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Going the Extra Mile
Whether you are a beginner to running or you’ve been at it for a while, these tips will help you stay injury free and motivated, while increasing your endurance.
Did you know there’s a difference between running on a treadmill vs running on land? Many people (especially beginners) think the benefits are the same. I used to be one of these people. Ask yourself what happens to your legs when you are on a treadmill? The belt of the treadmill pulls them back. When you are running on land – you are propelling yourself forward. This takes more work to cover the same distance. Running on a treadmill has its benefits too. It lets you maintain a certain speed and allows you to track a specific distance. However, it does not provide the same benefits that running on land does. You use more muscles when you actually push yourself forward rather than letting the treadmill belt do the work for you.
While running is a great activity for cardiovascular training – you should also focus on injury prevention. There are many schools of thought when it comes to stretching. Some experts believe we should always use static stretching with every muscle. Others believe in a more active approach i.e. ballistic or dynamic stretching. Basically, there are several differences between the two.
Static stretching – holding a particular position for a count of 10-30 seconds aiming to reach your maximum stretch for the session.
Dynamic stretching – has an active component to it. One way of doing dynamic stretching is to use a ‘pulsing’ type of motion. You ‘pulse’ or gradually increase your range of motion until you reach your maximum for the session.
A general rule of thumb to follow is dynamic stretching prior to the activity (to wake up the nervous system) and static stretching afterwards (to help relax).
Best stretches pre-run include those for glute and piriformis activation. These are a must for those who suffer with piriformis syndrome, runner’s knee, and IT Band issues. Hamstring sweeps are a must for those who suffer with hamstring tightness. Ankling and calf mobilization are also important. Try leg swings for abductors and adductors and hamstrings and hip flexors.
Best stretches post-run include: hamstring stretches, calf stretches, glute and piriformis stretches, quad stretches and chest stretch.
Proper running form consists of head over shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over the mid-foot upon landing and arms swinging directly ahead. Also, you want to ensure you are doing a heel toe roll. Land on the heel and roll off the toe. You do not want to land on a flat foot.
I classify a beginner as someone that is new to cardiovascular training. Generally, speaking they do not have a good endurance base. Start off with 20 minutes at a slow pace. I wouldn’t worry about speed or distance – I’m more concerned about completing the time and keeping a consistent pace. When you can comfortably do 20 minutes without feeling winded – add 1 minute. Keep adding 1 minute per workout until you reach 45 minutes. At that point I would consider you more of an intermediate trainer and you can move onto the next level.
Also, while monitoring your heart rate is important – I wouldn’t focus on it too much. I’m more concerned about the Borg Scale – it’s also known as Rating of Perceived Exertion . On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 is very relaxed and 10 is totally winded whereby you can’t breathe. Strive for at least a 4 to 5.
Intermediate and Advanced
Intermediate and advanced trainees can take a more aggressive approach with their training because they have already established a good cardio base. They should also use interval training rather than a steady state approach. Alternate high intensity with lower intensity. Intermediates should aim for using 80% of maximum heart rate (mhr). Advanced trainees can use 90% of mhr. Low intensity for both of them would be 60% of mhr. Since you are training at a higher level, begin with 20 minutes and add 1 minute/workout while maintaining your intensity. When you reach 30 minutes – drop your time down to 20 minutes but increase your intensity by approximately 5%.
There will be days you feel amazing and other times you are dragging your feet. Taking time off due to illness or injury is acceptable and certainly recommended. On days you don’t feel like doing anything, ask yourself why you took up running in the first place and remind yourself how good you will feel when you finish your workout. Keep track of your progress on a calendar.
George Stavrou is the president of The Stavrou Method, and a best-selling author. He is also the creator of The Stavrou Method: A 12 Week Day by Day Guide to Health, Wellness and Fat Loss for All Levels. Visit: www.thestavroumethod.com