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Beginners Running 2

When I’m approached by somebody who tells me that they want to start running apart from a general health history I always ask a few really important questions. The first question is; “have you tried to run before and if so how did it go?” The second question is; “do you have an undisclosed agenda?” in other words have you set yourself a secret target, a target that you don’t want to share with friends and family just in case you don’t make it. Secret agendas are really important to know about because it can have a major impact on how people approach their training. A simple example, if someone want to run a 5k Park Run in three months time and I set them a training regime to get them to 5k in four months, they’ll force their training and probably injure themselves.

I’m a great believer in a walk / jog approach to running. I mentioned in previous posts that humans are not natural fast runners, but we are amazingly efficient walkers and joggers. So my approach, quite simply is; let’s get better at what we are naturally good at before we try to do things that are fundamentally more difficult. There are several benefits to this approach and to appreciate these benefits let’s consider the constituent parts of running:

1. Cardio Vascular (CV) conditioning- this is the part everyone focuses on, basically; can I run without getting out of breath?

2. Structural Integrity - are your joints, tendons, muscles and ligaments sufficiently conditioned? Most of us need quite a lot of work in this area in order to avoid injury.

3. Running Skill - there is in fact a correct way to run and many wrong ways to run. Children, if left to their own devices, will run well but once we put shoes on them and put them on hard ground they will adopt bad habits that will last a lifetime. The exercises that develop Structural Integrity will also develop good running skill. Far more so than simply pounding the streets in pain repeating bad habits step after step.

CV fitness is what most people think about when they think about running and that’s perfectly understandable. Most people’s experience of taking up running is getting very out of breath which can be a very uncomfortable feeling if you’re not used to it and very often after a few sessions they give up, thinking ‘running is not for me’. This who do stick with it often find that things do in fact get better quite quickly, unfortunately these lead us to the second aspect; Structural Integrity (running strength). Our cardio systems are very responsive to training input and can improve very quickly in the early phases of training. Unfortunately our ligaments and tendons adapt much more slowly and can be over stressed by our rapidly improving CV fitness, it’s a little like tuning a car but driving it around with bald tyres and worn out brakes, pain and sadness is very likely to follow.

Recurring injuries are the most common reason that people give up running, being willing to progress a little slower than you think you can, allowing adequate rest and recovery periods is essential as is the third and final part of the equation; Running Skills. My route into fitness came via martial arts, I was never a runner just for the sake of running for me  it was always a part of a general fitness regime. In Martial Arts the need to learn skills and then maintain them by drilling core skills is a given. Even the most experienced and expert martial artists spend most of their time drilling basic skills, for some reason many runners don’t understand the need for drilling basic skills. If we, the human race, was still living in caves hunting and gathering for a living we wouldn’t need to drill these skills to a great degree, but of course we don’t, most of us spend our days sat at desks, in cars or watching TV. From the age of two we wear shoes that weaken our feet and ankles. We need to rebuild our basic functional strength, using simple drills to develop running skills which simultaneously build structural integrity.

While I said that if we lived a more natural hunter gatherer lifestyle we wouldn’t need to train running skills  to develop structural integrity so much. That is not to say we wouldn’t have to train at all. The above video of Maasai competing in a jumping competition, illustrates an excellent training drill for leg / ankle tendon conditioning. 

If you need a little personal help with your diet, running or lifestyle in general  get in touch.

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