If the endless online bathing suit ads is just the motivation you need to kick your workout up a notch (or ten) for a summer 10K or you are ready for an exercise change, here is some expert advice about transitioning out of hybernating Snuggy-mode to running intervals all the way up to a 10K. I learned everything from hydration to injury prevention from OrthoCarolina’s Chris Dollar, PT, DPT, OMPT, FAAOMPT, about preparing for an increasingly intense training regime.

Here are 10 Tips to help you safely go from zero to 10K this summer: 

1. Who can/can’t begin a running training program?

Almost everyone can, but if you’re over 50 and have a sedentary lifestyle, you need to get medical clearance first. The question is one of process and gradual training up to the point of running. Only 20% of Americans regularly exercise enough to meet minimum requirements to promote health over time. So the real issue is training regularly enough to build your workout to running, not whether you can run.

2. What type of injuries occur when training for a 10K?

Overuse injuries are common. Start slow with gradual, steady progression to avoid overuse injuries. The most common types of injuries are the ones that result from improper training. When people sustain injuries, most often they ramp up the intensity of training prior to a race because there wasn’t planned time and patient regularity of less than race-pace training running. The other reason is improper shoes. There is enough good research at this point to show how shoes that are too supportive, too thick soled contribute to an increasing rate of lower leg injuries. The more minimal the shoe, the less the injury rate. However, do not change shoes within 6-8 weeks before the race. The foot must be allowed time to adjust to the change.

3. What type of diet should someone be eating when training for a 10K? What’s the ideal meal the night before a race?

The ideal diet when training for any race is the same diet we should have all the time- plenty of vegetables, some fruits, limited red meat and minimize sugar drinks and processed foods. “ Avoid heavy meals, excessive alcohol, or anything that might cause stomach upset the morning of the race. The light meal or snack before the race should be sugary or starchy carbohydrates because these are quickly and completely digested and will supply easily accessible energy for the race.”

4. Vitamin supplements you recommend?

See the answer to question #2. If your diet is appropriate, especially in the US, there is no medical need for supplements. Supplements are needed only when the diet is deficient i.e. eating mostly processed food, food products and not real food. If you have a less than ideal diet, a multivitamin will not hurt.

5. What are training regimens people should scrutinize?

Any training program that is not gradual and paced over time should be avoided. The body can make training changes only so fast and that physiology can’t, under normal circumstances, be accelerated without risking injury. The general recommendation is to increase training no more than 10% per week. The walk/run programs are very good for those just starting out.

6. What time of day is best to train for someone who needs to train during the wee hours of the morning or late at night? 

The time of day is important in these respects: Late night running implies a long work day and running when already tired. Running tired usually means running with sloppy technique and pushing beyond endurance that leads to injury. Early morning running means attempting running when physiologically “cold” since you have been asleep for several hours. An appropriate warm-up (no stretching) or walking for 15 to 20 minutes is needed to decrease running injuries when running very early in the morning.

7. Where to train? How does training on a treadmill versus road running compare in terms of impact on the body?

  Train in a safe environment that matches your abilities and simulates race conditions (hills/no hills). When given a choice between road running or running on a treadmill, choose the road. Road running and treadmill running are two very different animals and the biomechanics are very different. Given the choice between treadmill running and not running, chose the treadmill.

8. What is a beginning running program you suggest?

For truly beginning runners-to-be I recommend the program outlined in the book The Beginning Runner’s Handbook: The Proven 13-Week RunWalk Program written by Ian McNeill and the Sports Medicine Council of British Columbia.

9. What do people often forget about when starting a running training program?

They forget that they are more de-conditioned than they think. We all have a tendency to think we are supermen or women and overestimate our physical capabilities. The average 18-year-old male today is 30% weaker than his 1985 counterpart. The average 18-year-old male is only as strong as the average 18 year old female was in 1985 so…start much more slowly than you think you could and go at a slower pace and expect to increase your train up-to-running time.

10. What type of shoes are best for a beginning runner who is going to be walking and running to build up to the 10K?

The best level medical research would recommend minimalist shoes. The rates of running injures diminish the more minimal the shoes are and conversely increase the more the shoes are well-padded and arch supportive. I realize this is contrary to the prevailing urban legend, but that is what the medical/scientific research shows. This transition from a very supportive shoe to a less supportive shoe should be gradual to allow the body to adjust.

If you’d like to learn more about how to prevent potential injuries when starting to exericise, check out OrthoCarolina’s online resources here.

OrthoCarolina – Chris Dollar, PT, DPT, OMPT, FAAOMPT

For more information, contact a professional at OrthoCarolina.

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