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10 Tips to Train for Your First Race After Weight Loss Surgery

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After weight loss surgery, many patients are excited to get out and tackle new physical challenges such as running a race, whether it’s a 5K, half marathon or marathon. But before your feet hit the pavement, here are some tips to help you be successful as you train for your first race in your new body.

Talk to your doctor.

Before beginning any training program, talk to your doctor to be sure you’ve been cleared for exercise. It’s important that your body is ready for physical activity. Walking is important immediately after surgery, and most patients are able to begin a more intense training program about six weeks after surgery.

Invest in the right gear.

Go to a specialty running store such as Luke’s Locker or Endurance House to be fitted for a pair of shoes that accommodates your gait and foot strike. Purchase breathable clothing that wicks away sweat to help keep you cool. A fitness tracker such as a Fitbit is a great tool to help you track your exercise, heart rate and even what you eat.

Start slow.

Whether your goal is to run a 5K or train for a marathon, you won’t be able to run your race distance overnight. Allow yourself to ease into a regular training routine. Begin the first four to eight weeks of training with walking and light jogging when you can. Can you still carry on a conversation while walking or jogging? If not, your heart rate is too high and you need to take it down a notch. Gradually increase distance as your endurance builds and you progress through your training.

Keep it routine.

Schedule your training time for the same time every day. Once you’ve picked a race and know the start time of that race, it can be helpful to schedule your training at the same time of day as your race. This will help keep your body’s rhythm in balance so you will be in sync when the big day arrives.

Mimic the course.

Practice running on the same topography as the race. For example, if the race will take place on paved roads with hills, be sure to run on pavement and incorporate hill training into your workouts. If the race is on trails, be sure at least some of your training runs are off-road. When selecting shoes for your race, consider whether you’ll be running on pavement or trails to be sure your shoes are suited for the running surface.

Incorporate strength training.

Building strength through body weight exercises and weight lifting can help increase your endurance as you train for the race. In most cases, strength training is not recommended unless you are at least three months post-op. Consult with your doctor before beginning strength training. When you’ve been cleared for strength training, get connected with a professional fitness trainer who can teach you proper form. A general training program consists of four days per week walking/running, two days of strength training and a day of rest.

Be prepared to be sore.

Some muscle soreness is entirely natural with exercise. If your soreness does not improve or you experience persistent pain, take a break from training and schedule an appointment with your doctor. Pushing through the pain isn’t always a good thing if what you’re experiencing turns out to be more than just muscle soreness. Continuing to train with an injury can significantly slow your progress.

Set S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Set training goals that are specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and timely. Aim to reach benchmarks along the way and take the time to celebrate small victories to help you stay motivated throughout your training program.

Eat breakfast.

Eating before your run is key. While you were sleeping, your brain was active, pulling energy from your liver. Breakfast restocks those energy stores so you’ll be less likely to run out of fuel while training.

Stay hydrated.

Keep your body healthy for your race by drinking plenty of water. Drink before you begin your workout, during your workout and after you finish. On the racecourse, there will be hydration stops along the way. Practice drinking water during your training runs to help you stay on pace the day of the race.

Most importantly, have fun! Enjoy doing physical activities you were unable to do prior to surgery. Good luck!