After having ran my first race ever at the age of 40 (1998), I was surprised at how fulfilling the experience was. It wasn't just about finishing a 10 km race, but about finding a fitness activity that I could really look forward to...one filled with opportunities to meet people and see the countryside up close.
Running has to be Costa Rica's 4th most popular sport. (Soccer ranks #´s 1, 2 and 3!) It would be a rare occasion not to see running enthusiasts jogging in the fresh, cool mornings in parks, back roads and country sides anywhere you go in this country.
A fulfilling experience
This article hopes to provide useful information for new and experienced runners about races, training, running for beginners, and injury prevention. First, let's begin with the beginners.
Here are six tips for a successful experience:
1. Keep a running log. Seeing consistent improvement in your ability to run farther and faster is quite a motivation.
2. Wear clothes that are comfortable, not fashionable. The most important item is shoes. If you live near or visit San Jose, I recommend Runners shoe store 300m west of the Sabana park. You'll get good advice and a fair price. Proper running shoes will likely help prevent a large number of potential running injuries.
3. Don't push yourself. Running at conversation speed is good advise and don't hesitate to alternate running with walking.
4. Train with a friend. There's no better way to be consistent with trainings…especially on those days that you don't want to get out of bed but later appreciate you had.
5. Develop your own training routine. Challenge yourself without burning yourself out. Start with a plan that you can stick to over time before increasing the load. The important word is "consistency".
6. Avoid injuries by wearing proper shoes, warming up (and warming down), and avoid over-doing-it. Stop when you feel an injury and don't run again until you've recovered.
Now here's a 10-week model workout for beginners. It's what I use after having fallen out of shape on numerous occasions.
Week 1: Alternate walking and jogging for 5 km (about 3.1 miles). Do this for 3 days out of the week. Keep track of your time each day.
Week 2: Alternate walking and jogging for 5 km, but this week, try to increase your proportion as jogging. Do this for 3 days out of the week.
Week 3: Jog for 5 km. Do this for 3 days out of the week. You may want to vary the route, but keep a separate time for each route.
Week 4: Jog for 7 km (about 4 and a third miles). Don't hesitate to alternate with some walking. Do this for 3 days out of the week.
Week 5: By this time you should feel noticeable improvement. Continue with the 7km routine for 3 days.
Week 6: If your schedule allows, increase to four days of training. Vary at least one day with a shorter, faster run, or with some hills, or with a few fast-pased stints during your jog.
Week 7: Increase to 9 km (about 5.6 miles). Do this for 2 days alternating with a couple of shorter runs or different routes.
Week 8: Run 1 day 7 km, then 9km then 10.5km before ending with an 8km.
Week 9: Run 1 day 7 km, then 9km then 10.5km before ending with an 8km.
Week 10: One more week of the same and you're ready for a 10km race.
Remember: Adjust your program to meet your needs and abilities. Pushing yourself too much can result in injuries.
Are You Ready To Race?
Pick a Race You Can Handle
Generally speaking, the race you choose should be no longer than one-third of your weekly mileage. In Costa Rica, the most common race distance is 10km. So you should log in about 18 km weekly for that length race. The goal is to complete, not compete! Avoid long races if its your first time. Participating in run that is inappropriate for you is much more likely to result in injuries and discourage you from continuing. Do not race if you have never run before or have been sedentary for a month or more, especially if you are overweight, smoke or have high blood pressure.
Start a race at your usual jogging pace. It´s always funny to watch newbees sprint the first few hundred meters along with the pros and then struggle to finish at all. Remember, the idea is to have fun and enjoy yourself.
Here are six tips for a successful experience:
1. Pick a race and date ahead of time. Allow for time to prepare tranporatio, registration and to get yourself prepared mentally.
2. Arrive about an hour early. Most races require that you check in. Do your regular warm-ups. But don´t wear yourself out "winning" the warm-ups.
3. Forget time goals. Run your first race for experience. You´ll have many opportunities to run fast later.
4. Learn from your experience and from others about how to prepare and run better each time.
5. Set your watch.
6. Keep an even pace throughout the race.
Good luck! Have fun!
How to avoid injuries
If you do the right exercises and do them regularly, you can avoid most injuries. On the other hand, if you run and don't exercise, you're likely to be injured. It is that simple.
Basically, here is the problem. Every time you run, you make tiny tears in your muscles and when these tears repair themselves, they leave scar tissue. Scar tissue cannot be flexed or stretched. So your muscles become tighter and tighter and ready for injury. At the same time, you have nearby muscles that are not used much and become soft. These softer muscles are not giving sufficient support and cushioning to those running muscles. What you need to do is stretch those tight muscles and strengthen those soft ones.
