Deciding to be part of a 5K race or similar athletic event is the easy part.
Once you commit to an endurance event, the real work begins. There are many reasons to sign up for a running race or cycling event, but there are even more reasons to prepare properly.
A beginning cyclist will need to invest in a few items, including a bike and helmet. You also may need shoes that clip into your pedals, padded shorts and gloves, and clothing that wicks away moisture and prevents chafing. Gadgets and tools, such as a GPS or heart rate monitor, track your performance and time spent on the bike as well as your body’s response to exercise.
Cycling tours range from 10 to 200-plus miles. Following a training plan specific to your needs and fitness level and preparing for your equipment needs will help you get to the starting line healthy and ready to ride.
You do not need much equipment to be a runner. You can run in just about anything, sometimes even without shoes. But while running barefoot in only a pair of gym shorts may sound appealing, it may not be the best choice.
Depending on your body and foot mechanics, strength, and training history, you likely need different shoes than those your training partners have. Someone with a flat, flexible arch typically needs a stability shoe with supportive materials under the arch. High, rigid arches require a more flexible shoe.
A heavier runner with a flat arch may need even more support. A runner with an efficient running stride, who lands mostly on the middle to front of the foot and not the heel, may consider a minimalist shoe. A video gait analysis will predict how your body and your feet move during running and help you purchase the right shoes.
Electronics – such as a timing watch, GPS or heart rate monitor – are not necessary but may make running more enjoyable. Ask your local running store about which gadgets are right for you.
Having a goal makes any training program effective and focused. The longer the event distance, the more preparation time required.
For a 5K race, six to eight weeks of focused training is typically sufficient. For a marathon or cycling tour of 25 miles or more, expect to train for three to five months.
By following a few basic guidelines, endurance athletes can avoid overtraining, burnout, boredom and overuse injuries. As with any physical fitness program, consult your health care provider prior to beginning.
Successfully preparing for an endurance event involves progressing training gradually and varying the distance, speed, intensity and training surfaces. While some muscle and joint soreness are inevitable when training for endurance events, more serious injuries – such as tendonitis, muscular strains, stress fractures and chronic joint pain – may occur if training is not performed in moderation.
A video gait running analysis – The Ohio State University Sports Medicine offers them – will help determine your physical and functional levels and what training your body will handle without injury, and will make you a more efficient runner. An effective video gait analysis includes a functional examination; strength, mobility and movement pattern assessment; and analysis of your running gait. The outcomes will be different for everyone, but it is imperative to prevent injury and help you to get the most out of every mile.
For a cyclist, having your bike fit is similar to having a shoe fit and personalized recommendation for a runner or a walker. Cycling is a great, low-impact, joint-friendly activity, but is not without risk of injury. A poorly fit bike will cause undue stress, aches and pains, and potential injury.
Without proper recovery from overuse injuries, an inflammatory response may start. Over time, this will lead to weakness, loss of flexibility and chronic pain. Proper bike fit and appropriate training regimens are essential to preventing pain and injury.
A fitting should take at least an hour and include specific bike measurements, as well as assess how your body moves, your strength and your stability. Correct bike fit depends upon the type of bike and cyclist.
A well-fitting bike should be comfortable. When riding, you should not have pain, numbness or tingling in your hands, neck, shoulders, back, hips, groin, knees or feet. If you do, then a bike fit is probably in order. OSU Sports Medicine offers these as well.
Kari Brown Budde, M.D.; Matt Briggs, M.D.; and Timothy Miller, M.D. are with The Ohio State University Sports Medicine endurance medicine program. Feedback welcome at email@example.com.
By Drs. Kari Brown Budde, Matt Briggs and Timothy Miller