New to running?
Since the Brighton Half Marathon I have noticed an increased number of runners on the promenade in Brighton and Hove. The vast majority are sticking to the safe 2 metre distance advised during the pandemic.
This is great to see. However, when new to running it is vitally important not to do too much too soon. The feel good factor can lead us to want to go out every day. But this is a sure path to injury!
In terms of a warm up, dynamic stretches are best performed before running. This includes leg swings forwards and backwards, and side to side. In a pendulum type fashion. This is preparing the body for the upcoming movement.
The first tip would be to start with walk/jog intervals. Rather than worry about distance, simply jog for 30 seconds followed by a 30 second walk. This enables the body to get used to the increased demands of running. For the first week aim to complete this twice. For a total of 10 minutes out on your feet each time. This can then be increased to 1 minute intervals the following week for a total of 12 minutes. Build this up to 3 times a week over a period of 3 weeks. Crucially, this builds a habit. Remembering to complete static stretches at the end where you hold the stretch for 45 seconds. This promotes lengthening of the muscle tissues. This should include calves, hamstrings and quads.
The key here is progression to enable you to monitor how you feel after each session. Another golden rule is to avoid running on consecutive days, despite the temptation!
When you have completed the initial 3 weeks, there are various ways to progress your running. For beginners, and those returning to running, I would highly recommend sticking to a ‘time on feet’ approach. This is because it accounts for different running conditions, such as heat and wind. These can both have a big impact on relative effort levels.
The next step would then be to attend a local Parkrun. Fortunately, in Brighton and Hove we have many to choose from. These include Hove Promenade, Hove Park and Preston Park in Brighton. If you haven’t completed a Parkrun before, they are free timed 5km events that run every Saturday at 9am. They run up and down the country. This would be a good initial goal for when the lockdown lifts and Parkruns resume. They are particularly welcoming and inclusive events, and following a jog/walk approach is very common.
In the past, many clients have asked me get them ready for a marathon. But I always advise building up the distance over time. Starting with 5k, 10k, 10 mile and half-marathon events in order before taking on 26.2 miles! I also think it is important to build up a sense of enjoyment. To also appreciate the mental health benefits of running. We are lucky to have many options to enjoy, including the seafront and the South Downs.
What about strength training?
Through working as a personal trainer in Brighton and Hove, injury is the number one concern when building up running. This is why a strength and conditioning programme alongside a progressive running programme is vital.
I would actually advise a 6 week strength training programme before even going out running. In the long run, this will make your muscles, ligaments and tendons more robust.
Top strength exercises to assist running are:
- Walking lunges
- Backwards lunges
- Side lunges
- Single leg squats
- Mountain climbers
- Side Planks
These can all be performed at home or outside using just your bodyweight. There is no need for a gym and weights! Performing 2 sets of 15 repetitions of the above leg exercises will help build a stronger foundation.
You will notice that I have listed two core exercises above. Side planks, for example, are key because they enable your hips to stay still whilst running. Therefore avoiding side to side motion. When running, it is most efficient to keep the hips as still as possible to enhance forward momentum. As opposed to wasting energy moving them from side to side! Michael Johnson, the short distance American sprinter, is probably the best example an efficient hip position.
Running and nutrition
The key to recovery between training sessions is sleep and nutrition. Eating enough carbohydrates, proteins and fats will fuel your sessions and recovery. If you are looking for the additional benefit of fat loss from your running, try running in a fasted state. This means simply having a glass of water or tea/coffee before you put your trainers on and head out.
This can be very effective because the body will use fat more readily than compared to an evening run. This is because you will have consumed many more calories throughout the day. I also find this approach makes it easier and quicker to get out of the door. Because you are not waiting for your food to digest. There is also less chance you will get distracted by your phone!
At this time of the year with the warmer Spring days, I do find that an electrolyte drink is beneficial. Because of the increased sweat rate on sunny days, the electrolytes help your muscles to avoid cramping up. Hydration is key because running in a dehydrated state will place more stress on your heart rate. In turn, this will make running feel more difficult.
As with resistance training in the gym, sleep is vital to ensure the benefits of running are maximised. Running does put a stress on your immure system. So enough sleep is vital for repair and regeneration of your muscles and cardiovascular system.
Personal and professional experience
Having raced in various events please ask me for further advice on how to build up your running. Despite being a Brighton based PT, my strengths have always been in the gym working with weights. I am not a natural runner. To enable me to successfully complete these events, I had to steadily build up the time on my feet running. I still don’t go out running on back to back days. So please don’t be afraid if you are starting out for the first time!