Summer’s the perfect time to get out and start training for your big day. Follow your training schedule to make sure you meet your fitness goals, and in the last few weeks of training make sure you include these tips to get a PB!
Doing some basic running drills is the key to boosting your running efficiency and working towards a better performance come race day. Think arm swings, high knees and running on the spot. ‘The point of these exercises is to wake up the nervous system, warm up all the muscle tissue, and put the joints through their full range of motion,’ says elite running coach Andrew Kastor (coachkastor.com). ‘This allows your body to move more efficiently.’
Each exercise has a different purpose. ‘High knees activate the hip flexor muscle tissue, butt kicks activate the hamstrings and provide a subtle stretch in the quadriceps, and movements such as “fast feet” [running on the spot] excite and heighten the nervous system minutes before you need to perform fast running,’ says Andrew.
Keep up the tempo
A great soundtrack is a sure-fire way to boost your running motivation, but it’s also the secret to giving your all out there on the pavement. ‘Music can make your runs much more interesting, but studies also suggest that music with an upbeat tempo, similar to your stride rate, can actually help you run harder, for longer,’ says Jessica. The best tracks are those that match the pace you’re aiming to stick to, so head to jog.fm for a great selection of music designed to suit every pace – you can even browse by your speed per kilometre. But do bear in mind that you won’t always be able to rely on music to get you through. ‘It’s well worth putting together a running playlist, but don’t get entirely reliant on it,’ says Jessica. ‘A lot of marathons and races won’t let you wear headphones.’
Fire up your backside
If you want that extra advantage on race day, focus on getting your best asset working its hardest. ‘Spending all day sitting down puts most people’s glute muscles to sleep,’ says Jessica. ‘And runners are often no different – if yours aren’t firing properly, you won’t be as efficient as you could be.’ So how do you fire up your backside? ‘Try the wall squat – stand in front of a wall with your toes touching it, and sit backwards into a squat,’ Jessica tips. ‘If you find it impossible, or your knees are touching the wall, your glutes aren’t working properly.’ But don’t worry, it’s easily fixed. ‘Add some glute bridges into your routine: lie on your back with your feet close to your bum, and drive off your heels to push your hips into the air. Too easy? Try with one leg in the air.’
Scale the hills
Want to build leg strength and boost your speed? Hill runs are about to become your best bud. ‘Running hill repeats is resistance training in disguise!’ says Andrew. ‘The muscles recruited to run up a hill strengthen as they are the ones with the most amount of stress being applied to them.’ Hills can also help to boost your running form and efficiency when you return to the flat. ‘Running hills helps refine your biomechanics for flat-land running,’ says Andrew. ‘Running uphill is very hard to do with bad mechanics, so the body gradually begins to recruit muscle tissue much more efficiently.’ And a more efficient runner is almost always a faster runner.
Get your nutrition right and you’ll give yourself a real head start. But don’t go mad on the pre-run spag bol. ‘There’s no real need to carb-load as a recreational runner, so forget massive bowls of pasta,’ says personal trainer Jessica Wolny (jessicawolny.com). ‘Just eat balanced meals, with plenty of protein and veg.’
But what if your energy is running low before you even get out there? ‘If you feel like you need a bit more energy pre-run, a slice of toast with a banana can help,’ Jessica says. ‘You’ll get instant energy from the fructose sugars in the banana, and slower-release energy from the toast.’ Plus it’s super-cheap.
On shorter runs you shouldn’t need a snack mid-run to keep going. ‘A good rule of thumb is that you don’t need to refuel during any run that’s shorter than an hour,’ Jessica explains. So what about long-haul runs? ‘If you’re running a half (or longer), it’s worth experimenting to see what works for you on training runs.’ Trying something new on the big day is a no-no. ‘Don’t try any gel, drink or pill for the first time on race day,’ tips Jessica.