Preparing for Your Next 5K: Tips From a PT
Fall is upon us and with holiday runs right around the corner, Therapydia physical therapist Jodie McGinlay, DPT, weighs in with her top five things to keep in mind as you prepare for this year’s Turkey Trot, Holiday Hustle, Fun Run or any of the numerous other festively-themed 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathons:
You did it! You made the important first step of signing up for that 5K/10K or maybe even half marathon. Great job! Prior to race day, there are a few things to consider to make the most out of your run, no matter if this is your first race or your tenth. One of the most important things to keep in mind to ensure your success is to go slow and listen to your body. No matter how many races you’ve run, there are many goals to set and accomplish during your pre-race, training period. Remember that injury prevention and maintenance at any phase of the training process is attainable so the fact that you’re reading this prior to your run is great! Here you will find the top five considerations to help you avoid injury and prepare your body to cruise across the finish line on race day.
1. Running Shoes
Take a look at your shoes. Are they more than two years old? Do they squeeze your toes? Do your feet ever feel numb during or after you wear them? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to check in with your local physical therapist or running shoe store. Unfortunately, shoes are not bulletproof and they need replacing every so often, especially if they are uncomfortable. Your physical therapist can assess your foot mechanics for optimal comfort and recommend a specific brand or running shoe store to visit.
2. The Course
Consider the surface in which you’ll be running on race day. Is the upcoming race hilly? Is it flat? If the race is outside, try to hit the pavement and see how your body handles it. Various surfaces can actually distribute forces through your feet in different ways so you should try to change up the surfaces that you’re training on to prepare (because not all are created equal). Tracks, treadmills, concrete surfaces and trails can all put stresses on the body in their own way. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should hop out on the trails if your 5K is on pavement, but it may be wise to switch up your training occasionally and skip a treadmill day in favor of some fresh air.
3. Set Your Goals
Are you shooting to complete a personal record or increase your speed for your upcoming race? Try to include some form of cross training to give your program variability. Current physical therapy research suggests 2-3 days a week of resistance training: weights, high intensity interval training, and even plyometrics can increase your run speed and lung capacity for endurance.
If you haven’t been particularly active lately and you’re unsure about where to start, these three exercises are low impact and address specific musculature responsible for ensuring optimal gluteal activation while walking and running. Remember if any exercises create discomfort, please discontinue performing and consult a physical therapist for a formal musculoskeletal assessment.
Exercise 1: Sidelying Clamshell
Lie on your side with the band above your knees. With the knees bent and stacked on each other, lift the top knee up and away—into the resistance band. Try to maintain the hips and shoulders from rocking back or forward. Hold for 5-10 seconds and perform 5 reps for 2-3 sets. You should be feeling this on the outer glut. If you feel it more on the side of your hip (think about where a seam in your pant would start), roll your top hip forward. Work your holds up to 20 seconds.
Exercise 2: Running Man
Stand and balance on one leg. Lean your body forward (keeping your upper body/core in plank position) while you straighten your back leg behind you. Try to hover back leg or tap toe on the ground for balance. Bring the same arm forward into ready position (see picture). March leg up to 90 degrees as you extend your arm back to end position. Perform 2-3 rounds of 5 reps. Work your reps up if you are able to maintain your balance in a smooth and controlled manner.
Exercise 3: Lateral Band Walks
Place elastic band around legs. From easiest to hardest: band above knees, band below knees, band at ankles, band at feet. Lightly bend your knees while you take a step to the side keeping your feet spread about hip distance apart. Keep resistance on band and bring trailing leg towards the other. Try to keep hip distance between feet in order to get the best burn. Remember this is four your hips—you should feel it on the outside glut but will feel quads as well. Try 10 steps down and back. Work up to 20 steps in coming weeks.
4. Fuel the Tank
Hydration + diet + adequate sleep can give your body energy and sustainability through your training period and beyond. Make sure to drink water throughout the day and eat plenty of nutrient rich and high carb energy boosters, including bananas, oats, whole-grain foods, peanut butter, broccoli, Greek yogurts and berries. The consistency with your training program to ensure your body is equipped to run the race from a cardiovascular standpoint can be accelerated by how you’re fueling the tank before and after.
5. Recovery, REcovery, RECOVERY
As you prepare and train for the upcoming race, allow your mind and body some time to cool down. A long week full of runs, resistance training, socializing, work, etc. can take its toll. This could mean taking a hot bath and letting your body relax while you work on incorporating some new recipes and getting a little extra sleep. Cooldowns after a run could mean walking the last ½ mile home instead of the sprint you planned on or simply taking the time to prop your feet up and elevate after moving around all day. However you choose to take it easy after the week, this rest is not only beneficial for your body but for your mental drive to get back out on that next run the following week. Self motivation can sometimes be challenging so I like to incorporate training with a friend or local run club. Consider looking into run clubs or meetups in your area that could make running more enjoyable.
If you feel you need further assistance with training including ramping mileage and/or a customized running program, there are additional resources and education we can provide to ensure optimal performance during your training. Therapydia’s Run Assessment locates any weaknessess or mechnical challenges involved in your running. With a thorough exam of your strength, flexibility, movement patterns and running form, your run analysis will help to ensure your running is more efficient, more enjoyable and most importantly, injury and pain-free. You’ll review the findings with your physical therapist and leave with a custom assessment and exercise training plan. Click here to schedule your Run Assessment today.