Teen girl ready to run indoor track Spring is finally here! Many of us will lace up and ambitiously begin training for various running races. Whether you or your child is training for a 5K or a marathon, there are important steps to ensure an injury-free, enjoyable race.

Danielle Magrini, DO, is a sports medicine pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) with expertise in primary care sports medicine. She practices primarily at CHOP at Virtua Voorhees. In addition to being a busy doctor who advises young athletes, she’s also an avid runner. Most recently, she ran in the New York City Marathon in November.

Below, she offers several tips and tricks that she implements into her own workouts when training for a race.

  • Begin slow. Don’t try to do too much too soon. Listen to your body and know when it’s time to stop.
  • Healthy habits prevail. Nurture your body with healthy foods, especially colorful fruits and vegetables and complex carbohydrates like beans and whole grains. Get adequate sleep and practice mindfulness to support your body in a variety of ways.
  • Allow schedule fluctuations, but remain committed. Life happens and sometimes strict schedules can’t always revolve around a workout. Do your best to make the time, but realize some days may not go as planned.
  • Explore something new. Try a group exercise class. Not only does it mix up your routine, but it also is a great way to cross-train. Or, consider starting a running program. Keep your core, hips and lower extremities strong. Vary the running surfaces, and incorporate hill-work or speed-work days.
  • Set goals. Short- and long-term goals help maintain interest and excitement. 

Dr. Magrini also notes other key points when training for a long-distance run, such as a marathon:

  • Use free training schedules available online, but be realistic. Not many people can pick up marathon running and accomplish such a feat in a short period of time. Be sure to create a doable timeline. It’s OK to set goals for the next one to three years and beyond.
  • Get involved with a local running group. Group training is especially great for long runs and accountability.
  • Use free apps to pace your runs. Be sure to increase mileage by 10 percent each week, but also remember to stretch and cross-train. Learn to foam roll and incorporate it especially for your iliotibial band.
  • Build in rest days. Running seven days a week, 52 weeks a year is not healthy for anyone!

The bottom line, says Dr. Magrini, is to “keep moving and continue prevailing toward your goals. You should not be running tempo runs (at race pace) every time you exercise. Sleep when tired, eat like an athlete, and don’t forget to have fun!”

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