So You Think You Wanna Be a Runner?
The Holistic Approach to Getting Started and Staying Injury Free to Enjoy a Lifetime in the Sport
"Hello! My name is Luan and I am a runner."
That is, I guess, the kind of statement that could quickly lose me friends at a dinner party in polite society! Everyone knows how tedious runners are about running...
Except other runners don't think "tedious", they think "excited", "enthusiastic", "committed" ….
What is it about our sport that gets us that way...? And how do we get to keep on feeling that way about it?
As an ardent runner and personal trainer, I get approached A LOT by people wanting to take up or progress their running. I love it! New runners are so enthusiastic and that enthusiasm is contagious! I feed off their energy in such a positive way, whilst also trying desperately (and often in vain) to curb their enthusiasm enough to help them get the foundations right.
Yes, I often have to be the party pooper at this early stage. You see, a lifetime of running has to be built from the ground up... and the majority of new runners just aren't patient enough to spend time laying strong foundations. And we all know that a house built on weak foundations will, at some point in the future, come crumbling down around our heads.
The fact is, even seasoned runners are rarely patient enough with the foundation stages of their training which is why so many of them end up being (very miserable) injured runners!
And yes, that is an 'event' I have very definitely been to, done and got the t-shirt myself over the years... and on many occasions! This may come as a massive surprise to a lot of people who know me right now, as I am known for banging out month-after-month of 50+ mile weeks, and doing events lasting 24 hrs and longer, mostly, it seems, without a niggle!
"You're so lucky you don't get injured" is a phrase I have heard so, so often! And yes, luck does play a part, as do possibly genetics and biomechanics, amongst other factors. But what a lot of it comes down to is 4Ps - patience, planning, perseverance and personal care .
I started my adult running 'career' around the turn of the millennium, initially running the shorter distances up to 10km, and over the course of a few years, I built my way all the way up to marathon distance. It was a gradual progression, and once at marathon distance I held steady, running one or 2 marathons per year pretty much for the next decade. I followed meticulously planned training schedules, which dictated both on a weekly and monthly basis when I should be pushing myself beyond comfort and when I should be resting and recovering. More often than not, if I did not follow the plan, it was because I "felt really good"
- I would then push the pace or distance when I shouldn't and end up with a niggle! IT Band syndrome, calf pulls, Achilles tendon issues... all awaited me beyond my 'patience-zone'! That was when I would turn up red-faced at my sports therapist's door and admit the error of my ways, and await her deft 'fixing' of my ills - it cost me dearly! And there was nothing worse than the slow, tedious return back to full fitness that would have to ensue to ensure I did not re-injure myself!
I eventually learned from all of those mistakes and developed a more holistic, consistent and steady approach to training which has stood me in good stead to run the crazy distances I now maintain when in full training. This approach has also formed the basis of the ethos at the heart of Tailored Integrated Training.
So where do we start? Let's take one of those Ps - Planning!
What do we need to get started? Well, beyond a bag of enthusiasm, running is actually one of the cheapest and most accessible sports to get started in. You don't actually need much beyond a pair of training shoes! (And yes, I hear all the snorts of laughter from all the seasoned runners out there who have to constantly justify their running 'budget' to their significant others!!! There's a whole load of difference between needs and wants here... and a bunch of 'nice-to-haves' and 'better-to-haves' somewhere in the middle!!!).
So let's talk the very basics - trainers. I'm going to say something pretty contentious here... you do not need fancy running shoes! To get started in running, you just need a comfortable pair of trainers or similar - something that you are comfortable in and can happily exercise in for half an hour. That's it! All the fancy colours, bells and whistles of different sole patterns, materials, sole plates, heel rise etc can be discussed later. For now, just have something comfortable!
What you wear on the rest of your body is pretty much your choice... t-shirt and joggers, shorts and t-shirt, top-to-toe lycra, gimp suit... (ok, maybe not this week!) … it's your call - go with what suits you right now and we can discuss the finer intricacies later.
