September 29, 2009

Training tips for Women

Suunto is proud to offer a new selection of training tips – made for women, by women. Kirsi Valasti, an Olympic runner, accomplished triathlete, mother of two, business woman, occupational therapist and psychotherapist, will provide handy tips to help you make each run more productive than the last. And considering that she’s been a competitive runner for the past 25 years, take our word for it – she knows what she’s talking about.

For more tips, check out Kirsi’s recently published running book for women, currently available in Finnish, called “Naisen Juoksukirja”.

Check out Kirsi’s newest tips on what active women should eat and drink as well as on what to do when you don’t have time to run at the end of this page.

Why is running so popular among women?

For many women the reason to run originates from a desire to lose weight and tone their bodies. Running is indeed one of the most effective ways to burn calories in relation to the time used. It is a very intensive health exercise, since it strengthens at the same time the lung and heart as well as the blood vascular system and skeletal structure of a runner. The most common reason for the popularity of running is simply the fact that you can go running whenever and wherever you want to either alone or with some company. You only need some running clothes and a pair of sneakers. Time is not wasted in packing or travelling to some faraway exercise spot. Running has even a great meditative effect on many women. While running after a hectic work day, your mind can rest and your creativity is given free rein. At least for me the best ideas pop up during running.

How to get started, when you want to be able to run 10 kilometres one day?

With running there’s no shortcut to happiness and patience is a clear asset, too. Unlike e.g. walking, swimming or cross country skiing, you first need to reach a certain fitness level to be able to run. This is why you have to start with a combination of running and walking by turns. To begin with, you warm up with 10 to 15 minutes of brisk walking. Then you run a couple of minutes at relaxed pace ensuring a nice run. After each dash you walk twice as far as you ran. You should have 2 to 4 of these combined running and walking exercises in a week, and each exercise should last 30 minutes. Once a week for instance during the weekend you should take a longer walk with or without walking poles. Gradually you start running more and walking less so that in the end you are able to run for 30 minutes uninterrupted. Even after this achievement it is probably a good idea to run only during every other training session continuously. You should not run through all exercises, until several weeks have passed. Now and then it is also useful to strengthen the musculature of your middle body, since these muscles keep your running stance correct. It is a common mistake to start running with too much speed and too long distances, which make running seem dull and then you easily give it up altogether.

The most important equipment for distance runners:

Good running shoes that fit well, walking shoes, gym shoes or hiking boots are not suitable for running. Remember that the most supported shoe on the market is not necessarily the best shoe for you. If you have a petite foot then you need neutral shoes. It is also recommended to invest in good running apparel, because lightweight and comfortable apparel will remove moisture from the skin. The so-called ‘technical fabric’ sportswear makes running more enjoyable. Running tights or shorts, a technical t-shirt, a long-sleeved top, seamless socks and a supportive sports bra should all be part of a runner’s basic sports equipment. Of course in wintertime you will need a warm set of underwear, a cap and gloves will protect from the wind, leg warmers to cover your ankles and Achilles tendon and wind blocker trousers with NO cotton lining, as a cotton lining will prevent the leg from lifting freely, and cotton does not breathe well.

What are the advantages of using a heart rate monitor?

Most of us will find several advantages when using a heart rate monitor. It is easier to monitor your training, to see whether it is base running or whether your heart rate goes up to make the exercise effect moderate. This way training will be rhythmic and you are not running too fast. A heart rate monitor will also help you measure progress, e.g. your resting heart rate.

How can you take advantage of the Foot POD?

Many women are afraid of technology – at least I am. We women often just want to enjoy running, and not compete with our neighbour who had the harder run. With help of the Foot POD you can easily see your progress. You may for instance notice that you can run at the same heart rate level and take a longer run than before. It is easy to use when you are travelling and you want to know how far you have run and what your pace is. However it is good to remember that when running uphill the speed will drop. You should not check your speed and distance too often, but have a look at it every 5-10 minutes. If you keep staring at your heart rate monitor or other monitors all the time, it will take the fun out of running.

NEW! – What should an active runner woman eat and drink?

Even if you want to lose weight, you must eat regularly and sufficiently. Often women forego a warm dinner in favour of eating light sandwiches. Eating only sandwiches will not keep the hunger at bay and you will end up eating too much bad fat and unnecessary calories. Often women eat too little and too few proteins, such as fish, chicken, meat or soy.

For a healthy and balanced diet you need meals every 3-4 hours. Snacks are also desirable. Eating only green salad will not take you far and your training will not progress. Fish oil either in fish or as a capsule is important to get enough omega3 fatty acid. Extra vitamin D and calcium is necessary if you do not use milk products. I use extra vitamin D and calcium throughout the year, even though I also consume low-fat milk products.

During a busy working day many of us forget to drink enough water, and in the afternoon you feel tired and stale. We need 2 litres of water every day plus one litre for every hour you have been exercising. Part of the water can be consumed in sports drinks or juice.

NEW! – What can you do when you have no time?

Because you can run whenever you like, it is too easy to skip if you are tired or busy. It is not worth spending time pondering whether to go for a run or not, you should just go! Of course if you are sick or stressed, you cannot run. For some of us it helps if we set a goal, but the goal does not need to be running a marathon. It can also be 10km, a half marathon or a regular jog 2-3 times a week for the next six months. After that you can see what to do next. You should also mark the training times in your calendar, so that you can hold on to it as e.g. to a tennis lesson. You should also tell your friends that you have decided to run to get support from them. For women running can be a social event, a way to keep in touch with friends. What could be better than getting your friends to join you for a run?

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