All people have different levels of trainability and natural potential. It is possible for complete beginners to make very rapid progress and move up the targets, while others find initially that they can’t achieve the early training levels.
There are two golden rules whichever level of improver you find yourself: a) build-up gradually, and b) you must rest and recover before training becomes beneficial.
Even if you come from a good level of fitness, trying to build up too quickly will certainly get you injured. Running is a repetitive activity that involves your foot hitting the floor repeatedly with considerable force being transmitted up through the legs and into the lower back. The reason that experienced runners can handle such high levels of training is because they have taken years to get there. Your body adapts slowly to new stresses and a produce of regular running is that the bones will harden and become more resilient to new forces so fit people beware: your engine (heart & lungs) may find it easy – but after a while your legs won’t.
Rest & Recover
The nature thought is that you get better when you train hard. While that is not altogether untrue, the reality is that your body gets fitter while you are resting, Here’s how it works: during hard exercise your body gets tired, waste products build up and energy levels fall as you have used up fuel – you are technically less able than before you started training! If you continued the same level of activity over several days you would become progressively more tired and eventually you will breakdown – either with injury or illness. However, when you stop and rest, your body starts to repair the damage, which it will do to a higher level than before as the body recognises a need to adapt to the new stresses that you’re subjecting it to.
A regular training pattern is more important than any one session. There is a cumulative effect from training regularly which is not achieved by doing all your training on one or two days each week. The GEAR training programmes are for all levels of entrant, from those just aiming to get round to those who want to finish in a sub 45 minute time.
Going the Distance
For 10k races it is feasible to train up to over the race distance. Your training is done to encourage physiological changes in your body – one of these is the ability to use different forms of energy. The most efficient energy source is glycogen – basically a sugar stored in the muscles. This will last for about 1 hour of fairly rigorous exercise – like running, after that has gone, the body learns to use fat for energy which we all have a big supply of.
The problem is that the body does not convert fat to energy very efficiently, although it can be improved by doing runs over 1 hour. You need sufficient time on your feet to help train the energy systems, it encourages local endurance in the leg muscles and joints and it teaches you how to run efficiently. The occasional run over distance is good for confidence – but in general longer will not mean fitter as you will not recover adequately to do your other training.
The Amount of Rest
Some leading athletes appear not to rest at all – to run at World class you have to achieve high quantities of training. These are the fittest and most economical movers in the World who can run 30-40 min without breathing, sweating or touching the ground. They are not like us; we expend enormous amounts of energy with each stride as the shock wave from each step knocks the wind out of your lungs.
Speed and ability are not necessarily good indicators of how efficient a runner you may be – slower runners may simply not have the cardiovascular system (heart & lungs) to run fast, but can run forever without getting injured. Conversely, plenty of fast runners regularly get injured because the bodywork is not as strong as the engine. Unfortunately, it is a suck-it-and-see situation, and you’ll find out soon enough, however, it is still essential to build in rest days to allow for the training effect to take place.
Everyone should be aware that there is a risk involved with active sport – heart defects leading to death being the most serious, that scare out of the way – for the vast majority of people active sport will improve your health and wellbeing.
Visit your Doctor
Before setting out on any exercise regime you are well advised to visit your Doctor for a check up. A good doctor will be pleased to see you and should give you advise on setting out – particularly if you have have had a health problem like asthma of suffer from carrying excess weight, or even if its just getting reassurance from your GP.
The first challenge for us all is to get to the start line fit and healthy so train smart.
Food & Drink
A healthy diet and high fluid intake are essential. Your body burns carbohydrate for the energy you need to make the muscles move, it also needs protein to help it recover from the damage done by exercise and it needs vitamins and minerals to maintain its health. So what you need is a balanced diet, make sure you are taking in plenty of carbohydrate but make sure you are not surviving just on carbohydrate – a plate of just pasta isn’t a balanced diet. If you are taking in a lot of fruit and veg, yet still get colds you may need to look at vitamin supplements – but they are not essential if your general health is good. Liquid is essential, even on a cold day you will lose a lot of liquid through sweating and breathing – if this does not get replaced your body cannot function properly. So make sure you drink regularly, before, during and after exercise – either water or an isotonic sport drink, the choice is down to taste although research does show that liquid is absorbed more quickly when taken as an Isotonic drink (but don’t treat them like soft drink – during & immediately after exercise only is advisable).
For a beginner, taking part in a race is a nerve wracking experience for the most experienced the 10k is an ideal race distance combining both pace and endurance. Racing is very different than running on your own: your perception of pace will alter and you will almost certainly run quicker in the first few miles than you thought you were, running uninhibited with several thousand people trying to step on your heels or stopping dead in front of you is frustrating, plus the whole thing about getting there, queuing for the loo (several times) and finding the start. It’s best to experience that big day. A shorter race or fun run will give you some confidence about doing the distance and will teach you something about “racing” and sustaining pace.
Training takes about two weeks to become effective – so there is little point in doing too much training in the last two weeks before the event. It is far better to be letting the body recuperate and build up your energy reserves. There is a balance to be found: ease back too much and you will start to lose training effect and start to feel a little sluggish. Start to reduce the quantity of training two weeks before the 10k, but maintain some faster running to keep you feeling “sharp” keep some light training going even in the last week – it’s good for the confidence – but don’t burn up valuable energy with unnecessary “nervous” training at the last minute.
In the last four days concentrate on getting lots of carbohydrates inside you. Make sure your last big meal is at least 12 hrs before the race and have a light breakfast three hours before the start on race day. Drink small amounts right up to start time, especially in warm conditions.