How to kick-start your running after taking a break

Struggling to get back into the groove of running? Whether you took a break over the summer holidays (we all deserve a break), you’ve been nursing an injury or work has been crazy with the start of the new year, it’s not as easy to get back into running (or any fitness) as it seems. A lot of people end up feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start and then put off doing anything. Excuses take far less effort than hitting the routes but don’t worry, we have all been there. We share some guidelines on how to ease back into your running with minimal frustration.

Just Start

Sometimes this is the hardest part and all it takes is making the decision to get into your fitness gear and get going. We have this annoying habit of overthinking things and working them up into big problems that cause anxiety and fear. The only way you can kick start your fitness lifestyle again is by pushing all those silly thoughts away and starting.

Walk before you Run

Once you have made the decision to ‘just start’, remember to take it slow. You aren’t expected to spontaneously transform into an athlete overnight. Be kind to yourself and begin by walking around the neighbourhood- remember to enjoy yourself while you are doing it. Many people try to go all out from the get go and ruin the experience which usually leads to quitting.

Set Realistic Goals

If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. Say that a few times over. It’s important to have some running goals to keep you motivated but keep it relative to your level of fitness. If you are just getting into it, then look for some 5km running events to train towards. You won’t be doing yourself any favours by signing up for a marathon if you are still in the beginner phase. The idea is to create an incentive and keep yourself motivated while also enjoying the journey back to running.

Create a Routine

Life is busy and it’s easy to get caught up with work, kids, commitments and so on but you are more likely to stick to your fitness goals if you create a routine. Find times in the week that are consistently ‘free (if possible)’; some people love training in the early hours of the morning while others are night owls. It’s tough to rearrange an existing routine but if you stick it out, it gets easier and your body will come to expect doing exercise at those times.

Join a Club

Another great way to ensure accountability and instil some routine is to find a running club and sign up. It’s also a way to meet new people, run different routes and it’s safer. It takes some courage to join a new club, but you won’t be the ‘new’ person for long and you’ll be glad you did it.

Mix it Up

Moderation is key. If you get bored of doing the same thing too often then you’re likely to feel less motivated to run every day and may find reasons not to do it. That’s why cross training is a good idea. Mix up your fitness; go to gym classes, play a sport, jump on a bike, swim some laps in the pool, take up Pilates; there are many options to keep your fitness journey interesting.

It’s tough to get back into fitness if you have taken a break and can be daunting. As you can see, these guidelines encourage you to ‘just start’ and work on it slowly but surely. Stay positive because it will take time, consistency and persistence but we know you have what it takes!

Staying Motivated during a 21-day Lock Down

South Africa, like many other countries, is currently in lockdown as the population has been ordered to #stayathome for 21 days to attempt to #flatternthecurve of the COVID-19 pandemic. These are interesting and rather unusual times that we are living in and the effect leaves us filled with a whirlwind of emotions ranging from ‘chilled-out’ to full blown panic-mode.

Being ordered not to leave your property can feel even worse when you are a dedicated runner or athlete as we yearn to hit the roads or trails, get our heart rates pumping and our muscles burning. It’s also easy to feel demoralised or demotivated during this time and find yourself becoming less active and possibly over-indulging. But it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. We share some encouragement and ways to stay motivated.

  1. Change your Focus

It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos that COVID-19 has roused; tools like social media, news pages, chat platforms etc. amplify the noise and spread a lot of scary and fake information. This can mean a very long 21 days with your head in a cloud of despair and negativity, which isn’t ideal for your mental health. Try to limit your time on such platforms and rather create some healthy habits like meditation or yoga at the start of your day. Then set yourself some productive tasks each day. It’s about living in the now and making the most of it.

  • Create a Routine

It’s easy for the days to start to blur into each other and your normal routine falls away. Try to keep some kind of routine, even if it is altered or modified, to encourage purpose and motivation for each day. Use one of your days to get creative and design a routine chart or calendar for your lockdown that you can refer to. Make activities out of small tasks and take your time.

  • Stay Active

We may be social distancing or self-isolating, but technology keeps us close. YouTube workout videos are abundant and cater for any exercise you desire. Get connected with friends via zoom or skype and do fitness routines together or take part in a lockdown challenge (e.g. Mzansi Lockdown Marathon). Set yourself achievable and realistic fitness goals but don’t be too hard on yourself either. Some days it’s also OK to take a break.

  • Plan Ahead

If you are worried about your fitness levels post-lockdown, get creative and start setting up goals and planning routes, put together some fresh music playlists, look at joining a club or even taking up a new sport. Get creative with your future training schedules so you have something to look forward to.

These are unusual times and even though it is frustrating not being able to stick to our normal fitness routines, it’s important to focus on the positives and make readjustments during this period. Remind yourself that this will pass, be grateful for your health and know that you will be able to get back to your normal training again! Stay safe.

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.

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.

