I love the enthusiasm and zeal with which the marathon fever has caught India’s attention. The fact that people have begun to acknowledge the science of running and the paraphernalia that surrounds it, demonstrates a healthy culture of scientific training for running as a sport, much like other parts of the world. Assuming you’re not a full-time runner, but want to incorporate some pleasurable, non-damaging swift footwork in your life, or feel you’re stuck in a rut and want to run faster, follow the plan below.
Pick the right gear: Just fitting yourself into proper running shoes and wearing the appropriate socks can make every run a much more pleasurable experience. Get to a specialist who can help you identify your foot shape and accordingly recommend the right shoe. You are looking for stability, cushioning, something lightweight, and motion control. As far as your outfit is concerned, wear clothes made from technical training fabric such as the dry-fit fabric, from which moisture evaporates on the go. Top all that with running accessories like the iPod, a sports-performance watch that can time your run and log your speed.
Pace yourself right:Start with a walk programme. Walk most of the distance and Interval-train with a few running spurts till you increase your stamina and improve your distance. Running is all about pacing. Once you pick your distance, learn to pace yourself. A good goal to start with would be the 5km run. Compete with yourself, not others. Running is a individual sport, and you’re really just competing with yourself.
The science: Get the right gear for a marathon . (Julie Jacobson/AP)
Run with awareness:There is no such thing as the perfect running technique; everyone has their own style of running. However, there are certain techniques that are easy to follow, and will allow you to run faster and for longer without straying too far from what feels natural.
• Elbows: Keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle, tucked close to your body, so you don’t waste any energy.
•Core: Your core muscles are your natural corset, comprising a group of muscles—rectus abdominus, internal and external obliques, erector spinae, muscles of the lower back and the pelvic floor. Developing a strong core is crucial to maintaining good posture and consequently developing speed, stability and efficiency. Engage your core by gently tucking in your navel towards your spine and run tall.
• Legs: Keep your stride length short to build strong gluteal muscles comprising individual muscle groups—gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. This will eventually enable you to run in a more fluid and stable manner.
• Head: Keep your head directly above your shoulders to maintain the correct biomechanics and balance your gait.
• Feet: Your foot should hit the ground landing lightly on your mid foot to quickly roll forward. Don’t be heavy on your feet…run light!
Fuel your run:Make sure to eat correctly pre- and post-workout. A good pre-run snack should be at least an hour before your run and should consist of slow-release carbohydrates such as a banana, brown rice or oats with curd and vegetables, especially sweet potato, as it is a good source of a slow-release starchy carbohydrate essential for running. If you haven’t had the time, then even a sports drink or fruit juice could do the trick. Make sure to stay hydrated during your running sessions by sipping on small amounts of water or a sports drink, which should contain a good electrolyte and mineral balance to help refuel and rehydrate your body. Once you’ve finished the run, refuel by hydrating yourself and having a carbohydrate- and-protein-mix snack such as an egg sandwich, or rice with lentils.
Rest and stretch: This is the most important step when it comes to avoiding injuries. Make sure you stretch before and after your run. Pre-run, focus on larger muscle groups such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, chest and back. Post-workout stretches should be longer and, along with your upper body, the focus should be on stretching your hip flexors, calves, the piriformis muscle, gluteal muscles and the iliotibial band (ITB is a superficial thickening of a tissue that runs along the outer side of the thigh. A tight ITB is the most common cause of knee pain in runners). Use foam rollers to loosen tight muscle fibres. All the above-mentioned muscles are found in the lower body, namely buttocks and thighs. Rest a day between runs if you’ve just started and do two-three runs/walks a week at the most.
The most common injuries with regular runners are shin splints, knee problems and lower-back issues. All of these can be avoided if you apply the science of running when you get on the track.
Sumaya Dalmia is the owner of The Bodyworks Studio, a personal training studio in New Delhi. She will write a monthly column.
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