FIVE TIPS FOR TECHNICAL TRAIL RUNNING AND RACING

Trail running – the definition of running in rough terrain. Think of perpetual obstacles in your way and you get the idea.

Technical trail running refers to extreme running – we’re talking about running over terrain consisting of rocks, roots, mud and water as well as steep hills and declines often requiring upper body strength to get you over those rough patches.

Sound exciting? Then read on to learn a few pointers to get you started;

  • Focus on time and effort instead of speed and distance. Make the most out of your experience by focusing solely on the path in front of you and moving efficiently. This will definitely make the experience more exhilarating and not a killjoy.
  • Use balancing exercises and split and squat jumps in your exercise routine. Learning to anticipate and execute an awkward jump and landing is crucial when running in mountainous areas where rocks are aplenty.
  • Short quick steps are crucial in rough terrain in order to avoid energy burnout as well as make the rough terrain that much more intimidating. So, it is best to train by intentionally running with short steps and your eyes never leaving the surface area in front of you.
  • Make sure that the shoes you wear fit snugly. This will make twisting and spraining your ankle more unlikely. And make sure that your shoe has good tread to avoid slipping. A good tread will also keep your shoes clear of mud, debris and water. Run with your toes tilted upwardly by making sure you step high so that you don’t stub your toe on a rock ahead. Having a shoe with a rock plate built into it will make sure you don’t feel every bump underneath your feet, making for a more pleasurable run.
  • Keep a mindset that is fixed on your end goal and not on those around you. Focussing on everything around you AND the difficulty of the run ahead is much more likely to make you feel defeated. Make the terrain your only opposition.

Technical trail running is a sport that gets better with time and practise so take all the time you need. Why not consider training with a trekking pole? These will assist you in navigating jumps over streams, hills and descents and especially on tricky, uneven terrain where the ground is loose.

Not only this, but technical trails often provide the opportunity to run in the most majestic, often untouched landscape guaranteed to take your breath away. I mean who would say no to that? Check out our Facebook page for more!

THE ART OF RUNNING HILLS

CHOOSE CAREFULLY

Make sure the hill you’re about to tackle is not too steep. Anything more than a nine-degree angle is probably best walked to start off with.

Also make sure that the ground doesn’t have loose gravel or sand to avoid twisting or spraining your ankle. Make sure your focus is in front of you and keep observing the surface area you are about to traverse to avoid any obstacles in your pathway.

TECHNIQUE

When learning the art of hill running remember that technique is important. Make sure your posture is correct; that is, you are not bent over – tempting as it may be. You can allow for a slight tilt forward. Your arms should ideally hang lower, at a ninety-degree angle, with short swings back and forth enabling your legs to do the work with short, quick strides.

When running downhill avoid your natural instinct to lean back. Instead, lean forward slightly and take short strides. Trying to gallop down a hill will take a huge pounding on your legs which can lead to unforeseen injury.

PACE YOURSELF

Don’t use all of your effort at one go when trying to conquer a hill as this will leave you wanting, especially if you have a race in the near future. Rather temper your enthusiasm by concentrating on technique and pacing yourself. Once you reach the top, you’ll have enough energy to resume your stride and leave your competitors at the wayside!

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

A treadmill is a very effective means of simulating a hilly run. Set it at an incline as practice for a hill climb or alternatively at a decline for a downhill run; pretty self-explanatory.

BENEFITS OF HILL RUNNING

It burns more calories by using more muscle whilst also building up muscle strength.

It can prevent common injuries associated with running on a flat surface by making more use of your quads, hamstrings and glutes.

It improves endurance and increases speed.

Conquering the art of hill running can help you to perfect your form and stamina and give you that competitive edge for your next race.

Running Safety Tips for Women

The sad reality is that most women will admit to being victims of catcalling, propositioned and made to feel uncomfortable with inappropriate remarks, gestures or sounds while just trying to go about their lives. 50% of women say they are too afraid to walk or run in their own neighbourhood and 11% prefer to exercise in a gym because they don’t feel comfortable exercising outdoors.

