Running the Good Race

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It’s that time of year when temperatures are dropping, and that means we can go for a run after 8 a.m. without feeling completely flattened by the heat. I love the fall, when running actually feels good and invigorating rather than a potentially ill-advised plan.

Fall is a great time in Texas to get excited about a 5K or 10K running event. While the rest of the country is hunkering down, preparing for bone-chilling temperatures, we are getting outside more and more. Every year the Texas race calendar fills up with run events and adventure races. Picking just one will give you something to shoot for – a proven way to keep motivated, and a definite way to help maintain and improve your fitness. You can take a look at the race calendar on RunTex.com to pick an event that works with your schedule. One of my favorites is the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. What a gut-wrenchingly good way to make sure I enjoy my rest during the remainder of the day.

When preparing for a race, run groups are especially great for staying motivated and taking advantage of the benefits of an expert’s training knowledge. Again, we are very lucky in Austin to have some exceptional run-training programs such as Gilbert’s Gazelles, Rogue and RunTex, just to name a very few.

If you have never run a 5K event, this is your year to get it done. You have definitely overcome much more challenging things in your life. And once you have checked the 5K off your list, you will be hooked – it will lead to so many more positive changes. A race is one way to set a barometer for your health and fitness.

If it’s your first time, pick a race that’s about five to six weeks out and start preparing immediately. You’ll want to work on covering the distance (plus a little extra, maybe a total of 3.5 miles).

If you are able to train by running or walking three to four days a week, progressively increase your daily mileage. Beginners should start with a 2-mile run then increase the distance by about one-quarter of a mile each week. As you become more comfortable you can add in some speed or interval work. This can be as simple or complex as suits you. One simple way to kick it up a notch is to increase your running pace until you really “feel the burn,” then back off to a slower jog or walk in between burns. Intervals are a superior way to increase speed and train the anaerobic systems of the body. Core training provides huge benefits, increasing running efficiency and helping prevent injury. Some of the best core exercises are the most simple. The plank position on the forearms – or in the top of a push-up pose – is one of the keystone exercises, as is a side plank. Hold each for 30 seconds to a minute. Another great core exercise is the bridge, a position in which you lie on your back with your feet on the ground then bring your butt up and down, focusing on maintaining a tight core. This can be done one-legged or with a stability ball under your feet.

A little bit of core training combined with scheduled runs can go a long way in what might otherwise seem like a long race. So get out there and try it! It is a lot easier than you might think. There is such a supportive running community in Austin. You will inevitably find yourself with a whole new set of compadres, and be able to explore new roads on your healthy lifestyle journey.

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