Firstly, have a think about the run. If it’s going to be tough, such as your longest run yet or a lung busting hill track, tell yourself it’s not going to be easy but make a promise to yourself that you’ll give the training run your all. Good mental preparation is essential for a successful training run.
Physical preparation – Stretching
It’s vital that you stretch out all of the major muscles in your legs before so that the fibres are elongated and ready for the intense and prolonged muscular contractions you’ll experience when running.
The muscles that you should pay particular attention to are:
The Calf muscles
The Quadriceps (thighs)
The Adductors (groin)
Situated at the back of the lower leg, the calf muscle is easy to stretch.
Simply find a wall, tree or fence, and extend one of your legs backwards. Ensure your rear heel remains on the ground and then slowly lean forwards, you’ll soon feel the stretch on the calf muscle. Hold for 10 seconds and then change legs. Repeat two to three times for the best result.
The Quadriceps (Thighs)
Situated at the front of the upper legs are your quadriceps, four big muscles which help power you forwards during you run.
To stretch them, stand upright and grab hold of the front of your running shoe, pulling your foot towards your bum. You should feel a good pull on the thighs but if not, tilt your pelvis skywards while keeping in the same position. Hold for 10 seconds, then change legs.
Situated at the back of the upper leg, the hamstrings are particularly vulnerable to muscle pulls and cramps, so a good stretch is essential before any enduring run.
Extend the leg you want to stretch a foot or so in front of you, keeping it straight, then gently place your hands on the other leg at thigh level and slowly bend from the knee, as though you were about to sit down on a chair.
Make sure you don’t bend your back and try to keep your leg as straight as you can. You’ll begin to feel a stretch in the hamstring muscles as you lower yourself down. Once you feel it, hold it for 10-15 seconds then change legs.
Situated on the inside of the leg, the adductors help to stabilise your running stride, and like the hamstrings, are vulnerable to injury.
To stretch them, face forwards and extend one leg to the side with your foot angling 45 degrees away from you while keeping your other leg straight with your foot pointing forwards. Slowly shift your weight to the side of the bent leg and you’ll soon to feel a stretch on the inside of your straight one, but you have to make sure your hips are facing forward at all times to really benefit. Hold the stretch for 10-15 secs and then change legs.