The art of looping in RunVerity

As you know I feel passionately about running being inclusive and I spend a lot of my time talking and encouraging people that if they join RunVerity that they will never be left behind because we have a looping back system. I’ve watched first hand the huge impact that the simple act of looping has on the morale of the rest of the group and so I want to share with you the reasons why we loop.  You will never be left on your own at the back watching everyone disappear into the sunset, you will also not be the person on your own at the back that everyone loops back for, the looping is very fluid, it flows so people are looping and running and looping.

1 Looping back keeps everyone safe, especially as the nights get darker as it keeps us all in a tight group.

2 Looping back helps us work together as a great team and creates the supportive group community that people speak so highly of on Voice for Whiteley. We all remember how scary it is to venture into a new group and knowing that RunVerity members have respect for each other eases the transition into this wonderful sport.

3 Just waiting at the top of a hill or corner isn’t fair, it doesn’t help the slower runner who has to work extra hard to catch up, whilst the faster runners take a breather, when you loop back you stop the quicker runners getting more rest than the other runners who may need it.

4 I believe in it, from the fastest to the slowest runner in RunVerity, we’re all part of the family of running, and seeing the moment when the quicker runners loop back to run with the group, where I really see RunVerity’s teamwork in action is without doubt one of my favourite things about my job.

So here’s how we do it in RunVerity,

Try to run just 2 abreast and to the right of the path and set off running at your own comfortable pace. When a large gap (100m) develops between the front runners and the rear runners, the runners at the front of the pack loop back, indicating with their left arm and turn left and run back to the back runners.

The front runners instigate the looping and everyone follows even if you are in the middle of the pack. There is no need to alter your pace when running back up to the front. The runners at the back should keep their steady pace if the group gap stays small.

Basically if you are at the front of the pack you should loop back. Please do not loop back if you are in the middle of the pack as this causes people to bump into each other.

If you are unable to loop because it is taking all your effort to get round the planned route then you just need to walk back rather than run but keep moving, standing still and waiting is really discouraged in RunVerity.

Everyone in RunVerity buys into the art of looping, 99% of people who run with me have come from the beginner's course, remember runners have been with me for over 3 years now and they have improved and become stronger runners and if they weren't looping then I haven't done my job properly as no one would have progressed.  Be assured you will not be left behind.

Why running is harder when it’s hot outside

It seems to be a lot easier to get out of the front door when the weather is warmer, the days are longer and the clothes are lighter.  So much easier than the cold, dark winter nights when sometimes just moving was an effort due to the number of layers you had to wear.

So why is it harder to run in the heat? The combination of running and being exposured to the sun makes the body work harder to regulate the body’s core temperature. Blood has to cope with a dual role, it must cool the body by transporting heat to the skin’s surface and supply oxygen and fuel to the working muscles.  Your body may not be able to cope with this and as a result your internal temperature may rise to a dangerous level which results in heat exhaustion.

The warning signs of heat exhaustion are feeling faint, dizzy and disoriented; if you become seriously fatigued, it is best to stop running straight away.

 

Tips for running in hot weather

Hydrate well

Drink before, during and after runs to replace any lost fluids, because you are losing fluids through sweating you need to keep well hydrated; sweating is the body’s way of cooling the body.  Sweat consists mainly of water but it also includes other nutrients such as sodium, chloride and potassium, you can easily replace all of these nutrients by hydrating with a sports drink. Try not to wait until you are thirsty before you have a drink, drink before you become thirsty.

Place a couple of water bottles in the freezer, one to take out running with you and the other to come back too once you’ve finished.

Dress cool

Lightweight and breathable fabric that wicks sweat away is the best option when running in the summer months. A pair of shorts, vest top and socks are the best options; you need to maximise the exposure of the skin surface so that sweat evaporates. Avoid cotton T-shirts as this material absorbs sweat and this will make the t shirt heavy and uncomfortable. Try and wear a cap or you could pop a bandana in the freezer before you run and pop around your neck just as you are heading out.

