There’s no doubt about it: Running can be hard. But it doesn’t have to be! Let’s check out some strategies from Lucozade Sport™ “Fuel Your Performance” Advocates, Edan Syah that can help you run much more efficiently.
1. Get A Heart Rate Monitor
Endurance capability indicates how long you can sustain with easy effort. During exercise, the heart beats faster, providing more oxygen for the body. The harder you exercise, the faster the heart beats. A heart rate monitor will allow you to see how well you perform – during extended exercise, the heart rate monitor should read between 70-80% of your maximum heart rate; in hot or humid weather, this may go up to 85% as the heart needs to beat faster under such conditions.
2. Have A Training Plan for Strength and Conditioning
“It’s important to respect the distance; you need to prepare yourself,” advises Edan, who advocates a proper training programme and the guidance of a coach or mentor to stay motivated. He readily admits that having a training programme is easy but sticking to it is difficult! “I took 3 years to prepare for my first marathon,” he recalls. Now, he dedicates at least six months to prepare, running 10km or half marathons as part of his training.
To condition your body and improve endurance, a gradual process is often the best approach, especially for beginners and intermediate runners, as aggressive training can lead to a higher risk of injury. In turn, the recovery time will set you back in your training schedule. Instead, train consistently and patiently, slowly building up speed and distance until you reach your goal.
Strength training is also important but don’t confuse this with pumping iron and building huge muscles. There are a variety of exercises, some of which may involve using weights, which help to build a runner’s strength and train the body to move more efficiently. These include squats, lunges and push-ups as well as deadlifts and planks. You need to develop your strength for the right muscle group.
3. Improve Your Running Form
Running form is all about using the correct technique and posture to run as efficiently as possible. While most people think of running as an activity that only involves the legs, proper running form extends from the way your head tilts while running, to the way your foot strikes the ground.
A few tips to improve your running form:
• Look ahead naturally while you run, keeping your gaze on the horizon and not downwards
• Keep shoulders low and loose, not hunched or tight, and keep them level without dipping left and right
• Use your arms to complement your legs – keep elbows bent, allow arms to swing forward and back rather than across the body, and keep hands unclenched to reduce tension in the upper body
• Lift your knees just enough for a short stride forward – lifting the knees high is more effective for sprinters running short distances; for marathon runners, it uses up more energy than necessary
• Hit the ground lightly and focus on the ball (middle) of your foot compared to the forefoot or the heel; with every step, flex your ankles as your foot rolls; as you roll onto your toes, spring off as you feel your calf muscles propel you forward.
4. Fuel For Performance
During training, a balanced and nutritional diet with the right carbohydrates helps to fuel your body while protein helps to build, maintain and repair muscle tissues. The night before a race, a meal rich in carbohydrates like pasta, rice and potatoes helps your body to ‘stock up’ on energy. However, avoid eating too late – give your body time to digest before turning in for a good night’s sleep.
Your body will lose fluids as you sweat so drink water consistently before, during and after running; this is essential while training as well as during an actual marathon as dehydration will affect your mental and physical performance, and cause you to feel more tired after running. What’s more, severe dehydration, especially in hot weather, can be very dangerous.
While running, you should also maintain consistent energy levels with 30g-60g of carbohydrates every hour, equivalent to 1-2 bottles of Lucozade Sport™ for each hour of racing. Its science-based formulation of electrolytes and carbohydrates is specifically designed provide enhanced hydration to fuel athletes during prolonged exercise.
5. Choose the Right Gear
Choose shoes that are designed for running; shoes designed for other sports won’t give your feet the support they need for running long distances. In general, running shoes are designed for both stability and cushioning, but your own foot type – normal, high-arched or flat – will also determine how much support your need in your shoe.
To find out which type you are, wet your foot and step on a piece of paper. A ‘normal’ footprint will show toes that are connected to the heel with a broad band and a gap for the arch; a ‘flat’ foot will show an imprint of the entire sole (this shows you have weak arches and your foot will have a tendency to roll inwards when you run); and a high-arched foot will show only a narrow band connecting the toes and heel. To run more efficiently and reduce the risk of injury, use the right running shoes for you, taking into account your foot type and running style.
This article is brought to you by the Lucozade Sport™ ‘Fuel Your Performance’ Campaign, an initiative to help dedicated athletes achieve their performance goals and inspire others to achieve their dreams.