Why You Should Use a Training Plan for Your Upcoming Race

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Getting ready to run an endurance race of any kind is not something to be taken for granted. Whether your goal is to run a 5k, a full marathon or anything in-between, it is important to show up at the starting line ready – both physically and mentally – on race day.

And the way to do that is to create and follow a plan so you have enough time between your start training date and race day to incrementally prepare.

Selecting a Plan

If you are new to endurance running, it is hard to know where to begin training. Fortunately, there are several training plans already available to guide you. The problem can be deciding on which plan is best for you. With your body condition, schedule and goals in mind, here are 7 things to consider:

  1. Choose a plan that starts at your current fitness level. It doesn’t do you any good if a plan assumes you are at one fitness level when in fact you are several levels below.
  2. Have your plan in line with how much time you have to devote to training. Look at all the things important in your life, like work, family and whatever else you have to do on a regular basis. You want a plan that can fit your training into the time you have available to devote to it.
  3. Incorporate different routines into your training. A good plan should not only include running, but also sessions of strength training, cross training, and of course, rest.
  4. Look at the credentials of the plan’s author. In the world of the Internet, anyone can create anything. The author of your plan should be a certified personal trainer, or have a degree in exercise physiology or kinesiology to ensure they know how to train for endurance running.
  5. Select a plan that gives you the time to train. A plan for a full marathon should last 16 to 20 weeks. One that says it can get you in shape in 8 weeks can put you at risk for injury regardless of your fitness level. There is no “quick” way to train for long distance endurance running.
  6. Look for success of others having used the same plan. If the plan is one you have to buy, read the reviews or testimonials posted of others that have purchased and actually used it.
  7. Finally, a viable training plan should progressively scale up your training, thus reducing the risk of an injury and set-back in training.

Be realistic in your training goals and expect a setback or two while training; it usually happens! The important part is that you can bounce back from them mentally, physically and get back on schedule. That is one reason why it is better to have too much time to train then not enough!

How to Deal with Injuries on a Race Training Plan

Running is hard on your body. Common injuries that can crop up from time to time include runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, Achilles tendonitis and stress fractures. Treat these with care as they can become potentially dangerous and even chronic.

Depending on the severity of the injury, the time it takes to get back into the groove of running, and back on track with your training plan, will vary. If you experience a minor pain in your knee or foot, wait and see if it subsides in 24 to 36 hours. If the next time you run after the rest it is gone and doesn’t come back, you’ll probably be fine. However, if you see a change in your gait – even if not experiencing pain – then you should stop running until you get it checked out. Continuing to run could cause further damage.

If the pain is more soreness after a run than anything else, try doing easy runs for a week or two and see if the soreness gets worse or lessens. For a sore Achilles heel, knee or hip, try changing to a shorter stride. If your foot is striking the ground too far ahead, it can cause soreness in these areas.

Swelling associated with soreness indicates inflammation and in many cases, icing down the affected area will help. Keep an icepack on for about 10 minutes at a time, but be sure to have some type of cloth between the ice and your skin to prevent frostbite. However, this is treating the symptoms and not the cause. If it continues, see your sports healthcare professional to determine what is causing the inflammation.

If debilitated to the point that you can’t get off the couch, then by all means go in and get checked out.

For pain at a level of 5 or 6 out of 10 points, you may be just putting in too many miles per week and your joints are responding negatively to the pounding they are taking. Try switching to a lower impact cardio, such as biking, swimming, aqua-jogging or riding an elliptical trainer.

Once rehabilitated, ease back into your training plan to keep from reinjuring the affected body part. If you were out for less than a week, you should be able to pick up where you left off. However, for absences greater than a week, try running just a few miles a week and see how you feel. If no pain returns, start adding on miles at the rate of 10% increase per week.

Most runners have a set-back or two during their train-up for races. Determine the cause of the injury or soreness, adjust your training plan accordingly, rehab, and slowly work to get back on track.

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