1. Set SMART goals
“Ask yourself what you want to achieve from running,” says Máire. “Do you want to cover a certain distance, or set a certain time for that distance? Or, do you want to achieve a personal goal like ‘me time’ or relaxation?”
While setting goals will keep you on track and motivated, they need to be clearly defined. For this, Máire recommends the SMART system: “Your goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed,” she says. “For example, someone who wants to run 10km in less than an hour would need to look at setting a SMART goal like this: ‘I would like to run a sub-60-minute 10km in the Standard Chartered event on 3 December 2017.’ This is very clear, and meets all the criteria for the SMART goals system. It makes planning a training programme to achieve this goal very easy, and keeps the runner motivated to stick to that plan.”
2. Don’t run everyday
Many new runners are under the impression that they have to run every day, but, in fact, it’s quite the opposite, according to Máire. She recommends starting out by running three times a week on alternating days. “This training plan allows enough time for tissues to recover and adapt to training loads, and prevents injuries. From there, a new runner can build gradually by adding in a fourth training day every second week.”
3. Gradually increase your mileage
Another common mistake is increasing your distance too soon. “The rule of thumb is to gradually increase your weekly training mileage by 10 percent to avoid injury,” says Máire. “This is why you need to plan your training in advance of an event or race, in order to allow for this slow build. The biggest cause of injuries in runners, new and experienced alike, is overload, where the runner increases his or her training by too much mileage, too soon.
“Remember, we are born to run! Our bodies are amazing running machines that have evolved over time to enable us to run. We have ligaments and tendons, unlike any other mammal, that are specifically designed to absorb force and generate power,” says Máire. “But, also remember that if you haven’t run for 20 to 30 years and you start all of a sudden, these tendons and ligaments are not used to the loads that running demands. It’s not that they can’t take these loads; rather, they just need time to learn how to handle this new load. So, you have to begin slowly. As they say, ‘slow and steady wins the race’. It’s a marathon, not a sprint – you want to have a long career running, not a short one.”
4. Hydrate and refuel well
“We lose a huge amount of water and salt through our sweat as we exercise, as that’s how the body keeps us cool and regulates our core temperature,” says Máire. “Therefore, if the recommended daily guideline for water intake is two litres, then, as a runner, I usually recommend doubling that – so, three to four litres a day at least!”
However, she says salt and electrolyte replacement – needed for post-run muscle recovery, and to prevent fatigue and cramping – is crucial, too. “Unfortunately, we lose more salts than normal when running outdoors in Singapore because of the humidity, making electrolyte replacement just as important as water.” She adds, “Now, the type of electrolytes out there vary greatly, so I would recommend the most natural types first, like coconut water or a sugar-free effervescent tablet like Nuun, as opposed to the artificial, carbonated electrolyte drinks pumped full of sugar. Coconut water does contain a high sugar content, though, so I wouldn’t recommend drinking a lot of it, and not every day; instead, I’d recommend 250ml after your longer runs, and the rest water.”
5. Cross train
“Running is a great form of exercise for our bodies for many reasons,” says Máire. “It’s the most effective form of cardio, and it tones our body, improves our mood and increases bone density. But, it is a high impact exercise, which can be challenging and tough on our bodies.”
Running is also very repetitive. “When you think about it, we turn our legs over 170 to 180 times per minute when running, so, for a 40-minute run, we are repeating the same movement 6,800 to 7,200 times. This repetition can incur strain injuries, and the best way to avoid these injuries while starting out is cross training on a non-running day.”
Cross training can mean any other form of exercise, preferably a lower impact exercise that can carry over the same benefits as running – for example, swimming or cycling. Máire also advises doing low impact core training exercises such as Pilates and suspension cable training. “The core is very involved in running and is the main system keeping the torso upright and the pelvic and hips stable throughout the run; it’s vital for correct transfer of load from the lower body to the upper body so, without a strong, stable core, a new runner will most likely experience injuries as they increase their training,” she says.
6. Get to know your foam roller
“If you don’t have a foam roller, invest in one! As a new runner, this will be your new best friend,” says Máire. “Due to the repetitive nature of running, your muscles will start to get tight due to fascia tightness. Fascia is the tissue that encases all our muscles in our body and, when the muscles become overloaded and tight, so too does the fascia, which can eventually lead to joint pain, or general aches and pains.”
She always recommends that athletes get on their foam rollers daily, even on the days they don’t run. “It’s like a daily self-massage and it can improve posture. I also insist on foam rolling after long runs, as this is where the most repetitions happen, and when we are the most fatigued and overloaded in our tissues.”
About UFIT RUNFIT
RUNFIT helps individuals ignite their passion for running, and takes regular runners outside their comfort zones by introducing intervals, Fartleks, stairs and hills, and combinations of each. To learn more, visit ufitbootcamps.com.sg/runfit-classes.
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