Run at the coolest time of the day

Either run before the sun rises or in the evening as the sun sets.  Try and avoid running during the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest. The air quality is also at its best in the morning, making this an ideal time to run. Cool down your body before you set out by having a lukewarm shower first thing in the morning

Change your routes

Try and run along shady routes, off road running is great during the summer months as tress offer more shade

Wear sunscreen

Wear a high factor sport sunscreen as skin that is sunburnt loses its ability to sweat therefore your ability to keep cool is minimized putting you at a higher risk.

Adjust your expectations

Start slowly on your runs, run at a steady pace that feels right for you and avoid worrying about how fast or slow you are going.  You need to also be prepared to adjust your pace during the run as well, expect to feel more tired than usual as the heat zaps your energy. Run on how you feel and listen to your body; look out for the signs of heat stroke. Remember, the first two weeks of running in the sun should be enough time for your body to adjust. 

Let your body temperature gradually return to normal, spray yourself with water and drink a

 

Homework

Warm up followed by the running drills.  Try to take the emphasis off time now and focus on how you feel and what your breathing sounds like so that you are in control of how much you do.  Walk whenever you want, slow it down, even if you think you could walk faster, you are still running so be kind to yourself and take it steady.  You might surprise yourself.

 Aim to be out running for 35 mins and if you have any questions then please just ask. 

 

 

Eating the right fuel for running

Running is a great way to burn calories but sometimes we can get caught up in a bit of a trap, we may start thinking that because we have run we can eat what we want (which we can't) or we may be so keen to loose weight that we don't eat enough.  Running one mile roughly burns 100 calories. So it is a very fine balance between needing to eat more as you are using up more energy and therefore more hungry and making sure you eat heathily.  My advice is to throw the bathrrom scales away along with the diets and start to eat as though you are fuelling your body to meet the demands that you are now putting on it by running. Try not to reward yourself too much when you come in from a run, I run over 40 miles a week and I still have to watch what I eat, I really can't eat what I want.  I put a large amount of weight on when I was training for my first marathon as I thought I could eat what I wanted. I saw my long runs were burning 2,000 calories on top of normal walking around day to day activites and trust me I made sure I re-fuelled with snickers bars, cakes, take aways, you name it and I found to my cost that I couldn’t.

We are led to believe that skinny equates with not only faster, but better; I don't agree with this belief, I haven't weighed myself since I started running 18 years ago.  I've never been a skinny minny, I've got boobs and hips, I am now happy with my size but it has taken a long time to get to this point. My weight has fluctuated over the years and in the "running" world I was always put down by how "big" I was in comparison to the fast, skinny runners. I was once compared to a Russion Shotputter!  Trying to drop too much weight in an unhealthy shortcut way can make you miserable, physcially and emotionall as well as leading to injury, try and remember our accomplishments are about so much more than a number on the scale.

So how do you make sure you are eating all the right things as well as loose weight and not eat rubbish? If I had the answer I'd be a millionaire, I don't have all of the answers, but I can share what works for me which is having as many nutrients on my plate as possible.  This way I can eat healthily and that doesn't mean boring, it means fruit, nuts, egss, bread, pasta, sweet potatoe, stewed fruit, black pudding, fish, pitta bread, hummus, feta cheese, the list is endless. This also means that the odd burger or a cake after a run really won't do any damage.

As a runner the reality is if you don’t have enough fuel or water prior to running it can cause mental tiredness as well as making you feel like you are running through treacle which can result in you having a rubbish run. And if you've just started out on your running journey the runs need to feel good, otherwise we can loose motivation.  

Your body needs carbs 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.  Low carb diets are not good for active people but it's about choosing the right carbs, wholemeal bread, pasta, pitta bread, wholemeal wraps are good choices. You also need good fats as these are an essential source of fuel and energy as they are released more slowly. Protein is essential in running as you need protein after a run to help repair the muscles.  And to make your body works more efficiently you need water for effective storage of the carbs, basically the water keeps the carbs in your muscles until you need it.

