upper body should lean forward 5 degrees. Leaning to far forward can stress your back and leaning back can slow you down. Arm position – even if you are a walker, you want to keep your arms bent at a 90 degree angle or in a runner’s position. Your arms propel your legs. If you don’t believe me walk fast with your arms down and swinging by your side, then do the same with them in a runner’s stance. Your arms can pump faster when up and your legs work to keep up with them. If you allow your arms to drop down it can slow you substantially, also your hands may swell more. With each arm movement, your hands should be turned to where your thumbs are on top and your arms should move in the “choo choo” (takes you back to childhood, huh?) motion.
Footfall: Listen to your feet as they hit the ground. You should NOT hear them slap the ground. They should hit lightly. Walkers should strike heal first then roll along the outer side of your sole onto the ball of your foot, finally pushing off with your toes. For runners I have heard three different schools of thought - the first is the same as for walkers, second is you should run on the balls of your feet with your heel not hitting the ground (more for sprinters I’ve been told), third is you should hit mid-foot and roll forward. So I guess it’s up to you runners – do what feels right for you.
Breathing: Work to breathe deeply and rhythmically. Breathing through your mouth is fine and can increase your oxygen intake. Don’t focus on your breathing just allow your body to take over. If you have problems “catching your breath” early in your training don’t worry; I know marathoners who take up to 2 miles to get into the rhythm, so just relax and it will happen.
Stretching/Warm-up: Pre-training stretching should be gentle and static (no bouncing). Stretch your legs including calves, upper-hamstrings, quads, and hips. If you have pain in the outer leg from your knee to hip area also stretch your IT band. All these stretches you can find on the SparkPeople fitness page. To stretch your back just bend forward slowly, hang there and come up just as slowly. Stretch your arms and shoulders to loosen them up. Finally warm up your shins to avoid shin splints. This can be done by doing toe taps – stand with one foot slightly in front of the other, keep your weight on the back foot. Now raise your toes on the front foot up as high as you can by flexing the ankle (it’s the movement you might do if you were showing impatience) then put your foot down. Don’t move your hips. Do this on each leg 25 times. Stretch during your training if you feel pain from tight muscles. Then stretch again when you are done and as often as needed.
Changing it Up: I believe doing something different each day you train not only keeps the boredom down, but strengthens different parts of your body. To keep it simple – one day do hills, one day do speed work or intervals, one day go out for an easy training and finally do your longer distance at a comfortable speed. For hills, aim for a grade that is similar to those you will find on the race course (look at the elevation chart online for the race). For your speed day either do intervals or just work to cut 10 to 15 seconds off each mile. The third day is a day just to go get in the miles; listen to your body and do what it wants. Miles the first 3 days in the week can be broken up into half in the morning and half in the evening if necessary. Your 4th day is designed to increase the distance you can do by building and dropping back and then building again. This training must be done in a single effort to get the benefits. Do this training at a speed somewhere between comfortable and fast. Push a little, but not too much.
Strength Training: I have found that strength training has been a great addition to my race training, focusing on upper body exercises. Remember when I said that your arms propel your legs? Well strengthening your upper body keeps those muscles from becoming tired early. Your legs get a workout each time you do miles. I find that focusing on upper body 2 out of 3 weight lifting workouts works well for me.
Finally, listen to your body. You need rest days as much as you need training days. If you feel “pain” during a training keep going but if the pain increases then STOP! Our bodies can handle more than we give them credit but we also need to pay attention to what they are telling us.