The last thing you want when training for an event is an injury that means you have to halt your training or even pull out of the event after all that hard work.
The best performances come not just from putting in plenty of hard work, but allowing your body to recover as well. So, as well as ensuring you have the right sports kit and training plan, you also need to consider your nutrition, hydration, sleep and muscle care to reduce injury, and maximise performance.
Here are 10 top tips to help you stay injury free whilst training for a 10k race.
1. Get the gear right
Make sure you wear the correct running shoes for your gait and the terrain you run on. Not sure? Ask for advice at a shop which specialises in running. Ladies, a good sports bra is also essential. Always test out your kit before an event, never run in brand new gear!
2. Build up slowly and use a training plan
Download a 10k training plan. This will keep you focused and a good idea about the distances you should cover each week to smash your 10k race day goal. If a training plan isn’t working for you, adapt or change it, but take care not to increase your running distance too far too quickly. This will cause your body to be fatigued which can increase the risk of injury and mental burnout. Running coaches refer to the 10% rule - this is where you add 10% to your mileage each week. It might sound small, but a consistent increase will add up quickly, but at the same time, help protect you from injury.
3. Warm up and cool down
Research shows that this is really important to prevent muscle and ligament damage. Start off your run slowly and always finish with walking and stretching. Stretching ideally should be done immediately at the end of your run when your muscles are still warm. This will help prevent injury.
4. Rest, recovery and sleep
Be aware that rest days are as important as training. You are more injury-prone when fatigued. When you exercise, your body needs time to recover, if you perform another hard workout too soon, you won’t make any progress, you could undo what you have achieved. We see a lot of injuries caused by over training. It’s about getting the balance right. Muscles need 48 hours to recover between workouts, so the day after a long run should be a rest day, a short recovery run, or an alternative workout, such as swimming, spinning or Pilates. Get some quality sleep in. This can help you both physically and mentally.
5. Listen to your body
Don’t run through pain or fatigue. If something starts to hurt then stop what you are doing. Carrying on could make it worse. Rest, ice, use compression and elevate the injured body part. If pain persists, consult your doctor or a sports therapist.
6. Nutrition and hydration
Your nutrition is really important when training. Choose fresh fruit and vegetables, quality protein (chicken, fish, lean meat, beans), and wholegrain carbs (bread, rice, pasta). Drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated. Ditch junk food, processed food and alcohol. Before running make sure you are hydrated enough. Choose pre-run food to ensure you have the right energy levels to train, people have their own preferences so it’s worth trying different foods to see what works best for you.
7. Mix your training up
Don’t just run-train, factor in some cross-training too. This will help with stamina and endurance, core-strength, flexibility and overall fitness. Activities such as circuits, spinning, swimming and Pilates can all help. Yoga and Pilates are brilliant for runners, promoting flexibility and mental focus.
Consider strength training or exercise to help protect vulnerable areas prone to injury. For example, if your knees are giving you a problem, consider exercises to help strengthen knees and also target hips, quads and calf muscles.
8. Try mixing the terrain up
Try running on different surfaces (road, grass, track) to build strength and stability, but also be aware if you normally only train on a treadmill then the impact of road running will feel very different.
9. Schedule regular sports massages and embrace the foam roller
Sports massage should be an essential part of your training plan. It can help you stay in top shape and prevent injuries from occurring in the first place. Your therapist can also advise on which areas are tight or ‘vulnerable’, and suggest exercises and stretches to help. This will all help to prevent injuries before they occur.
Regular use of the foam roller can help too (look on YouTube for tutorials to use the foam roller correctly, or ask your therapist).
10. The week before the race...
In the final week, have a massage and really concentrate on resting (tricky we know!), stretching and nutrition. If you are booked in with a sports massage therapist they will advise as to whether taping would be of benefit for you.
Good luck and enjoy your run!
After the event…
The race may be done but there’s still work to do! Many events will have sports massage therapists on site post-race doing quick massages for the participants. Massage immediately after an event can make a real difference in how stiff your legs become later, preventing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
Other post-race tips include:
- moving - keep moving (sorry!), walk around for at least 30 minutes post-race to keep the blood flowing to your muscles and prevent stiffness and cramping.
- stretching - stretch out those tired legs.
- hydrating - drink plenty of water, coconut water or a sports drink.
- refueling - a banana is ideal.
Book a massage for a few days after the event. This will help your body recover quicker and help relieve any post-event muscle fatigue and soreness.
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