Welcome to Week 7
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. There has been a lot of money invested over the years by England Athletics to encourage people to get moving, campaigns like “This Girl Can” “Couch to 5k” “Run and Talk” “Run Together” as running is seen as a “good” form of stress release and can help benefit people with mental health problems.
BUT what happens when running becomes unproductive, what happens when running saps your energy, disturbs your sleep, even raises your stress hormones, causes you physical aches and pains and completely zaps you of your motivation. What can you do when instead of jumping out of bed on a Sunday morning you have reached a point where you have no energy to barely make yourself a cup of tea and crawl back into bed?
Stress can be a good thing and aid you in your running performance, the increase in heart rate at the start of the race, the adrenalin pumping can help you achieve your PB’s. A few nerves when you turn up at a new training session will also help you run up that hill or enable you to run faster on another lap. Also stress is good for when we train, we are seeking this ‘optimal’ level of stress that leads to improved performance. From a physical standpoint, it’s actually quite easy to determine the appropriate amount of volume, intensity, and recovery that should result in improved performance. If we do workout X and long run Y and take a rest day, we should see improvements. While that looks good on paper, it often doesn’t translate to real life. Why not?
What we need to consider is that stress from other areas of your life can erode the body’s ability to recover from running. Worry, anxiety, pressure at work as well as feelings of being completely overwhelmed by life, all these forms of psychological stress can cause fatigue, illness, sleep problems, irritability and so much more.
The thing about stress is that it doesn’t recognise the difference between a hard hill session or whether you are worrying about paying the bills, your body responds in the same way. On a very basic level you have an increase in the stress hormone cortisol which is one of the key components in your fight or flight response and whilst these levels are increased, if we don’t rest, recover and adapt to the stress these hormones can stay in our body and may cause long term illness. Nowadays we seem to be exposed to stress constantly, these stressors can range from major life events like moving house/divorce/Christmas etc. to daily hassles like losing your house keys, job stress, social media (seeing how many pb’s people have achieved/ seeing how successful and beautiful your old school friend is/how many amazing holidays everyone is having) road rage, again the list can be quite endless.
How does all of this fit into running? The stress response we have from either major life events or daily hassles can result in an overtaxed body that finds it hard to recover from the physical stress of running. We can get caught up on just the physical side of running, for example what our weekly mileage is, what our pace is per mile and how much effort we have put into a particular training run. Sometimes when it goes wrong we tend to look at just the physical self to see the cause of the issue. What you need to do is look at other areas outside of your running, not just the physical part but also our emotional, social, intellectual, environmental and occupational part as well. All of these components effect our running, if you have had a busy, stressful day at work and are mentally and emotionally drained then you cannot expect your body not to be affected by your day, so if you put a demand on it like running later on in the evening you must be prepared for the physical component to be compromised. If you ignore your everyday stressors and continue running and training without proper rest and recovery, then over a period of time you may experience a gradual accumulation of tiredness that slows or even stops the natural adaptation response to stress. Unfortunately, this can happen slowly, it can creep up on you and it can lead to injury, illness and in some cases exhaustion.
All my training plans focus on physical factors, how many miles per week you need to run to achieve your end goal, they do not consider any other components that may affect your performance. All of your stressors in your life should be treated in the same way as physical stress in terms of how it affects the body. That doesn’t mean that you should stop training every time something stressful happens, it just means that you should be kind to yourself, listen to your body and fit the training plans around your life. You can move the workouts around to fit with you and your lifestyle, if you’ve had a busy week make the weekend run an easy enjoyable one, rest and recover so that your body can adapt.
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.
Homework Week 7
Start off slowly, get into a comfortable pace and run for a total of 45 mins, walk when you want or just slow your pace down.