Five things to consider before lacing up your shoes for another running season
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The start of the running season in Steamboat Springs is three weeks away, but local long-distance runner and Steamboat Springs Running Series co-director, Cara Marrs said the time to start thinking about running is now.
“Now is the time to really be starting if you have not been doing stuff over the winter,” Marrs said. “The key is just to get out there. Something a lot of people do is wait took long, or other people are super gung- ho and just go out and run 6 miles or 15 miles or 10 miles when they are not ready.”
She said then they can’t walk for a couple of days, or they walk away from running all together. She normally tells runners to take a smart approach to running and offers several suggestions to get primed before they head out for that first run.
Off the starting line
Marrs said the start of the running season is different for each individual. For some athletes the start of the running season is simply a time to switch from one sport to another. She said those that have been active over the winter, whether that was cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or simply working out in the gym will have an advantage.
Still those athletes should realize that they may be using other muscles or may need to prepare their body for the impact of running.
But she said runners who have not been active this winter should take their time and slowly build up a base before that first race. She said those just getting back into running may want to sign up for one of the Steamboat Springs Running Series events that offers shorter distances instead of signing up for the longer race.
“You have to just build, “ Marrs said. “That means getting out there and finding dirt roads, or maybe taking a run up Buff Pass or going out (Routt) County Road 44 and all that stuff out there. Just getting some runs in wherever and whenever you can.”
Marrs said people who are planning on participating in the Steamboat Marathon or even the half-marathon in June should already be out and running. But she said there is still time to prepare for events in this year’s Running Series, and she feels that signing up for a local race is a good way to find motivation — especially for those who may not run all the time.
“I’m a big proponent of signing up for races whether you are an elite runner, an avid training kind of runner or if you are a beginner and have never walked a 5-kilometer race. Signing up for something is important, so that you have that event on a calendar and you are working toward it as a goal.”
Below the surface
Of course runners should pick a length that is appropriate for their training, but they also should consider the surface that will be below their feet, and should pick a training surface that is similar to the one they will be running on in the race.
She said if a runner is planning on doing a race on a dirt trails then they should be running on dirt trails, and if they are planning on doing a marathon like the one in Steamboat or in some urban setting, then the runner should be training on the pavement.
Typically she doesn’t like to run on hard surfaces because the impact can cause nagging injuries, but when preparing for a long race on a hard surface she said it is wise for the runner to keep that in mind.
Keeping out of the mud
One of the problems runners face in Steamboat is getting back out there as the snow begins to melt. She said that can be difficult in a town like ours that has a true mud season.
“We are still going to have snow, we are still going to have some days that are warm and some that are not,” Marrs said. “This is a great time of year to go to spin classes and really get your core strength built up with yoga. I think that all winter long is a great time to do that stuff, but I know not everybody does that stuff year-round.”
She suggests a varied approach to training, as opposed to just focusing on running all the time.
“People I know that are successful over a long period of time in sports or do things and don’t get injured are the people who do a variety of things,” Marrs said. “The people I know that only run, and that is the main thing they do, they always have something wrong. When you are doing yoga or if you mix other things in that complement each other tend to have less injuries.”
Eating for success
Putting miles on the soles of those running shoes is critical to having a good running season, but Marrs, who is also a registered dietitian, said runners should not underestimate the importance of eating right.
“You can’t outrun a bad diet. You can’t eat bad and expect that you are gong to feel good when you exercise” Marrs said. “Health is more about diet than exercise, but you have to also get your intake of what you are eating and that might mean coming to talk to someone like me, or figuring it out on your own. But you have to get that piece dialed in before that first race. Our body is like a car engine, and if you don’t fuel it correctly or if you fuel it with junk, you are not going to perform.”
So Marrs said it doesn’t matter if someone is running a 5-K race or a marathon, runners need to be aware of what they are putting into their body to fuel it, and said athletes who don’t eat properly will find racing to success will be more difficult.
Marrs said, as a series director, she talks to a lot of people in town about running, and said while preparing is important, the most important thing might be having a good time.
“People should not get caught up in what other people are doing,” Marrs said. “I think it is important to seek out other people’s advice, but I also think what is really important is not too get to wrapped up into what anyone else is doing., and just go out and do their own thing.“
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Editor’s Note: This is part 1 of a 2-part series. Part 2 outlines non-surgical and surgical treatment options for hip injuries.