As you start to build up your miles and get into good habits of running a couple of times a week, sometimes life gets in the way of running! Running well requires being in balance with the rest of your life and what goes on around you can have an effect on your running just as running can have an effect on your life.
Post race depression is quite common but yet again something that isn’t really talked about. These feelings of depression can be quite overwhelming and take us by surprise, yes running releases amazing endorphins but things like injury, bad races, training ruts can all mess around with our heads. These feelings can be especially common after you have trained so hard for a goal race like the GSR or Gosport Half even if you had a good run you may be feeling unsure of where to go next because of these unexpected feelings. There may be a big hole in your life now where the long training runs once were, training for a specific event makes you focus on your diet and your lifestyle so when it suddenly vanishes and the euphoria of achieving what you set out to achieve has diminished you could be left feeling as flat as Flat Stanley!
If the race didn't go as planned or if you didn't make the start line due to injury or if you ran an amazing PB at Gosport you could still suffer from post race depression or runners blues, don’t worry there is help at hand. Try not to underestimate these feelings because they can leave you drained and down about not only our running but also our lives in general. You will also be tired, running a half marathon is hard and it's a long way, so be kind to yourself and rest. Once you acknowledge that it is really normal to feel this way it can put things into perspective and you can put some constructive plans in place to make you feel better and prevent it from happening again.
Know What's Next
Try and think about what’s going to happen next, learn from what went right and what may have gone wrong. Would you have done the training differently, if you are injured did you do too much too soon. Try and plan for just another 4-6 weeks and include in these plans very specific recovery runs. These can include cross training, we have fantastic leisure facilities at Holly Hill that you can pay as you go. There are some brilliant sessions on there at all times of the day and night, have a go at some, try something new; spinning is a great example of low impact training that is a great fat burning exercise and any cross training will compliment your running sessions and your running in the long term.
Have some Post-Race Goals That Aren't About Racing
These can even be goals that have nothing to do with running, learn to swim ;), decorate a room, enjoy a no pressure park run, try a different park run venue, volunteer at a park run or at a local race, give something back and don’t hide away.
Get back out there and run
When we are consumed by the training plan that has taken over our lives for the last 3 months and are focused on pace, energy gels, early morning runs, extra runs before a session we can forget the sheer joy of getting out there and running; no pressure, no watch just for the pleasure of it, be pleased that you are able to run, don’t try to accomplish anything until you are ready. If you injury has prevented you from running, start back slowly, look at Spring goals and focus on getting fit enough again to train for another goal.
I’ve always said running is hard and it has been a huge source of angst in my life but I stand firm that as runners we know enough to know that most things in life do pass and are not permanent. Take comfort in the resources available to you, the community that we have created, come and help out at the beginner's, talk to your running buddies at RunVerity and do the best to make sure that any runners blues you may have won’t last for long.
Running and how to stay injury free is one of the most pressing questions on every runner's mind and as you start to increase your distance and time on your feet here are a few of my golden rules for staying as injury free as possible.
When to Give Your Body a Break
Even if you did everything you could to prevent a running injury that ping in your knee or tweak in your foot may still happen. Unfortunately, no one is injury-proof but before you panic, wait to see if the pain resolves itself within 24 to 36 hours. If it does, and you feel OK after your next run, that probably means you’re good to go, however if you limp or notice a change in your running style, you need to stop and address the issue as this can lead to long term damage that may mean you have to stop running permanently.
Feeling sore but still able to make it through a run without too much misery? Just back off your distance for a week or two and stick to easy runs. You’ll need to skip any Thursday night speed sessions too until you’re back to at least 75 to 80 percent of your usual weekly mileage.
One strategy when you’re feeling pain is to practice a shorter stride, particularly for Achilles, knee and hip pangs. Working toward small, quicker steps takes pressure off your joints, reducing further injury risk. Icing after a workout is also helpful for acute injuries when inflammation is evident, like swelling, redness, tenderness or pain; use the cold compress for about 10 minutes at a time,
If you are in so much agony that you can’t leave the settee head to a sports therapist to get it checked out and take the following advice;
Why isn't the answer to a running injury ever "Just keep running a lot.....it will go away"
Running is hard as you don't see the results over night, it takes time, commitment and consistency but one of the things that running does teach you is to have patience.
So what happens when you have put in a lot of hard work and you end up having a setback through injury? You have to be extra patient and being injured forces patience upon you. You have to create a plan B if you experience setbacks and that can be hard...especially if it seems that everyone else is doing so well. A week can seem life a lifetime...
If you have experience a set back don't be too hard on yourself, the professional name for it is Runner's Withdrawl Syndrome and it is very real and can have a huge psychological effect on your state of mind. Fortunately running injuries are rarely permanent and runners can come back stronger if they have a comeback plan and try to be patient.
