Now that you have started running, the hardest part is keeping up with it! I have just come off the tail end of 2 weeks with a sinus and chest infection, which meant very little exercise during this time. I really struggled to let my body rest appropriately because I was nervous about losing fitness. This is a common concern in many amateur runners who may have set backs such as illness or injury. You must allow your body time to rest and heal if it needs it. I discovered this the hard way after trying to push myself too hard when I was sick. Once you have had ample time off and are on the mend, activities such as walking, yoga/Pilates or low resistance bike riding can be great alternatives to raise your heart rate. These activities can all be a good way to ease back into exercise. I used all of the above in the week following my illness. I actually really enjoyed the change activity, as running can become a little monotonous and chore-like after a while.
This is probably one of the greatest challenges I have faced in my training journey thus far. Some days I am full of energy and itching to exercise and others all I want to do is take off my bra, wear a grey (track) pants suit and eat chocolate. It is so important to remain motivated throughout your training, for without it the chance of giving up is high. For me, motivation is imperative as I get bored/distracted really easily. In the past I have set about a goal of “distance running” but to put it bluntly and please mind my potty mouth, my efforts were half a*sed. But this time I am legit, I promise.
Here are some things I have found really helpful to keep my motivation levels high while in training mode:
- Change location – try running on different tracks and in different locations. I get bored of seeing the same things all the time so this really works for me. I’m lucky enough to spend most weekends in very close vicinity to the tan running track and the Yarra River and I just love exercising around there.
- Change surface – running on hard concrete can lead to repetitive strain injuries in the low limb and increases load through the spine. If you have been a patient of mine and are a runner yourself, you know that I very frequently recommend that you run on softer surfaces such as tracks or grass to reduce the occurrence of impact injury. I will admit that I don’t always follow this advice and frequently choose to run on concrete tracks and footpaths myself. This is completely to my detriment (and sometimes out of pure convenience), as I am currently having some issues with my right calf muscle and Achilles tendon. Lucky for me I know a few good osteo’s that can help me out!
Personally, one of my favourite times of day to run is at peak hour. When there is a lot of traffic on the road, I am more motivated not to stop out of fear of looking like a massive battler. There is also something about cars travelling at 60km/hour that gets me into a steady motion; kind of like running to a good beat.
- Train with a partner or a group: In the past I have done a lot of group training for netball, but in recent years I have very much been partial to the solo-run/exercise sesh. When I first met my boyfriend, he suggested that we run together. The poor boy expected a cute run-date, but what he bleakly received in return was a red faced, angry, sweaty girl with her Ipod blasting in her ears, screaming ‘what’ every time he tried to say something. I’m lucky the boy stayed with me after that disastrous 5km!
However after a lot of encouragement from aforementioned BF, I have now started training pretty regularly with another person. I used to think I wasn’t capable of the whole ‘chat and run’ thing but I am getting much better at it. In fact, I’m actually enjoying it a lot. I will admit, during the time when you are building endurance fitness, running and talking between breaths is pretty damn hard and I still find it difficult at times especially when running up a hill or concentrating on my pace/km.
Running with another person or a group is a fantastic source of motivation, encouragement and a great way to set the pace, as you get fitter. I am currently training with my boyfriend and sister in law as trusty running partners. A great aim can be time/km. We are currently training to run 5-minute kilometers, which is an average speed and a good time to aim for. I am currently training to try and sustain this pace across 10km and man it’s rough. Once I hit the 5km mark, my legs are raging and my pace decreases steadily across the next few.
Running with others (or if that’s not an option, running with a watch/phone) is a great way to monitor your time. I’m lucky enough to be running with someone who has a watch that records your distance, time and speed per kilometer and lots of other jazzy stuff (it even makes graphs. So snazzy.) Although knowing all this info is cool and stuff, it’s not 100% necessary if you are not a serious runner who needs to have all the nitty-gritty stuff recorded. The main thing is that you are getting out there and having a go.
- Listen to music: I love listening to music when I run. I change my playlist according to things such as where I am running, my mood, the time of day, the pace I want to set and how many hills my route has. I need the most outrageous, terrible/up beat tunes to get me up some of those painful, steady inclines.
