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!

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!

Fitness Routines for those on a Time Crunch

Let’s be honest, finding the time to fit in our regular fitness workouts during the week can be challenging. Life is busy, kids need extra attention, work is piling up, you’re travelling for business- the list goes on- which usually means that the time we were dedicating to our workout session becomes compromised or completely redundant.

It’s tempting to call it off. After all, what good is a 30 minute workout going to do if you originally planned on doing a 2 hour run?

Don’t give up yet because even though time is limited, you can still make every minute count.

Plus, think about how much better you will feel afterwards. Always remember that, “something is better than nothing”.

Here are a few crunch time workouts for you to slot into your schedule.

Run it out
It takes two minutes to kit up and hit the road for a sweat session. If you know that time is of the essence, then this is your opportunity to push a little harder than usual. Your threshold heart rate is slightly higher when running which means you can work at a harder pace and reap a great aerobic benefit. Plan a route the night before or encourage a friend to join in to make it more enticing. Otherwise, find a flight of stairs and run up them.

Spin it out
Clip into a stationary bike at home or hit a spin session at gym for sweat spot 30 minutes of training.

Before you jump on, start off by doing 30 jumping jacks to get the heartrate elevated. Then find your threshold pace. This is where you are able to talk, but just barely. Now spin it out and feel refreshed and energised post your workout.

Training Economy
This is all about using the best ‘bang for your buck’ exercises. That means squats, deadlifts, lunges, push-ups, chin-ups, presses and so on.

These are great because you can do them in the comfort of your own home, be it early in the morning or while you’re waiting for dinner to cook in the oven. Hit play on your playlist and focus on getting in a total body workout with no distractions. You might be surprised that these could be some of the most effective workouts you do.

Gym it out
Slotting a few 30 or 45 minute gym sessions into your weekly planner can really help to keep you ticking over and disciplined until your big workout sessions. There are so many group training classes to choose from which means you can get in a total body workout and never be bored for choice. Decide to alternate days between doing high intensity workouts like running on the treadmill or spinning and then swap over onto power and strength training. Find what works for you and get going!

It is easy to fall into the trap of being ‘too busy’ to workout but maintaining a healthy body is just as important for our mental health and daily productivity. Squeezing in some of these crunch time workouts will help you stay on track and feel great. Stay moving!