Since the 1960s, the sport of running has grown in popularity, and along the way, trends and techniques have changed to improve performance and reduce injury. Today, training has evolved to the point where it not only focuses on the actual roadwork, but also on strength training, cross training and nutrition. Seasoned sprinters as well as ex-couch potatoes can benefit from these tips for intermediate runners.
- Stretching -- Before beginning any form of exercise, it's important to stretch the muscles to improve flexibility and prevent injury.
- Strength training -- People who run exclusively tend to build muscle in the backs of their legs but not the rest of their body. By adding strength training, using weights and doing core exercises, runners will be more balanced and have a better overall fitness level.
- Cross training -- Rather than running everyday, experts recommend swimming, bicycling, walking or other forms of aerobic exercise to give the running muscles a break while maintaining cardiovascular fitness.
- Carbo-loading -- A diet rich in high-energy carbohydrates and low fat proteins both before and after races is effective at improving performance. Between races, a balanced diet of nutrient-rich foods serves as fuel for training.
- Hydration -- There's a direct link between performance and body temperature. As body temperature rises and dehydration begins, performance drops, which may lead to injury. Drinking water before, during and after a race or a run is vital. Occasionally, runners may need to replace fluids with drinks like Gatorade or Powerade.
After the 5K race, intermediate runners can go in one of three directions. When they cross the finish line, some runners cross the race off their "bucket lists" and return to a more sedentary lifestyle, while others set their sights on bigger challenges like a 10K or half marathon. The third group keeps the pace and logs 20 or more miles (32.2 or more kilometers) a week. Motivation is the key to sticking with running or any form of exercise. If you need a little motivation to lace up your shoes and hit the track, consider some of these tips:
- Treat yourself to new gear like shoes (which should be replaced regularly), shorts, a pedometer or heart rate monitor.
- Find a running buddy -- be it man or dog.
- Set a goal for the day or the week (distance, speed or number of runs).
- Enter a race in another town and combine it with a vacation.
- Keep a log or a blog.
- Watch "Chariots of Fire," the story of two British athletes preparing for the 1924 Olympics.
- Try a new route on trails, up hills or in a different neighborhood.
Whatever your goal, be it running a 5K or losing 5 pounds (2.2 kilograms), shake up your routine. It'll improve your ability and keep you in the game.