Five tips from a fitness expert

As soon as you ask about running, you'll be flooded with (often contradictory) information. How do you know what to believe? We asked Papillon Luck, founder & owner of Liberté Fitness, to set the record straight with her top tips to keep you running well in 2013.

1) Don’t: Believe running is the only training required to improve your PB times

Runners are passionate about - you guessed it - running. Trying to get them to focus on other forms of training which will benefit their endurance and offer them a chance to improve their PB times and overall fitness is often tough because they see the only way to improve their performance is to run.

The solution? You can still run but try incorporating some speed work into your programme. It’s nothing more complicated than running a bit faster at times. Pick a landmark in the distance and sprint at around 70% of your maximum speed until you reach it. Then focus on another further away and increase your maximum speed to 90%. Intersperse the sprints with jogging as your recovery period and add longer sprints to your training as you start to plateau. It breaks up the monotony of running long distances and done frequently, can have a real positive impact on reaching your PB record. Plus it doesn’t require any fixed distances so there’s no need to plan in advance - just go with it and watch your performance improve. 

2) Don’t: Wear the same trainers for too long

You may have a cherished pair of trainers that you wore when you achieved your PB or won a race, but think rationally and remember that your achievements were not based solely on your ‘lucky’ footwear. Runners can become very superstitious about particular rites of passage on race days but at some point, your trainers need to be replaced. A lack of cushion and shock absorption which comes from wear and tear can result in injury. Even if they are your favourite pair, make sure you change your trainers every 500 miles.

If you’re loyal to a brand, stick with them but check out their new developments in trainers, they’ve come a long way! Make sure any change in footwear is done with enough time to train wearing the new shoes before a big race. After training hard, there's nothing more disheartening than to find yourself suffering on race day from new trainers.

3) Do: Find time to stretch

Finding time to stretch is an absolute must but it frequently gets overlooked as it’s considered a ‘luxury’ rather than a ‘necessity’. Stretching increases flexibility in tight hamstrings, calves, shins and quads and can prevent shin splints, runner's knee and lower back pain. It can also help prevent soreness following a run. If you don’t have time to stretch, then you need to shorten your run distance and make sure you fit in time to do some static stretching at the end. Your body will thank you for it and it will aid recovery, enabling you to get back to training faster. If you’ve not yet tried foam rolling, invest in a soft foam roller and roll it under each muscle group. When a tender area is found, maintain pressure on the tender area for 30 - 60 seconds. 

Stretches for runners

4) Don’t: Eat & drink at the wrong time prior to running

Eating the wrong food at the wrong time can result in indigestion as well as bowel and bladder problems for runners. Getting this right will require a little planning and maybe an earlier wake-up call but eating a breakfast of slow-releasing carbohydrates, low in fat and moderate in protein, two hours before you run can make all the difference to your performance. If you eat too close to running, it may give you cramps and nausea. If you can’t face waking up earlier in the morning to eat before you train, you can always fall back on an energy gel, protein shake or a carbohydrate drink. Don’t forget to refuel within an hour of your training and always include a mixture of carbohydrates and protein to recover and prevent post-run fatigue.

Drinking at the wrong time can also be problematic. If you’re doing a long run or a race greater than 8 - 10 miles, it’s important to make sure you’re well hydrated during the days leading up to your long run. You should be drinking plenty of water and non-alcoholic fluids. On the run day itself, an hour before you start running, try to drink one pint of water, then stop drinking to prevent your run being interrupted by an urgent toilet break!

Read more about fuelling up on your runs here.

5) Do: Set goals

Basing your training schedule on willpower alone makes it difficult to achieve your goals on days when you don’t feel like running. Instead, create a programme you can realistically stick to in order to focus on an end result. By doing this, missing a day’s training would potentially delay the goal you’re focusing on. It’s hard enough to motivate yourself to run in the dark, after a long day at work but your programme should focus your mind on the purpose of your training. If you mentally attach a purpose to why you’re doing something rather than doing it aimlessly, the potential to avoid it is diminished.

Don't make it hard to succeed. If you’re training for a marathon, imagine yourself at the finish line with your friends and family cheering you on, then work backwards to do what you need to in order to get the desired end result. In this instance, you can only reach that goal by following your training programme so don’t let your willpower be swayed by a cosy night next to the fire. 

You can read more about setting effective goals in this article from our sister site, Triathlete's World.