You see, “going for a run” sounds like a pretty easy, uncomplicated task, doesn’t it? Once you actually find the motivation (more on this later), you simply choose a time, a route, a playlist, a few pieces of your favourite activewear and off you go on your merry little way.
But in actual fact, there is a lot more to think about than just slapping on an old pair of trainers (P.S. you might wanna look at replacing yours, here’s why) and heading out the door if you really want to make it worth your while.
Things such as: How do I stop myself from rolling my ankle? How do I work on improving my endurance and stamina? Should I be stretching before and after? What if I’m sh*t at running? How can I learn to love it? I can’t be bothered, how on earth do people like running in the cold? Or the heat? Or the rain? So. Many. Questions.
Luckily, sports extraordinaire, Tim Robards was kind enough to answer *most of* them for us in between his duties as a chiropractor, creator of The Robards Method, fiancé to the stunning Anna Heinrich and current brand ambassador for Deep Heat.
Something really simple that so many people overlook is a proper warm-up. Running with muscles that are cold and joints that have not been taken through their full range of motion can result in niggling muscle strains that can slow you down and possibly keep you out of action for a while.
Dedicating just 10 minutes at the beginning of your workout to stretch and mobilise will help prevent against overuse injuries, such as shin splints. Post-running session warm-downs are also important to prevent knots and adhesions and to allow the body to repair efficiently. I recommend massaging with a heating product, which helps to release knots in muscles and soft tissue following an intense running session.
As a beginner, you need to prepare your body for the increased stress that running places on your muscles and joints, so ease your way into it. It may take your body a few sessions to release the endorphins you want. Initially you may feel more discomfort or more pain than pleasure… but this will soon change. All good things come to those who wait! Don’t worry about your time or your pace at the beginning, just start with a combination of walking and light jogging and slowly increase your output over a month. After this period, your body will have adapted to the strain and you can start to really up the intensity.
When starting out, I recommend finding a running buddy to train with. They will not only push you during your runs, but they will also keep you accountable and make sure you show up! One of the best things you can do with your running buddy is join a local park run. These are free 5km timed runs open to anyone, and more are popping up all around the country every week — they are a great way to start your weekend.
Dynamic stretches are better for pre-run warm ups and will effectively mobilise muscles and increase blood flow to the areas that need it most. This is because dynamic stretches resemble the actual movements you will be performing whilst running. Having your muscles raring to go before you start can really improve the quality of your running session, as well as help you avoid preventable training injuries.
Aim to spend about 10 minutes warming up pre-run and incorporate a variety of dynamic stretches which will target the major muscle groups, such as leg swings, leg crossovers and walking lunges. Post running session, foam rolling can be really effective to help relieve the body of tightness (hypertonicity) and adhesions, and it’s always good to partner this with a recovery product to assist the body to increase blood circulation, which will help you recover for your next run.
The way you run is very important as well as your posture whilst running, so of all the research I have done it seems that a midfoot/forefoot strike with higher cadence (quicker and shorter steps) is better than long heavy strides landing on your heels. When you land with your centre of gravity more over your feet, there is generally less pronation, less ankle jamming, less torsion on the knees and less force and jarring into the lower back.
Cushioned joggers are comfortable but that have also changed the way we run. Do feel how we are designed to run, try taking your shoes off and doing a lap around the park barefoot. Start on the grass, if you can move to a dirt track with potential sticks and stones etc, you will quickly get up onto your forefoot pretty quickly and avoid heel striking. When you put your shoes back on try and keep that up. When you can run like this, shoes with a minimal sole/support can be the best… however if you are still heel striking you are better off with a shoe that has a lot of support.
Firstly, I recommend actually writing down your true fitness goals. Dig a little deeper and ask yourself what it is you actually want to achieve — and most importantly, why you want to achieve it. Once you have the ‘emotional why’ and it’s written down, make sure you’re reading this message every day. Stick it to your bathroom mirror, save it as your phone background, keep it in your wallet — seeing this will keep you aligned with your fitness goals.
Secondly, plan to make your running session as easy as possible. Something simple like having your workout clothes out and water bottle filled up the night before will have you prepared for a morning run as soon as you jump out of bed!
Finally, just get out there and do it. The key to staying motivated through any exercise program is to show up to every session. You will find that the act of running will actually motivate you to run again, and once you get that momentum going, run with it, and you’ll never stop.
As running is an aerobic exercise that stimulates heart rate and breathing, it’s fantastic at improving your overall cardiovascular health and general wellbeing. After a few weeks of consistent aerobic exercise, you will notice that you won’t feel nearly as tired or out of breath when performing tasks like taking the stairs or a brisk walk to the bus stop.
Running will also have you feeling sharper during the day, and for longer, and can also be a huge boost to your self-esteem. This is because running releases endorphins that can make you feel amazing for hours after your workout. Also, after a hard run, you will feel switched on mentally and won’t get nearly as tired during the day — and when it comes time for bed, you will sleep like a rock!
*We refrained from asking the weather-related questions — because, each to their own.
Check out @mrtimrobards for more!