When women get ready to go for a workout, running safety is often top of mind and includes anything from running with their dogs to carrying a knife. Running during the day can also be just as hazardous as running at night because assailants are just as willing to strike in the early hours of the morning or during your midday trail run.

Considering this distressing information, we suggest some running safety tips for women (and men):

  • Don’t go Solo

This is a simple rule. Make plans with a friend/friends or join a running group. It might mean rescheduling your week but it is worth the effort. It is wise to let someone know that you are going for a run and when you plan to be back. Nowadays it is also easy to use GPS tracking.

  • Trust your Intuition

If something feels off while you are running, then trust your gut and do what you need to in order to feel safer. This could be crossing the street to avoid someone, skipping a route or contacting someone to pick you up. If it doesn’t feel right then rather use safety measures instead of feeling invincible.

  • Don’t be flashy

A lot of runners will use fancy gadgets or take their phones on runs to track their workout and play music. Attackers are aware of this. Aside from running in a group, also try to be discreet with your gear. If you do happen to run alone then avoid wearing earphones so that you can always be alert of your surroundings and not draw attention to yourself.

  • Stay in the Hustle and Bustle

You are more likely to be assaulted in darker, quiet areas. Rather choose areas that are busy with other runners or traffic; places where you can be easily seen and heard.

  • Learn Self Defence

Taking a self defence course does not mean you should feel invincible on the roads or trails, but it equips you with skills and tactics that can help you avoid or escape dangerous situations.

  • Use Safety Gadgets

Some options include using your keys as a weapon, carrying pepper spray, a taser or something that makes a lot of noise like a whistle or alarm.

Unfortunately, these are the measures that most women (and men too) must adopt to prevent being potential victims but it is better to rather be safe than sorry. Stay alert, use these tips, run in big groups and have a safe running experience.

Preparing for your First 5km Run

It’s ‘race day’, it’s your first 5km run, it may not be a marathon, but the nerves have settled in, you have stuck to your training, it is time! It’s normal to feel jittery and wonder what to expect; the first race can be intimidating which is why we have put together some tips to help get you prepared and excited.

The Build Up

During the week leading up to the race, your running distances should decrease. Include 2 to 3 short runs with a few quick bursts in pace to get the legs moving faster. This week is about ‘storing up’ rest so your legs are ready and fresh for race day. Not everyone goes for a run the day before a race but a short 20-minute run with 5 pick ups under 45 seconds the day before can help sharpen the legs.

Be Prepared

This applies to all the admin around race day such as picking up your race pack, the bib and timing chip. Place your kit out the night before the race to prevent scrambling around in the morning. It’s a good idea to check the weather forecast for the day and dress as if the weather is 15 degrees warmer than it is. It’s probably also wise to avoid wearing any ‘new’ gear on the day; rather stick to the tried and tested clothes and shoes.

Catch some Shut Eye

Feeling nervous before a race can affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep but it makes a big difference to your physical and mental performance on race day. Stick to relaxing activities like reading or watching a movie.

Eat Properly

If you are taking on a 5km race, then there is no need to ‘carbo-load’ the night before as this is geared more toward events of 90-minutes or longer. For a 5km it’s likely that you have enough fuel already stored in your muscles. If you do attempt to carbo-load, you’ll end up with a lot of extra calories and may end up feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Having said this, it is still important to eat healthy meals leading up to the race and consume a decent breakfast the day of. Consuming a 200- to 300-calorie meal one or two hours before the race is advised. This should include whole, unprocessed carbs like a bowl of oats topped with fruit and brown sugar.

Stay Hydrated

Aim to drink around 500ml at least of fluid 2 to 3 hours before the race and another 300ml before the race begins. Also be sure to make use of the water stops along the way. The idea is not to get to the point of feeling thirsty because then it is already too late.

Have Fun!

