Julie Stackhouse, owner of Stackhouse Fitness (getstackednow.com) and winner of the Duval Cup last year (top local and Florida Gate female finisher) shares her training tips for 15k success:
- Hill Repeats – Besides the Green Monster, Gate runners encounter the less threatening Main Street Bridge after mile 1 in the race. The best way to get good at running bridges is to run bridges (a.k.a. Florida hills). Pay especially close attention to your form. I advocate shorter steps going uphill, with powerful arm-swing action. It’s a normal inclination (pun intended) for the body to lean forward slightly from the torso while running uphill. The key really is to check yourself going downhill. If you lengthen your stride which is going to be your natural tendency, it’s like “putting on the brakes” not to mention a LOT more strain on your joints, which is actually slower! Instead, shorten your stride or quicken your cadence.
- Strength Training – I’m a firm believer in the importance of regular strength training in my routine and always recommend and prescribe programs to the athletes I coach. Sometimes this may consist primarily of body weight resistance exercises, other times I’ll incorporate medicine balls, light weights or other implements and sometimes I just use what I see – a bench, lifeguard stand, step, pull-up bar, etc.! You don’t have to have a gym membership to get a good strength workout in. I’m especially an advocate of single leg exercises (more applicable to running) and hamstring/core strengthening. Many runners I coach show weaknesses in these areas due to quad-dominance but they can be improved over time through training, just like your aerobic capacity. Personally, I have seen improvements in my form/mechanics this past year due primarily to some of the strength work I have done. You will notice a difference late in the race that you are not falling apart.
- Long Runs – Gate is not a 5k so you really can’t just will yourself through it without proper training. For many runners, earning a 10% finisher hat is the goal, but for a large majority of others, successfully completing the race will involve more than an hour of running which means a long run is important. The key is that you really need to start doing those long runs now – add on a mile each week (up to race distance or even one mile over). You’ll be able to drop it back the first week in March and do a mini-taper going into the race, feeling confident and prepared to race your best.
- Interval Training – It helps to break up my training week and really gets my mind and body used to the kind of paces I’ll be experiencing on race day. My number one rule that I like to remind clients of is that “just because you can go faster, doesn’t mean that you should.” Interval training should be pace-specific and if it feels too easy then the variable that you can manipulate is your recovery in between intervals. Interval training will ultimately make your easy run days and paces feel easier, and will allow your body to handle surges in the race (forced or planned)!
- Race a 5k – I’m a fan of using smaller races to either get in a great workout or to practice things that you are going to execute well on race day. One reason that I have consistent performances in races ranging in distance is that I do not deviate from my race-day plan. The more that you put yourself in race situations, the more it feels just like your usual routine when you lace up and line up to compete with the best for your personal best. For a list of local races visit www.1stplacesports.com.