Running is often cited as one of the healthiest forms of exercise around. It's a whole-body workout proven to adequately improve physical fitness, decrease stress, combat aging, and maintain a healthy weight. At the same time, it's also often cited as one of the most challenging physical exercises, both physically and mentally. Endurance, strength, and stamina are all necessary components of a successful, well-practiced runner.
One of the biggest challenges that runners face is combatting fatigue, and every runner encounters some sort of fatigue during his or her fitness career. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or this is your first time lacing up those jogging shoes, there are a few time-tested tools that can help you avoid the effects of fatigue. We've put together some of the best and shared them with you below.
One of the best pieces of advice in the prevention of running fatigue is to incorporate strength training as a part of your regular fitness routine. This can include weight training, resistance workouts, and flexibility as well.
When working with weights, an endurance-focused routine is typically best. This means more reps with lighter weights. Three sets of anywhere from 12 to 15 repetitions is a great general guideline for starters. After you've mastered that, try decreasing the reps and increasing the load for a more strength-focused workout. Typically, these types of practices include 2 to 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps with heavier weights.
In addition to weights, strength-building exercises such as squats and lunges will work to strengthen your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. These alone, however, shouldn't be your sole focus. While they are critical muscle groups, it's imperative to work your entire body.
A strong core is as much a good combatant against runner's fatigue as strong legs. Work your abs, your back, and your hip with full-body routines, sit-up's, push-up's, crunches, and any other exercises that require use of these muscle groups.
Yoga and Pilates
Yoga and Pilates are also great alternative workout methods to increase both strength while also incorporating some flexibility. These exercises combine stretching with strength work, both of which have also proven effective at combatting fatigue. These exercises can also be done on rest days because they're low impact and work alternate muscle groups.
Stretching & Flexibility
In addition to the stretching done on yoga and/or Pilates, static or active stretches done pre- and post-workout are also incredibly beneficial. Smart athletes know the benefits of proper warm-up's and cool down's, both of which include flexibility work. This kind of training is as much about preventing fatigue as it is about preventing injury.
Many runners swear by the inclusion of lactate-threshold runs in their training as an optimum means by building endurance. These runs have been proven to increase aerobic capacity, delay anaerobic metabolism, and help to train the body to process lactate more efficiently, all of which fight mud-run muscle fatigue. Runs done at a lactate-threshold pace are typically 10 to 15 seconds slower than your standard running pace. Here are two examples of lactate-threshold workouts to try, all done after properly warming up and with an easy mile cool-down.
What you eat pre-run can also affect your levels of fatigue. Consider taking in more nutrition before you hit the track and earlier on in your extended runs to starve off the onset of fatigue. A general guideline many marathon runners abide by is introducing food around mile 3 or 4 and consistently thereafter every 20 minutes. Experiment during your training and see what works best for you.
Recovery & Rest
All training programs need periods of rest and recovery, and this is especially true in the prevention of fatigue and injury. In addition to designated days off and prioritizing a good night's sleep - both of which are critical - some runner's swear by ice therapy and ice baths. This type of rehabilitation is still a point of contention between many professional trainers, but numerous athletes extol its benefits in minimizing fatigue and fighting off inflammation. Approximately 15 minutes spent in a bath that reads approximately 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit is the typical recommendation, but as with all forms to training, rehabilitation, and recovery work, do what feels best for you.
While encountering fatigue is nearly inevitable for all runners, whether it's your first race or you're a seasoned pro, these tips can help minimize the effects and act as great tools to keep fatigue from hindering your performance.
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