Here are my top tips for helping you have a comeback plan
Don't deny that you are injured, you have to deal with it and accept your injury but you may also experience some anger and depression and refuse to stop running, however you will reach a point where the pain forces you to stop. You will be able to return to your training plan if you allow the healing process the time that it needs.
Stick to a routine, walk when you would have run, by sticking to your normal training routines you will still gain the psychological benefits of regular exercise.
Keep up running friendships and support others in races, supporting is a great way to experience the race without the stress and it is appreciated by runners so much.
Cross train so that you don't end up feeling lethargic, go swimming, do yoga or pilates, strength training to build up muscle strength, go biking, it will really help fill the void.
Most importantly return to running with realistic expectations, start slowly and build gradually, set goals and don't do too much, too soon with too little recovery.
You will find your own rituals before a race but here are just a few bits of advice that might make any run/race a little less stressful.
The day before your race eat sensibly, drink plenty of water and set out your race gear so it’s all ready for you in the morning. Set 2 alarms just to make sure you don’t over sleep and eat breakfast even if your stomach is churning, try not to eat anything that you haven’t eaten before, you don’t want it reacting to you half way through the race. In your bag make sure you have warm layers for after the race, paracetamols, tissues, something to eat after the run (some kind of sandwich made on wholemeal bread and a packet of crisps and some water).
Set off in plenty of time so that you don’t get stressed trying to park and if possible try to car share with someone as it makes the whole experiece more fun. Make sure you drink plenty of water or lucazade, again don’t try anything new, but it’s fine to not have anything an hour before the race starts. You will want to go to the toilet a million times this is just mother nature getting rid of the nerves, Imodium is very good for calming the bowels down, but if you haven’t taken it before a run before, don’t start now. Just accept the fact that you will need to poo a lot of times before the start line (And so will the rest of the runners hence antibacterial hand wash after you have been to the loo and a strong stomach for the smell!).
We will do our usual RV warm up so try and find our flag if it is being used or get to the arranged place as soon as you arrive. As soon as you get to the venue, most big runs have organised warm ups but I always like to do ours first. After the warm up make your way to the starting line and keep moving around as much as possible and don’t panic, you are part of one big show and everyone is nervous around you. As the race gets nearer stand with your hands on your hips like you are superwoman/man and mentally prepare yourself for what is ahead and tell yourself you are invincible.
The race itself
Pacing – You will suffer for a long time if you don’t pace wisely, if you start too fast or surge too quickly you’ll exceed your threshold and waste glycogen supplies, going too fast sets you up for failure, the result being you will either a long struggle over the last several miles or you may even drop out. Run at a comfortable pace for you and only you know what this is. So monitor your pace and race the mile you are in, try not to overthink the race and try to visualise it in your mind, set goals to get to certain mile markers or landmarks and then set out to knock them off one at a time. Take walk breaks if necessary, if you are having a bad day then don’t panic, alternate running with walking if your body just can’t keep running non stop. Better to finish than stubbornly run until you can’t take another step or cause serious injury. Ease into the run, see the first 2 miles as a warm up, stay as calm as possible and save your mental energy for the second half of the run. As you ease into the middle section of the run, let your mind wander, but don’t let your pace slip. At halfway see where you are, how do you feel, if you feel good this will give you a mental lift, if you are off a little bit and struggling then readjust your time goal. Break the last miles down, think mentally it’s an RV session and you can do it. Again just live in the mile and be assured that it will end, as you near the finish line, the crowds will give you a great boost and remember your sprint finish. Find your super strength and use it, it may be a sprint finish, it may be that you never give up no matter what, but focus on your achievement. Remember most importantly run tall, pockets to sockets and snap, crackle and pop! Trust your training, your body doesn’t know how far it has to run, it will just find the energy to meet the demands of the run so trust this and don’t give in to negative thoughts. And remember to smile, collect your goodie bag, pick up your bags and come and share your story with us all at the RV meeting point. Good or bad, it’s just part of the running journey.
Sticking with a plan and staying on track can be hard when you have seen so much progress going from 0 to 5km in a relatively short period of time as you may just want to run and run and run.
For those of you who would like to increase your distance from a 5k run to trying the challenge of a 10k, I have uploaded an 8 week plan which fits in nicely with the New Forest 10k run on the 10th September.
