Learning to Love Running
I love running.
It’s my favourite activity, my favourite sport to watch and way to relax, all rolled into one. It’s also one of the largest sports in the world. Around 1.1 million people participated in a marathon in 2018, and even a small kiwi event like Auckland’s ‘Round the Bays’ attracts over 30,000 people. Unfortunately, when I talk to friends or colleagues, generally they’ll fall into one of two camps…
They either love running, or they despise it.
And that’s a shame because I think running is something anyone can do. You don’t need to be especially coordinated, you can do it anywhere and there’s no membership fees!
So whether you’re thinking about smashing out your first marathon, or just want to lose a bit of weight before summer hits, here are a few tips to help prepare you to hit the pavement.
My first piece of advice sounds simple but is often ignored.
Build your mileage SLOWLY.
The general rule of thumb when increasing the distance you run each week is to increase by about 10% per week. Initially this means that each week you are only increasing the total distance run by a very small margin, which sometimes will equate to only increasing by 1-2km per week. This can of course be very frustrating for people that want to quickly increase the amount that they are running.
The reason for this rule however, is that when you run, the amount of force going through your legs is roughly 2-3 times your own body weight. So, if you are only just getting into running or if you’re used to running much smaller distances, and you then suddenly increase the amount you run each week, there is a high risk of becoming injured as your body likely won’t be well adapted to absorbing this level of force for longer periods.
Slow and steady wins the race
Arthur Lydiard was an Auckland born running coach who coached both Peter Snell and Murray Halberg to Olympic gold in the 1960’s. His style of running training is very highly regarded. Arthur was adamant that during the base phase of a runner’s training (where you’re slowly increasing the length of your runs) you should be doing lots of long slow runs, and then gradually increase the amount of short intense running sessions as you get closer to your event.
The thing I want to emphasise here is the word SLOW. If you do every single one of your runs at a fast pace, including your long ones, you aren’t going to have a lot of time to recover between workouts. This can lead to reduced performance as well as sickness and injuries.
Basically, a few times a week you should be running slow and relaxed, and a few times a week you should be running faster and harder.
Get some jazzy sneakers
You probably need some new shoes. Every single time I chat to a patient or a buddy about their running shoes, I generally hear that they’ve had the same pair for about 5 or 6 years and the soles of the shoes are so worn down that they can feel the tarmac under their toes.
Whenever you land onto one leg during a run (what we call ‘stance phase’ in the physiology world) you are applying a force to the ground. This force is then reabsorbed back up your leg into your tendons, muscles, bones, and YOUR SHOES. If your body isn’t used to absorbing this impact (which it won’t be if you’ve just started running), it can predispose you to an injury such as a stress fracture. So having a good pair of shoes can help reduce the amount of force that your body endures.
Pick an event
Goals are important. Even if you’ve started running with your main goal to lose weight and improve your health, picking an event with a set distance to train for can help motivate you. It also forces you to constantly build your training load to complete your event, and this gradual increase in intensity and mileage will lead to better health benefits than just doing the same route at the same pace repeatedly.
Get a buddy
Let’s face it, it’s way easier to commit to an event or activity when a friend is involved. Having a pal to keep you honest can help keep you on track with your training and fitness goals. This might mean grabbing a few workmates to run an event for charity or just jogging each morning with your partner.
Another good option is joining a running club. Older clubs like the Auckland Joggers Club and YMCA Marathon Club have large numbers of experienced members and regular training sessions to get amongst. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Whippets, a quickly growing club with a welcoming culture, that organises RACE09; a metropolitan, orienteering style road race.
Overall, if you’re going to take one thing from this article, it should be to exercise patience. Start running slowly at small distances and build from there, making sure you have more than enough time before your chosen goal. There’s obviously a lot more to running than I’ve outlined here, so if you have any questions about which shoes to pick, which events are beginner friendly, or even if you just wanna get excited about running with me, come on down to the clinic and we can chat.
Article by Liam Kane, Physiotherapist
To read more articles & tips, from avoiding initial injuries, to speeding recovery and preventing recurrence, take a look to our Fitness Articles page.