When temperatures rise and the birds begin chirping, we get inspired to resume our warm-weather activities. For runners, that means the start of spring training.
Creating a seasonal race schedule and planning your running goals is exciting, but it's especially important to make injury prevention a top priority. If you spent more time in your slippers than your running shoes during winter, remember these three words: Take it slowly.
Step 1: Improve Technique
Take the first six weeks of training to work on technique. For starters, practice leaning slightly forward from your ankles, landing midfoot, and engaging your core muscles. On every run, pick two Form Focuses from the Chi Running book or DVD to work on, and practice each focus with as much precision as possible. Do Form Intervals to instill the technique in your body.
Step 2: Increase Distance
Increase your mileage slowly so your body can adapt to longer distances. Don't increase your total weekly mileage by more than 10 percent per week, and remember to refuel and rehydrate more often on your longer runs.
Step 3: Gain Speed
Speed will come easily if you lay a good aerobic base first. For the first six weeks of training, never run faster than your maximum aerobic heart rate. This will build your aerobic capacity so that when/if you add speed workouts to your training, your body will be able to easily handle the increased oxygen demand.
Running faster than your maximum aerobic heart rate actually inhibits the production of capillary beds in the lining of your lungs and in your muscles, so resist the temptation to run speedy workouts at first.
While a heart rate monitor will give you the most accurate reading, here's how to roughly calculate your heart rate on your own:
Go out for a run and, after a good warm-up, take your pulse (at your wrist or at your carotid artery on your neck) by counting your heart rate for 15 seconds and multiplying by four. This will give you your current heart rate.
To determine your maximum aerobic heart rate, follow this simple "180 Formula" created by running coach Phil Maffetone:
- Subtract your age from 180.
- If you are recovering from a major illness, surgery or on any medication, subtract 10.
- If you have not exercised before, or have been injured, regressing in your running, often get colds, or you have allergies, subtract five.
- If you have been exercising for up to two years with no real problems and have not had colds or flu more than once or twice a year, subtract zero.
- If you have been exercising for more than two years without any problems, making progress in competition without injury, add five.
If you let your heart rate get close to, but does not exceed, your maximum aerobic heart rate, you'll find that your speed will gradually increase, but your effort level will remain the same. You'll be able to run longer distances faster and without pain or injury. That's quality Spring training.
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