The Art of running
Anyone, and I mean anyone can run the first mile of a race at a fast pace, we can all boast that we were on for a sub (30min 5k/60min 10k/2 hour half/4 hour marathon) but it's how you finish the last mile that counts. There seems to be a rush to run as quick as you can but in my experience this often leads to disaster in many ways, you can become injured and be out of running for a long time, or you hated the actual race so much it's put you off running because you didn't like the feeling it gave you or you were sick at the end or for a few days afterwards. Getting the pacing right for any run/race is an art and can take many years to perfect it, there is a fine line between running a PB success or a PW disaster. This fine line can be the difference between whether you hang your trainers up for good or just chalk it down to experience, dust yourself off and try again.
Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves and we can get caught up in the lead up to a big RV event and getting caught up and running a race just a bit faster or a bit slower can change the energy system that our body is using and this can lead to disaster.
What makes it more difficult is that your sense of reasoning goes out of the window as you stand on the start line, adrenalin pumping, heart racing and crowds cheering you on. My advice? Give your pace in a race some serious thought before you get to the start line.
It may interest you to know that every current world record from 1500m to the marathon has been set by the athlete running a negative split....what is a negative split? A negative split is where you run the second half of the a run faster than the first. Basically you don't run your first mile as though you are Paula Radcliffe (Paula holds the world record marathon time for any women and her first half of this run was run in 68.02 minutes and her second half was run in 67.23 minutes).
The Science bit....
Distances of 10 miles or half marathons should be run at or slightly above your lactate threshold pace....WHAT???!!!
"While lactic acid contributes to why we hurt at the end of races, lactate is actually a source of energy. Your body breaks down glucose for energy and a by-product of this process is lactate. During easy running, your body reconverts and recycles this lactic acid back into energy and efficiently expels the waste products. Therefore, the production of lactate will remain relatively constant while running at an easy aerobic (talking) pace, which doesn’t require a huge demand for energy.
As you continue to run faster and demand more energy, the production of lactic acid will slowly increase. At some point, whether it be too fast a pace or holding a steady pace for too long, the production of lactic acid will soar and your body will no longer be able to convert lactate back into energy and expel the waste products. This point is commonly referred to as your lactate threshold. The lactic acid then floods into system, muscle power is diminished and you begin to slow down (I refer to this as the bear jumping on you!) Ultimately, lactic acid is one of the largest contributors to why you slow down as the race goes on."
The idea is then that if you run slightly slower than this threshold for as long as possible, particularly at the start of the race, you prevent waste products from building and causing fatique.
The aim is to get to the last quarter of the race with energy to kick those last miles and finish strong. To do so you must start the first mile or two of a race slightly slower than goal pace.
You can soon learn where your lactate threshold is and this is a great thing to do and on a few runs you should listen to your body and your breathing and get a sense of where you feel your threshold is. I often race without a watch so that I can pace on how I feel and this has worked for me in the past. Remember it's a journey and sometimes we will have epic fails after months of training but as I said, running is an art and a science, a bit like a recipe, we see what works, what doesn't, take a bit out or add a bit in until we find what works. So running is a bit of both, an Art and a Science.
Here are some recipes for you to try out, they are full of nutrition and very simple to do. Any of the first 5 recipes are great for pre-race evening meal and there are some brilliant ideas for pre-race lunch and breakfast. On race day itself for breakfast, if you can't face porridge then brown toast with peanut butter is a great alternative and very easy to transport. I often have have toast wrapped up in tin foil for early race starts and for London marathon I had the pancakes as again these were easy to transport. Take a banana as well to keep you topped up, eat this an hour before the start. And remember to take some sandwiches for after the race, it's important to eat within an hour of finishing your run as this aids recovery. I like to have cheese and pickled onion sandwiches afterwards as this is a real treat for me so have something that you enjoy and again will transport easily.
Gazpacho Chicken Salad
I have this the evening before a run, not only is it tasty but it's easy to make and very transportable.
Slice a cucumber into long strips with a peeler; squeeze out any excess water. Toss with 500g of shredded chicken, 2 chopped peaches, 350g halved cherry tomatoes, 1 sliced yello pepper, ½ diced red onion, half a small, day-old baguette cut into cubes (or WHOLEWHEAT PASTA), and 75g feta cheese. Drizzle with a dressing made with 80ml extra virgin olive oil, a few leaves of fresh basil, 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar, and ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper. Serves 6
One Pot Chicken Casserole
Another good option for the night before a race
4 Skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 large onion, cut into chunks
4 large carrots, cut into chunks, 2 large parsnips peeled and cut into chunks
2 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Juice of 1 orange
1 tbsp clear honey
1 handful of rosemary leaves
1 litre of chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Pre heat oven to 180
Put the chicken breasts into a large casserole dish and surround with the onion, carrots, parsnips and potatoes. Mix together the garlic, orange juice honey and rosemary and stir into the dish. Finally, pour the stock over the chicken and veg and season.
