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Fighting Fit.

Byline: By David Ashdown

In the last instalment of this series I talked about staying hydrated and selecting the correct footwear. To build on this I'd like to talk about how varying your training can help your performance on race day.

It is generally accepted that the best way to learn anything is simply to practise it, whether it is golf, learning to drive or indeed running. This is fine and normally leads most people to hit the streets and run relentlessly before the Great North Run, however more of us could benefit by looking at our running "efficiency"; the way the body moves and whether it could learn to move any better.

When we run (or perform any physical action) certain muscles are asked to work, others relax and others stabilise (tense, but don't move). Therefore if we can strengthen these muscles and encourage them to respond faster and more powerfully we can run better. Here are some tips:

RUN FASTER

Many football and sprinting coaches use SAQ training. This stands for Speed, Agility and Quickness. One of the methods is to encourage better communication between the brain and the working muscles. An easy way to employ this principle is to try downhill running. This is classed as assistance because the gravity of running downhill makes you speed up your pace and therefore the signals between brain and muscles are being sent faster. Do this enough and it will feel less and less like an effort (this is called establishing neural pathways).

SPRINT HARDER

When we sprint or power up a hill (or in the Great North Run, overtake people), we are performing a strength exercise. This is classed as anaerobic as it cannot be maintained for long periods (rather than aerobic, which can). The more force we apply through our legs into the ground, the further we will propel ourselves with each step. Why not ask a trainer to give you a leg strength programme (or refer to some of my previous columns on the website www.icnewcastle.co.uk)? Try spending a session sprinting up a local hill or bank and watch your power and speed skyrocket.

BREATHE EASIER

During running our torso is stabilised by the muscles surrounding our spine. The stronger and more balanced these muscles are the more stable our spine will remain and therefore the easier we can breathe. Maybe I'll have space to expand on this in the next instalment, but until then why not try pilates or stability ball training to get an idea of core stability training? Again, you can read about these in previous columns on the website.

NDavid and his colleagues can be contacted at Greens Health & Fitness on (0191) 226 8800.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 8, 2005
Words:454
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