HOW TO KICK START YOUR TRAINING
If you are anything like me when it comes to training during winter then you too have most probably slacked off on the training between June and August and opted to rather hibernate and recover from all the hectic racing and ‘pb’s’ that occupied most of your summer and late Autumn. Not a bad thing when you consider that even slick, well oiled and prepped hi-performance F1 engines need an overhaul and upgrade before the start of the new racing season.
If my description above sounds too familiar then you’ll be happy to know that taking a break is a great way to re-energize your mind and enthusiasm for training whilst allowing any niggling injuries and microscopic muscle tears to heal and reveal stronger and more conditioned muscles when you do start training again. The trick is to ease into your training and build both distance and speed into your routine over a period of at least 4 to 6 weeks. This might sound too long and incredibly frustrating especially when all you want to do is get out there and use your elevated glycogen levels to announce to your local club that you are finally ready to smash the 30-year-old club time trial record.
Bear in mind that as you get older your muscles shorten and weaken after even a few days of no training, so to throw caution to the wind and jump into intense training is quite frankly shortsighted and could have you sit out an entire season if you happen to pull a hamstring or snap an Achilles’ tendon. Rather set realistic incremental goals with a particular short distance race in mind, no longer than 10 kilometers and work on getting some distance on your feet for the first 3 x 4 weeks before you start concentrating on some speed work during the last 2 weeks before the race, either on a track or on the road, increasing your pace every time you reach another street lamp pole.
At this stage, pre and post- run stretching is crucial. Don’t sacrifice the post-run stretch for an early break on the couch or the bed. Your muscles shorten during your run especially if your pace is consistent and rhythmic. Allowing your legs, back and shoulders to stretch through a series of easy and unforced stretches will not only help them relax but also help release the lactic acid build-up that will ultimately assist with recovery and prevent intense stiffness, pain and cramping. Additional to stretching you should also include some basic core exercises like planking, push-ups and ab work.
Alternating your training regimen with complimentary sports and exercises such as swimming and cycling will not only fast-track your quest for fitness but also help develop and tone other muscle groups that will support and aid your running. Remember to also increase your hydration at this stage and avoid or decrease liquids like coffee and alcohol, that act as diuretics that flush water out of your body faster than you might be replacing them.
Finally, remember to enjoy the start of Spring but take care to ignore chilly mornings or evenings. Most of us will still catch a cold or flu at this time and this could again set your training back by a few weeks. Rather layer your clothing and remove an item of clothing as the external temperature increases during your run. Shower as soon after your run as you can and even consider taking a vitamin c or zinc supplement to support your immune system especially after a protracted layoff from training.