The day has arrived, your training is complete, you prepared your outfit the night before, ate healthy small meals, stayed hydrated and arrived early to your race to prevent any scrambling; you are officially set to go. Now all you need to do is enjoy this great experience of taking part in your first 5km race. Take in the scenery, chat to people around you, smile and don’t be too hard on yourself. This is just the start of many races to come so soak it in.

We hope to see you out there on the roads and the trails!

Benefits of Joining a Running Group

Have you ever found yourself staring longingly at a group of early morning runners as you drive passed or taken a few extra minutes to gaze at social media pictures capturing a trail running event from the day before while sighing from FOMO (fear of missing out)?

Then you are showing all the signs of wanting to get involved! And although hitting some takkie to tar for a solo sweat is many people’s preferred workout, joining a group or club can do wonders for your physical and social well being. Here’s why:

New Horizons

If you have mostly been running on your own, then you tend to become stuck doing the familiar routes over and over. Getting familiar can also mean getting a bit ‘too comfortable’ and possibly bored. Joining a running group is a great way to move out of your comfort zone by meeting new people and experiencing some different routes! How refreshing.

Staying on Track

This comes down to accountability. If you have decided to join a sports group who have scheduled runs or activities, then the chances of you bailing are much lower. You don’t want to let people down and you’re ensuring that you are still getting your workout in. It’s a win-win situation.

Making Friends

It can be daunting to show up to a group of people you have never met before and join them on a run. But once you are over the initial phase of introductions and polite banter, you’ll start to feel more and more like a family. These are likely to be similar minded people who are going to motivate you and keep you inspired.

Sharing Tips

Every runner has tricks and techniques that work well for them and others that don’t. When you are part of a group, there is room for sharing and comparing with the other runners whether it’s about nutrition, stretching, gear or gadgets. It’s an opportunity to share knowledge and get feedback from fellow runners.

Improvement

Many runners fear joining a group because they believe they are not fit enough or fast enough to keep up. Rest assured that in most cases, there will be someone running a similar pace to you or someone who acts as a sweeper to make sure no one gets left behind. Plus, you will notice how quickly your running and fitness start to improve as you get comfortable in the group. This is because you’re probably pushing yourself a bit more and not even realising it. Or that competitive streak is coming through!

Safety First

The bottom line is that running in a group is far safer than running solo and for more reasons than one. There’s the comfort of knowing people are around if you get injured or feel sick, you are better visible to drivers on the road and you are less likely to be a victim of mugging.

These are a few of many reasons we think joining a running group is a great idea. Not only will your fitness improve and you feel safer, but you will also gain knowledge and make new friends along the way.

Your Fitness Bucket List

You might be someone who has their fitness goals printed, laminated and stuck to your bedroom wall or you may be keeping those goals hidden in the closet. Either way, we all love a bucket list, and this should be no exception when it comes to having a fitness bucket list!

Having a fitness bucket list is a great way to kickstart your motivation, keep yourself motivated and re-motivate yourself if you fall into a slump. It’s the thrill of setting big goals, having challenges and getting to tick them off the list. Satisfaction!

Maybe you’ve already made a start to your bucket list or maybe you are needing a little boost with where to start. Don’t worry, we have your back.

Starting small

  • Do a 30-day push-up challenge. A reasonable and realistic start!
  • Run a 10k. A classic goal for those wanting to get into running. Start gradually and increase mileage by no more than 10% from the previous week.
  • Master 3 yoga poses. Yoga is great for stretching, good posture and improving stress levels. Three good balancing poses include: warrior III, crow and handstand.

Staying Practical

  • Do some form of exercise every day for at least 30 minutes.
  • Follow a circuit workout.
  • Try CrossFit. This is a mix of aerobic exercises, body weight exercises, gymnastics and weight lifting.

