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Thinking about taking up running? Or maybe you’re just looking for a few pointers to hit your stride on the track again this spring? Here’s what you need to know to get yourself across the finish line.
It tones your entire body, boosts your mood, can be done anywhere and, best of all, it’s free.
But running can also be tiring, painful and just plain hard. Still, if you’ve been toying with the idea of signing up for a race – or getting back to your usual 5km route after a long winter break – now’s the perfect time to train. Thanks to the longer days and warmer weather, spring offers up the ideal conditions for a morning or afternoon jog, and according to radio host and Blackmores ambassador Ash London, you won’t regret getting started.
“I’ve only been running for a few weeks and although I still find it challenging, I love the feeling when it’s finished,” she tells Body+Soul. “I feel like I’m on top of the world and I feel very proud of myself for being able to do it.”
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While London’s usual exercise routine involves daily yoga and long, gentle walks by the beach, she recently set herself the challenge of completing the equivalent of the 10km Bridge Run in this year’s Blackmores Sydney Running Festival Virtual on November 8 (the event will now be held virtually due to COVID-19).
Not sure if you’re cut out for the running scene? London says not to underestimate yourself. “Our bodies are capable of so much more than what we give them credit for,” she says. “Anyone can run. You just have to be kind to yourself in the process.”
Ben Lucas, running coach and owner of Flow Athletic, agrees, adding that learning to run is an achievable goal for almost everyone. “I have trained hundreds of non-runners to complete both half- and full marathons, but if you are recently post-partum or recovering from an injury, I would speak to a doctor or physio before starting a training program.”
Don’t expect to conquer a half-marathon two weeks after you begin training.
“I started with running for five minutes and now it’s 10 or 15 minutes. I’m really proud of that because a month ago it was zero minutes,” notes London.
Lucas says signing up for an event or enlisting the help of a friend is a great way to stay accountable. “If you were to sign up to a fun run, you have a date in which you need to prepare for and are more likely to stick to your plan,” he explains.
London points out that while she does not have much experience with running, her husband does – and he helps keep her motivated. “It’s been really fun for us to try running together,” she tells Body+Soul. “It’s a cool way of hanging out and it’s good to have someone spur you on.”
Getting into gear
Once you’ve set a realistic goal, you’ll need to decide where to train. “Take a look at the course you are looking to do and consider the elements that you are likely to encounter,” tips Lucas.
“Are there hills or different terrains like road, dirt or sand? This needs to be considered and prepared for.”
Although one of the best things about running is that it requires minimal equipment, a sturdy pair of sneakers is a worthy investment. “Good footwear is essential,” says Lucas. “If you go to a good sports store, they should have a professional who can help you.”
And that’s exactly what London did.
“I bought a pair of ASICS and had them fitted, and they’ve been good. And then I just wear my yoga clothes,” she says.
As long as your clothing doesn’t chafe, Lucas agrees that you’re better off wearing clothes you already own.
“If you want to wear something new, get it in advance so you can test it out and make sure it won’t chafe you on the day,” he says.
Your training schedule
“Going from zero to 10km in your first training session is likely to leave you sore or injured, so start slow and build up your kilometres gradually,” Lucas advises.
“It will probably take around three weeks for you to get comfortable, so stick with it and don’t be too hard on yourself.”
To get you started, Lucas advises you follow this weekly routine to launch you on your path to running glory.
If you want to be a successful and consistent runner, dedicating time to your recovery is essential. “I take care of my body with my yoga,” London explains.
“While it’s nice to wake up in the morning and feel a bit sore, there’s also a certain pride in making sure I’m helping my body restore itself so that I’m able to run.”
London is also fuelling her body with fresh food, water and a magnesium supplement for muscle recovery. “I feel really supported, so when I go out and run, I know that I’m giving myself the best shot,” she adds. “I’m not strapping my ankles yet – I’m just stopping things that are uncomfortable before they become a bigger problem. I’m not too proud; if I’m jogging and my ankle hurts, I won’t push through, I’ll slow down to give myself a better chance tomorrow.”
To register for the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival Virtual event, visit here.
7-day running training plan
Don’t schedule any exercise today – unless it’s a gentle walk, leisurely swim or relaxing yoga session.
Monday: Distance Run
This is your longest run of the week and builds endurance. “If you are new to running, start with 5km and work your way up from there, even if you have to walk part of it,” says Lucas.
Tuesday: Sprint Training
“This is where you practise speeding up, which is necessary for getting around other runners,” says Lucas. “Simply map out 100m and do 10 sprints. Run up, walk back to recover and repeat.”
Wednesday: Hill Sprints
These are exactly what they sound like – repeatedly sprinting up a hill, which is something London struggles with. “On the days I don’t feel like putting my runners on, I just do a five-four-three-two-one countdown. It gives me five seconds to shift my inertia,” she says.
Thursday: Speed Play
Similar to sprints, speed play is when you practise speeding up and slowing down. “Run fast to one light pole, then jog to the next,” Lucas says. “Aim to do around 5km on this day, too.”
Friday: Weight Training
When weight training, avoid double-leg exercises as this can intensify existing muscle imbalances. Instead, work each leg one at a time with moves like single-leg deadlifts and lunges. “Your core also needs to be strong for the run, so work on your abs and obliques, and your shoulders and back muscles need to be strong for proper posture,” Lucas adds.
“Running tightens up your joints, fascia and muscles, so it is important to stretch every day and book in a yoga class each week,” says Lucas.