RUNNING TIPS BY STEPHANE LAPORTE
Stéphane Laporte is an Osteopathic Manual Practitioner and a Certified Triathlon Coach. He has extensive clinical and field knowledge in various topics from strength and conditioning to injury recovery and performance enhancement and has taken numerous athletes to their first races or to the podium.
“Your body is your strongest asset and I want it to perform at its best!”. – Stéphane Laporte
The 7 steps to training like an elite Athlete!
Whether you are running because you are passionate about it, or because you are competing, training is the most important part of your race. It’s the journey that counts… You want to finish the race with that feeling of accomplishment, collecting the fruits from all the hard work that you’ve put into the weeks before the race. More importantly, no matter how exhausted you feel after crossing that finishing line, you are not injured and are ready to start training for the next race. Many of my clients have several races back to back during the season, so their bodies are trained to recover fast, not just race fast. Here’s your step by step guide to training like a top athlete:
Step 1: You shall learn how to run.
What? Everybody knows how to run! Well no. Some naturally run with good form, but many make mistakes that could certainly dramatically reduce their performances and may also lead over time to injuries that could lead them to cancel their race… So first things first, when preparing for a race, consult a specialist to analyze your form and technique, according to your body type and natural abilities. There is a plethora of research in the field of running form, so document yourself so that you can learn to run faster, with less effort.
Step 2: You shall structure your training.
Maybe you’re already a strong runner. Maybe not yet. Great. But if you don’t have a plan, it’s a shot in the dark. Time to put science on your side and use some proven training techniques so you don’t have to run 6 days and 10 hours a week for your half marathon… Coaching has changed a lot in the last decade, athletes are more functional and diverse. So go ahead and write a program to stick to, including gym time and cross-training. You’ll find you’ll perform better at your sport, even though you are running less during your training! It must include the following workouts:
1: Easy run / Recovery run / Long run
A comfortable pace and increasing the distance every week until the target distance. This will get your legs used to the mileage.
2: Tempo run
a long run at or slightly faster than your targeted race pace with short recovery intervals. For example, run 20 minutes at 12km/h then 8 minutes at 7km/h then again 20 minutes at 12km/h. This mostly trains your body to utilize as much oxygen that is made available without wasting any. The type of tempo will vary as your fitness level changes.
3: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
There are several types of HIIT and you can do it twice a week with a recovery type of run the day after. HIIT trains your body to absorb and distribute more oxygen to your muscles. This consists of running at a near maximum speed for a short period of time (30s to 2 minutes), followed by an active recovery for as long as it takes for you to recover (1 to 3 minutes) and repeat.
You can evaluate your maximum speed on a treadmill. Run at what you would consider a very high speed and rate how exerted you feel, where 1 is resting and 10 is exerted to the point you can’t carry on. Link the speed on the treadmill with your rate of exertion. Your fastest HIIT speed should make you reach an 8/10…
Depending on the fitness level of my client and how he responds, I would prescribe other types of HIIT training such as Yasso 800s or 30-30. That keeps it challenging and fun.
4: Cross training
That is a workout where you do any kind of sports activity that is not related to running. It could be swimming, going to the gym working on your core, yoga, stretching, anything really. This is your day to strengthen your weak muscles, other than the ones you develop through running. If you need a more focused effort, the gym is a great option too.
Step 3: You shall not skip your cross-training day
It’s great to train by simply running all week long and it’s probably what makes the most sense. However, your body will reach a plateau where you just won’t get any faster, simply because you’ve gotten stronger in the main muscles, but you’ve gotten weaker in secondary muscles (the core muscles for example). Your legs are not the only ones doing the work, so go and do your push-ups, chin ups, planks, side lunges and burpees!
Cross training can include some speed agility training to trigger fast twitch muscles (those muscle types that react very fast, but can’t handle a prolonged effort). These exercises could be cone drills or speed ladder drills.
Train your balance, ankle and knee strength to get faster reactions when turning, going downhill and of course to prevent injuries in uneven terrains. You could practice your arm curls on a single leg instead of sitting down for instance. Do your squats on a single leg too! Why train this? It will help you with balance, motor control and eventually performance.
Step 4: You shall not ditch the stretching
There is a lot of controversy about flexibility training. As a runner, you do not need to be flexible more than the normal human range of motion. For you, inflexible people out there, this is good news! However, the more you run, the stiffer you may get, which in turn may cause problems in your daily life. Stretching after every workout ensures that you return to your normal range of motion; especially if your work requires you to sit for extended periods of time, creating muscular imbalances. There might also be specific areas of tightness that may aggravate through running and cause trouble. These may need to be addressed through stretching Again, athletes today are highly functional, not just beasts at their sport only. While static stretching may not make you a faster runner, your muscles will greatly benefit from that treat.
Just to remind you: before exercising, perform some dynamic stretches (in motion). After exercising, perform static stretches (hold the stretches for 10-20 seconds). Not the other way around!!!
Step 5: You shall pick the right shoes
Many things have changed in recent years with the minimalist shoes appearing on the shelves of running stores. Science is still having a hard time figuring out what shoe is good for whom. You may not know what kind of foot you have to start with, so how are you going to know what kind of shoe you need? This is all starting to change.
