Getting Into the Race
Experts share tips for getting fit and having fun running in a race -- even if you're a beginner.
2. Set Up a Training Program
A training program, says Edwards, spells out all you need to do to
accomplish your race goals.
"It's a plan -- which I suggest you actually write out -- that specifies
how you are going to train, who you are going to train with, how many days a
week you can devote to training, what you plan to do during each session,"
says Edwards. "It's kind of a blueprint that takes you from day one to race
day with some organized structure."
While how much training you'll do depends on both your physical condition
and the complexity of the race, Edwards says most folks can get ready by
working out four to five days a week for six to eight weeks.
"You can't just jump off the couch and go hog-wild and start running
because you will hurt yourself," says Edwards. "You have to have a plan
to take you from point A to point B."
Remember, if you're new to exercising or to running, it's best to see your
doctor before devising any training program.
3. Be Sure to Cross-Train
Whether your race is a simple 5K run or a triathlon, experts say, don't
focus your training on running alone.
"When we focus on one activity, such as running, we can put so much
biomechanical stress on a select area of the body that we actually do ourselves
more harm than good," says Kevin R. Stone, MD, director of the Stone
Foundation for Sports Medicine and Arthritis Research in San Francisco.
Varying your workouts, he says, helps build muscles throughout your body --
for strength you'll need as the race progresses.
"You don't just need strong legs to run, you need a strong
cardiovascular system, you need core strength -- you need to be strong overall,
and cross-training is an important way to achieve that," says Stone, who
has counseled professional athletes including Picabo Street and Martina
Edwards notes that "to race, you have to train not just your muscles,
but your cardiovascular system to be able to handle the distance and the
endurance. And cross-training gives you diversity and helps develop your
What activities should you do? Edwards advises alternating walking and
running with biking, elliptical training, and strength training -- and
swimming, if you have access to a pool.
"Ultimately, the best training would be alternating these activities
five days a week, beginning at least six weeks before the race," says