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PREP TALK: Prepping for Long Runs

Posted Jun 4, 2017

Running is a central component of the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders training regimen.

The Cheerleaders run between 1.5 and 3.5 miles outside or 17 laps around the indoor football field during summer training practices.

They also run a 5K (3.1 miles) for Power Team testing, which is done three to four times per year and warm up for each in-season practice by running a quarter of a mile.

More than one-third of the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders team are avid runners who have reached the finish lines of 5Ks, half marathons (13.1 miles) and full marathons (26.2 miles).

Preparation for distance running is just as important as the perspiration along the way.

If you are preparing for a distance run this summer or thinking about taking the first steps, there are a number of smart things you can do to prep for a safe and successful running season.

We gathered a few tips from Twin Cities Orthopedics to encourage you to start by looking back, then gradually push forward.

Make peace with the past

If you’ve suffered a previous or recent injury, there’s always the risk of getting reinjured. Make sure you’ve taken care of any of the issues that contributed to the injury, whether it’s weakness or form.

Replace your kicks

Running shoes typically have a life of 300-500 miles. Even though it may be tempting to exceed that because they don’t look as beat-up as you think they should, think about grabbing a new pair. Most avid distance runners need a new pair to start each season.

Ramp up appropriately

Distance running in Minnesota challenges even the hardiest souls. Some of us get fresh air year-round, logging many miles on frozen trails, freshly plowed roads, and even packed snow, while others, ahem, stay fit inside where it’s warm and toasty.

Even if you maintained a high level of fitness over the winter by running inside or doing other cross-training activities, TCO Dr. Paul Langer said,  “Don’t assume you can jump back into running and hit it hard without allowing your body to re-adapt to the unique demands of distance running. Make a gradual transition and expect to be sore for the first week or so, then begin to ramp up the miles and intensity.”

Listen to your body

While building out a training schedule is helpful, training according to your daily performance capacity is essential. Training errors are significant contributors to injury. Errors include increasing mileage too aggressively (use 10 percent per week as a general guideline) and adding in speed work or hill workouts without adequate transition or rest between hard efforts. The “Terrible Toos” are often the culprit – too much, too soon, too fast. Performance is based on many factors, and your body’s capability can fluctuate from day to day depending on sleep, stress, health and overall energy levels. Know yourself, and each time you run, find the zone that’ll allow you to complete your desired daily distance.

Support steady energy levels

While training, food and drink are for fuel and replenishment. According to Runner’s World, “runners need to add in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate each hour that they are running longer than 75 minutes.” You’ll want to fuel up 20-30 minutes before you set out, too, in order to make the most of what you consume. Easily accessible energy is key, but watch your sugar intake. From drinks and bars to gels and chews, products created to boost energy often contain more sugar than our bodies can effectively process for endurance. They have their place, but be careful not to “stack” or you may crash. And when you aren’t running? Be sure to incorporate protein-rich food like lean meats, poultry, fish and eggs as well as nuts and beans, along with whole grains and nutrient-dense veggies and fruits.

Power on in a pack

Whether you employ the two-person buddy system or get your gait on with a group, running with others can make the process easier and more enjoyable -- and it holds you accountable. Even if you prefer to make your excursions “me time,” try to incorporate a weekly run with a partner or group to shake up your routine.

Give yourself a break

Depending on your experience and level of fitness, taking one to two days off per week allows your body (and psyche) to rest and recover, enabling you to progress more steadily throughout your training phase. Rest is just as important as running.

If you’re a newbie, a veteran runner going for a personal record, or simply trying to get back in the groove after an injury or time off, be sure to make the effort to prep well for the upcoming season. It’ll make all the difference in your distance.