Focusing on Endurance

  • Sprint Triathlon. This requires you to perform at a high level across three different sports; swimming, cycling and running.
  • Six-minute mile. Many people can run a sub-seven minute mile; the real indicator of fitness comes in shaving off that last minute.
  • One-mile open water swim. Ever heard of the Midmar mile? Now’s your time!

Focusing on Adventure

  • Hike a cross-country trail. A long hike can be a life changing experience as it is a chance to connect with nature, brave the wild and disconnect from the modern world.
  • Climb a mountain. Whether it’s a trip to the berg or summiting a mountain, it’s an amazing experience but remember to practice all safety measures and be in the right physical condition for it.
  • Martial Arts training. This is for the hardcore out there. It has a powerful physical and mental effect.

Have we gotten those fitness creative ideas flowing yet? Depending on your lifestyle and personal goals, you can customise your fitness bucket list accordingly. Just be sure to keep it realistic and ease into it!

THE COMRADES DREAM – Mncedisi Dlova

Dreaming of running the Comrades Marathon is not uncommon for someone with a running or other sporting background.

Dreaming of it for the first time as a 53 year old without any running history and only a distant interest in social soccer is something totally different.

In this book Mncedisi shares an enlightening and motivational journey to accomplishing just that dream.

In an easy read story the author takes readers back to his youth in the rural village of Ngxakaza, 4km from Dutywa. Tough upbringings are pertinent in sport and the strict influence of his grandmother, Nobandla, is a thread through his story and the pursuit of his dream – A Comrades medal.

“A dream not pursued remains a wish, and a wish can turn to regret if not acted upon” he states.

Dlova would be 54 when he arrived at the day when his dream would be fulfilled. He would have to traverse the hills between the City Hall in Pietermaritzburg and the impressive Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban to do so. He had however, already seen it all in his dream.

A pharmacist by profession there would be few short cuts in preparation, few actions left strictly to chance on this journey.

The storyline takes readers through the early agony of running, finding his own inner strengths and of locating fellow travellers in Mthatha who could  make the training more bearable.

Cheetahs is a formidable club based in Mthatha and they would be the glue that cemented the dream, the reality of what it would take and the camaraderie and inspiration that would lift Dlova whenever he required that little bit extra.

A first half marathon in 2016 set up the “not interested in running or sport generally” citizen of the world to pursue a new lifestyle.

The half marathon led to 42.2km marathons and then ultra marathons in pursuit of a readiness to tackle Comrades.

The dream was realised on 10 June 2018 when Dlova entered a crowded, lively stadium to finish the 90 plus kilometres and claim a bronze medal for a sub 10-hour journey. The final cut off is 12 hours.

It is a wonderful story filled with inspiration for absolutely anyone.

This is not a book about how to train. It is book about how all can overcome obstacles to realise a dream, regardless from which sphere of life the dream might emanate.

What is Your Favourite Workout Playlist?

Listening to good music can be the ideal motivator when you need an extra boost or that push to keep going. It helps us in most situations to de-stress, unwind and re-group. So, it’s no surprise that listening to good tunes can kick start a great fitness workout or boost it to the next level.

Sure, some people enjoy listening to birds chirping as they run, or they get energised by the sound of weights hitting the floor at gym. Nothing wrong with that. But for the rest of us, music can make or break a workout. For example, playing a slow, low beat tune is not going to jumpstart your motivation to do hill sprints. That is why a good workout playlist is a necessity.

There is no one-size-fits-all playlist when it comes to getting the best workout results. It depends on your own music preferences, your goals, the mood you are in and state of mind at the time. Are you bursting with energy or are you in need of a kick up the butt to get motivated? Seeing results during your health and fitness journey is all about being consistent and establishing a routine that you stick to as much as possible. Planning your playlist can certainly work in your favour here.

When it comes to choosing the best playlist for your workout, consider the following:

1.Your Heart Rate

Depending on the type of workout you do, you’ll want to choose songs that contain a higher BPM (beats per minute). In general, anything over 120 BPM can help you get into the zone but for high intensity workouts find something in the 145 BPM zone.

