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Preparing for a Successful Race Season

August 10, 2022

The snow is gone and we can finally see dry(ish) ground on our roads, sidewalks, and trails. This means one thing for many Duluth athletes - it’s race season! 

While many may have already been braving the cold and slush for the love of their sport, most Midwesterners are getting ready to finally bust out the new shoes and hit the pavement to start training for upcoming 5ks, marathons, bike races, and other competitions scheduled for the season.

Feeling prepared is the number one concern for most athletes, so we have gathered a few tips to follow to help you put your best foot forward in any upcoming race you’ve signed up for. 

Set up a Routine 

To enter a race confidently, a consistent training plan is key. This doesn’t mean pushing yourself to the max every day. Instead, create a plan that fits your goals and will benefit your body and mind to perform to the best of your ability come race day. 

There are a plethora of resources and training schedules online designed for everyone from beginners to intermediate athletes. Amongst these, you can find a plan that matches the time frame you have until your race, allowing you to steadily and healthily build up your speed and progression to meet your goals. If you work better with a trainer, many local gyms also offer training sessions, schedules, and strategies to help you succeed. Work better in a group (we highly recommend this option!)? Find a local running, biking, or workout group to join - keeping you accountable and motivated along your training journey. 

Switch it up for Well-Rounded Training 

Most (if not all) good training routines incorporate a multitude of different types of exercises for the entire body. We all know that come race day you will want to be at the top of your aerobic capacity (how well your lungs and heart can get oxygen to your muscles). Building up this endurance and exercise tolerance takes time and patience as you gradually and continually increase your speed and duration of activity.

However, aerobic and cardiovascular capacity is not the only thing to think about when training. Strength training is highly beneficial in order to see progress and to avoid pain. It keeps your body aligned and functioning the way it is supposed to. When it comes to strength training, you may think you can skip your lower body since you are using your legs in other workouts, however this is not the case. Lower body is just as important to focus on as upper body or core strength to limit unalignment and injury. 

While you are incorporating additional body movements into your routine, let’s add dynamic stretches into the mix. Flexibility and mobility exercises are a perfect way to maintain, and even strengthen, the health of your muscles, joints, and tendons. These are great to do at the beginning or end of your workout to warm up or cool down your body. We recommend lunges with rotations as well as other lower body focused stretches to prepare your legs for a long jog or brisk sprint. 

Warm Up and Cool Down

This is a good place to speak about the importance of warming up and cooling down while training. 

Warming up before a workout helps to gradually increase the body’s temperature and blood flow to your muscles, preparing them for exercise and reducing the risk of unnecessary stress or injury. Start by practicing some dynamic movements to elongate muscles and increase joint range of motion, as well as beginning any activity slowly and gradually building up your pace or intensity. In addition to improving performance, warming up also benefits mental preparation by allowing your brain to become more focused on your body and the activity it is about to perform. This focus can improve coordination and technique. 

Cooling down allows your body to transition from exercising to a state of rest by gradually reducing your body temperature, heart rate, and breathing. It also helps prevent muscle soreness. Think of this as your warm up, but backwards. Begin to ease down, tapering off to a slow jog or walking pace. Also incorporate static stretches, holding each stretch in a challenging, but not painful position for 15-60 seconds. 

Invest in Proper Footwear 

Training puts many many miles on your feet, so you want to make sure they are taken care of with the right fitting footwear. Find a quality pair of shoes that fit properly, are supportive, absorb force, and have good ankle support. It is also important to make sure they feel comfortable for your foot type and will not cause blisters. Tip: there are a few athletic shoe retailers in the Duluth area that are happy to help make sure you are purchasing the correct shoe for the build of your foot. We suggest checking out Austin Jarrow, Duluth Running Company, or Tortoise and Hare Footware. Not only will a good pair of shoes help your feet, but they will also benefit your hips and back in avoiding pain and injury. 

Ensure you are running correctly

You learned to walk as a young child, so you should be able to know how to run, right? Not always. We often form bad habits or are not optimizing good form. Orthopaedic Associates of Duluth offers complete comprehensive running evaluations, which include a formal physical therapy evaluation and a running form assessment. Assessments are designed to analyze a runner's performance in order to help provide and create personalized running plans - helping you more efficiently and effectively reach your goals. 

Maintain a Healthy Diet

In order to keep up with a training routine, it is important to refuel your body appropriately. Eat about 40-60g of carbohydrates per hour during training and replenishing with at least 25g of protein and carbs after. It can also be beneficial to cut back on alcohol consumption and processed sugars, keeping in mind to increase whole fresh foods. Staying hydrated is also important before, after, and during training sessions.

Know When to Seek Help

If you are experiencing lasting pain while training, reach out to your healthcare provider or a specialized member of our team and schedule an appointment to ensure you are not straining any muscles, joints, or other parts of your body to injury or serious damage. We can also help figure out a treatment or supplemented workout plan to get you back on track with your goals, or if needed, new goals. Contact our team at (218) 722-5513 or fill out the contact form at https://oaduluth.com/contact.php with any questions, concerns, or to set up an appointment. 

By following these tips and recommendations, you will be geared up and ready for a confident, injury-free, and successful race season! We are cheering for you every step of the way