Monday, July 23, 2012

Train Like an Olympian: Running

So we talked about swimmers, but you know that the Olympics would never be complete without the runners (Or is that the voice in my head trying to make me feel good?). Runners are usually fit, both mentally and physically, because it takes a great deal of "Yes, I can" to achieve running goals. I mean, of course most people don't start by being able to complete 26 miles or being able to do in in 2 and a half hours (sick!).

The difference between training as a runner versus a lot of other sports is that different distances require different types of training. A short distance sprinter has very different goals than a long distance runner. Short distance races tend to be less about the distance because most people, apart from folks with physical limitations, can run short distances. So the goal is more centered around building enough strength to propel yourself forward faster than your competition.

With long distance runners, the first goal is the ability to cover the desired distance, and then once that is achieved, speed comes into play. but there is no use thinking of how fast if you haven't built the endurance to run for a few hours straight. 

However, every individual runner is also different. Some runners have found it works best to push hard for a couple of days back to back and then take a couple of days off. Other runners switch between running intensely one day and taking it easy the next. Whichever way you choose, it is still a climb and runners must set short term and long term goals. For example, if you want to run 10 miles in 4 months, that is your long term goal. Your short term goal to get there may be the weekly distance increases. 

Runners still have to build strength though, especially in their legs. And so running in itself is not all runners do. Strength training also helps to reduce some of the impact of running on the joints (knees and ankles), and strengthen the lower back to keep the posture and reduce the energy wasted in holding the body up. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges for your legs, and of course the superman for your lower back are really popular among runners.

Olympic runner Allyson Felix adds that besides training, some of the following are important:
Music: Yay! Someone agrees with me. Music is pretty important to keep you motivated because it affects our emotions more than we think.
Comfort: You are performing a repetitive motion and so it is easy to lose focus. If you are not physically comfortable, you start thinking about what you are wearing, how your contacts are getting dry, etc.

Let me also add that your diet is very important with any sport. First off, you need to stay hydrated as you run because you lose a lot of water. However, because you sweat a lot (especially for long distance runners), it is important to keep your iron levels stable. This means getting in a lot of green vegetables and beans. Carbs are also more important for runners than protein to keep your energy levels high. Slow-releasing energy can be gotten from whole grain carbs. Lastly, you do need some protein as well to repair your muscles after you consistently break them down, and I would suggest getting this protein from beans and lean beef (kill two birds with one stone with the protein and iron).

I love talking about running as you can tell, so if you have any questions, let me know and I'd be sure to answer :)

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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