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​Pro Secrets for Running Your First Race

By Performance Health | December 4, 2017 Exercise
​Pro Secrets for Running Your First Race

Use these expert tips to get your running career started right

Thinking of venturing into the world of running races? You’re not alone. Every year in the United States, more than 16,957,100 people run and finish a road race, according to Running USA's annual road race report. It doesn't matter if you want to do a fun run, 5K, half-marathon or full marathon, with the proper training plan, anyone can run a road race!

Follow this checklist from expert racers who've trained others just like you and helped them go from rookie to seasoned runner.

The Training Essentials

You’ve got your running shoes, an awesome outfit and your race date. Now what? It’s time to train like the best.

Use a Coach

Although you can find all kinds of free running plans online, experts say it's best to use a coach who will give you a personalized training program. A coach can work with you to make sure you’re training in a way that helps you avoid injury while most effectively getting your body ready for your race.

Trust Your Training Plan

Your schedule will include different runs, cross-training, recovery or rest days, and perhaps a few test “races” of shorter distances. Embrace the diversity of your training and stick to it.

Don't Run a Marathon Before the Race

Whether you’re running a marathon, a half-marathon or any other distance, remember not to overtrain. Make sure you’ve at least run about three quarters of the distance, then call it good. “You only need to train your body and mind to run a certain distance. If you've run 18 miles or so three to four times [as marathon prep], your body will be ready to cover the full distance come race day,” says Roberto Mandje, manager of runner training, education, and products for New York Road Runners.

Foam Roll

Most running experts recommend having a foam roller like TheraBand® Pro Foam Roller to help you warm up for and recover from your training runs. Warming up with foam rolling increases blood flow and loosens up your muscles without impairing your athletic performance, research shows. Post-run, foam rolling can help relieve muscle soreness for the next two days, according to a 2014 study.

Give Sore Muscles Extra Relief

After a run, Mike Cicero, a physical therapist at Sutter Physical Therapy, recommends applying Biofreeze® Pain Reliever to irritated or sore spots, like the front of your shins and hips. “Small irritations can become huge issues, and this topical analgesic provides effective pain relief,” he says. “I have found this to be more effective than ice, which leaves the muscles stiff.”

Stretch Regularly

Foam rolling plus stretching may seem like a lot, but both are worth it. “If you want to improve and get better, the key is how quickly you recover,” says Brian Rosetti, founder of the Run SMART Project. He recommends active stretching after runs, which will help increase blood flow and, in turn, help you recover faster. The TheraBand Stretch Strap can help you maximize the benefits of your stretching.

Cross Train

Cross-training helps strengthen your muscles and aid in their recovery, Cicero says, so he recommends doing exercises with TheraBand CLX™. “My patients and I love these resistance bands, as they allow us to exercise at home with great effectiveness.”

Head Off Injuries With Kinesiology Tape

“In our practice, we apply TheraBand Kinesiology Tape as soon as aches and pains or an injury presents,” Cicero says. “It provides muscular support, helps control pain and activates or relaxes target muscles. Plus the tape's XactStretch™ technology helps you know how much tension you're applying, which makes consistent application easier,” he says.

On Race Day

Pace Yourself

A common mistake for racers of all levels is going out too quickly and not being able to have a successful race. “Trust in the training and have a race plan,” Mandje recommends.

Be Confident

You've trained for weeks, you've practiced with shorter distances and you’ve studied this race so you're prepared. Now it’s time to believe in yourself and run your race!

After Your Race

Celebrate

You did it! It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of crossing the finish line, but remember to stretch and use your foam roller on any tight spots after your race, and then apply some Biofreeze to head off sore muscles the next day. Then relish in your accomplishment.

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