Here are five principles to enjoying an injury free, fun, and worthwhile summer training program:
- Train with friends
- Try new routes, including trails
- Pace yourself
- Don’t limit yourself to running
- Have fun!
I know, you haven’t had time to catch your breath from track, or maybe you are still in the peak of your season, but summer training is just around the corner. Don’t get all worked up about it; you will need a break at the end of the track season. Take some time to mentally and physically recover. Just don’t take 2 months to recover. As soon as you are ready, start planning your summer training. You know the junior varsity kid that comes out in fall blazing fast; leaving everyone wondering just what happened over summer? It’s not magic; it’s summer training.
For starters, don’t expect to take on the summer mileage by yourself. Network with friends now while everyone is still thinking about running. Choose a specific day, (or days) of the week and time, and plan on meeting at that same time, on those same days. The more people the better. Running with friends is safer and will also keep you accountable. If you choose your running buddies wisely, they will motivate you as well. Run with folks who are faster than you, and also those that are slower than you (we all need easy days!).
Now that you’ve got some company, don’t get in a rut! Try new routes. Mix in some trail running. Trails are much softer than pavement, so this will decrease the impact your bones endure. While running, your joints endure three times your body weight. So if you weigh 150lbs, your joints endure 450lbs. When you run on softer surfaces such as grass or dirt, it absorbs some of the shock. Additionally, trails force your ankles to work harder in order to maintain balance and stability on uneven terrain. Next fall, you will be less apt to twist an ankle if you do some trail running now. Be smart; don’t run trails alone. Sometimes you may have a run in mind, but since you’ve never done it before, you have no idea of how long it may be. Oh do I have a website for you my friend! Check out www.mapmyrun.com. This website has both road maps and satellite images that not only allow you to calculate how long your run is, but it will also show you your mile markers, display your elevation, and calculate your pace for you.
Third, remember the big picture and pace yourself. In the physical therapy setting, once people get a handle on their injury, they are usually pretty antsy to get back in the game. They want to pick up right where they left off prior to injury. Unfortunately, when they increase their training too quickly, they put themselves at risk for injury. When it comes to long distance running, I usually advise around a 10% increase in mileage each week. That’s not much. I’m not after over-night results; I want my clients to be running this season, and 5, 10, even 20 years down the road. In regards to summer training, pacing yourself will make you a better runner in the “long run” and decrease injury risk. If you take 2 months off after the track season, and train really hard for the last 2 weeks of summer, you will set yourself up for an injury before your first cross country meet. Instead, be consistent with your summer training and increase your mileage slowly, so come fall, you have a great foundation to build on.
Running is not the only way to build that foundation. Summer is a great time to explore other sports. Soccer or cycling shouldn’t replace ALL of your running, but if you enjoy these (and other) sports, definitely dedicate some time to them! Endurance sports such as cycling will build your aerobic base, which will directly improve your running. Sports like soccer that involve sprinting, cutting and turning will help your tendons and ligaments become stronger, which is never a bad thing (hint: injury prevention). Setting a goal to complete a sprint triathlon this summer isn’t a bad idea. It will keep the training interesting, and give you something to work towards without over-training.
Lastly, set appropriate goals. By that I mean, have fun. Don’t over-think it. Might I remind you that it is just running? Run with friends, try new trails and new sports, and pace yourself.