Hello Runners and Happy New Year! I hope that you had a great 2016 and are looking forward to an awesome 2017!
Have you thought about what you want to accomplish as a runner in 2017? Is it improving your fitness and health? Do you want to improve on your time in a 5k, 10k, half, full marathon, or ultra distance event? No matter what your goals are, there are things you should consider, and steps you should take to maximize your chance of achieving your running goals in 2017. In this article I’m going to briefly discuss five steps to take, which can help get you started on your journey to achieving your running goals for 2017. So, that you can have a smile on your face when you have done so!
Step 1: Have testing and assessments done
Depending on your age, health, and last visit you should meet with your physician to be cleared to participate in vigorous physical activity. First and foremost, you should make sure that you don’t have current disease, such as heart or pulmonary disease. You also want to be sure that your thyroid and metabolic system are functioning properly. Please check out this previous blog that provides more details on what you should have assessed, including vitamin D and certain hormone levels:
I strongly encourage you to have the function of your shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle joints assessed. A physical therapist or physiotherapist can identify any possible muscle weaknesses/imbalances or flexibility issues that might be negatively impacting your running performance, increase your risk of injury, and potentially keep you from achieving your running goals in 2017.
Also, if you have not done so, I encourage you to have your running form evaluated. There may be some minor tweaks or adjustments to your running form that may significantly improve your running performance and help minimize the risk of injury. This can be performed by a biomechanist, exercise physiologist, or running coach.
For example, I have noticed a number of runners who have their shoulders hunched and/or rounded and have their heads forward. I know a lot of this has to do with the fact that many of us have desk jobs and we spend hour after hour, day after day, hunched over our computers. If you are training for longer events like half and full marathons running with hunched and rounded shoulders and a forward head will take its toll! The upper body will fatigue and will cause other areas of the body to have to work harder to compensate. Thus, these areas will fatigue faster as well. So, one important aspect of successful running form is keeping your shoulders relaxed. When you run you should check periodically to make sure they are relaxed. If not, shake out your shoulders and hands and reposition them so that your shoulders are relaxed. In a future article, I will discuss other tips that can help you improve your running form.
Step 2: Assessing Time for Training and Establishing Goals
Before establishing your running goals for 2017, you should consider how much time you will honestly have for training. You should honestly assess the time for other important commitments in your life, such as family, work and/or school, time with friends, community, other hobbies/interests, and yes, sleep! After you have determined the amount of time for these, how much time do you have left for training? You should also consider your current fitness level and amount of time you have been involved with running in developing your goals.
Also, the goals that you develop for yourself should be challenging and a reach, however you should feel that they are attainable, if you dedicated yourself to their achievement.
Now, write down your goals and how it will feel and what impact this will on your life once you have achieved them. Post your goals somewhere where you can see them every day, such as on your refrigerator (where I put mine), bathroom mirror, etc.
Step 3: Support
Who will your support team be? I like to think of this on two levels. First, who will work with you with the commitments you have, so that you have time available for training? For example, if you have children and need to take them to school, practices, watch them, etc. Work out a schedule with your significant other and others who can trade off with you, so that you have time available for training. For work, you may want to discuss having some flexibility in your work schedule with your boss/supervisor and co-workers, so that you can fit in your workouts.
Second, who will hold you accountable or lend an ear when things aren’t going well with your training? Who is going to hold you accountable so that you get in most, if not all, of your workouts? Does it help to train with someone like a significant other, friend or friends, local running group or club? You might consider hiring a coach, who you meet with, or at least speak with on the phone, every week or couple of weeks, to make sure you stay on track to achieve your running goals.
Also, consider who will support you emotionally if your training isn’t going well.
Step 4: Running shoes/attire
Take a look at the soles of your current running shoes. How worn are they? At some point this year you will need to purchase new running shoes. I will post a more complete article on this in the near future. For now, here are three important factors to consider when purchasing your next pair of running shoes:
- Avoid high heels, that is a shoe with a significant drop in height from the heel to the front of the shoe. This negatively impacts proprioceptive responses in the foot (see more on proprioception below). Instead, use a flatter shoe. Initially, you may want to try a shoe with approximately a 6 mm drop from the heel to the front of the shoe. Then, at some point, you may consider transitioning to a shoe that is zero-drop or close to a zero-drop shoe. You may consider this not only for your running shoes, but also the shoes you wear the rest of the day. Your feet and body will thank you for it.
- Avoid too much cushioning. A big factor in maximizing your running performance while minimizing the risk of injury comes from your body’s ability to respond when you have one foot on the ground. This is termed proprioception. The more in contact your foot is with the ground or surface you are running on, the better the proprioception. The more cushioning you have in your shoes, the worse the proprioception, so your body is not able to respond to changes in running surface and your joint positions as well. Thus, too much cushioning can negatively impact running performance and may increase your risk of injury.
- Get a shoe with a wide toe box, so that you can spread your toes. This will help you better control with your toes. So much of your stability, when you have one foot on the ground, depends on your big toe being firmly on the ground. If you are not able to get your big toe firmly on the ground, then you negatively impact your running performance and you increase your risk of injury. So many shoes out there scrunch the toes and do not serve us. Squeezing your foot puts the squeeze on your ability to control you’re your foot. So don’t buy shoes with a narrow toe box.
As for running attire, do not run in cotton. Cotton will soak up sweat leaving your running clothes heavy and you with the chills. Instead, go with synthetic blends. In cold, windy, and rainy weather dress in layers. I will send a more detailed article on running attire in a future article. Not enough space in this article to go into more detail here.
Step 5: Have a plan
Last, you should have a plan that will progressively get you to your running goals. When you wake up each morning you should know what you are doing for a workout that day. “Winging it” will not effectively get you to your goals. Your plan should include 3-5 runs per week, depending on your goals, running history, age, and time you have for training. You should also include cross-training, such as swimming, biking, or even walking at least 1-2 days per week to help you recover from your runs. Strengthening exercises are a must in your training program, and should be done at least 2 days per week, and in most cases, 3-4 days per week. Many runners are weak in the core, lower back, hip and pelvic stabilizers, so these muscles need to be strengthened. I will include more on this in future videos. Your training plan should also allow for proper recovery, so that your body can adapt to your workouts. Thus, allowing you to become a stronger and faster runner.
Your run workouts should consist of three components: a warmup, the run itself, and post-run, which may include strengthening exercises, in addition to a cooldown. The warmup should be dynamic to increase blood flow to and increase the temperature of the muscles you will be using when you run. I will go into more detail on this in a future training video, however some examples would be rolling shoulders forward and backwards, walking on heels, walking on toes, leg swings side-to-side and forward and back. No, static stretching, in which you hold a stretch for 20-30 seconds, is not part of an effective warmup. The cooldown should include foam rolling and/or rolling with a tennis or lacrosse ball, or some other self-myofascial release. I will discuss this further in future blogs and training videos.
Please share any questions or comments you have by clicking on the contact link at denverrunningcoach.com or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can address these in the next article I send or a future article.