It’s race season across Central Texas, as temperatures warm up and runners lace up their running shoes.
But before hitting the track or trail, racers should take steps to prepare their bodies for the rigor of a run — and it all begins with footwear and a slow pace, said Dr. Robert Hansen, orthopedic surgeon and director of Sports Medicine at Metroplex Health System.
“The best way to get ready for a 5k would be to just start running. However, this does not mean to strap on some old shoes and run from one end of Fort Hood to the other. It starts with making sure you have recently new, well-padded shoes, and begin running low mileage,” he said.
For those not used to running longer distances, Hansen cautioned to begin slow instead of trying to run several miles on the first attempt, which can cause injuries, including shin splints, IT band problems, knee cap pain and general tendinitis.
“Runs should be stepwise, starting at low mileage or whatever distance is pushing yourself without the fear of being sore the next day,” he said. There should be a workout regimen of at least four active days, including at least three runs per week with one long run per week, which should steadily increase over the training period.”
Training should ideally begin at least two months before a race, he added.
To avoid potential monotony, Hansen suggests adding some variation to a regimen.
“If you get bored with just running, do not hesitate to mix in some trail running on low-impact surfaces, or cross train. Swim or play basketball or something else for one of your active days during the week. Cross training is great for overall mental and physical health,” he said.
The next race in the Cen-Tex Race Series is Metroplex’s annual Silver Classic 5k on March 15.
Before the race, Kelvin Watkins, Metroplex kickboxing and tai chi instructor, will lead a warm-up for participants.
In preparation, he advises runners to warm up about 15 to 30 minutes before a race, using a variety of exercises to stretch the calves, hip flexors, hamstrings and quads, as well as cardio movements, such as jumping jacks, knee raises, running or jogging in place, to get the blood pumping.
Watkins also suggests eating light meals, consisting of fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates and proteins, and staying hydrated before a race.
While racing or training, he said the key is breath control.
“Finding that breathing pattern will make it easier for you to run or help with any type exercise.”
More upcoming local races in the Cen-Tex Race Series include the Spring Chicken 10k on March 28, the 5k Trail Run & Walk on April 11 and the Fallen Heroes 5k on April 25.
For information, or to register for a race in the series, go to killeentexas.gov/centex.