Training and Preparation

Top tips for running and competing in your first race.


By Physiostherapist Florence Loader

1. Start gradually. 

If you haven’t done much running before, it is best to start slowly and gradually progress your distance. An increase of 1km to 2km per week is good.

A great App is the “Couch to 5K” app which is for complete beginners. 

When starting out – take walk breaks. This is actually a great way to ensure you’re technique is maintained and lowers your risk of injury. 

If you’re already running 5km to 10km, then still increase your distances slowly. Even if you feel fit enough - going from 10km to 21km over a week can lead to stress injuries. 

2. Make sure you invest in a proper pair of running shoes. 

Footwear is so important, a well fitted pair of shoes will prevent unwanted injuries and allow you to perform optimally. 

As a physio I see so many injuries in knees, hips and backs – all which are coming from unsupported feet. 

A good place to start is by seeing a healthcare professional such as a Podiatrist or Physiotherapist, or by seeing a highly regarded footwear shop such as the shoe clinic.

Once you have been properly fitted once (which can be expensive) you can continue to buy that same pair of shoe when they are on sale from outlet shops or rebel sport. 

3. Stretch. 

This is super important to prevent injuries and to reduce post exercise soreness, allowing you to continue training each day. 

It is normal to feel a bit sore after a run – especially when you haven’t run much before, when this happens generally people think it is a sign to rest when in fact moving your body is the way to feel better – a walk, short run, or a bike ride will help aid recovery. 

Foam rolling is an essential part of my training regime and ensure I stay injury free. Focus on your legs (front, sides and back) calf muscles, and gluts (bottom). 

If you find you get sore feet after a run, running a firm ball (cricket ball, or golf ball) underneath the arch will help stretch them out.

4. Include some strengthening exercises. 

This is really important to prevent injuries and ensure your muscles are functioning.

Focus on running specific exercises such as lunges, squats and single leg squats

Other exercises which I have found really good are bridges, planks, and high step ups. 

5. Take rest days, mix up your training and have lighter training weeks.

Too much of the same repetitive exercise can lead to injuries, so having 1 or 2 days where you bike, workout on the elliptical trainer or do strength work is a great way to prevent injuries. 

Rest days are important to allow your body to adapt to the new cardiovascular demands and allow your muscles and bones to recover for the next week. 

Not every week should be harder/longer than the previous. Every 3 to 4 weeks I have a lighter training week where all of my runs are shorter and I have 2 rest days. This prevents over training, plateaus, and scientific studies have found it leads to overall better progress than those who continue to push themselves further with no rest. 

6. Include some hill training. 

If you’re starting out, or already a keen runner and looking to improve your time. Hills are a fantastic way to build strength and fitness. 

I would try to incorporate some hills once a week. 

Run up for 2-5 minutes depending on current fitness and then walk down. Repeat 5 times and then continue on with the rest of your run. 

7. You don’t need to carbo load. 

This is a little outdated, and although it is upsetting that the day before race day is no longer used to gorge yourself on pizza and delicious breads, you’ll body will thank you for it. 

Eating too many carbs can leave you feeling sluggish on race day, instead eat a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat. Keep your fibre low (fruit, vegetables and wholegrains) the day before as this will help prevent an upset tummy. 

You also don’t need a whole heap of fancy training gels/bars. You shouldn’t really need a lot to eat – even on a half marathon. Usually a good breakfast, and then a few jelly lollies is all I would have. If you’ve trained with gels and you like them, then go for it - just don’t feel as though you need anything fancy – I ate marmite sandwiches this year in Kona and they were fantastic!

8. Easy means easy. 

We have two energy systems in our body. The anaerobic system and aerobic system. For a long distance run you will be using your aerobic system – the best way to train this system is to go for slower easy runs. If you are constantly pushing too hard you will be working your anaerobic system too much and this may halter your progress. 

9. Don’t try anything new on race day. 

Make sure you have trained in what you plan to wear on race day (including socks, underwear and bra) 

Practice a race simulation – where you eat the same breakfast around the same time as on race day and then go for a longish training run. 

This will reduce the risk of any unwanted surprises on race day. 

10. Don’t wait for ‘niggles’ to become ‘pain’. 

Get them checked out as soon as possible.

You’re better off getting something checked out and potentially missing 1-2 weeks of training than to push on through and then end up with a more serious injury. 

Listen to your body ☺ 

11. Mix up your running surfaces.

Too much running on concrete can lead to stress injuries, try and find some local trails to mix up your run. 

There is a great run between Woodend and Waikuku beaches, and also the Ashley river bed has some great trails. 

12. Have fun and find your motivation. 

Try and get out with friends and family so that it is more enjoyable. 

Discover what makes you want to get out and run – whether it’s for the challenge, the endorphin rush, to become healthier or to help you sleep better.