It’s not news that the winter in the Midwest has been all kinds of terrible. However, that doesn’t change the fact that with April underway races in the area begin to come at a fast and furious pace with every weekend full of potential running options. While in the past these races have been great opportunities for setting the bar high early in the season, this year runners may need to take a step back and make sure they are prepared before pushing their bodies too hard.
“I think people are a little bit behind where they normally are, fitness wise,” CARA Training Program Manager Meg Sullivan said. “I think you have to be careful not to try and make up for what you missed.”
The risk for many runners is the same thing that usually makes for solid performances, the desire to do as well as possible. Runners who sign up for spring races who haven’t trained as hard as they normally would in the off-season need to protect themselves from pushing too hard too early, Sullivan said. Without a solid base, runners put themselves in danger of injuries that could hamper the rest of their running season.
Sullivan said the best way to get the body back to where it needs to be is a combination of time and specific workouts. Working out in intervals and changing up the speed is a good way to get the legs back and build the body up. Sullivan said running two miles at various intervals of intensity is a good way of doing this. Also, increasing the time on long runs will help to build endurance. Those two adjustments can be big helps, Sullivan said.
It’s not just the winter couch-potatoes that should be mindful of their early season conditioning. Sullivan said she has seen a number of people who have been trying to get all of their work done inside on a treadmill, and it’s causing injuries. The treadmill can be a useful tool, but is not as good for the body as running outside. Putting too much work into the machine can beat up the body and cause set-backs.
Runners who are just getting outside, whether it is from a treadmill or the couch, need to adjust their goals for the spring accordingly. Typically, Sullivan said, runners should give themselves at least three or four weeks of training and workouts before they push for any top end personal performances. Additionally, runners who have already signed up for races need to be prepared for what their body can do. Sullivan said it’s important not to push too hard, especially if it’s not a goal race. Don’t worry about not setting a PR, instead focus on staying healthy and use it as a training tool for later races. She also said to be realistic and realize what kind of shape the runner is in. Use pace calculators to figure out what speed is appropriate for the situation.
Most importantly, Sullivan said it’s key to just get outside and get back on track. “You may feel a little awkward,” Sullivan said. “But I think health wise and sanity wise it’s definitely a good move to get outside.”
With what appears to be the worst of the weather behind us, visit our calendar for a complete listing of local events to get the season going.