Cover and cook for 45-60 mins until the vegetables are all cooked through and the chicken juices run clear.
Italian-style beef stew
1 onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
300g pack beef stir-fry strips, or use beef steak, thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
400g can chopped tomatoes
sprig rosemary, chopped
handful pitted olives
In a large saucepan, cook onion and garlic in olive oil for 5 mins until softened and turning golden. Tip in the beef strips, pepper, tomatoes and rosemary, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 mins until the meat is cooked through, adding some boiling water if needed. Stir through the olives and serve with mash or polenta.
tbsp olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
200g pack cherry tomatoes
3 tbsp pesto
3 tbsp crème fraîche (half fat is fine)
fresh basil, if you have it
Heat the oil in a frying pan, preferably non-stick. Add the chicken and fry without moving it until it takes on a bit of colour. Turn the chicken and cook on the other side. Continue cooking for 12-15 mins until the chicken is cooked through. Season all over with a little salt and pepper.
Halve the tomatoes and throw them into the pan, stirring them around for a couple of minutes until they start to soften. Reduce the heat and stir in the pesto and crème fraîche until it makes a sauce. Scatter with a few basil leaves if you have them, then serve with rice and salad or mash and broccoli.
Chicken is packed with protein, B vitamins and zinc, which boosts the immune system. The nitrates in the spinach help boost oxygen delivery to your muscles.
Choose your wholemeal pasta
500g fusilli, conchiglie or penne (cooked)
Then mix in…
300g cooked and chopped chicken
400g baby spinach
55g sliced sun-dried tomatoes
40g diced feta
Toss with the dressing
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp Italian seasoning
¼ tsp black pepper
And garnish with…
Toasted pine nuts
Feta and Sweet Potato
A great recovery meal after a training session
4 Sweet Potatoes
1 bunch of spring onions chopped
100g feta cheesed crumbled
Green salad leaves and cherry tomatoes
Pre-heat the oven to 200oC and pierce each sweet potato several times with a fork, then bake for 40-45 mins until cooked through and tender. Remove from the oven and cut in half
Prehear the grill to medium and very carefully scoop out the sweet potatoe flesh, keeping the skins intact. Mix the flesh with the spring onions and feta cheese, then spoon the mixture back into the empty skins.
Grill the sweet potatoes for 5-10 mins until golden brown and serve with a tomato salad.
Scramled egg pitta
This is a good breakfast or lunch option the day before a race or just if you fancy a change to your normal routine.
2 large eggs
1tbsp skimmed milk
1 large wholemeal pitta bread
Salt and pepper
Apple chutney to serve
Whisk up the eggs until fluffly, season with salt and pepper and pour into a non stick saucepan over a low heat and cook for 2-3 mins until stiffened. Toast the pitta then slice open, spoon in the scrambled egg mixture into the pocket of the pitta and serve hot with the chutney.
Coconut and Banana Pancakes
Perfect for post run brunch
2 bananas, 45g ground almonds, 15g desiccated coconut, 1 medium egg, 1-2 tbsp milk, olive oil for frying, 1 tbsp chopped pecan nuts, 1 tbsp honey.
Mash one of the bananas in a bowl and stir in the ground almonds and coconut. Beat in the egg, adding enough mild to the mix to make a thick batter. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and place four spoonfuls of the batter in the pan, keeping them separate. Cook for 3-4 mins until golden underneath, and then flip over and cook for a further 3-4 mins on the other side. Slice the other banana and serve on top of the pancakes, sprinkled with the chopped pecans and a drizzle of honey.
I love this as it's full of protein and easy to make. You can have this with pitta chips (see below)
2 Peppered smoked mackerel skinned and boned fillets
2 tbsp cream cheese
2 tbsp fat free Greek yogurt
Juice of a lemon
1 Put everything in a bowl and mash up, you can use a food processor or blend with a fork.
2 Put in a bowl and over with cling film, this is good with pitta bread, wholemeal crisp rolls or oatcakes. Keep refrigerated for up to 2 days
Why: Pitta provides fibre and slow releasing carbohydrates to power you through any afternoon slumps. These baked versions are far healthier than any shop-brought crisps.
Ingredients (serves 2)
2 x wholemeal pitta bread
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Slice the pittas in half, width ways, so they are into really thin slices, then cut into smaller triangular shapes.
Grease a baking tray with the oil and then lay out the pitta. Season and put into the oven for about 10 minutes until crisp.
