Here’s a way to keep yourself accountable while training for a far-away race: book your plane ticket.
Destination races—like the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon series, which hosts runs in cities around the world (from the Nice, France 10-miler during Carnaval to a half-marathon in Las Vegas)—are more popular than ever. In fact, nonprofit group Running USA reported that 13.9 million people finished road races in the U.S. in 2011 compared to 5.2 million in 1991, a 170 percent increase.
But doling out the dough for a ticket is just the first step in preparing to compete someplace far away. Jenny Hadfield, author of Running for Mortals and blogger for RunnersWorld.com, shares seven ways to make the most of your training.
1. Simulate the Course Stuck in Boise while you’re training for Boston? Start by scoping your race’s website for the course layout. Then, do what you can. For example, consider the terrain you’ll be running: If you’re training for a race in snow (likely an uneven surface) in Florida, off-road it, since trails give you an idea of the unevenness, Hadfield says. Pro tip: Bookmark running blogs with inside tips on races all over the world and training secrets from beginners, experts, or elite athletes. Check out Pavement Runner, a San Francisco-based runner’s blog that recaps races from 5Ks to full marathons, and ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes’ blog on RunnersWorld.com.
2. Know Your Temps If you’re going from a warmer environment to a cooler one, your training won’t need much adjusting, says Hadfield. “It’s harder for your body to cool itself than warm itself up,” she says. But if you live in a cool climate and will be running in the heat, do some of your runs on the treadmill. “Gyms are usually 68 to 72 degrees,” Hadfield says. That temperature change can make a big difference—you won’t be bundled up, and you’ll be able to notice little things that could be game-changers on race day, like where your shorts chafe.
3. Pack Smart Wearing compression gear post-workout can reduce muscle aches and soreness, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. In fact, people who wore compression clothes felt about half as much soreness 2 days later than those who didn’t, the research found. Though it has been reported that such clothes help with circulation, researchers think the magic is more in the fact that compression gear reduces swelling and, along with it, pain. Hadfield likes CEP’s recovery socks and tights ($59.95, $199.95 respectively; cepcompression.com).
4. Book an Aisle Seat According to recent research in the journal Chest, window seats on a plane increase your odds of suffering from dangerous blood clots called deep venous thromboses (DVTs). Some studies have suggested a window seat can increase the risk two-fold, mainly because you’re more likely to get up and stretch your legs from an aisle seat—something that’s vital for circulation. No matter where you sit, move around every hour or so. If you can’t get up, flex and stretch your feet to get the blood flowing. Remember, blood clots aren’t an old person’s problem—a high percentage of people who get them on planes are active and young, says Hadfield.
5. Order Tomato Juice on the Plane A Japanese study of 40 people on a 9-hour flight found that drinking one carbohydrate-electrolyte drink (like tomato juice) per hour was more effective at helping people retain fluid than drinking water. The people who had the carbohydrate-electrolyte drink also saw no increase in blood viscosity—a precursor to clots—while the water group did. Electrolytes help balance fluids, which your body can lack after a long workout. A sport drink will work, too: The concoction in the study was 110 milligrams (mg) of sodium and 30 mg of potassium per 8 ounces (oz). Gatorade is similar with 160 mg of sodium and 45 mg of potassium per 12 oz.