 

The following foods are nutrient-dense carbs that should form the base of your diet.

Breads, cereals and wholegrains (eg oats, pasta and rice), fruit, starchy vegetables (eg potato, butternut squash) legumes (eg lentils, beans, peas and peanuts) dairy products (eg skimmed milk, full fat Greek yoghurt).

Nutrient poor carbohydrate

Foods and fluids that contain carbohydrate but minimal or no other nutrients

All sugars (eg dextrose, sucrose, honey, molasses) soft drinks, energy drinks, lollies, carb gels, sports drinks and cordials and any type of white bread.

This shouldn’t be a major part of your everyday diet.

High-fat carbohydrate

Foods that contain carbohydrate but are also high in fat

Pastries, cakes, chips, crisps and chocolate.

Occasional foods that are best not consumed when training/biking to work/running

Getting your food right can be quite tricky , basically food has a GI (Glycemic Index) number which measures how quickly foods containing Carbs can boost your blood glucose levels after eating, ie give us energy.  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, for example you may have cereal for breakfast, Special K or Bran Flakes but actually the sugar and GI score are so high that by 11am you are starving hungry. This is an example of a food that fills you up but not for long. Low GI foods that fall below 50 fill you up but they raise blood glucose slowly giving a more continuous energy release which means that you don't get that hungry feeling so quickly after eating.

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 and eat small and oftern so that  you can maximise storage.

I suggest that you optimise how much nutrition you have in one day, make sure you have foods that are high in nutrients, so fruit, nuts, porridge, wholemeal pitta, hummous, cooked meats etc and vary what you eat day by day. You could have stewed fruit for breakfast with some Greek yoghurt and a bit of honey or 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.  My rule of thumb is to 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 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.

Week 3 Session and Homework

Warm up followed by the running drills.  The session was warm up running for 1 min followed by 4 mins with recovery, then 6 mins with recovery followed by 4 mins segments with recovery.

If you can get out during the holidays that would be great, do the usual warm up then run for 1 min with 1 min recovery, build up to 2 mins with 1 min recovery, slow the pace down and then aim for 5 mins, with 1 min recovery inbetween.  It's important to keep a steady pace and see how it feels with the aim being of making sure you do not get too much out of breath.  Try not to get too focused on time though and I know this can be hard, just see how it feels to run remembering everything that you can be shown over the last few weeks.  Aim to be out running for 30 mins and if you have any questions then please just ask. 

Warm up and Cool down routine

Warm up

Butt Kicks

Run 10 metres ahead of you with your thighs more or less locked in a neutral position and try to kick yourself in the glute with your heel on each stride. Focus on keeping the rest of your body still and simply flicking your lower leg backward.  Do two or four reps of 15 kicks with each leg.

High Knees

Taking short steps with a very quick cadence, alternate thrusting knees upward until your thigh breaks a plane parallel to the ground. Focus on soft, flat footstrikes near the ball of your foot while using your core to lower your leg down slowly instead of letting it crash to the ground. Do two to four reps of 15 lifts on each knee.

Bounding

On a flat or very slightly downhill slope, alternate thrusting into the air off one leg in an exaggerated skipping motion. The focus should be on a powerful leap into the air and a quick (but not super fast) cadence. Your arm motion should be synced to the opposite leg’s action, holding steady for the brief moment while you’re off the ground. Do three to four reps of 10 leaps on each leg.

Grapevines

Standing upright with your head and torso facing forward, move laterally in one direction by placing your trailing leg in front of the lead leg. Then move the lead leg in that same lateral direction and place the trailing leg in front of the lead leg. Maintain a fluid motion with your arms rotating in the opposite direction from the legs. Do two to four 50-meter reps to the left and right, facing the same direction for each lateral movement.

Slow Skipping

Skip with a moderate leap off of one foot and return to the ground and immediately leap off the other foot, main- taining a compact arm swing as if you were running. This slow-action skipping drill should have a staccato rhythm. Do two or four 50-meter reps.

