Top tips on how to get the most out of your training
Friday 13 January 2017

Long distance challenges require preparation, Fitzwilliam Hospital Physiotherapist, Emma Cranfield has some top tips on how to get the most out of your training and avoid injury.

Emma Cranfield has first- hand experience of long distance challenges having competed as an age group athlete at 4  x ITU World Championships for Great Britain. In 2012 she won her age group at Ironman UK and went to the world championships to compete at the World Ironman triathlon championships in Hawaii. She has competed in 4 ironman events and additional marathons and endurance events. She is part of the team at the Fitzwilliam hospital with over 15 years as a physiotherapist with an interest as in Pilates, Sports massage, McKenzie therapy and acupuncture.

Prepare– Get the right kit for you and trial anything you plan to use on the day.  If you want to use something during the event try it when you train, this is especially important for nutrition, make sure you are used to the product you will use on race day. If you have decided to use the drink provided by the race sponsor make sure you have tested that it suits you in training. Make sure your running trainers are worn-in to prevent blisters and always make sure they are comfortable before buying, buying them from a specialist running store often gives you the opportunity to ensure they feel right before you buy. Wear the socks you plan to wear, lace your trainers the way you plan to race and try the kit you will use in a race simulation session before the event to check you are comfortable. Also trial pre-race breakfast and the night before meal to make sure your digestive system can cope. Never try a new thing on race day.

Plan your training programme- Find a realistic training schedule that fits in with your family, social and work commitments. There are many online examples these days or working alongside a professional running/ triathlon coach if you can. There are many apps that can help beginners get up to a reasonable level of fitness that have not exercised for a long time i.e Couch to 5 or 10KM.

Consistency is important the most important thing is that you are able to stick to your schedule consistently. So making your schedule realistic so that it becomes a weekly routine is vital. If this means scheduling a commute session to work, training with friends or attending a running club that motivates you to do your routine week in and out consider what will work best for you? Also it is really important to schedule the necessary recovery into your schedule. Without recovery the body becomes overloaded and injury occurs, once injury hits the consistency will reduce. If you feel pain whilst running always stop rest, ice and let it settle, if it does not resolve seek advice from a chartered physiotherapist.

Get the right balance – you aren't aiming to be running fast all the time or to spend every run pushing your distance up. A mix of 80% low intensity and 20% higher intensity training is often recommended.

Build up, step back  - this is traditionally called periodization where you have planned training in usually 3-4 week cycles, in this time you will gradually build distance and intensity with the final week being a recovery week involving less intensity before starting the next block of training. Runner’s world magazine have some great examples of how to structure your training.Be specific - have a goal for each session – slow means slow! Save speed work for speed sessions. Most schedules have 1 weekly long slow run but it's easy to be tempted to run this more quickly. This isn't really the idea. The long run gives you time on your feet and helps you prepare for running for hours during the marathon. Doing long runs quickly also risks picking up an injury and will probably be detrimental to other training sessions. You may choose to add intervals within that session, but not to run the whole session as you are in a race.

Alongside your long run there needs to be a mix of sessions in the week including anaerobic threshold sessions which will increase your speed (Heart rate training is a great way of guiding you to work at this intensity) and a recovery based run to ensure you are conditioning but not overloading the musculoskeletal structures.Or you may choose to replace the recovery sessions with cross-training. Pilates, and other forms of strength and conditioning are often required to cope with the stresses you put on the body whilst running. If it is a high intensity type training this may take longer to recover from muscle soreness and may need to be factored in the off season rather than during competition phase. Don’t try and over compensate for missed sessions or run extra days to make up for it – cramming in extra runs can lead to injury or overtraining.

Be flexible with your schedule and move things a little to suit you. What's more important is that you allow enough rest between sessions. Be creative, we lead busy lives and it can be hard to fit running in. If possible, swap your drive home for a run home. Maybe you could be an early bird and get your run done before your family have even woken up?

Work out your pace – it is important to train at a speed that is manageable. Often training with others is great fun but can step you beyond what is manageable leading to injury. Try to train with people of similar speeds. Training using a heart monitor can help keep you in the right intensity or the website McMillan calculator can help with this. Many GPS watches have the facility of programming your target pace to give you a guide whilst running. Make sure you have planned enough time to get fit for the event, if you are unaccustomed to exercise you will need enough time for your body to adapt to the challenge, so set sensible challenges, whether training for  marathon or climbing Snowden give yourself an achievable time frame.

Recovery – adequate rest is as important as running. Your body recovers and strengthens when you rest so make sure your schedule allows enough rest. If possible have a rest day or recovery session after a long run or speed session and after strength work in gym. Research has shown muscles can take 48 hours to return to normal strength after a 10km run. With high mileage schedules you often find a steady build up in fatigue making rest even more essential! Listen to your body if you're getting lots of aches and niggles, feeling run down, on the verge of a cold, struggling to sleep or turning into a moody nightmare you're probably in need of some rest and recuperation. These are all signs of overtraining and need to be listened to. The greatest sports people are not often those that train the most but recover the quickest. Recovery will be enhanced by eating correctly in a decent time frame post work out, often including healthy fats in your diet such as avocado, nuts, and protein. Some people will choose compression clothing or sports massage. The most important aspects of recovery are sensible eating and decent sleep.Embrace variety – it's very easy to get into a habit of running the same routes at the same pace during your training. They become familiar but also can get boring.

Try some new routes and consider some trail running – the change in running surface will give your body a rest from the road and might help settle any niggles it is also a good challenge for the core. Sometimes a change of scenery can make a consistent programme a little more exciting.Look after your body – try and include some flexibility work in your schedule to stretch out tight, aching muscles. This might be stretches after your run or a foam roller session once or twice a week. Pilates and yoga can be great additions to iron out those niggles and imbalances. Also swimming or hot tub can help. Don't underestimate the value of a little pampering – get a good massage done if you can afford it. It doesn't have to be the painful deep tissue kind – often a relaxing massage can work wonders. Nutrition can also play a big part in keeping you healthy, and looking after your immune system.Run the route – if possible try and run some or all of the marathon route during your training. Knowing the route helps to calm race day nerves and prepares you for what to expect on the day.

Have a 'practice race' – if you've never raced before then the race day experience can be a bit daunting. Try to find a shorter race that fits in with your schedule (a half marathon is often perfect) and run that with the main aim being to test out kit and experience what a race entails “a race simulation session”.Taper properly – tapering is essential to allow your body to recover. It gives niggles the chance to settle and helps your muscles 'refuel' (they do this by building up glycogen levels which will be depleted by your training). Don't be tempted to squeeze in that extra long run to compensate for any you've missed, what is done, is done at about 10-14 days pre-race. Better to start the race slightly undertrained than to be over trained or worse still injured! Tapering often does not mean not doing anything though! Often if you stop everything the body goes into hibernation and feels lethargic. A good taper would follow a similar structure to your routine but cutting your volume by about 50%.

Plan race day – tapering will allow you a little extra time to plan your race day. Shop for your pre-race food, energy bars and recovery drinks (if you use them). Make sure you have your race number and safety pins. Get your running kit clean and laid out ready. If you run with music sort a motivation playlist and if you have a GPS watch make sure it's fully charged. Plan how you'll get there and back and give yourself plenty of time. All this can make race day panic free and much more enjoyable.

Boston West Hospital offers access to expert consultants in orthopaedics , sports injuries and   experienced physiotherapists.  Whether you are looking for injury prevention or recovering from injury contact Boston West Hospital on 01733 842304.

Most importantly good luck and enjoy your 2017 challenges!

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