How to train for the big race

MICHELLE BRIDGES
Last updated 05:00 12/06/2012
marathon
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ

PERSONAL BEST: Runners cross the finish line of the Christchurch Airport half marathon.

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So you've signed up for a big race - definitely something everyone should do at least once in their lives - and you probably fall into one of two categories:

1. It's your first time. It will be the longest run you've ever attempted and you're wondering just what you've gotten yourself into.

2. You are a relatively experienced runner who can comfortably complete the distance and are looking to improve your time and push yourself.

Whichever best describes you, you've got to have a plan. There is no point in registering and then only training a couple of times before the big day.

Running a race is no mean feat and if you want to cross the finish line and avoid injury, then you need to set some goals and get cracking.

At this stage of the game your training plan should be all about working your way up to the race distance.

The best way to do this is by increasing the time on your feet and strengthening your core, which will help provide the power and endurance that you're going to need.

I put race members on a training plan that incorporates interval training, tempo runs and a weekly long run.

INTERVAL TRAINING

The best way to improve your performance and achieve greater speed and endurance. Performing short bursts of high intensity intervals teaches your body to burn lactic acid more efficiently, therefore adapting your body to train at a higher intensity for longer periods of time.

TEMPO RUNS

These are about building speed and strength. Tempo runs are shorter, but closer to your race pace and will help to push out your lactate threshold. Start with 15 minutes of easy running, followed by at least 20 minutes at what is termed a "comfortably hard" pace, and end with a 10-minute easy cool down.

LONG RUNS

Aim for a steady, nice and slow pace that allows you to get into the zone. Aim for one "long" run a week each week, which is slower than your race pace. Aim to increase distance by 10 per cent each week.

You won't often hear me telling you to back off in a training session, but when it comes to distance running, it's important not to overtrain. Your long runs should be comfortable and relaxed, your tempo runs are a bit harder, and finally your sprints are the hardest of the week. Not every session should be a gut buster.

A word of warning to you all: just because you are exercising more, doesn't mean you need to eat more. You may feel a little hungrier on the days after a big session, but if you are aiming to shift a few kilograms and be as race ready as possible, you still need to watch your portion sizes, and curb your cravings with a cup of tea or a piece of fruit.

Some essential nutrients you may want to include in your diet are omega 3 (found in oily fish), which helps to lubricate joints, low-GI carbs (dark leafy greens, grainy bread) to give you sustained energy and protein (for example meat, legumes, dairy) to help build some lean, mean muscle.

Michelle Bridges runs an online 12-Week Body Transformation plan with training and nutrition programs for people training for 10-kilometre fun runs to half marathons.

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-Sydney Morning Herald

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