Without question, the beginning phases of the Missoula running season are the most important in regards to gaining strength and increasing your success rate.

By setting yourself a goal race, like the YMCA Riverbank Run, Missoula Marathon or any other fun run in between, you are defining your season, which might be 60 days or perhaps even three months long, with the run of your choosing happening at the end.

The first few weeks should be about building your strength base, and sometimes the elliptical or weight training just are not enough to get your muscles in gear. Today, we will guide you through some ways to help improve your overall fitness and get your muscles and body frame in top shape.

1. Injury Prevention

First you must identify your weaknesses as a runner. Injury prevention and sport performance identifies your body’s imbalances and correct them. Karen E. Ocwieja with Missoula's Athletic Injury Management has some advice, "Think back about the last season, were there injuries that you had? Did you knees bother you? What made you feel better or worse? If you can't figure that out, that is a great reason to see me."

You can take it one step further and schedule an appointment for a local chiropractor. For runners, chiropractic treatments like the service found through Dr. Troy Doxey at Missoula Chiropractic Works can also be used for injury prevention because it emphasizes proper alignment of the spine and pelvis.

2. Find a gym

Picking the right gym is also important. Take a tour of the local facilities in town and ask yourself along the way, "What kind of equipment will I need to improve my run? Is this gym close to where I live or work? Will I get the proper training and advice from the staff at that gym?" Also, don't be afraid to take the place for a test drive before you commit yourself to a contract. Most gyms offer weekly or even monthly trials.

3. Get the proper supplements to boost your workout and runs

You are going to need an essential nutrition plan for training, racing and recovery, more than just protein shakes and amino acids. There are many specialized supplements that target key areas of the body, like joints and circulation that need to be in top condition for running a marathon.

4. Relax those muscles

Once you are finished pounding the pavement, you need to treat those achy muscles with either a hot tub, sauna, or even a professional massage like the one you can receive from Sharlyssa Duncan at Body Kneads Massage on Brooks Street. Professional runners have always known that a nice massage can really speed up their recovery after a long run or challenging workout. Aside from the obvious "it hurts so good", massages can also decrease stress and help you wind down after that important Missoula race.