RunnerDude's ABC's of Running and Fitness
Aerobic Training—Aerobic activity is one of the best ways to help fight off cardiovascular disease as well as a host of other health problems. Recent research has even shown that aerobic activity is even better at holding off dementia in older individuals than mental exercises.
Balance—Create a balance in your life of family, work, fitness. Easier said than done, but it's all too easy to put off fitness goals because of other areas of your life. View fitness as a part of each day. Involve your family in your fitness activities. If you can't get in that hour-long run, maybe you can get in a 20-minute walk or do 25 pushups while watching your favorite television program. Being flexible about how you squeeze-in your daily exercise can help keep you fit and motivated.
Caloric Intake—Make sure you're eating enough calories! The average male needs about 1500 calories and women 1200 calories just to sustain their normal body systems! That doesn't included calories needed for extra activity, not to mention intense training.
Diet—Eat a well balanced diet consisting of Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fats. 45-65% of your calories should come from carbs (complex carbs are best), 10-35% of your calories should come from protein, and 20-35% of your calories should come from fats (mainly poly- and mono-unsaturated). If you're in training for a marathon you may be at the upper end of the carb calories, you may even exceed the 65% during the carb-loading phase a few days prior to the race.
Eccentric Phase—Most resistance training involves a concentric phase (shortening of the muscle) and an eccentric phase (lengthening of the muscle). For example in a chin-up, the concentric phase is pulling yourself up to the bar and the eccentric phase is lowering yourself back down. Often more focus is put on the concentric phase and then we quickly zip through the eccentric phase. If you count to four slowly as you go through the eccentric phase it's like getting an extra workout.
Functional Training—Don't limit your gym workouts to machines that only work one joint or muscle group. Incorporate more functional exercises that support your sport of choice. If you're a runner, exercises like squats and lunges (with or without weights) are much more functional than the leg extension machine.
Group Runs—Finding a group to run with can be very beneficial. Long runs are much more enjoyable with a group. Early morning running or evening running is much safer in a group. The motivational and support aspects of running with a group can be very beneficial during hard intense training.
Hydration—On race day, be sure to drink 16 oz. of water 2 hrs before the start. This gives it time to go through your system and be voided. During the race drink 6-12 oz every 15-20 minutes. Water is fine if the race is no more than 60 minutes. If the race is over an hour, sports drink should be used to help replenish the body's glycogen stores and electrolytes.
Intervals—Intervals are one of the best ways to burn calories as well as increase your speed and build endurance for short-, mid-, and long-distance runners. Intervals are not the only form of speedwork, however. Hillwork and fartleks are also great ways to burn calories, increase speed, and build endurance.
Jump Rope—Hate the treadmill? Try jumping rope. Jumping rope provides one of the best cardio workouts while at the same time giving the entire body (lower, core, and upper) a good workout. [Click here] for more information on jumping rope.
Keep at it—Have a bad run? Not meeting your goals? Don't give up. Take a day or two to re-evaluate your goals and the strategies you're using to reach them. Are you overtrained? Are you undertrained and expecting too much too soon? Consult with a fellow runner or fitness professional to get some guidance on next steps. Don't quit.
Log—Logging your miles/workouts/nutrition is a great way to keep track of all that you've accomplished. It will also help you track down the source of a training injury. You can keep a written log or check out many of the online training logs such as Athlinks, DailyMile, and RunningAhead.
Muscle—Don't be afraid to add a little muscle. Women, especially, tend shy away from adding some muscle because they don't want added bulk. Runners (men or women) tend to do the same thing. But one of the best ways to lose weight is to add muscle, because it increases the metabolism thus burning more calories. Runners, remember that a stronger upper body can help decrease the chance of fatigue later in a distance run. Once your form starts to go, then everything else starts to fall apart in a distance run. Runners can focus on endurance resistance training by using lighter weights and up the reps.
Nutrition—Proper nutrition is vital to a healthy runner. If you're not providing your body with the quality energy it needs, it will not be able to perform at optimal levels. Want to know the amount of each food group you need daily, [click here]? Another great site for nutrition information is EatRight.org.
Open Mind—Be open to new fitness ideas and new training methods. Be careful not to get caught up in a fitness fad, but allow yourself to try different things like yoga or functional resistance training to enhance your overall fitness.
Protein—Protein is a vital macronutrient and is important in the repair of muscle tissue, but you only need a certain amount. In the case of protein, more is not better. The average person only needs .8g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Endurance athletes require 1.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Resistance training athletes require 2g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. Research has shown that the body will not use more than 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day and in fact extra protein can end up being stored as fat as well as harm the liver.
Quality Workouts—Running the same distance at the same intensity level day after day is not going to help you improve. Be sure to throw in some focused quality workouts, such as speedwork (intervals, hillwork, fartleks), tempo runs (running a 4- to 8-mile run at a pace slightly slower than race pace), and long runs (a longer-distance that's run about a minute slower than race pace).
Rest—Be sure to include rest days in your training. A rest day doesn't have to mean no activity. A rest day could be a short slow run the day after a long hard run. But, sometimes your body doees needs a "real" day off. You'll be surprised how much better you'll run the day after a rest day.
Stretching—Dynamic stretches are best before a workout. Dynamic stretches are more sports specific and require more range-of-motion involving more joints and muscle groups. Squats, lunges, buttkicks, and high-knee skips are great dynamic stretches for runners. For a video clip showing more examples of dynamic stretches [click here]. The more traditional static stretches (stretch-and-hold) are best after the run or workout.
Thirst—Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. Often if you're dehydrated, your thirst mechanism will not work.
Unload—Use your runs and workouts to unload all that stress you've accumulated throughout the week.
Variety—Just because you're a runner doesn't mean you can't do resistance training or throw in some cross-training. Adding a little variety to your training routine can help build a more balanced, stronger body as well as help to keep your training fresh and fun.
Winner—Even if you never place in your age group at a race, the fact that you're out there running or in the gym working out or both, makes you a winner in the life race. Your quality of life is going to be that of a winner both physically and mentally.
X-Training (Cross-Training)—Break up your weekly runs with some cross-training such as cycling, walking, the elliptical machine, and/or swimming. These lower-impact forms of training will still give you a great cardio workout while giving your joints a rest. These cross-training exercises will also work different muscle groups that may not be used (or not used as much) in running.
Yoga—One of the things runners (and most athletes in general) need is more flexibility and better balance. Yoga is a great way for runners to gain this flexibility and balance.
Zen—Using running as a time of meditation or reflective thinking can do wonders for relieving stress.