3 tips to train like a pro for race day

man tying his sneaker lace

Dr. Joshua Lamb MD, foot, knee, and ankle surgeon with Roper St. Francis Physician Partners, offers the some expert advice on how to best train for a race.

How do you even get started running if you have no experience? (Think: Couch to 5K or None2Run tips)
Running is a great source of exercise and an excellent way to experience your local surroundings. Charleston is a fantastic running town, with a great climate, beautiful views, and very few hills with which to contend. By following several simple steps, someone with little or no experience running can get out on the right foot. 

Set realistic expectations. If your body is not conditioned, it may take several months to build up muscle strength and tolerance to your new activity. Start out by mixing a combination of walking and running.

You are more likely to stick with running if you start out running with a small group to help motivate you. Begin with a slow and easy pace. You need to be able to pass the “talk test”, which means that you are able to hold a conversation while jogging.  It is also helpful to pick a race several months away so that you can train for that goal.  If you enjoy coffee, there’s good news. Caffeine has been shown to improve both speed and range for endurance athletes.

What running gear do you recommend/endorse? (Sneakers that are actually supportive, etc.)
When selecting a running shoe, the most important thing is comfort and ensuring a good fit. There is no evidence that certain types of shoes will prevent injuries, so I would recommend buying a neutral shoe that is comfortable and provides adequate room in the toe box. As you get more into running, you may want to experiment with different types of shoes that offer different levels of support to see if one works better for you.  Studies have shown that shoes lose their shock absorption between 300 and 500 miles, so make sure that you avoid wearing worn-out shoes to improve your chance of avoiding injuries.

There is some evidence that alternating shoes may help prevent injury as well.  If you are lucky enough to have a closet full of running shoes, consider switching between them every few runs.

What are a few ways to prevent injury? (Warm-up, cool-down, stretches, etc.)
With respect to stretching, there has been some controversy about how and when is the best time to stretch.

Before your run, you want to do stretches that get your blood flowing to the muscles. Start with motions that mimic running motions, such as lunges, squats, butt kicks and high knees. 

After your run, you might find it helpful to perform stretches where you hold the position for an extended period, working to improve your flexibility. Examples include: bringing your knees to your chest, stretching your calf while leaning into the wall and stretching your quads by pulling your ankles to your glutes. 

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