Save yourself some pain and money and learn some basic exercises. Here are several basic ones that have worked well for me:
1 Wall Pushups stretch the calf muscle and the soleus muscle. This exercise is useful to treat and prevent Achilles tendonitis, shin splints and muscle pulls. Start by standing and facing the wall (about 2 feet away). With palms on the wall and feet pointing straight ahead, slide one foot back with the knee straight until you feel a burning or pulling sensation at the upper part of the calf. With your heal flat on the floor, count to ten. After ten seconds, bend the knee of the back leg and hold five seconds. This stretches the soleus. Switch legs and repeat. Do each leg five times, alternating legs.
2 Foot Press strengthens thigh muscles for treatment and prevention of runner's knee. This can be done by lying down or sitting in a chair. Put your right foot on top of your left. Your lower foot tries to pull toward your body as your upper foot pushes it away fro the body. Hold for ten seconds. Now switch feet. Repeat each side five times. 3 Knee Press stretches the hamstring muscle and the lower back muscles. This is useful for treatment and prevention of hamstring pull and lower back pain. Lie on your back. Put your hands under one knee and pull your knee to your chest. Hold ten seconds. Relax. Repeat with the other leg. Do each leg five times, alternating legs. Do not wrap your arms around the outside of your knee.
Remember, if you run and don't exercise, you're likely to be injured. It is that simple.
The Human Foot Was Not Made For Running
If you consider yourself a "Creationist", you'll find this article entertaining. For everyone else, entertaining, interesting and even useful. The point is, our feet did not evolve for running long distances so it's helpful to train with that in mind. Why not? Because the modern foot evolved from a fish fin. That's right, a fish fin.
And fins are for stability in the water, not for movement (that was the tail). Fins eventually evolved into sideway-pointing amphibian feet useful in both water and on land.
Then came the reptile with its version of ankle, knee and hip joints. The foot could actually point forward and the leg kept it off the ground. Next came the mammal with feet and legs pointing forward… almost at least...and adapted to trees and land, but not very good at either. Over millions of years, some mammals adapted to land and others, like the monkeys, to trees.
Remember the early 20th Century monkey trial? Some members of the Flat-Earth Society still can't believe that we, humans, actually evolved from apes. (Although when I go to work on a Monday morning, I occasionally spot one of those guys that look like he got stuck part-way through the process). So our evolutionary fore-fathers developed grasping feet, sort of like hands, so they wouldn't fall out of the trees while dining. Then we started hanging and swinging around. That allowed us to develop our erect bipedal position. Unfortunately for us runners, however, evolution is quite slow.
Sure it's been ten or twenty million years or more since we came out of the trees, but Mother Nature is slow to change. According to anthropologists, man's foot has not yet adapted to the ground. So if you're a runner, or would like to be, counteract your evolutionary imbalances with appropriate training, take precautions, and wear proper footwear…at least for the next few million years.
Heart Rate (HR) Monitoring has got to be the most efficient way to exercise for general health, weight loss, or competition.
Heart Rate (HR) Monitoring is useful for walking, running, cycling, swimming, circuit training as well as multi-sport training.
By monitoring your heart rate, you can get more benefit out of your exercise time. Remember, your heart is a muscle and always functioning and maintaining itself …often at relatively low levels all day. But with regular exercise, your heart capacity will increase gradually so that it can deal with more effort without strain.
When designing a fitness program, there are three important variables: frequency, duration, and intensity. It's easy to measure how often you train and for how long, but it is more difficult to measure intensity. Heart rate monitoring does just that - it monitors exercise intensity.
Before you begin, you must first acquire a heart rate monitoring system. Polar sells affordable gear (watch and belt) that works great.
Once you have this equipment, you need to determine your optimal heart rate limits. To do this, you can estimate your maximum heart rate (MHR) with this formula:
MHR (in beats per minute) = 220 - age (in years)
This will give you an average measurement, which provides a good base for training. (A more precise measurement would have to be done by a trained coach or physician.)
The next step is to establish target heart rates.
Percent MHR up to 35 35 - 59 60 - 79 80 - 89 over 90
Classification Very light Light Moderate Heavy Very heavy
For example, my MHR is 220 - 47 = 173 beats per minute.
To train lightly, I would stay within a pulse rate of about 60-100 beats per minute. 35% x 173 = 60 beats per minute and 60% x 173 = 100 beats per minute.
To train moderately, I would stay within a pulse rate of about 100 - 138 beats per minute and so on.