One word of warning to the ladies, however... please, please, please get yourself fitted for and kitted out with a proper sports bra! I don't care how big or small those girls are, they need your support right from the off! The Coopers ligaments that hold those girls up will never recover once they have been stretched and we none of us want to be tucking them into our waist-band in the future! (not to mention it gets damned uncomfortable!)
Ok - we have our 'kit' up together, what now?
If you are total newcomer to the world of running, or are just returning after injury, can I strongly recommend Couch to 5km? There are numerous apps and websites detailing similar plans, but here's one for you to look at as a start:
The biggest criticism of this plan is how slowly it builds, and that people feel that they can progress much quicker than it suggests. Yes, you can, but remember the 'patience' P here! It is better to build slowly and sustainably, than quickly and risk wrecking those foundations! There are so many factors to running fitness and all those ducks have to be in their own little rows to get this right - your mind may be eager right now but your muscles have to adjust, your connecting tissues (tendons and ligaments) have to strengthen, your heart and lungs need to adapt! Pushing even a little too much too soon may see you hitting fatigue, soreness or even injury...
For those wanting to push a little beyond the 5km distance, there are similar apps and plans for progression from 5km to 10km, like this one:
Again, the progressions are slow and steady, and the time commitment reasonable.
Want further still? Most running websites, books, magazine etc will outline you a plan to train for a half marathon or even full marathon, but beware that the time commitment can be much more challenging at this level. Pacing becomes much more critical to ensure that you are getting a balance of hard and easy workouts (many runners fall into the trap of running their 'easy' workouts too hard, compromising their performance during their 'hard' workouts and risking injury). Planning becomes key in scheduling the workouts to fit around work and family commitments. This is where it can really pay off to engage the assistance of a qualified coach - we can look at all the different aspects of your life and compile a plan that truly fits and continuously adjusts to your personal circumstances.
Seriously, don't go getting too eager! We know you'll love the progress you're making with your new hobby and the new-found energy it is giving you, but hold yourself back and stick with whatever plan you are following. That means if the plan says it's an easy or recovery run, you need to run it slow - and that could mean running up to 2 or 3 minutes or so per mile slower than your quicker paced runs! If the plan gives you a 3 mile run, don't get out there and think "Hey, I feel good, let's keep it going for another 3!" - I know this sounds crazy... that's because it is! But you'd be amazed how often it happens!
Conversely, there are going to be days when you just don't feel like getting out there. It's cold and raining, it's getting dark, you're exhausted after a long day at work, and hungry... we have all been there, but trust to the fact that you will feel a whole lot better once you have been out and done that run and put a tick in that box. This does, however, lead us onto the last of our '4Ps' ...
We're not talking intimate hygiene here... although obviously that goes without saying!!! What we mean by this is taking responsibility for the care of your body. I'm willing to bet you wouldn't expect your car to give you years of faultless driving if you didn't occasionally give it fresh oil, a service, new tyres etc. The same should go for your body. Eat well, stretch at least once or twice per week, and listen to any warning signs it may give you. It may be that the 'don't-want-to-run' feeling we described above has been present all week, it may be that your 'tight' calf just isn't getting any looser and maybe is getting worse, or that your stomach just doesn't settle for the rest of the day after that morning run ... or any other symptoms that give you that 'not-quite-right-feeling' for more than a day or two. In this case, speak to your coach, your massage therapist, your PT, or nutritionist and get some help to get things back on track.
This is why, here at Tailored Integrated Training, we are qualified across a range of disciplines including personal training, coaching, nutrition and massage. It gives us chance to work with every aspect of our athletes' lives to try to keep everything in balance - the Holistic Approach...
Yes, running is a simple sport (Welcome Aboard!!!), but taking time to look at everything that goes on in our lives around it, and considering all aspects of our physicality that are involved in it, will reap endless benefits for both our health and general well-being, as well as a long and prosperous running career. What are you waiting for - go lace up those shoes!!