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.

How to Maintain your Fitness during COVID-19

Who is busy apologising to the year 2019 for being a tough one? 2020 has definitely made 2019 look like a dream since the COVID-19 outbreak. But what does that mean for you, especially if you have been training in groups and for events?

Firstly, it’s so important not to panic. We already know how that has turned out; mass buying of toilet paper, tinned goods, pasta, meat and so on. Yes, everyone is on edge and you better hold in that sneeze if you don’t want to get a side glance from those nearby but when did panicking actually do anyone any good? The best thing to do right now is to educate yourself on the virus from accredited sites (there’s a lot of fake news doing the rounds) and practice the guidelines implemented by the government on sanitation and social distancing. If everyone acts responsibly and does their part, then it will help to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus.

Secondly, what does it mean for your training routine? Many big running events have been cancelled, with hovering indecision still around comrades, and it certainly is a damper on the spirits and morale. It may feel like the commitment to hours of gruelling training has been a waste and you may think about throwing in the towel. DON’T!

Yes, the world may be on lockdown and gyms are either closed or limiting numbers, but this doesn’t have to break that fighter spirit of yours nor does it mean you should just stop training. It just means that you need to readapt and make a few training tweaks here and there until the COVID-19 dust settles. Here are some ideas:

  1. Go Solo

Avoid running in large groups for the next few weeks. Even if everyone is feeling healthy, they could still be a carrier and this virus is very contagious so rather plan solo runs and stay safe.

  • Get Creative

Instead of hitting the treadmill at gym, plan some interesting routes close to home or areas that are safe for running. It may not be as intense as your normal training but it will help to maintain your fitness and keep you ticking over.

  • Do Home Workouts

There are endless YouTube workout videos you can choose from to keep the heartrate up and the cabin fever insanity levels low. Set a time in your day to work up a sweat; the High intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts are really effective.

  • Maintain a Healthy Diet

Stress can lead to comfort eating and, if you are self-isolating, it’s also easy to overindulge due to boredom. Your efforts until now have not been in vain so don’t let the current doom and gloom going around on social media get you down. Keep that chin up, stock up on healthy foods and snacks and keep at it.

It’s easy to see all the scary hype on social media and freak out but this is not a time to panic. Rather, it is a time to stay informed with the right information, be considerate of others and readjust our lifestyles. Let’s stay healthy and work towards flattening the curve.

Takkie Talk – to marathon or not

Racing over 42,195km, the standard marathon distance, should not be taken lightly and racing the distance every other week is not going to enhance a running career. Decisions relating to which marathons to run should be serious in nature and not flippant.  

There is nothing standard about 42,195km, or the in the old language 26 miles, 385 yards.

The history of the marathon is interlinked between two specific happenings. First there is the folklore of Pheidippides running from the battlefield of Marathon to bring news of a Greek victory to Athens, a distance it was said to be about 25 miles.

There was a desire to have a marathon of that distance, or 40km in metric terms at the 1908 London Marathon. The British being British decided to start at Windsor Castle and to finish in front of the Kings Royal Box. The distance came to 42,195km and somehow that has forever more been the official marathon distance.

So how many marathons should we run in a 12-month period or during a season if you prefer? The answer is somewhat subjective simply because lifestyles impact training, racing and recovery totally differently.

Any coach needs to fully understand the athlete, their strengths, weaknesses and limitations imposed by family, work, travel and even personality traits.

So that said there is quite simply no “one size fits all.”

In South Africa our decision making is further impeded by Comrades, Two Oceans and a host of other ultra marathons.

The best way of “knowing” what a runner can handle is to work closely with them in a pressure situation, as that can be evaluated over races from 10km to the half marathon, without doing too much damage.

Let us for now focus on the standard marathon. First any runner who is lined up at the start and is unsure of him or herself in anyway should best go home. Let’s not equate insecurity of preparedness with race nerves. They are not the same thing.

When any of my runners tell me “I am so nervous.” I reply “great, nerves are the fuel that will get you going and focussed and then the training will take over.”

If, however, a runner does not feel nervous, excited and expectant, then they are simply going to expend energy that they do not have in the type of abundance required to race 42,195km.

The most important criteria prior to all this is the choice of which marathon. Why run a no name brand that means little. Choose one that has history to it, personal or national. One that you cannot wait to tell folk you completed. Or better still one that can provide you with your personal best. In other words, it is fast and offers character.

If you live a full life and are a largely social runner, choose one, maybe two a year and give them your all. If you are a professional runner or semi-retired, well then that is another discussion altogether.

Contact: bob@boastrunningsuccess.co.za

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!

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!