The middle of summer is now behind us. Teachers and students are going back to school. High school sports have started their practices and the focus is now starting to shift to the fall. One of the highlights of fall for me is always fall running training. After the beatdown of the heat of summer, dreaming about crisp fall mornings and cooler temperatures gets me excited for the running races coming up. If you have decided “this is the year I run ___!” then you are not alone. It is the time of year where many people will begin focusing on specific race training programs as the fall and early winter host many races from 5K to Full Marathons depending on where you are. Before you begin your training, there are 5 things I feel are vitally important for success this fall.
- Set a goal. Be specific with your goal. Some common goals I see are “I want to finish a half marathon this year”, “I want to run X time for a 10K this year”, or “I want to run the whole marathon and not walk this year”. These are all good goals because they have a clearly measurable component to them. A good goal will help give you direction and will always be there for you to reference. It seems easy now, but 2 months into training, remembering WHY you started training is key to push through the harder days.
- Pick a specific race and sign up for it. Picking a race gives you a set deadline and puts you on the clock. It also allows you (or someone else) to build out your training program. Your training should look different if you have 10 weeks to train versus 20 weeks and knowing how long you have is a good first step. Perhaps the most important part of this point is the “sign up for it” part. Do you know how many people I have heard say, “I want to start training and see how it goes before I sign up”? A lot. Do you know how many of those people end up running the race? Zero. I’m sure it has happened, but I cannot think of one personal experience where they have gone through with it. If this is something you truly want to do and commit to, sign up, pay the money, and get serious.
- Get a training plan. There are a lot of free training programs out there and you can search “beginner 10K/Half Marathon/Marathon plan and be inundated with options. Most of them are fine and follow some tried and true methods to get you to where you want to be. Keep in mind that you need to figure out how many days a week you can commit to running as well as cross training. Based on that you can find plans that are more tailored to your needs. The best option here would be to work with someone directly who has experience in developing and creating training programs. They will be able to give you more specific training advice. The stock programs are good, but having a person you can ask questions to is very helpful for that week when you are unexpectedly sick or had to go out of town for a few days and things got thrown off.
- Get some running specific shoes and make them your running only shoes as best you can. The foam in the shoes typically needs time to rebound after a run and wearing them all day is going to shorten their lifespan and cause them to breakdown faster. Now, the inevitable next question is “what are the best running shoes?” or some form of that question. The best shoe is the one that is best for you. At this point, most companies have a range of options that vary based on quality and price. Saying “I heard X company has good shoes”, is truly worthless anymore. Most brands you have heard of make good shoes. They also make less good shoes. For your first pair, go to a store and try on the different options. If you have a running specialty store near you, go support a local business at least for your first pair. If this isn’t your first attempt at running a race, make sure the shoes you have still fit, aren’t too worn out, and I don’t recommend experimenting with new shoes when you are in the thick of training.
- Make sure you have the right clothes. This is more of a fun one, but do not discount the importance of the right shorts, socks, or shirt. There are hundreds of clothing options out there, but find some stuff that works for you. Early on, don’t be scared to try a few different brands to figure out what you like. Some brands are fairly inexpensive but good quality, but then there are some that are more expensive that just do not work for me. You just never know. On a serious note, for fall races, know that the weather can be unpredictable. In Texas, where I live, I have run races in December at about 30 degrees one year and over 70 degrees the next. You never know. Try to train outside so that as the weather changes, your body is able to adapt with it.
Bonus. Find someone or something to hold you accountable. Having that extra motivation of a person depending on you or waiting on you will get you out of bed and going or get you to the meeting point more regularly. You’d be surprised how many great runs start with “I almost didn’t show up today, but I knew you were waiting for me…”
I’m sure there are other important things people will tell you before you get going, but this should, at the very least, get you headed in the right direction. If this is your first training season, welcome. We are glad to have you sweat with us. If this is your, however many-th, take a step back, reassess how things have gone in the past, change what you need to, and let’s go. Every one of us will encounter struggles along the way, but crossing the finish line makes it oh so worth it when it happens. No one can ever take away your accomplishment. If you happen to find yourself hurt or needing more direction, let us know at College Station Physical Therapy and Performance.
Zach Ginnings, PT, DPT, CSCS