As the season kicks off, I'd like to remind you long-distance walkers of a few training basics.
- Add distance gradually.
As soon we get that first sunny day everyone wants to go out and do a bunch of miles. When you do that, you'll end up either sore or hurt. The rule of thumb is to increase your weekly mileage by only 10%. If you are currently walking 10 miles per week, that means adding only 1 more mile.
- Carry water.
At the very least, carry water on your long-distance days where you will be out for more than an hour. As the temperatures go up, you may want to carry water for shorter distances. And, if you're affected by heat, you probably should carry water during all of your walks.
- Practice what you will eat and drink.
If you plan to use sport drinks or consume energy gels or bars during a race, practice using these products during your long training days. You need to know if they actually work for you, how much will be a positive for you, and if your system will even tolerate them. I have a friend who wanted to use the Clif Shot Bloks I love and decided to try them during one of her long-distance training walks. Within a couple of minutes of eating her first block, she felt great! About 10 minutes later, she was in severe intestinal distress. Certain flavors of Gatorade and GU do the same thing to me. Thank goodness she tried these products before a race! (Right now this friend is experimenting with mini cookies. She is better able to tolerate cookies and granola bars than "energy" products.)
- Replace your shoes when needed.
Depending on the type of shoe you wear, they can last from 300–600 miles. For many people that can be as short as three months! If you don't replace your shoes often enough, you just won't feel right—it might result in lower back pain, sore feet or even shin splints. Also, be sure to buy your shoes early enough that you have a few long-distance training days in them before a long race. You'll want to be sure there is no weird rubbing and that they are the correct weight. (I found out at mile 10 of the Country Music Half Marathon that my new shoes were way too light for a half marathon. My feet were KILLING me!) If the shoes are not right, many running stores have a 30- or 60-day return policy.
- Follow your training schedule to the best of your ability.
It is hard to get in every single training mile. Sometimes your body is just too tired or sick to do the miles. But if you do your best to get in all of the miles most weeks, an occasional missed day won't hurt you. Just pick up where you left off and move forward.
(You can find half-marathon training schedules prepared by Dave McGovern on the WALK! Magazine website at http://www.walk-magazine.com/dave3.html.)