Whether you are a runner or just looking to get more active, signing up for a race is a great way to kickstart a more active lifestyle. Giving yourself a goal and something to focus your efforts toward gives a ton of extra accountability and inspiration to your fitness routine.
If you're not a runner and have no desire to become one, many races love to have walkers but even then, there is often a minimum mile pace around 15min/mi which means you need to step up your stepping and make even your walking movement as efficient as possible.
A bunch of you are running the Hot Chocolate 5K/15K race with me in January so as we're training for that, I thought I'd give you ALL some tips to help you maximize your output and stay pain free as you get moving!
Here are MY 5 best tips for race training:
1. Be mindful
Mindfulness is about being the in present and connected to how you are interacting with the world in any given moment. So while it's nice to "zone out" on a brisk walk or run, to really ensure the healthiest approach, you need to be aware of your body as it's moving.
Walking is literally second nature to most of us, we don't think about the mechanics of it while we do it but while you're using that movement pattern to push yourself, you need to turn your focus back to how you're moving.
Make sure you are actively lifting your knees as you run and step. Think about utilizing the abdominal muscles to help with that lift. As you extend your leg out to step, think about how and where you are placing it on the ground in front of you. Push off the ground to move your body forward. Think about the muscles you need to make these movements and make sure your brain is connecting to those muscles.
Many of us have developed less healthy movement patterns as we age so as you step up your game, you need to remind your body the proper way to move rather than load more work and force into movement patterns that could lead to injury or overuse of muscles and joints that aren't designed to be doing what you are having them do.
2. Utilize your arms
Just like you need to focus on you body positioning and muscle recruitment for the running and walking movements, those arms aren't just along for the ride! Make a nice 90 degree angle with the elbows, open your chest and drop the tension out of your neck and shoulders. Let the arms swing so the hands hit about shoulder height in front and swing back with the hand just behind the hips. This movement helps your body move better and faster while supporting your spine and engaging the abs for optimal use!
3. Create a dialogue with yourself
Talk to yourself during your run or walk! Give yourself goals. Feel like you need to slow down? That's totally fine! See if you can make it to that next tree though. Or that shady spot up ahead. Once you get there, re-evaluate. Do you really need to slow down now? If so, do it! If not, see if you can push yourself until the end of the song you're listening to or the next marker on the trail. The best way to make progress is to push yourself and listen to yourself! This is a great way to get to know yourself even better!
4. Take care of your body
Training for a race and also trying to sustain a weight loss plan? Make sure you are feeding your body in a way that it can feel awesome for your training runs without overeating. BUT, just because you ran 3 miles, doesn't mean your body needs a big replacement of all those calories, either! Listen to your body. Don't cut carbs - make sure you are still eating fruits, veggies and whole grains and legumes. These will help give you the energy you need to train while nourishing you so you don't burn through it all and feel fatigued and hangry later in the day. Stick to consistent meals and snacks through the day and increase the portions of those each by a small amount if you're feeling sluggish rather than add a whole extra meal.
Cross training is also HUGE! It's not just about the cardio (and if you follow me, you already know that by now so I won't lecture!). Hit up your strength training big time to not only stay healthy, but minimize your injury risk! Pilates and yoga are great and don't forget about the glute workout I gave you here! Get at those rhomboids, too, and don't forget the importance of focusing on the upper body (remember that arm swinging I mentioned ;) )
And stretch and foam roll your body! If you need ideas, hit me up or check out these two videos:
5. Train with intention
The best way to train is not to just go for a bunch of runs and walks. You want to feel great when you race and you want to push yourself.
Give yourself one or two runs or walks a week that mimic the race you'll be doing. If you're going for a marathon or longer than 10K, your longer runs/walks should be about 6-8mi.
On other days, go at a faster pace than you anticipate you'll do the race for a short distance (1.5mi for a 5K training or 3-5mi for a longer race training).
Take another day or two to run the race distance, or 5-7mi for the longer race participants, with intervals. Push yourself at a pace that feels like you wouldn't want to hold a conversation but you can still speak if you need, even if it's just one word at a time. Give yourself 1-3 minutes at that pace depending on your fitness level. Then slow down and recover. Move to a pace that is comfortable to converse (but you will still be winded) until you recover. Stay there for 2-5 minutes (again, depending on what feels do-able) and then hit up that fast pace (or incline!) again. Try to do this for at least 1/3 of the run or walk you're on and then finish up the rest at a pace that works for you!
BOOM! There's the plan! Get to it, Hot Chocolate Racers! And if you're not doing that race with us, find one of your own (or respond here and I'll add you to our team) and get moving!