Before you step out the door and go for a run, there are certain preparations that need to be made.
Set your goals
You need to consider the goals you have for each run you do and how they will contribute to your longer term goals.
• For steady running, you should aim to run comfortably and avoid any overexertion.
• Key sessions such as speed work have more measurable goals of covering certain distances in a specified time. These should be set at a realistic level that will be challenging but not unobtainable.
• As your training programme progresses, you should notice a marked improvement in your running as you move nearer to attaining your long-term goals.
You should plan in advance where you are going to run.
• Establish some familiar routes in your area. This will help you know what conditions you will face once out on the run and how long it will take.
• Check the weather and likely underfoot conditions and make sure you have the appropriate kit for what will lie ahead. Choosing the right amount of clothing and correct running shoes for the surface you will be running on will be the difference between a comfortable and an uncomfortable run.
Prepare your body for exercise properly.
• Eating has to be done at least two hours before running to allow the digestive system to work properly. Meals should be light so as to avoid stitches and stomach cramps when exercising.
• Fluid intake is very important. It is best to drink small amounts regularly throughout the day in order to keep your body hydrated. Running will make you sweat and if you are not properly hydrated, your performance will be affected.
• If possible, avoid rushing around in the hours preceding a training session. To run at your best, you need to conserve energy.
It is crucial that you warm up properly before a training session so that the risk of injury is kept to a minimum.
• For steady running, you should always stretch the major muscle groups for at least 15 minutes beforehand and then take it easy over the first two miles so that your body can warm up and prepare itself for a faster pace over the rest of the run.
• For the key sessions in your training program where you will be running harder and at a faster pace, it is essential that you carry out a thorough warm-up. Begin with a 15-minute jog to warm the muscles and increase the blood flow. After this, stretch the warmed muscles to give yourself greater mobility (try to spend at least 10-15 minutes stretching the major muscle groups). To conclude the warm-up, perform four ‘strides’ – fast but relaxed runs – of 100m, concentrating on stride length and arm motion. This will raise your heart rate to the required intensity for the session ahead.
After the main part of the session it is important to include a cool down of relaxed loose running. Aim to do this for five minutes less than your warm up jog, so if it lasted 15 minutes, warm down for 10. You should also do a post session stretch, following the same guidelines as for the pre-session one. This will avoid any stiffness or soreness the next day.
After you session it is important that you replenish the body’s depleted energy stores on completion of a run. The best time to do this is within the first hour of exercise.
• Choose snacks that are high in carbohydrates, such as bananas or energy bars. Drink plenty of fluids to replace those that have been lost through perspiration.
• If possible, use the first hour after exercise to relax and give your body a chance to recover.
To maximise the effectiveness of your training session it is important to prepare yourself both before and after each run.