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Running is bad for you

At one point or another I imagine you have been told a fact about running that turned out to not have even an ounce of truth.

When I first started running I asked advice from several fellow runners and ended up receiving a variety of hints and tips, some at complete polar opposites. This has stuck with me, and I have decided to put straight a few “facts” that have bothered me over the years.

 

Stretch before a run

run

 

I’ll be honest, this surprised me when I found out that it wasn’t necessary to stretch before a run. Having been told throughout school to stretch before exercise, I assumed that this would also be carried across to running.

 

Not the case.

 

Static stretching (holding the stretch for a period of time) can actually cause muscles to be strained. Instead, you should focus on warming up the muscles and getting oxygen circulating. Dynamic movements like legs swings, arm swings, and high knees are best. Try to do this around 10 minute before the run.

 

That said you should still stretch after a run, as it helps your muscles return to the normal state and will reduce any stiffness or soreness you might feel after a run.

 

You should cool down afterwards

 

“If you don’t cool down you will strain a muscle, or injure yourself”. Turns out this isn’t quite true! Although it was believed that muscle soreness was caused by a buildup of lactic acid, this theory has since be disproved.

 

The idea behind a cool down is to help your body return to its normal, pre-exercise state, but its is not required. Your increased breathing rate will do the job as it is.

 

The body is designed to cool down by itself, using heavy breathing to help remove excess heat, waste products, and restore oxygen levels.

 

Running barefoot is better

Footsteps in sand

Although I live in a city, and wouldn’t dare run barefoot I have often thought that being closer to nature must be a better way of running. Back to basics as it were.

 

Barefoot and minimalist running blew up a few years ago and really took the world by storm, but it can actually increase the risk of injury.

 

Due to the fact that many adults cannot run properly, combined with the sort of terrain that we tend to run on, we actually need running shoes to help support our feet – most people’s joints are not strong enough!

 

It’s possible to run barefoot, or minimally whilst still staying safe, but if you grew up always using running shoes remember to ease yourself in. Start small distances and get used to it, rather than jumping right in, be smart with your goals.

 

(A few hints and tips on goal setting: thoughtsandstuff.com/goal-setting-are-you-being-realistic/ )

Running destroys your knees

 

I have been told numerous times “Running is bad for your knees, it’s not healthy”. Initially I just ignored these comments as I quite enjoy running, but it turns out that there is no greater risk of joint issues or osteoarthritis for someone who does run, than for someone who doesn’t run.

 

In fact, for healthy and in shape runners, it is the complete opposite, and knee cartilage actually gets stronger under the pressure. That said, there may be a risk if you are overweight, this extra weight could cause mobility issues and put your joints out of alignment.

 

Flexible is faster

 

Being flexible may help your stride, but it will not help your speed. Due to being able to stretch further, your running efficiency is decreased and your explosive speed is reduced.

Runners with the most lower extremity problems like shin splints and lateral ankle pain are generally the most flexible in the ankle joint and more likely to injure themselves.

(I wrote an article on how to run faster: thoughtsandstuff.com/3-ways-to-run-faster/ )

 

 

Let me know if you have heard any pieces of “advice” that were just little white lies, some of them can be quite amusing. I’d love to hear yours.

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Running Injuries

The 5 Most Common Running Injuries

Most of the time injuries occur when you push yourself too hard. No one is immune to injury but we can take precautions to make sure we are not as likely to hurt ourselves.

 

I have listed a five of the most common running injuries, and the best way to avoid and treat them.

 

Runners Knee. This occurs when the cartilage in the kneecap wears down. This can cause pain around or behind the kneecap. It is caused by running downhill, muscle imbalance and the repetitive force of running on pavement. To avoid this it is advised to stick to uphill or flat terrain, preferably on softer ground. If you are unlikely enough get this, experts recommend cutting back on the mileage and using a knee brace.

 

Shin Splints. If you are a runner and you have never experienced shin splints you are one of the lucky ones! If left untreated it is one of the worst injuries to hinder your workout. They can be caused by an increase in the frequency of a run, a more intense run, or poorly fitted shoes. To prevent shin splints research has found shock absorbing insoles can help, as well as insuring you are have the correct footwear. To stop the pain, you can try icing your shins for 15-20 minutes, and keeping them elevated.

 

Sprained Muscles. This is caused by creating a small tear in your muscle, generally by overstretching. Common muscles to sprain for a runner are the calf and hamstring. The simplest way to ensure you don’t pull a muscle is to properly warm up, and cool down before and after a run. If you do pull a muscle, remember R.I.C.E. Rest (up to five days), Ice, Compression, and Elevation

 

Blisters. These are caused by friction, usually due to your shoes or socks rubbing against your skin. Heat and moisture can increase the likelihood of blisters, which explains why many runners suffer with blisters in marathons. The best way to reduce the chance of blisters is by wearing a good pair of synthetic socks, and if one does appear you can drain it with a sterilised needle and then cover with a plaster.

 

Chafing. This is the result of friction between skin and clothing, or skin and skin. The result is skin rubbed red raw, or even worse! To stop the sting between your thighs you can wear a pair of longer, tighter running shorts, or capris. If the chafing is occurring on your nipples a couple of plasters can help, or some sort of lubricant.