Take the water test: dip both your feet in water and step on the floor. Have a look at the mark that you left.
Let’s start with normal feet. The good news is that there is a wide variety of gear to choose from. The bad news is that there is too much of it! The main tip is to try them on in the shop, run with them on the spot or on a treadmill if they have one. Make sure you have enough space for your toes. The worst mistake to make is buying shoes that are slightly too small. Your feet may swell during a race, or because of hot weather conditions; your shoes will in turn become too small during the race day.
Flat feet (it’s called overpronated feet), look for shoes that have a good arch support and put your feet in the optimal alignment. If your condition is obvious, consult with a specialist, you may need some orthotics, or at least some therapeutic exercises to correct it.
High arches (supinated feet): Look for shoes that will allow for movement at the arch level but that will support the rest of your foot to prevent ankle sprains.
The best way is, once again, to try your shoes first. Don’t be afraid to spend hours in a shop to pick the right one. A bad shoe could hurt you. If your shoes hurt and you’ve already bought them, do the right thing and change shoes.
Step 6: You shall feed.
Think of food as fuel. You need to know what to eat, how much, when. Be proficient in carbs, what they are and how our body uses them. Nutrition should be entirely part of your training regimen. Feeding your body the right stuff and controlling the bad stuff will change everything, so during your training, practice drinking those electrolyte products, see how they make you feel. Eat before your long run and see how long you need to digest, test what happens when you don’t eat well, or drink… Just like your muscles, your digestive system can and must be trained. So train to feed.
Spread your meals evenly through the day. 4 to 6 meals a day with a glucose and fiber-rich breakfast to kickstart the day. After breakfast, a meal every 3 to 4 hours.
During your training phase, make sure you eat plenty of slow carbs (vegetables, whole-wheat foods, grains, nuts, oatmeal). This will teach your body to receive more food, process it faster and will provide a steady income of energy during the day as opposed to sugar crashes after a meal. Make sure you diet is balanced, with sufficient good fats (think Omega-3 from fish) and proteins (best quality are whey, eggs and turkey). Don’t forget about vitamins, you are an athlete, you require more nutrients than the average. A multi-vitamin supplement would do the trick if you can’t get enough from food.
A few days before the race (3 days) is your “carb loading” phase, where you want to provide your body with a maximum of energy supplies for the event that you’re running. The energy comes from complex (or slow) carbs, so increase your daily doses of slow carbs and reduce simple sugars (fruits). As mentioned above, eat meals loaded with veggies, wheat pasta, sweet potatoes and beans. On top of that, this phase is a hydrating phase. Drink plenty of fluids (water, coconut juice).
On race day, avoid rice as it is acidic, this will reduce your performance. Go for potatoes, beans, pasta, veggies. Don’t eat anything you’re not used to. Avoid too much fiber, proteins or fruit juices (will either create more bowel movements or upset your stomach), there is nothing worse than running with an unstable stomach.
If you need to have a meal every 3 hours and you run a marathon, chances are you’ll need a meal somewhere in the middle of your race. Consider getting some gels or sport drinks with up to 10% carbs (the more types of carbs in a single gel or sports drink, the better) and electrolytes. A ballpark figure would be 60g of carbs per hour of exercise, above that you may go through a sugar crash! Electrolytes will replace the minerals that you lose when you breathe and sweat. Carry your gels on you, and take enough to have one per hour minimum (with plenty of water). If you don’t have access to gels, look for candy bars with high quantity of carbs and low quantities of fibres (avoid cereal bars) or proteins (proteins are not a very good source of energy). You may also prefer to use sports drinks during your run, but you’ll have to carry them with you during the race if the organizers don’t provide any.
Whatever food (liquid or solid) you choose to have, small quantities taken regularly are better absorbed (which equates to better performance) than large quantities all at once.
That’s it! You’ve done it. The race is over in your mind, but it’s far from being over for your body. After you stop, your body is still working, sometimes for up to an hour. You still need to feed it, and give back what it has lost during the run. Drink plenty of water and electrolytes. The most important electrolytes are Sodium (salt provides some), Calcium (like in milk) and Potassium (have a banana or some raisins). Sport drinks will help in electrolyte replenishment, fruits for sugars and vitamins. A good way to find out how much water you should drink after the race is to weigh yourself just before the race, and just after, the difference will be how much water your body has lost. In the following hours, have meals rich in proteins and vitamins for recovery.
Step 7: You shall rest!
Is over-training even a thing? Yes it is, and it happens. That will kick you back days and perhaps weeks in training, so make sure you have at least one day a week when you do little to no sports at all.
A good program should also cycle through the workouts, break days (several in a row where you lower the volume of exercise) every 4-5 weeks.
Don’t forget your tapering days, leading to your race. You will train hard until about 7 to 14 days before your race. You’ll let your legs rest and your body recover a little from the hard work. Now that does not mean to quit training for a week before the race! Think about reducing the duration (not the intensity) of your workouts.
No more excuses. Don’t train like a beginner, be the pro you know you can be and follow the 7 steps to train like an athlete!