Mushroom, spinach and Halloumi Salad
Another lovely lunch alternative
1tbsp olive oil
300g mushrooms, thickly sliced,
1 garlic glove, crushed
300g halloumi, drained and sliced
150g cherry tomatoes
150g baby spinach leaves
1 handful of basil leaves
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp clear honey
2 tsp dried oregano
Heat the oil in a non stick frying pan. Add the mushrooms and garlic and fry for a few minutes until the mushrooms soften. Remove from the pan and leae to one side.
Add the halloumi slices to the pan and cook for about 4 mins, turning once, until golden on both sides. Remove from the pan and leave on one side.
Put the tomatoes, spinach and basil in a large salad bowl. Add the mushrooms and halloumi and toss gently to combine.
Mix together the balsamic vinegar, honey and oregano in a small jug, then pour over salad and serve straight away.
You will find your own rituals but here are just a few bits of advice that might make the race a little less stressful.
The night before your race eat a sensible meal, drink plenty of water and set out your race gear so it’s all ready for you in the morning. Set 2 alarms just to make sure you don’t over sleep and eat breakfast even if your stomach is churning, try not to eat anything that you haven’t eaten before, you don’t want it reacting to you half way through the race.
Wake up at least 3 hours before starting time and give yourself plenty of time to fuel up, dress, recheck your bags. I always arrive at least 2 hours early as there is too much at stake if you arrive late, large crowds make simple tasks take longer, it’s just the way I am.
If it is warm then stay in the shade as much as possible, if it’s cool, wear a throwaway outfit or plastic bag to keep warm, but don’t overdress as you will warm up as you run.
Don’t waste energy with a running warm up but don’t get stiff by standing for too long either. Every 15 minutes or so move around but don’t stretch before you run.
Know where the starting line is and as the race gets close position yourself so not to get caught in a crowd and not be able to make it to your planned starting spot. Don’t panic, it’s part of the show in big races and everyone is nervous around you.
As the race gets nearer stand with your hands on your hips like you are superman and mentally prepare yourself for what is ahead and tell yourself you are invincible ☺
The race itself
Pacing – You will suffer for a long time if you don’t pace wisely, if you start too fast or surge too quickly you’ll exceed your threshold and waste glycogen supplies, going too fast sets you up for failure, the result being you will either a long struggle over the last several miles or you may even drop out. Run at a comfortable pace for you and only you know what this is.
So monitor your pace and race the mile you are in, try not to overthink the raceand try to visualise it in your mind, set goals to get to certain mile markers or landmarks and then set out to knock them off one at a time.
Take walk breaks if necessary, if you are having a bad day then don’t panic, alternate running with walking if your body just can’t keep running non stop. Better to finish than stubbornly run until you can’t take another step or cause serious injury.
Ease into the run, see the first 2 miles as a warm up, stay as calm as possible and save your mental energy for the second half of the run. As you ease into the middle section of the run, let your mind wander, but don’t let your pace slip. At halfway see where you are, how do you feel, if you feel good this will give you a mental lift, if you are off a little bit and struggling then readjust your time goal.
Break the last 3 miles down, think mentally it’s an RV session and you can do it. Again just live in the mile and be assured that it will end, as you near the finish line, the crowds will give you a great boost and remember your sprint finish. Find your super strength and use it, it may be a sprint finish, it may be that you never give up no matter what, but focus on your achievement.
As soon as possible after finishing, drink at least 500ml of water and eat some carbs and continue reloading over the next few hours.
Remember most importantly run tall, pockets to sockets and snap, crackle and pop! Trust your training, your body doesn’t know how far it has to run, it will just find the energy to meet the demands of the run so trust this and don’t give in to negative thoughts.
And enjoy xx
There are only a couple of weeks before our some big RV outings, Bournemouth, Pieces of 8 and of course the GSR. I know some of you are feeling nervous and believe me nerves are normal and part of the process. Sometimes it’s about how we manage those nerves, you may have been injured and are worrying about how you will do on race day as you don’t want to be injured again and not be able to run again if you push yourself too far. Your training may not have gone to plan because life has got in the way. You may have had a rubbish run in the last few days and thought how am I ever going to run 8/10/13/26 miles!. Whatever you are feeling nervous are about, remember, it’s how you deal with these nerves and stress that paves your running journey, you may have to adjust your expectationsm, you don't have to prove anything to anyone, it's your journey and hopefully you have learnt a lot along the way. For instance did you ever think you would be able to run 6/8/10/13/20 miles ever and enjoy it? Have you enjoyed the structure of the training and seeing how far your body will go, don't you just love your body and what it can achieve? Wasn't it great fun all running together? Seeing all the multi-coloured tshirts running along on a Sunday morning, isn't it great to share this experience with others and feel less isolated, people sharing experiences brings us closer together. My words of advice to you now is there are no more miles that will make a difference to your race so make sure you don’t do anything stupid to risk not making the start line, don’t chase the miles.
