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Getting ‘race ready’ with a complete training guide to running


 Every year in Wales, tens of thousands of people across the country line up and take part in road races. Their goals vary; some want to run a new personal best, others to simply have fun with friends and family, and some aim to raise money for a good cause.

Running regularly to improve your fitness isn't a new message. The NHS suggests that 19- to 64-year-olds should be doing 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week and some studies have even shown that regular jogging increases the life expectancy of men by 6.2 years, and women by 5.6 years.

All in all, running is an excellent form of exercise and there are plenty of passionate runners in Wales, but for some runners the prospect of entering a road race, such as a 10K or half marathon, can seem daunting.

That's why Kidney Wales, who organise the iconic Cardiff 10K, and this year's headline sponsor Cardiff Metropolitan University have teamed up to offer some simple race preparation tips, on four key topics, so that everyone has a simple blueprint to success for their first road-race.

What's the best training advice for runners to complete a road race? (James Thie, Performance Director of Athletics & Lecturer, Cardiff Metropolitan University)

There are plenty of different ways runners can train to complete a road race, but the most important thing to do first is set yourself a goal.

Setting goals gives you a focus on what you want to achieve and that can give you the extra motivation you need to start running, and most importantly, keep it going.

If your goal is to run a 10K race, but you've never run a 10km distance before, set yourself a shorter distance to complete and incrementally build towards 10km. There's nothing wrong with ambition but setting unachievable goals will only demotivate you.

Don't forget that training consistently is the key to progress, so you've got to be committed.

Once you've started training for your race, the next step is to add variation to your run. Running the same route is boring, so mix it up from time to time. When pushing yourself to complete a new distance, find yourself a new trail to run. It will help keep you motivated.

If you're struggling to find a new race route, you can always look to run with other people too. Jogging with others is a great way to keep your exercise social and you'll also run longer and further.

You'll also need a quality pair of running shoes when training. Bad fitting shoes are going to increase the risk of injury and make your run uncomfortable, which isn't going to make you want to train. It sounds like common sense, but many runners don't wear the right shoes, so if you're unsure on the right footwear to train in, visit a running store. Their team will be able to point you to the right footwear that suits your running style.

While everyone has a different running style, there are some basic points that you should keep in mind to make sure you run in a relaxed fashion that uses less energy. Run tall, with high hips and make sure you place each foot directly beneath your centre of mass.

My last tip for runners is to smarten up their jog. There are lots of smartphone apps and trackers that can monitor your performance and help motivate you. They can measure your routes, track your running times and help your progress to running longer distances. Sometimes numbers from an app can give you the push you need to keep going.

Where does strength and conditioning fit into the training schedule? (Dr Rob Meyers, Principal Lecturer in Strength and Conditioning at Cardiff Metropolitan University)

Running 10km takes between 5,000 to 10,000 steps to complete, and with every step a runner takes, the force put on the legs can be up to 2.5 times a person's body weight.

That's a lot of potential stress on the body, but the good news is that there is plenty that runners can do to prepare for a road race, alongside a progressive running plan.

In between the days you go for a run, add a bit of strength training into your training plan. This will reduce the risk of injury, improve your muscle endurance and improve your running time.

You use a lot of muscles when you run, from your calves (lower leg), to your quads, hamstrings (upper leg), glutes and hip flexors (hips). You even use some trunk muscles (abdominals and back).

Some of the best strengthening exercises for these muscles include calf raises, squats, lunges, and deadlifts. Other exercises such as glute bridges and planks also work well.

The great thing about these exercises is that they can be done without any equipment, using only body weight. You should focus on completing 10-15 reps and 3 sets for each exercise. Once that's comfortable for you, you can look at adding some load using kettlebells, medicine balls or free weights in a gym.

Remember small incremental changes are important. You definitely don't need to train your legs more than a few times a week and if you've never done any strength training before, focus on completing one set for three to five exercises, and then progressively build up.

If you're unsure on techniques, or how to progress, then speak to an accredited strength and conditioning coach at your local gym, for support and advice.

After you've completed your strength exercises, always pay attention to your recovery. Make sure to rest and I would recommend purchasing a foam roller. It's a small outlay of money (usually less than £10) and time (less than 10 mins per day), but it can really aid recovery from the training runs. For those with a bit more time and budget, sports massage is another great option.

How to fuel your 10k (Hilary Wickett, Registered Sport and Exercise Nutritionist, Cardiff Metropolitan University)

Energy for your muscles and strong bones and joints will help you run your 10k. Start by ensuring a healthy balanced diet during your training weeks and months. Eat regular meals with lots of fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, dairy, potatoes, rice and minimal alcohol. Consistent healthy eating will support your running more than any supplement.

Your longer training runs are the perfect time to practice and tweak your race day strategy. Your ideal race day breakfast avoids difficult to digest foods such as high fibre All-bran or a fatty cooked breakfast.  Instead fuel up with starchy carbohydrate and a little protein like porridge with milk, granola with yoghurt or scrambled eggs on granary toast.  It's not a marathon so there's no need to carb load for days beforehand, instead just eat regular portions.

Start your race well hydrated by sipping 500-700ml water 1-2 hours before the race starts and ensure you allow enough time for the water to circulate and time to excrete any excess before the race begins.

If you're confident you'll cross the finish line under 45 minutes, water is all you'll need along the way. But if you'll be running for over 45 minutes, an isotonic carbohydrate drink can provide useful extra energy. You can buy isotonic drinks, or a cheaper option is fruit juice diluted 50:50 with water.

After the race take time to drink more water, cool down and refuel with a snack containing carbohydrate and a little protein. Something like malt loaf, a cheese sandwich or a flapjack is ideal.  Sit back with your finishers medal knowing that your body is refuelling and repairing ready for your next challenge.

How can running improve your mental health? (Dr Mikel Mellick, Senior Lecturer in Athlete Mental Health at Cardiff Metropolitan University)

Running offers plenty of benefits for our mental health too, it's not just physical.  At a psychological level running provides an opportunity for relieving anxiety and tension. Our day-to-day lives can be quite hectic and running can help provide a calming focus away from our daily 'grind', because it gives us some quality time for ourselves without any distractions.

Whether you're running for fun or preparing for a 10K race or marathon, going for run on a scenic route is a really good idea when training. Being surrounded by nature makes us happy and by being immersed in the environment around you, you're able to notice the little things that keep you in the moment. It can be easy to stick the headphones in when you run, but if you do go for a scenic jog, why not take them out every now and then and soak up the natural world around you?

A big reason to enter a road race, like the Cardiff Met Cardiff 10K is the sense of accomplishment. Even running a short distance can help promote self-esteem and it shows you how resilient you can be, so imagine the accomplishment of completing a 10K race.

Whether it's for 10 minutes or for 10km, running helps us to feel more connected to nature, helps remove our stresses and anxieties and ultimately helps us feel happier, so don't let hesitation stop you from being active.

What's the next step?

If you feel inspired to enter your first road race, why not sign up to the Cardiff Met Cardiff 10K at www.cardiff10k.cymru

Registration for the race is open and people of all ages are encouraged to get involved. Runners are given the option to enter as an individual, or with friends, family or colleagues in the Community and Corporate Team Challenges. 

Runners supporting Kidney Wales will receive a Kidney Wales running vest and fundraising pack.  All monies raised go towards helping families across Wales affected by kidney disease and renal failure. 

For more information visit www.cardiff10k.cymru/ or call 029 20 343 940.

To read this story in Welsh, click here.