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Bloomsday’s Taking Shape Experts Offer Step-By-Step Tips For Getting Ready For The Big Race

Remember that New Year’s resolution? This was to be the year you would actually train for Bloomsday.

So, what happened?

First, there was the Rose Bowl, which kept you on the couch Jan. 1.

The next day was overcast. It could have started raining any minute, and who wants to run in the rain?

The next day … OK, we get the idea.

Now, instead of 17 weeks to prepare, you’re down to seven weeks. Is there still time to resurrect those good intentions and take some of the sting out of walking, jogging or running the 7.5-mile Bloomsday course?

Absolutely, agree local health experts and veteran runners.

“Every step you take puts money in your running bank,” said Sylvia Quinn, who leads a twice-weekly Bloomsday “crash course” running clinic at the YWCA.

“If you haven’t been running,” said the marathoner and former Bloomsday race director, “seven weeks is not a lot of time to get in shape. But if you run four or five times a week between now and then and concentrate on endurance instead of speed, by May 3rd you’ll be in fairly decent shape.”

The secret, Quinn said, is maintaining the right attitude.

“What I stress with beginners is that 50 percent of training is in their head,” she said. “Your body will do lots of things if you let your mind take over in a positive way.”

Attitude, diet and running gear are among the topics touched upon during free Bloomsday clinics co-sponsored by Holy Family Hospital and Group Health Northwest. Participants range from 8-year-olds to 80-somethings, and cover a broad spectrum of experience.

“It’s not uncommon to have 700 people a year sign up,” said Holy Family physical therapist Diane Pickens. The next clinic starts at 8:30 a.m. March 28 in the Spokane Falls Community College gym.

Whether training for Bloomsday or just trying to improve your flexibility, strength and stamina, the important thing, Pickens said, “is that you do something at least three times a week for at least 45 minutes, so you can reach your target heart rate for 20 minutes and still cool down adequately.”

People who attend the Saturday morning Bloomsday clinics aren’t trying to keep up with the elite runners, said Pickens. “Most just want to do as well as they did last year and not hurt themselves,” she said.

Pickens warns that those who try to compress months of training into the remaining seven weeks are likely to end up with shin splints, ankle injuries, hip and knee pain and sore backs.

Pickens recommends a consistent, balanced fitness program that includes:

A stretching routine to enhance flexibility;

A strengthening component that works large muscles in both the upper and lower body;

Physical activity that raises the heart rate for 20 minutes;

Relaxation techniques that help you sleep well.

A low-fat diet high in fruits, vegetables and fiber also is important.

“And what many of us forget is the importance of water,” Pickens said. “Some experts recommend five to eight 8-ounce glasses a day. I suggest making it a habit to drink water throughout the day. If you wait until you’re thirsty, you’ve waited too long.”

Dr. Ed Rockwell, too, stressed the importance of staying hydrated.

“The most common (serious) health problem we see on race day is heat stroke,” Rockwell said. “We’ve averaged 15 cases a year over the 21 years I’ve been Bloomsday medical director.”

Beginners typically aren’t the runners who end up flat on their backs near the finish line. “It’s the ones who have been working out and have the ability to run several miles before they get into trouble,” Rockwell said. “They may not have taken adequate fluids before or during the race, and they’re running faster than their training speed.

“Gradually their bodies heat up beyond a point where their brain’s thermostat can keep them cool. Suddenly their body temperature spikes up to around 105 degrees and they fall down and lose consciousness, or they’re looking up at the sky, unable to function.”

Rockwell, himself a serious runner, recommends drinking 8 to 24 ounces of fluid before the race. “And I don’t regard coffee or tea as fluids - they just cause you to need to urinate,” he said.

With race day still seven weeks down the road, there’s plenty of time to experiment with your water-carrying capacity, so that on May 3 you’re running for the finish line instead of the Porta-potty line.

And if you’re over 40, overweight, out of shape and/or suffer from high blood pressure, there’s also time to visit your physician and see if Bloomsday is a reasonable goal.

Most participants, though, just need to get out and walk, jog or run a few miles.

“My motto,” said former race director Quinn, “is that it’s never too late to start training. Even if you do it for only two weeks, you’ll feel better than if you hadn’t done anything.

“Seven weeks is plenty of time to get into walking shape - or even run-walking shape - if you get out there a few days every week.

“I have friends who do Bloomsday every year, and that’s the only exercise they do all year,” Quinn added.

“Afterward, they can’t walk for a week. It’s nuts!”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo Graphic: Getting ready for Bloomsday - Overtraining: Getting hurt by going overboard