Running is undeniably one of the greatest ways to get fit for free. You can do it virtually anywhere, anytime. But whether you’ve been working too hard, enjoying your couch too much (hi, Binge), had a baby or just quit for a while, getting back into running can feel like a massive mission. Don’t worry, says lululemon Ambassador Alex Bell, who owns the Running Room, it’s easier than you think. And you can start today.
“As a running physiotherapist, running has given me so much,” he says. “I created The Running Room as I have always been drawn to helping people make improvements in the physical, mental and spiritual form. It allows me to give back to others every day and inspire people to continue to run, overcome injuries and ultimately provide opportunities for growth. Running has got me where I am today. And it will take me to where I am going tomorrow. And that’s why I love it.”
We spoke to Alex, who is also a physiotherapist (handy!), to find out what to do (and also what mistakes to avoid) when picking up our running shoes again after a break…
1. Don’t pick up where you left off
“Running injuries are common; chances are if you run you have had a running injury. We see that many running related injuries are related to training errors from doing too much too quickly. If you have had some time off don’t expect to jump right back into the same training load that you were completing previously. Aim to reduce your training load and then build things up gradually and consistently over a longer period of time. Spikes in training load will likely get you injured so aim to avoid them.”
2. Slow Down A Little
“It’s okay to run a little slower. Especially when you are getting back into running. Slow down in those first few weeks when you are returning to running. In fact, we see that endurance athletes benefit from a polarised approach to training. In essence this means that 80% of your weekly training is completed at a lower intensity (your long run pace or slower – conversational pace) and 20% of your weekly load should be completed at a higher intensity (think intervals, hills, tempo -non-conversational pace). This approach has been shown to improve performance in endurance athletes and is likely to assist in reducing your risk of injury too.”
3. Strength Training Is Key
“Strength training is one of the most powerful tools we have in our toolbox. Not only will it decrease your risk of getting injured but it will increase your running performance as well. What should you do and how should you do it Let’s quickly address two of the common misconceptions around strength training and runners. Firstly, it won’t make you bulky. There is good scientific evidence showing that runners who complete strength training had no change in body composition. Secondly, your strength training should not be lots of repetitions and low loads. This is a common misbelief that we encounter on a daily basis. The scientific literature highlights that running resistance training should be of higher load and lower repetitions. This is in part due to the high loads that the body is exposed to whilst running. The loading through the calf complex is as high as 6 – 8.6 x bodyweight force and 4 – 6 x bodyweight force through the quadriceps. Think about that for a minute. That is a huge amount of force and therefore we need to add higher loads to our resistance training in an attempt to increase the tissues ability to withstand the demands of running. This has been shown to increase running economy by 2-8% and time trial performance by 2-5%, whilst subsequently and significantly reducing your injury risk. How good is that?”
4. Choosing the right gear
“When choosing the right running gear choose gear that doesn’t restrict you and offers you the freedom to move. Utilise brands that invest into running technology to create running apparel that allows you to run different and run free. Personally, I can not recommend lululemon running gear more highly. As an ambassador of lululemon I have tried all their running apparel and it will change your running experience. My go to’s – the Active jacket is the best lightweight jacket I have ever worn and the surge shorts with the liner are my all time favourite. From a shoe point of view I am going to tell the sneakerheads something they want to hear. Buy more shoes. There is some evidence that suggests running in different shoes throughout the week can reduce your risk of injury. For example, you may have a more cushioned shoe for longer slower runs and something more lightweight and responsive for your faster sessions. This shifts the load around to different tissues throughout the week and may assist you in staying injury free. Plus you get to buy more shoes. Win Win.”
5. Find a trusted running app (if you think it’ll work for you)
“There are so many running apps now and we have seen a real shift to tracking our runs and activity. Some parts of this are hugely positive, however, just be aware that some of this may lead to increased injury as we feel pressure to continue to increase running load and the potential comparisons with others. My first recommendation would be Strava. It’s always a go for any runner. Check out Lululemon Global Run Day and join in! I also love the Garmin Connect platform if you have a Garmin, plus Running Heroes! This one is epic, it integrates with your activity tracker and you earn points to claim offers from some pretty epic brands. It’s also completely free, which is nice. And lastly, Capra app. It is the best app for trail running and hiking and to explore runs that you may have never been on. It makes trail running that much easier with accurate maps wherever you are.”
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