A big part of the Amateur To Athlete experiment we are currently running over 10 weeks with Pete Fraser Fitness is the steady-state run. Two a week, on the days in between resistance workouts, targeting around 70-80% of maximum heart rate. See the full 10 week plan here.
There's a lot of conflicting advice out there on what the best way to prepare your body for a run in terms of stretching and warm-up. So what's the definitive answer? Well, it lies in the form of a small foam roller, like this Triggerpoint model which fitness pros always recommend.
Why do it
A quick 5-10 minute sequence on your legs using a roller like this before you leave the house could be all you need to prepare the key muscles in your leg, could minimise niggly pains you may experience during your run and could even help improve your performance.
How to do it
Start by targeting the roller along your Iliotibial band (ITB) on the outside of each leg 5 or 6 times, especially the tight points just at the top (just below the hip) and the bottom (just above the outside of the knee) A tight ITB is the cause of the infamous 'runner's knee' and doing this stretch can be painful but is hugely effective.
Next move on to Periformis (hip rotator), quads, and gastrocsoleus (calves and soleus) complex. Again, up and down 5 or 6 times, feeling for any tightness and targeting those points with small rolling movements.
Pete Fraser demonstrates how to use a roller to stretch your Iliotibial band
Why it works
"We’re basically detaching incorrect adhesions from the muscle sheath (facia) and the muscle fibres," says Pete Fraser, "making the muscle contract correctly and increasing flexibility. Rolling also reduces trigger points (tight areas within the muscle fibres) which can develop into muscle strains."
Is any kind of warm up necessary?
"For faster work like anaerobic intervals or sprints, then yes - usually an easy pace (75% HRmax) for ¼ mile run and then 5/10 min of leg stretches," explains Fraser. "But for lower pace steady-state running, an easier start pace is all that’s required here. The consensus now is that stretching when cold i.e. without a warm up, can at best not provide any benefits and at worst cause strains."
What should you do afterwards?
"For intensive anaerobic work spend 10 mins lowering heart rate and `cooling down the muscles` then 10 mins stretch session. This reduces the amount of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) you experience. Stretches can be performed after lower pace aerobic sessions as well and for the same reason but there is no need to do a `cool down` run unless the pace has increased towards the end of the session."
What should you eat/drink before and after a run?
"The important point is to keep the body hydrated and carb-loaded in the day before a session as this will maintain performance during the session. Especially for endurance sessions, reserves will run out after 90 mins therefore you need to top-up during the session with high-glycaemic index carbs – i.e. liquid sugar drinks or easily digestible solids – gels, etc."
What about fasted running?
"If you want to shock the metabolism into using stored fat as its energy source then try and run in a starving state, i.e. no intake 2 hrs before the run but you may become depleted and this will affect the run quality. If you want to get the most performance out of a run then eat a small amount of high glycaemic index carb up to 20 min before the run to increase blood sugar. A quarter of a banana works for most people."
You can also read Pete Fraser's 'Secret Weapons' guide to Foam Rollers here
This 10 week plan has been developed and designed by Pete Fraser Fitness. Contact 020 7734 0080 for a personal consultation or email firstname.lastname@example.org