Photo: maridav / 123rf.com
Running is one of those things that sounds easier than it actually is. You relish feeling wind on your cheeks, your heart racing and your adrenaline pumping as you step forward. But the reality is, running can be physically harsh as well as mentally draining. Take it too fast – in terms of speed and progress – and you may burn out quickly. Make these tweaks to your routine, and you’ll be surprised by how much more pleasant running is!
GO SLOW AND STEADY
Not your speed, but your progress. Even if you feel invincible and all set to give in more at every subsequent run, try not to increase your intensity and volume (mileage) by more than 10 per cent each week, advises Ong Kaifen, who came in first at the 15km Shape Run 2016. Push too hard, and you’re putting yourself at a higher risk of injuries and fatigue, which is the last thing you want to happen to you.
VARY YOUR RUNS
Run the same speed and distance each time and you’ll soon hit a plateau: You no longer feel challenged, your muscles get comfortable, and your aerobic fitness stagnates. You may even lose interest in running! To make sure your training is effective and sustainable, include different types of runs in your plan, from speed intervals and fartleks to long slow distance runs. Those variations will train both your speed and endurance, plus keep every run feeling fresh!
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On days you’re not running, do cross-training workouts like aqua jogging, elliptical and cycling to help you recover and maintain your aerobic fitness, says Shape Run 15km winner Ong Kaifen, 35, who works as a sports physiotherapist. They are useful to stave off workout boredom too! During rest or recovery days, do strength training exercises to keep your muscles toned.
STRETCH & FOAM ROLL
After training, spend at least five minutes stretching your major muscles: quads, calves, glutes and hamstrings. Once a week, practise self myofascial release by applying a foam roller (or tennis ball) on common sore spots like the neck, shoulders and back. Releasing the knots and tension will improve your overall mobility and flexibility, making your strides feel easier.
Make sure to consume sufficient carbohydrate and protein during your training. Carbs give you the energy, while protein is needed to repair and strengthen your muscles. “After a run, have a recovery snack within an hour as that’s the best window for your body to absorb the nutrients,” says Kaifen. That could be anything like a peanut butter sandwich or berry smoothie.
INVEST IN A HEART RATE MONITOR
Experts have said this before: Your heart rate is the best indicator of how intense – and effective – your workout is. So if you’re serious about improving your cardio fitness, you’ll need to use a heart rate monitor to track your heart rate during exercise. Depending on your training objectives, you’ll need to train at different intensities (read: heart rate zones). Don’t like the idea of strapping a monitor across your chest? Nowadays, heart rate monitors are conveniently built into activity trackers which you can wear on your wrist, such as the newly released Fitbit Charge 2. Besides giving you real-time updates on your heart rate during exercise, you can use it to track your daily steps, sleep and physical activities.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Constantly tune in to your feelings while running, as that will help you distinguish the good pain from the bad, says 27-year-old Jasmine Cheong, first runner-up of the 15km Shape Run. Are you feeling unusually breathless? Are your thighs aching in the same spots? Learn to identify which sensations are normal and which are not. “It is okay to push through the good pain. Your body is a lot tougher than you think it is!” says Jasmine.
SET AN INTENTION
Just like how yoga promotes mindfulness, running can do the same too. Before each run, decide on your motivation and keep that in mind throughout. Your intentions may vary for every run. “When I’m feeling competitive, I’ll race against my Garmin training watch,” says Jasmine. “Sometimes, I like to tell myself to look forward to the calories burnt! Or that running clears my head. Thinking about the positive effects of running gets me through the difficult days.”
This article was first published on Shape.com.sg.