Your reduction in miles in these coming weeks mean that you should feel fresh ahead of your race and even if you feel strong, don’t be tempted to do any more than you should, ease off as you are nearly there. You may even feel rubbish as you reduce your miles and I bet you are all questioning your ability as to whether you will actually be able to run the race, but this is normal as your body is preparing for the goal as it stores up all of your energy, you are a thoroughbred horse disguised as a plow horse whilst you are tapering, you can take your disguise off on the start line.
Because the hay is in the barn,(I like this northern phrase) my advice over the next few weeks is
Take off your watch, it is relaxng to run with no time goals or restraints, just run as you feel
Drink plenty of water
Eat well and sleep well (recipes to follow)
Prepare yourself for the physical and mental challenge that awaits you, respect the miles, do your best. If you don’t achieve your goal, don’t worry, failure is also good, it teaches us that it’s ok to fail and it’s ok to get back out there and try again, my super-strength is my tenacity and dogmatic nature, I just never give up!
Adjust your goals, if you don’t feel up to the challenge then that is ok, if your training has been hampered by injury, lack of time or family commitments then just think positively about being able to run and be part of a magical carnival with people cheering you on with enthusiasm and admiration.
Whatever you do and how ever you do it, the key to keeping motivated is to keeping running fun :)
So here we are on week 8 of Run for 60. Life may have got in the way and you may have not made it to training and it might have been hard to find the incentive to keep on going especially if you have just lost your mojo and can’t get your head around focusing on this new goal. Finding your motivation to get out and run especially when you have finished work and the last thing you want to do is leave your cosy front room, it’s easy to put the run off. Running is hard and it’s difficult developing mental toughness, you remember the feeling of finishing a run when the hardest thing to do is just put your trainers but running with friends can give you an incredible confidence boost which you can build upon and this will help you get out there again next time. So here are my running tips for starting to enjoy running again.
1 Have fun. If you don’t have fun running you won’t stick with it. Do the majority of your runs at a relaxed pace and enjoy life around you, tune out or just chat but make sure escape the daily pressures. My main piece of advice, don’t make running another stress in your life, if you do you could burn out and running won’t be fun anymore. Run without your watch, you’ll be surprised how relaxing it is.
2 Register for races. Having a goal is a great way to motivate yourself, sign up to a couple that you know other people are doing, or do a different park run. Make the races achievable and reachable but adjust your goals if life gets in the way (See point 1).
3 Remind yourself of the health benefits. Why did you start running in the first place, was it to improve fitness, loose weight, feel good about yourself. Remind yourself of how far you have come from when you first starting running and every time you get out and run you reinforce that positive behaviour which in turn helps to achieve your goal. Remember those feelings of personal achievement and pleasure when you completed your first 5k from the beginner’s group, keep those feelings in sight.
4 Prepare your clothing before you come home from work. Have everything ready to go so you don not need to spend anytime preparing or even thing about what you need. The same goes with preparing what you are going to eat in the day so that you don’t get tempted to have a large meal when you get in as you are so hungry.
5 Invest in the right running clothes for running . Having the right clothing is as the seasons change is essential, so invest in the right clothing and it will make getting out so much more bearable.
6 Plan rewards. Plan some rewards for yourself, short term and long term, this could be massages, pedicures, manicures, buying new clothes. Anything that works for you, remember running is hard but it’s also meant to be fun, remember the benefits are so rewarding and in my opinion so worth the effort. x
As some of you are beginning to run longer distances in preparation for the longer races that you are doing, GSR, Bournemouth and Gosport half, I have written some basic advice about fuel and hydration. This topic area is huge so I’ve condensed it down to what I think are the most important things.
After 60-90 minutes of running, you begin to deplete glycogen supplies, basically carbs that are stored in your muscles that are the critical fuel for you to keep going now that you are increasing your miles. Fuelling up with carbs before and during running helps you to avoid “hitting the wall” which is where you run low on glycogen and feel like you are running through treacle. Lack of fuel prior to running can cause mental tiredness and dehydration not only limits performance but it can also be life threatening.
Now is the time to start practising drinking and taking on fuel as you start to increase your miles on your training runs. This is just general advice, try different things and see what works for you.
1 If you wait until you are thirsty to drink, it may be too late. Don’t wait until late in the run or until you feel hot; it takes up to 20 mins for the fluid to be absorbed. So drink at least every 30 to 45 minutes for easy training runs and at least every hour in cooler weather. Water is adequate to replace lost fluids for runs up to an hour but beyond that replace fluids and improve performance by hydrating with sports drinks. Sports drinks supply a low concentration of carbs, you would have to drink a lot to equal the fuel power of a gel.