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Statue pushing Ball

Beating Resistance – Get in the KNOW

Resistance, or procrastination is something we experience on a daily basis, whether it’s starting on a new project or going for a run. If you are anything like me it strikes just when you finally get up to do something, suddenly every distraction in the world shows up.

 

“I’m a bit thirsty, just a quick drink…”

“Maybe I should check Facebook…”

“Oh, it’s too late now, I’ll go for a run tomorrow”

 

Even if you come up with an excuse that seems legitimate to you, you are still not running!

 

The concept behind resistance is a simple one, the brain is anticipating what is new, different, or difficult, with the aim of keeping us comfortable, gives us the easy option. For many of us we have practiced this routine so many times that it is hardwired and strengthened to become the default setting.

 

To break out of the resistance loop you need to K.N.O.W Your Resistance.

 

  1. Know resistance is inevitable. It’s always going to occur, don’t take it to heart.

 

  1. Notice it. As soon as you start making yourself aware of resistance in your day you can create distance between it and yourself.

 

  1. Open to the experience of it. How does it feel? When you recognise the feeling associated with it, and the type of thoughts you feel when experiencing it you can focus on how to move away from it.

 

  1. Whack it! (Or “Welcome it and Let it Go” if you’re feeling compassionate). As soon as you are aware of the resistance you may feel disconcerted. Resistance keeps you in your safe zone. Understand why you are feeling this way and push past it.

 

This process helps understand where resistance is being introduced into your life, but a simple solution to the problem is to get up and go. By allowing procrastination to complete its cycle over and over only strengthens its hold on you. Every time you push back you allow yourself to achieve more and more.

 

Maybe create a set of rules. No Facebook before a run, once those shoes are on you can’t sit down! Anything to help you get out of the door!

 

Whatever you do, don’t leave it until tomorrow!

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Goal Setting

Goal Setting – Are You Being Realistic?

Setting yourself goals when running is a brilliant way to stay motivated and make sure you build on positive habits. Unfortunately many runners are unrealistic with their goal setting and end up risking injury, or giving up in frustration! Knowing what kind of goals to set, and knowing how to see what goals are unrealistic are two of the most important factors. With this in mind, it is also natural to aim for the sky, these goals give you something to aspire towards (just not too quickly).

 

It is important to remember that you are less likely to achieve your goals if you don’t enjoy the process. Rather than focusing entirely on the process, make sure that you celebrate every improvement. Approaching each hurdle with a positive attitude will help no end!

 

Tip 1: Write down your goals

Studies have shown that you are more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. Thinking about a goal is only part of the process, by writing it down it makes the thought all the more real. Write it down, reflect on it, adapt it to fit your schedule. Look at it every day to reinforce it.

 

Tip 2: Be Specific

If your goal is to “be a better runner”, how will you know when you have achieved it? Vague goals only discourage because you never feel any closer to the finish line. By setting a goal such as “I want to improve my time in the next marathon by 2 minutes” is specific. Use tangible words in your goals such as measurements, and maybe even a date that you will have succeeded by.

 

Tip 3: Measure Actions as well as Progress

As well as setting goals based on how fast you can run, or how long you can run for, consider setting goals on how often you will train, or exercise. By tracking your actions you can make sure that you are getting up and out of the house, rather than just focusing on the numbers. This approach can be very useful for tackling vague goals. Goals such as “Run for half an hour a day” is better than “Be fitter by the summer”.

 

Realistic Goals

Run every other day

You might say to yourself “Im going to run every day for the next month”. Don’t do it! You will wear yourself out and be less likely to pick yourself back up afterwards. Instead allow yourself a chance to build up your stamina and fitness before jumping all in.

 

Finish a minute faster

Instead of aiming immediately for a 6 minute mile, see how quickly you run a mile on an average day and try to speed that up each run. Every run try and finish 10-15 seconds faster than the previous. This healthy competition with yourself allows you to better your time, without being unrealistic.

 

If you have any tips on setting goals, let me know in the comments below!

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Running right

The Three Biggest Running Form Mistakes

For many, the beauty of running is the simplicity. Back to basics, two feet on the ground, run to clear your head. Unfortunately if your technique is wrong, each run will feel like a chore and  your body will be less efficient.

 

There are hundreds of articles and posts that will try and walk you through the perfect form, step by step (pun intended), but if you are like me and you just want to know how not to hurt yourself whilst enjoying a run, then these three points should help get you on track to improving your running form…

 

Slow Cadence

In simple terms, cadence is how often your feet touch the ground. The average runner will have a cadence of 160 – 170 steps per minute, this means the runner is over-striding which encourages heel striking and poor posture. Your foot should make contact with the ground directly below, rather than in front of your body. A higher cadence such as 180 foot strikes per minute will help this.