Running Backwards

Although it will seem awkward at first, try to replicate your forward running motion while moving backward. You’ll still be pushing off of your forefoot and swinging you arms, but you’ll be lunging backward with your hamstrings and using core muscles to stabilize differently than you’re used to while moving forward. Focus on form, not on speed. Do two or four reps of 50 to 100 meters.


Cool Down

Shoulder rotation

Rotate shoulders forwards and back.

Deltoid stretch

 Pull a straight arm across your chest and hug with the other arm.

Triceps stretch

Hold a bent arm by the elbow behind your head.

Quad stretch

Hold your foot against your glute, keeping your knees together and your standing leg soft

Groin stretch

Sit down with the soles of your feet together and push out your knees with your elbows.

Glute stretch

Sit down and place one bent leg over a straight leg and gently hug your bent knee with both arms towards your chest.

Hamstring stretch

One leg in front of the other with a straight knee, hands on bent knee of hips, sit back on support leg with bottom out and back straight, bring the toes up to the nose of the straight leg

Ankle rotation

Stand on one foot, rotate the ankle on the other foot in one direction, then the other.

Week 2 Session and Homework

Warm up followed by the running drills.  Running for 2 mins and 1 minute recovery for 25 mins. If possible try and get out once more, follow the warm up and cool down routine above and run for 2 mins with 1 min recovery, repeat this 3 times then aim for 3 mins run with 1 min recovery for a total of 25 mins.  Focus on running from your ankles and not from your hips and if you feel your shoulders hunching, pull your core in and drop your shoulders down.

How to improve your running technique with and without a buggy

Running is the one sport that people think that they don’t have to worry about technique, running is simple isn’t it, you just put your trainers on and run; if only that was true.  By improving your running technique you can improve as a runner by running more efficiently and subsequently running faster. Poor technique can lead to you becoming tired more easily as you are not running efficiently and this can lead to injury if you have bad form.

As a running coach I do not believe in changing a runner’s running style, we all have our own unique way of running and there is no perfect running form.  However, I do believe that by making the following small adjustments you can become a better runner.

Running with a buggy uses different muscles and there is a different technique needed when running with a buggy.  The main thing and the most important thing in my opinion is think first of the safety of your child and not your run.  You need to be in control of your buggy at all times; if you run one handed with a buggy you are not in control of the buggy and you may put your baby at risk.  Run at an easy pace and it is important that you are running comfortably with the buggy making sure you adjust the handles of the buggy to fit your height.

Posture                    

You should run tall and in the direction that you are travelling in, your shoulders should be relaxed, back and down, try running with your shoulders bunched up to your ears, this should feel uncomfortable and unnatural.  You would soon tire if you continued to run like this over any distance. Relax your shoulders and keep your head high, look ahead of you with your jaw relaxed and your mouth open.  Run from your ankles and not from your hips, imagine that you have a bowl of water in your pelvis; the idea is that you don’t spill the water so keep your hips stable and balanced when running, try not to leak any water out of the bowl.

Arms                         

To see how important arms are when you run  try running 10m with your arms above your head or behind your back. By doing this hopefully you will see how out of control and uncoordinated you may feel and how your arms balance you.  When running with a buggy you are unable to use your arms to drive your legs but you can use them to keep you balanced and upright.  Both hands should be on the buggy and your core should be tight and controlled, just pull the belly button into your back.  Having a strong core enables you to drive your legs up and off the ground and pushing a buggy gives you extra strength and stability as long as you don't run hunched over.

Make sure there is no energy leakage and that you don't collapse when you tire with each step.

Hips   

If you run with high hips this will keep you in the tall upright posture that you should be aiming for, before you run just tuck your tailbone (your bottom) in.  This pushes the hips forward and enables you to run tall.

Foot strike              

There is no right way or wrong way to land on your feet, generally as long as you land underneath your center of gravity and don’t over stride this will help improve your leg turnover, so imagine that you are “popping” off the ground.