This formula estimates your MHR. Individual rates vary by approximately 15 beats per minute (+ or -). The Karvonen method uses the difference between true MHR (as measured in laboratory stress tests) and resting heart rate (RHR). Some, for example, a 35-year-old athlete with a true MHR of 183 beats per minute and a RHR of 65 would have the following heart beat zone if he wanted to run at a moderate level of intensity.
The Karvonen formula: [(183-65) x .70] + 65 = 148 beats per minute
Walking Program for Health and Fitnes
The above information can be used in developing your personal walking plan. So you'll need to refer to that article in order to plan your Walking Program.
First, assuming you have comfortable shoes, it is a good idea to establish your personal goals for walking. Goals could be:
General Health - For those who have a family history of high blood pressure or diabetes, for example, or to prevent health problems, your doctor may suggest regular, light exercise.
Weight Loss - Walking is low impact and a non-stressful way to control your weight.
Aerobic Fitness - Planning walking workout intensities can build strong cardiovascular fitness which strengthens your heart, lungs and vascular system.
Performance and competition - A structured walking workout makes training much more efficient.
Goals and Heart Rate Ranges (age based)
Very comfortable, light, and conversational
Breathing becomes slightly noticeable
Harder, but ability to talk remains
Hard to very hard; heavier breathing
Quite heavy breathing
So for example, the reference maximum heart rate of 220 - my age (47) = 173; If I want to walk for general health reasons, I would walk with my monitor reading between 86 and 103 beats per minute.
Now you can plan your walks with greater efficiency. Here are some sample workouts:
20-30 mins. (min)
3-5 days/week (min)
Comment: Could take shorter walks twice a day if desired.
At least 5 days a week
Comment: Consider walking daily for optimal weight loss and/or control.
3-5 days per week
Comment: Combine with workouts from zones 1-2 for 5-7 walks per week.
15-45 mins. per workout
1-2 days a week (max)
Comment: 1. Combine w/ workouts from zones 1-2 for 66-7 walks per week.
2. Shorter walks are at a higher HR percentage; may break into 2-3 intervals with short rest.
15-25 mins. per workout
1-2 days a week
1. Same as above;
2. Workouts are combinations of 1-5 minutes w/ rest between each of 1-5 mins.
The Key to Running: Motivation
Many runners stop running because they feel it's stale - stale from running the same routine, stale from overrunning, or stale from setting unrealistic goals. And it seems the most difficult motivational challenge for most is just getting started. So here is a list of motivational ideas and hopefully one will tickle your fancy and get you out of a rut.
Ten Motivational Ideas:
1 Don't Lock Yourself In. Success does not come from the most rigorous program, but from running continuity. Rather than commit yourself to the same old routine, run different distances, times and places or with different people. Run without a watch. The idea is to continue to enjoy running.
2 Be Spontaneous. Maybe you feel like running in the rain or snow. Or maybe you wake up at 4am and can't sleep. What about running during a total eclipse? Whatever it is, just do it. Just enjoy the run.
3 Break the Rules - I heard of a runner who decided to run for one whole day. He and a friend ran for 15 minutes and walked for 5….all day long. They stopped at fast food restaurants along the way.... all day long! They never enjoyed running as much as that day.
4 Simplify. Don't be a slave to your training log and quantify every part of your running. Don't burden yourself with the need to run 10 miles at an 8-minute pace on a hot, humid day or on a day below zero. You can set daily or weekly goals in minutes.
5 Set completion goals, not time goals. For older runners that are unlikely to match those fast times of the good 'old days, set goals like completing a new race that you've never ran in before. Or compete against runners of the same age. Maybe start each year with a clean slate and set up personal record for each year. Make the goals fun and attainable.
6 Find new challenges. If you are used to running 10km races, try a marathon or trail racing. Many towns and countries host relays based on age group or mixed sexes.
7 Find new pastures. If you have a routine run through a park or around the block, try a new route or a different direction.
8 Change the time of day you run. Is there a reason you run the same time of day or is it a habit? I used to run after work and before dark. Now I run early in the morning when there are fewer cars and I feel more fresh and energetic.
9 Don't become a running bore. If every conversation involves your best time or you aches and pains, you are likely a bore to non-running family and friends. Avoid alienating others. Mix other domestic and work activities with the demands of running.
10 Find some company. If you do most of your running by yourself, try running in the company of another or a group. It may only be once a week, but that may be enough to avoid getting into a motivational rut.
Motivation is a skill that can be learned and practiced. You may not be very good at motivating yourself now, but with a bit of time and creativity, you can get better at it.
Text by Bruce Jacob, he lives and works in Costa Rica since 1987. He lives with his wife and two infant daughters in the hills of Ciudad Colón not far from our offices. The team of 1-CostaRicaLink wishes you the best of times in our little paradise called Costa Rica.
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