I’ve finally done it. Something I’ve said I would never do. I registered for the 2016 San Diego Rock and Roll Half Marathon! Am I crazy? Am I a masochist? Maybe.
I’m not much of a runner. I get a few miles in fairly regularly but distance has never been my thing. So as I ramp up my half marathon training program I figured it would be appropriate to review and avoid some of the major mistakes people make when training for their first distance running event.
Now as a Kettlebell Sport athlete, training for endurance is nothing new to me. I’ve actually had runners compare the programming style to their own race preps. A ten-minute set is more like the 400m or 800m but the way we layer on our reps and minutes during training cycles is very similar.
MISTAKE #1: Too Much Too Soon.
Running is one of the most repetitive athletic movements there is. Depending on stride length and pace a ten minute mile is going to get you somewhere in the vicinity of 1,600 steps. That is 1600 little jumps from one-foot to the other for ten minutes straight. Extrapolate that out over a half-marathon and you’ve got almost 21,000 times that your feet, ankles, calves, quads, and hips have to absorb that landing. For you crazies doing a full marathon…over 40,000! That’s a lot a steps for your FitBit to record. If you want to avoid injury you have to take it slow and build up the adaptations. It’s one of the toughest things to do because most of the time we feel fine until we don’t.
We put on our run tracker and our new shoes and we are ready to roll. Motivation is high, limitations are low. Might even set a personal record on Day 1!! Woah, woah, woah…slow your roll. The most common injuries associated with running are overuse injuries. Plantar fasciitis and shin splints are debilitating and could completely stop your training. You want to avoid them with proper programming and appropriate soft tissue care (which we’ll get to later).
Remember to start with low mileage and build up slowly. There are many training plans available or you can get a coach. Be smart and don’t try to rush your progress. Overtraining is not your friend.
MISTAKE #2: Forgetting About Strength Training
What happens when things aren’t strong enough to hold up to the pressure? They break! Just like you will if you focus all your time on only running and don’t maintain or start with a concurrent strength program. Do you need to squat twice your bodyweight, bench press a buick or deadlift the moon? No, but a stronger, more balanced body will make running easier and more efficient. Furthermore, it will help prevent injuries. Runner’s knee and Iliotibial band syndrome are often caused by weakness or imbalance over the thousands of steps during training. If one muscle is much weaker than another it may end up overcompensating and causing pain. It can also lead to less than optimal mechanics during your stride. Efficiency is your friend and you don’t need to make this harder than it already is. Remember Philippides. Again, stretching can help but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
If you think all you need to do to run better is to run more you are greatly mistaken. Don’t ignore the upper body and core either. In case you haven’t noticed you use your entire body to run. Invest in some personal training to shore up those weak links and it will pay major dividends down the road (<– See what I did there).
MISTAKE #3: Ignoring Soft Tissue Health
Foam roll and stretch. It’s pretty simple but it gets ignored so often. You put all that effort on the pavement and stretching feels like a chore. Training breaks down the body. Then the body repairs and adapts to the stressors that are placed on it. If all of the stressors are contractile then the body will only react by becoming more efficient at contracting the same muscles over and over again. Eventually you will become imbalanced and things will start hurting. Knee and achilles tendinitis can be avoided by paying special attention to your quads and calves. Take care of your body and it will take care of you.
MISTAKE #4: Thinking your running technique is A-OK!
Those new shoes feel like clouds, Garmin is all charged up and synced with your smartphone, playlist is ready to rock and your outfit is swagalicious (<– did not come up on spell check!). A little pre-stretch and you come out of the gate looking like a newborn baby giraffe. It sounds simple enough, one foot in front of the other, but think about this: a relatively minor error in technique will only be amplified over the course of miles. The little things add up to either injuries or inefficiency. This is where you find a running coach, not your friend that has done 5 marathons. They may have a better idea than you but most likely aren’t trained to identify problems and teach the appropriate correctives.
When I first started training for the Spartan Beast I was running high mileage (for me) and my neck started hurting, a lot. It felt like I was carrying a 50-pound head and my brain isn’t that big. Turns out I was looking straight down in front of me while running causing slouching and placing the extra burden on my neck. I figured it out after I had my technique checked out and my neck pain went away when I payed close attention to keep my head up.
You could also have your technique checked out at a professional running store, like my boys over at Milestone Running. They can take a look, make recommendations, and even recommend shoes that fit your running style.
Start your training with plenty of time to build up mileage safely. Pay attention to your body with both strength training and soft tissue care. Don’t be too proud to get some professional help. Even coaches need coaches. And remember this should be fun and enhance your life not make it miserable. Done properly and you will be bragging about your times and ready to Rock and Roll another one!