Preparation and recovery
- Hydration: I cannot stress how important this is! On days you are exercising (and every day in general) you should aim to drink at least 1-2 liters of water. Dehydration can lead to an array of problems, including muscular cramps, heat stress, dizziness and nausea. I went for a run the other day and battled something chronic. I had to stop half way because I felt so terrible. It took me a while to work out why I had almost all of the above symptoms. It turns out it was all because I had not drank my usual amount of water throughout the day. I am pretty much the thirstiest (non-undiagnosed diabetic) person alive, so I don’t go anywhere without my water bottle. For those of you that don’t drink a lot, you may like to aim to have a glass of water every 30 – 60 minutes throughout the day. This is a good aim to start off with.
- Nourish your body: Eat well. If you plan on going for a long run, you may like to include some low GI foods to your diet to allow a slow energy release to use as fuel while you exercise.
- Stretching: Stretching before and after you run is imperative. I recommend stretching to my patients literally ALL the time. The reason being, it actually works!! If your muscles are tight, it can alter the function of the joints that they influence and control. When such functionality is altered or compromised, especially under repetitive load, it can lead to strain and injury. Which is not ideal when you have a training goal to reach. With appropriate training, strength and management, running injuries can be avoided. But if you go in blind, you are setting yourself up for pain and potential injury.
- Warm up/warm down: A good warm up/down has probably been drummed into you since the first time you played sport in a team or at school. This has been done for good reason. A light jog or a fast pace walk to warm up and down, followed by some stretching is a good way to prepare your muscles and ease your body in and out of a run.
- Foam rolling: Using a foam roller, although painful at times is a great way to include a stretching and self-treatment program at home while you’re away from the treatment room. These puppies are not for the faint hearted though as you need a fairly high pain tolerance to withstand a session on the roller. Those of you that use one of these bad boys on a regular basis will know what I am talking about here.
- ‘Letric soda’ baths: These are a great way to soothe your heavy legs. This is a great product to keep at home; not only can it be used as a water softener in the laundry, but it can be used in the bath as a recovery method for sore limbs. Hold your horses here, I don’t know the science behind the stuff (or if there is any in the first place), but holy moly it can make your legs feel nice after a big work out. The chances of it being a placebo are high, but I am willing to accept that when my legs feel like heaven after soaking in this stuff. This is a personal testimonial for Letric Soda, as mentioned above I am not aware that there are any proven effects of it, but all I know is that it feels good. This could be right up your alley if you are feeling sore and love a nice, long bath.
Letric Soda can be found in most washing aisles at your local supermarket. I feel like Aldi may be a little bit too euro-chic to stock such a product (if they do, the possibility of the name being in German is high), but totally worth a trip to Aldi anyway even if they don’t stock it, because there is always fun stuff to buy, European chocolate is YUM and Aldi-no name-alcohol is cheap. Did I just say that out loud? Yes.
- Treatment: Obviously I am completely biased here, but regular osteopathic treatment during your distance training will keep your body balanced and aligned. Remember good function combined with good technique leads to less chance of injury.
- Massage: You may also like to try massage as a compliment to your recovery. Personally (and excuse my French) I bloody love massages. They feel great, keep your muscles nice and loose and help to get rid of nasty muscle bi-products such as lactic acid, which can build up and hinder your recovery. Our lovely remedial therapist Skye comes with very high recommendations if you are interested in some remedial treatment to compliment osteopathy.
Strength and mobility training:
- As well as flexibility in the muscles of your low back and legs, strength of the muscles in this area is also really important when running.
- Gluteal, low back, leg and core work must compliment your training and is a good thing to do on the days you do not go for a run.
- Ideas of strength and core programs may include squats, lunges, crunches, planks and heel raises. If you need some ideas about a strength and conditioning program, talk to your osteopath today.
And lastly, don’t over do it
- Don’t try and run excessive distances, 5 days in a row. Just don’t. Unless you are genetically blessed with a body of a gazelle that miraculously recovers on it’s own every night and can run non-stop without pain.
- NB: If said gazelle-like human exists, I will have what you’re having (and a side of gin and tonic with extra lime, please.) Because that would be amazing! I am currently running 3-4 x weekly; while interspersing my running training with other forms of exercise such as core work, swimming, spin classes and yoga. As mentioned above, changing it up allows time for my body to recover from heavy weight bearing exercise and also decreases the chances of me getting bored of the same thing all the time.
- Recovery is so important when you are training for a distance run. As mentioned above, if you do not take care of your body while you are training, it can lead to excessive load and strain through tissues of your low limb and back, which can ultimately end in injury.
That’s all for now folks, until next time train hard, eat well and be happy. Feel free to ask your osteopath any questions you may have regarding this at your next appointment.