2 Energy gels eg TORQ, SIS, GU contain a number of ingredients that provide instant energy in the form of 30g of carbs. The gels are easy to consume when on the run although can be quite sticky and I would advise having one of these half way into your training run and possibly 2 miles towards the end. Again, have a play around with them, see what works for you. Try pinning the gels onto you top if you don’t fancy carrying them in your pocket. Alternatively you could eat 6 jelly babies as this would give you the same amount of energy and they aren’t quite as sticky and are cheaper.
Experiment with various energy sources before, during and after training runs and practise races until you find what works for you. Please don’t eat them for the first time before or during an important race since they may upset your stomach.
Breaking down the jargon
A tempo run is a sustained effort at lactate threshold intensity, which is the fastest pace that can be sustained for one hour in highly fit runners and the fastest pace that can be sustained for 20 minutes in less fit runners. Tempo or threshold runs serve to increase the speed you can sustain for a prolonged period of time and to increase the time you can sustain that relatively fast pace. These runs should include warm up mileage, the increased effort in the middle of the run and then cool down miles at the end. These runs can be as little as 3 miles.
Interval workouts consist of repeated shorter segments of fast running separated by slow jogging or standing recoveries. This format enables a runner to pack more fast running into a single workout than he or she could with a single prolonged fast effort to exhaustion.
The main thing is to try something different and see what works for you, have some fun, push yourself in a safe environment and see what happens ;)
A recovery run is a relatively short run performed at an easy pace. Recovery runs serve to add a little mileage to a runner’s training without taking away from performance in the harder, more important workouts that precede and follow them. Recovery runs are best done as the next run after a hard workout such as an interval run. Do your recovery runs as slowly as necessary to feel relatively comfortable despite lingering fatigue from your previous run.
A base run is a relatively short to moderate-length run undertaken at a runner’s natural pace. While individual base runs are not meant to be challenging, they are meant to be done frequently, and in the aggregate they stimulate big improvements in aerobic capacity, endurance, and running economy. Base runs will make up a bulk of your weekly training mileage.
Generally, a long run is a base run that lasts long enough to leave a runner moderately to severely fatigued. The function of a long run is to increase raw endurance. The distance or duration required to achieve this effect depends, of course, on your current level of endurance. As a general rule, your longest run should be long enough to give you confidence that raw endurance will not limit you in races. There are many spins you can put on a long run, such as progressing the pace from start to finish or mixing intervals (described on the last page) into the run.
A progression run is a run that begins at a runner’s natural pace and ends with a faster segment at anywhere from marathon down to 10K pace. These runs are generally intended to be moderately challenging—harder than base runs but easier than most threshold and interval runs. Because they’re a medium-effort workout, the recovery time is less than more intense sessions.
A fartlek workout is a base run that mixes in intervals of varying duration or distance. It’s a good way to begin the process of developing efficiency and fatigue resistance at faster speeds in the early phases of the training cycle, or to get a moderate dose of fast running later in the training cycle in addition to the larger doses provided by tempo/threshold and interval workouts. They can also serve as a less-structured alternative to a traditional interval session such as a track workout
Hill repeats are repeated short segments of hard uphill running. They increase aerobic power, high-intensity fatigue resistance, pain tolerance, and run-specific strength. The ideal hill on which to run hill repeats features a steady, moderate gradient of 4 to 6 percent. Hill repetitions are typically done at the end of the base-building period as a relatively safe way to introduce harder high-intensity training into the program.
AS WE ARE NOW RUNNING FOR A LONGER PERIOD OF TIME, IT IS IMPORTANT TO FUEL YOUR BODY READY FOR THE EXERCISE AHEAD. THE AREA OF FUEL AND HYDRATION IS HUGE BUT HERE IS MY ADVICE
It is a fine balance between eating healthily but also wanting to eat more as you are using up energy when you run. And if you don’t have enough fuel in your body you will feel like you are running through treacle. Lack of fuel prior to running can cause mental tiredness and dehydration which can make you feel rubbish when you run. Throw the bathroom scales away and don’t reward yourself too much for a run with food, yes you are burning calories but not as many as you think, I run over 40 miles a week and I still have to watch what I eat. I put weight on when training for my first marathon as I thought I could eat what I wanted, and I found to my cost that I couldn’t. Here is my advice
As a runner your body needs carbohydrates and these are stored as energy in the muscles and liver as glycogen, they are then quickly and efficiently released when you are active or exercising. You also need good fats as these are an essential source of fuel and energy but they are released more slowly. Protein is essential in running as you need it for repairing of the muscles. To make your body work more efficiently you need water for effective storage of glycogen, basically the water keeps the glycogen in your muscles until you need it.