 

Tip: Set a metronome to 180bpm (beats per minute) and try to run to the beat (or for more enjoyment find music with that tempo. Hey Ya – Outcast is one of few…)

 

Unrelaxed Upper Body

Don’t be so tense! A build up of tension in your upper body and face can cause stiffer movement in your arms, shoulders and legs. This stiffness is a runners worst nightmare, it is inefficient! If you take a look at almost every world class runner, each one looks relaxed when they run, thus allowing themselves to be more in control. This control not only allows for a better run, but a more enjoyable, less stressful experience.

 

Tip: Keep your hands loose and below your chest, make sure you don’t punch forwards and throw off your gait. At every 1/2 mile raise your shoulders to your ears and squeeze tight for 15 seconds. This relaxes the muscle by contracting it hard.

 

Lack of Mobility

Mobility is the ability to move your joints freely. This is the most important element when trying to run fast and stay healthy. Partial range of movement in your joints can be from a variety of reasons: previous injury, tight muscles, or sedentary lifestyle.  If your lower body lacks a range of motion expect a higher risk of injury to follow.

 

Tip: Incorporate dynamic stretches into your warm up. Dynamic stretches are rhythmic in nature (think arm circles), and prepare the body for the run. This type of stretching will also maintain body temperature and reduce stress on the body.

 

Overall tip: If you have been running for years and have never had any problems with injury or recurring aches and pains there is probably no need to change your form. Runners with experience tend to become less efficient when they make changes to their form.

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Running Track

3 Ways to Run Faster

We all want to run that little bit faster, and a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows that runners on average have got faster over the past decade. Although changing your running style takes time, you can introduce changes right away to improve your speed.

 

Intervals

Although you may want to start sprinting as soon as you hit the pavement, its better to plan where you want to put on the speed. Time yourself doing a few short intervals at a pace that you are comfortable with. This way you can set goals and try to improve on these times the next time you run. Set small goals, only 15 seconds at a time, but these small improvements add up quickly. Keep trying until you succeed.

 

Planks

Planking can help improve the positioning of your pelvis if done properly. If you plank before you sprint the posture carries over and increases your run time. 6 sets of planks, each held for 30 seconds is the optimum amount to increase your speed.

 

Tips for good planking:

  • Squeeze your glutes to stabilize the bottom half of your body
  • Avoid collapsing your lower back
  • Lengthen your spine by lifting your head away from your shoulders
  • If you are struggling with full planking, start off with planking using your knees.

 

Your Arms

Throw your arms back hard. The important part of the arm phase is how hard you swing them backwards. Although this may sound counter-productive two things happen when you do this.

 

  1. You gain elastic assistance from the pecs meaning you do less work
  2. You will tend to shorten the swing on the front, making your transition faster.

 

Your feet follow your arms, so the faster you pump, the fast you run! Keep in mind to stay relaxed while you do this. Tensing up will only slow you down.

 

These three tips should help increase your run time (as well as strengthening your core muscles). If you have any other tips for reaching a faster running speed let us know in the comments below.

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Feet up Steps

Hit 2016 Running – A 4 Point Plan To Get You Started

Christmas and the New Year have come and gone and tens of millions of people around the world have made resolutions for the next 12 months. New Years goals about getting into shape are the most common, probably brought on by the binge drinking and food comas.

Unfortunately many people fall short of these aims. This isn’t to say that these people are lazy; rather their system is not working for them. It is one thing to say “I will run 3 times a week”, but that is not enough. You must use tactics that work to help you stick to your New Year’s goals, whether they are to run more, eat healthier or get a new personal best. Use this 4 point plan to get running this year.

 

1. Get a plan, Get a Program
If you don’t have a plan in place then you are unlikely to achieve your goals. This saying can be used for all your resolutions, fitness or not! If you want to run a marathon in the summer make sure you know how to get to that stage.

Beginners can use the Couch to 5K program like Val did (read about Val here) that will take you from not running at all, to completing your first 5k run.

It also helps to keep track of your runs, how long you went for, how far you ran. This doesn’t have to be anything smart and sexy; a piece of paper on the side of the fridge will do, as long as you can see your progress.

 

2. Shout about it
Tell your friend, family, co-workers what you want to achieve. If you are constantly being asked how for you have progressed there is less of a chance that you will hang it up to dry. It also helps being proud about what you are doing, enjoying the run or the outcome can really help motivate then next one.

 

3. Make it work for you
Convenience is the key. If you don’t have a gym in your office, or within 10 minutes of your house don’t get that membership. Driving to the gym is an inconvenience; it is too difficult to “try hard” to go to the gym.

Instead get up a little earlier and run before work. It is hard to skip a run when there are no other pressing obligations (aside from going back to sleep, I’ll leave you to not press snooze). If this doesn’t work, maybe take your running clothes to work and run home.

 

4. Make it a habit
They say it takes 30 days to make something a habit. If you can start, and stick with it for 30 days then you won’t event notice when February rolls around.

Try and stay consistent as well. The number one way runners improve their performance is through consistency, one step at a time, one mile at a time, one day at a time. When you’re consistent, you develop and maintain a solid base of running fitness from which you can improve.

 

Life is short. Be pro-active about reaching your goals and keep pushing yourself to get better. You can succeed by changing little things in your routine to make your run easier.

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