2. Choosing lyrics that make you feel Strong

Choose songs that are positive and have inspirational lyrics that focus on courage and being fearless. Listening to catchy and empowering songs can help keep you in a positive mindset.

3. Choose Energetic Songs

By choosing songs that have a high BPM and are also energetic and upbeat, this will help improve your mood and encourage you to keep pushing yourself.

We did the dirty work for you and found some of the ‘best’ fitness workout playlists and tunes.

  1. Autumn’s Cardio Crush. This is an upbeat, positive vibes playlist full of inspiring pop anthems that will keep you going strong to the end.
  2. Sagi Kalev’s Weightlifting Playlist. This ‘beast’ workout is packed with a mix of throwback rap, wrestling theme songs and motivational tracks. No chance of a wimpy workout here.
  3. Joel Freeman’s Hardcore Motivational Playlist. This is a great playlist for the heavy metal fans who are in search of a pick-me-up and an energy boost.
  4. Running Workout Playlist. These tracks help make the time fly by while you are running the distance. With a bit of everything, it helps break up the monotony of a long run.
  5. Jericho McMatthew’s Pumped-Up Workout Playlist. Includes a mix of dance tracks.
  6. Tony Horton’s Cardio Mix. A feature of alt-rock anthems from bands like Imagine Dragons, Awolnation and the Decemberists.

It’s a good idea to keep changing up your playlist to keep things interesting and keep you working at your hardest. There is no longer an excuse to skip a workout because you wake up and don’t feel like it. Not when you have the tool of motivational music at your fingertips!

TAKKIE TALK parkrun-golf

Few sporting folk would rush to suggest there is any correlation between distance running and golf, save to say that many golf courses offer ideal training terrain.

Indeed in days past when security issues were of a lesser concern and golf courses were readily open and available, groups of some of the finest runners ever produced in this province would use the hills of a course for both strength and speed training.

The relationship between golf course and runner is once again growing stronger, albeit in a more organised and controlled fashion.

South Africa sadly does not have nearly enough parks, as is the case in the United Kingdom for instance, but we do have the most beautiful beaches, wine farms, game ranches and parks and yes golf courses.

Along comes parkrun, one of the fastest growing sporting cultures the world has ever experienced.

In the Eastern Cape there are, or soon will be, many a parkun hosted at a Golf Club. The first was at the magnificent St Francis Links, which has been a huge success and has attracted in excess of 2700 registrations as a home parkrun and have had many thousands of visitors over the six years of its existence.

Stutterheim Country Club has well over a thousand parkrunners, Komani at the Queenstown Golf Club host 2300, King Williams Town are on close to 2000 and then there is a new one, launched just three weeks ago at Kei Mouth and two attached to Mashie Golf courses at iMonti (Cambridge Club) and Python Park.

Each week these venues benefit from the presence of hundreds of parkrunners, who in turn have the luxury of safe, country style running to enjoy.

The latest parkrun-golfing fraternity to team up is in Mthatha. It has not launched yet, but we visited to recce the facilitates and proposed route on Tuesday and it is going to be a winner. A winner for the golf club and a winner for the people of one of South Africa’s busiest cities. They are crying out for recreational opportunities.

The golf course, close to the commercial centre is absolutely beautiful with a tranquillity that most runners long for.

Mthatha has produced many outstanding international athletes. The golf course itself is one of the five oldest in South Africa and has been declared a heritage site.

Could it uncover still more running talent at a parkrun on the edges of its fairways?  I believe so.

It costs nothing to participate in a parkrun, but the participants do eat breakfast, drink tea or coffee and are part of a 1,045,500 South African community, many of whom travel. The tourism spin off speaks for itself.

Having lived on the boundary of a golf course in Gonubie for over 15 years I have an idea of how convenient it is from a running point of view. Upon moving away it became blatantly obvious what a motivating factor the greenery, the sea views and the silence and solitude offered daily.