How to Survive Cheat Eating

Let’s be honest, it’s a lot more ‘fun’ gaining weight than losing it. But it’s not as enjoyable when you step onto the scale and realise you had a tad too much fun with food. Trying to stay healthy and in shape is not about starving yourself or never enjoying those ‘cheat’ meals you love but rather about moderation and balance. Giving yourself just 3 cheat days a week is enough to impact your gut health as badly as a consistent diet of junk food and even those of us with the willpower of steel still fall prey to the ‘splurge’ every now and again. Here are some tips to help you keep control of the munchies.

  1. Keep Calm

We have all been ‘there’ and by there, I mean, when one cheat snack has snowballed into a cheat weekend and all control is lost. Don’t freak out-yet. If you have been sticking to your healthy diet well up until then and continue to do so 90% of the time, then the odd out-of-control cheat food session is not going to have huge ramifications. A good place to start is keeping a food diary where you track your meals. This way you will feel in control and may be surprised to see how easy it is to skip meals or grab a quick refined-sugar snack.

1.Change your Mindset

A lot of the time we make ourselves feel guilty by using phrases like, ‘I can’t eat that’ and ‘it’s my cheat day’ because they create a negative connotation. Focus less on the words and their meanings and more on consciously enjoying that cheat food you really love. For example, if pizza is your thing, then have a slice and relish in it. If you feel guilty while eating it then where is the enjoyment? Plus, you may end up falling prey to the guilt and overindulging.

2. Don’t Give up

Often when people have decided on a traditional ‘cheat’ day, they adopt the all-or-nothing mentality where they think, ‘I might as well throw in a slab of chocolate and some speckled eggs seeing as though I’m eating a pizza tonight’, thinking it won’t make much difference. But throwing in the towel on your whole day does a lot more damage than what one bad meal would. Allow yourself to eat what you really want in that moment and then continue with your normal, healthier eating pattern.

3. Detox

Although there isn’t much you can do to reverse the damage of a cheat meal, you can still make some healthy food choices to get you back on the right track and help reset your body. Broccoli is rich in glucoraphanin which helps powers your body’s own detoxification pathways. Water and potassium-rich foods like avocado, bananas and dark leafy greens, can help balance sodium levels in the body and reduce bloating. Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and kimchi offset the damage done to your digestive tract.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying moments of indulgence in some of your favourite foods- YOLO right? – as long as you are keeping it in moderation and not a regular occurrence. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a moment of weakness; just continue to make healthy food choices and stay active. Remember, it’s about a healthy mind and body!

What are your favourite cheat foods?

How to Properly Warm-Up for a Workout

Life gets busy so it’s tempting to skip the warm-up and get going but this is setting your body up to be both less efficient and at risk of injury. The aim of a warm-up should be to loosen and heat up the body. Plus, it gets you mentally prepared too.

Static vs Dynamic warm-ups

Static stretching is exactly how it sounds and involves stretching different muscle groups while standing on the same spot. Just doing static stretching before a workout can actually overextend your muscles and potentially rob them of the power and strength needed for the workout session. It’s best to leave the static stuff to the cool down session at the end. That’s right, you should also be cooling down!

Dynamic warm-ups are winners because they serve to get all the joints moving at the same time, working together while taking the body through progressive movements. This helps to loosen and stretch the muscles. Think of it like pregaming your muscles, improving blood circulation and activating your central nervous system. Dynamic warm-ups prime your body for maximum joint and muscle flexibility, so you can get maximum results out of your workout!

Getting started

Depending on your fitness level and the goal of your workout, warm-ups will vary. As a starting point, here are a few basic goals that accommodate every workout.

1. Loosen up

Prep your body for exercise with mobility movements by grabbing a foam roller. Start by rolling your back, then hit sections of your legs, glute and hip flexors.

2. Increase your heart rate

This gets the blood pumping and would be taking a jog, slow row or low resistance pedal on a bike. The key is that you are still able to talk comfortably while doing it otherwise you are pushing too hard.

3. Get dynamic

Remember, this involves continuous movements through the stretches. For instance, you can make big arm circles in both directions, kick your legs forward or touch your toes and reach up to the sky, do some punches, kicks and high knees and so on. There is no limit to the variety of warm-up moves that can get you ready for action. The ones listed here cover the basics, so you may feel that you’d like to build on them or mix it up a bit with options like jump ropes, lunges, push ups or spider man steps. Get your limbs moving and get creative!

4. Ease into the workout

The idea here is to warm-up with the planned workout session in mind. You are essentially moving through the workout at a lower intensity. If you are planning a hard run, warm-up with a few technique drills. If you plan on doing back squats, start with bodyweight squats or an empty bar. These low intensity movements will assist with preparing your body for action and working on muscle memory.

Warming up is a very important start to any workout. It ensures that you don’t injure yourself while training and helps you focus on how to do exercises correctly. Find an enjoyable warm-up and remember to listen to your body’s cues. Don’t forget to cool down afterwards!