Running without a buggy will seem so much easier if you practice the following;

arms

Bend your arms at the elbow, about a 90-degree angle and drive your elbow back, as though you are hammering a nail into a wall.  This stops the arms crossing your body and consequently twisting your torso.  If you run with a strong arm drive your body will look for symmetry therefor your arms should match your legs, and it’s easier to drive our arms back when you are tired than driving the knee up but by doing this, trust me your legs will follow.

Hands           

Your hands do not want to be clenched into a fist, they need to be relaxed; clenching them  wastes too much energy. Imagine that you have a budgie in each hand and you are gently carrying the budgies so that they don’t get squashed, if you clench your fists you will kill the budgies; remember “Don’t kill the budgies!”  In other words, keep your hands relaxed and slightly cupped.

 

 

Week 1 Session and Homework

Warm up followed by running drills.  Running for 2 mins and 1 minute recovery for 25 mins. If possible try and get out once more, follow the warm up and cool down routine and run for 2 mins with 1 min recovery for a total of 20 mins.  Focus on your posture and your technique and if you feel yourself tiring then pull up through your head and shoulders.

When is it time for new trainers?

There is no definite answer to this question as it depends on so many factors, however in my experience one thing is for certain that running or starting running in battered, worn out shoes is the leading cause of running injuries and can be as bad for you as running in shoes that just don’t fit you.

Running shoes are a consumable so even though you may have had them for a long time but not run many miles in them, you do need to be mindful of whether they are doing the job of protecting your feet/ankles/knees/hips as with any other consumable they do have a shelf life.  However, they are generally more expensive than many other consumables and people do treat them as long term products and tend to hold on to them for a long time.

Trainers are designed to have a shelf life, if you think of the cushioning of the midsole of a trainer as being similar to bubble wrap so with every step you take some of the bubbles burst and just like bubble wrap whose bubbles have been burst you end up with an un-cushioned and flat support system where there was once cushioning. 

The knock on effect of this cushioning breaking down is that the rest of the support and structure of your shoe also breaks down which can result in you not running in the same way as you first did when you were originally fitted for your trainers.  This means that your feet, calves, quads, hamstrings and hips may not go through the same motion as they first did when you were first fitted for your trainers.  The knock on effect of this is that the body will compensate for this mismatch and this compensation leads to not running as efficiently as you once were which can result in niggles or a long term injury.

As the breakdown of your trainers happens slowing, you don’t just wake up one morning and the trainers are no longer effective, it may be hard to pinpoint exactly when you need to replace them.  Here are my top tips for recognising the signs of when to replace your trainers

  • You start to have niggles in places that you’ve not had niggles before, it may be that you are starting to have aches, pains or injuries that you have not had before
  • You have run over 500 miles (again this is difficult to determine, some professionals advise 300 miles, others up to 800 miles but weather and terrain can also play a part in the deterioration of the trainer so think about where you have run)
  • Even if you have had your trainers for a long time but you haven’t run the suggested miles in them, adverse heat and cold can break the trainers down if they have been thrown in a cupboard
  • The rubber on the outsole has worn down on one side more than the other
  • If your trainer bends in the middle easily (the support has therefore broken down)
  • There is little or no give when you press firmly on the inside of the front of the shoe

My advice is if you are unsure it's worth going to a specialised running shop, take your old trainers with you and see what they say.  Most reputable shops won't sell you trainers that you don't need.

I have also embedded a YouTube clip that will help those of you who have weak glutes, just some simple exercises to do at home, the move that I showed you last night is on this clip.

5 Easy Exercises for Stronger Glutes

These easy exercises can be done anywhere to help strengthen your gluteal muscles. Glutes (A.K.A. butt, bottom, backside, booty or toosh), hold a lot of power and strengthening your glutes can help you become a better runner, cyclist, walker, jogger, skater, swimmer, dancer, squater....you get the idea right?!