Glycemic Index is a numerical measure of how quickly foods containing Carbs which boost your blood glucose levels after eating and high GI foods- 0ver 70 fill you quickly and give a fast burst of energy however they leave you hungry again a short time later whereas low GI foods below 50 fill you up but raise blood glucose slowly giving a more continuous energy release.
So if you are getting you energy from high GI foods these will fill you up quickly and give a fast burst of energy however they leave you hungry again after a short time later. Try not to skip meals as you won’t be storing any energy ready for your run and you could make you feel rubbish and if you are not drinking enough you won’t be keeping what carbs you have in your muscles ready for your exercise.
The majority of fruits and vegetables fall in low to medium GI foods whilst some processed foods eg cornflakes, white bread are high in GI. Look at improving your quality of food intake so stage your food intake regularly through the day to maximise storage, be aware of the high GI index of carbohydrates so that you maximise balanced energy requirements and make sure you drink at least 2 litres of water a day. I’d advise when you come in from a run that have food that is high in protein to help repair muscles.
I suggest that you optimise how much nutrition you have in one day, make sure you have foods that are high in nutrients and vary what you eat day by day so mix it up a bit, have stewed fruit for breakfast, black pudding or ham and eggs. Try to have porridge or a smoothie for breakfast this will release energy slowly. Snack on fruit and nuts, banana nut butter sandwich and try to cut down on your sugar content in your food so aim for food that has no more sugar content than 6/7g per 100g. You will find that low fat foods have more sugar so go for full fat and have Greek yoghurt (Total 0% fat is best for low sugar and then throw in some blueberries or raspberries, add a bit of honey or maple syrup).
Try having hummus and whole-wheat pitta bread for lunch with cut up peppers, celery, carrot sticks. Have oat cakes with nut butter on them in the afternoon when there is a dip in energy
Try different things and see what works for you, eat at least 2 hours before you run and if you are really hungry before your run you can have a banana to keep you going. Try to be balanced in your food intake and then the odd burger at the weekend won’t do you any harm
When to know when to give your body a break from running
Running can be uncomfortable especially when you are just getting started but it should never hurt. Aches and pains in the feet, ankles and shins are common among runners and to be honest most running injuries will go away in time. The best predictors of an injury are previous injuries so sometimes you have to think back, maybe you broke a leg or sprained an ankle as a child, this trauma can rear its head later on in life especially if you have just taken up running and haven’t exercised for a long time. We tend to lose our flexibility the older we get so it is so important to look after yourself once you start to increase your mileage.
An important part of running is learning to recognise the warning signs of an injury early. Mild stiffness or tenderness that doesn’t go away after a day or two’s rest or after the first few minutes of a run is one of the first signals.
Unfortunately, no one is injury-proof but before you panic, wait to see if the pain resolves itself within 24 to 36 hours. If it does, and you feel OK after your next run, that probably means you’re good to go, however if you limp or notice a change in your running style, you need to stop and address the issue as this can lead to long term damage that may mean you have to stop running permanently.
Running is hard as you don't see the results over night, it takes time, commitment and consistency but one of the things that running does teach you is to have patience.
You have to be extra patient when you are injured and being injured forces this patience upon you. You have to create a plan B if you experience setbacks and that can be hard...especially if it seems that everyone else is doing so well. A week can seem like a lifetime...
Here are my top tips for helping you have a comeback plan
1. Don't deny that you are injured, you have to deal with it and accept your injury but you may also experience some anger and depression and refuse to stop running, however you will reach a point where the pain forces you to stop. You will be able to return to your training plan if you allow the healing process the time that it needs.
2. Stick to a routine, walk when you would have run, by sticking to your normal training routines you will still gain the psychological benefits of regular exercise.
3. Keep up running friendships and support others in races, supporting is a great way to experience the race without the stress and it is appreciated by runners so much.
4. Cross train so that you don't end up feeling lethargic and fat, go swimming, do yoga or Pilates, strength training to build up muscle strength, go biking, it will really help fill the void.
5. Most importantly return to running with realistic expectations, start slowly and build gradually, set goals and don't do too much, too soon with too little recovery.
Having run with women for a number of years, I get to hear about all sorts of problems that a lot of people don’t talk about, as you know I am a very open book and I’m happy to talk about things that other people may be a little bit embarrassed about.
Running is an incredibly effective and immediate stress-reducing activity, you can often hear me saying the running cures everything. It clears the mind, stimulated the release of “happy” hormones, it can increase your energy levels, help you to lose weight, gain fitness, the list is quite long.