Let’s Get Moving!

A disclaimer – I’m not a running coach and this is absolutely not an instructional piece – this is for those of us with that nagging voice in their ear saying that they should be walking, jogging or running.  I do however spend a lot of time talking to folk about their wellbeing hopes and aspirations.

There are all sorts of reasons why we don’t get out of the front door despite the obvious and well-documented physical and mental wellbeing rewards and I’m going to run through the common ones.

Set a goal as well as a training structure to remove the guess-work. A Couch-to-5km running schedule will take you from absolute sedentary beginner to being a 5km runner in 9 weeks.

Having sorted out a goal and a training structure, the next considerations seem to be logistical – “I don’t have time”, “I haven’t got the right kit”. Or they reflect an anxiety around injury or self-consciousness – “My knees/feet/hips/back will hurt”, “I am not a runner”, “I’ll feel daft”. We will look at these very reasonable concerns, but for now, how about making a commitment to yourself, or to your family that you will start the Couch-to-5km schedule.

In 9 weeks you will be able to call yourself a runner and who knows where that will take you?!  Book an Appointment

The biggest barrier to getting out of the door seems to be the very reasonable concern that jogging or running will cause injury, or at least hurt. If we approach running without an understanding of what is going on in our bodies and over-do it, then yes, it probably will!

We generally understand that we need to go through some sort of ‘getting used to it’ process when we start a new exercise, and we rightly tend to think of this in terms of our cardiovascular system – our engine – “getting fitter”. When we go a bit beyond what we are used to, then our bodies make the necessary changes to accommodate the new demand, but this takes time. What we are trying to do then is to work hard enough to stimulate the fitness changes but not go too far beyond our current capacity and end up in distress.

If we are going to build up the engine, then we also need to build up the brakes, the suspension, the tyres and the chassis to safely handle our new-found power. Following our analogy, our muscles, our tendons, our ligaments, our bones, the fat-pads in our feet and just about every other part of our bodies need to be given the time to make Adaptive Changes to cope with increased demand. If we don’t allow time for these changes then things hurt and we are at greater risk of injury – we are putting too much power through too flimsy a car. This is the point of a well-structured training plan like the Couch to 5k – it limits our ability to go beyond our Adaptive Changes and keeps the engine and the car well suited to each other as we get fitter.

A further very reasonable stumbling block is equipment – “My shoes / top / shorts aren’t right”, and again I am very happy to offer the disclaimer that I am not a certified running shoe fitter. There is absolutely no doubt that shoes make a huge difference in comfort and to performance, and there is a wealth of expert advice freely available. I am however going to suggest that if you are not getting out of the front door because you don’t have a pair of shoes then perhaps it isn’t access to gait analysis and the perfect shoe that is the limiting factor here (valuable as these services are!). Do you need shoes that are comfortable and in decent nick? Absolutely. Do you need a financial or logistical hurdle in week 1? Probably not. Look at Decathlon’s very competent trail shoes at less than £60. Get something on your feet, get out with some consistency, develop a walk/running habit, and then investigate your dream shoe. I strongly suspect that if things are hurting in the early days, it may be more about rushing those adaptive changes and not about your shoes.

So, the final pieces of the jigsaw – where to actually go? I’m going to respectfully suggest that the actual surface underfoot is less important than safety, avoiding boredom and how committed to a distance or a time we want to be.

By safety, I am thinking about environmental hazards like narrow verges, traffic, ankle-breaking rabbit holes, getting lost in the dark or confused by identical forest trails. Make sure that you know where you are going, that the ground is predictable under foot. The forest trails are generally very forgiving, but it is surprisingly easy to get confused, especially in the dark. Getting across the A35 at Bank is tricky at the best of times and hazardous in the dark so perhaps that crossing is best avoided at busy times. I am taking it as read that we would all recognise the more sinister aspects of personal safety and mitigate them as appropriate. Good practice would be to plan your route, share it with someone and tell them when you will be back. Better practice is to go out with someone else to share the adventure and reduce the risk. A high-vis vest, a head-torch and your phone are probably sensible in the darker months.

Boredom – or rather ‘lack of stimulation’ – is something that people struggle with because it allows the mind to look inwards and focus on all the little niggles and annoyances that would otherwise go unnoticed. Follow a path you have never gone down and relish the surprise at where you pop out. If it goes nowhere, you haven’t lost anything and you know a bit more about your local patch. Some swear by music or podcasts, but don’t cut yourself off from hearing what is going on around you.

How committed do you want to be? A short loop close to home allows you to stop without a long hike back and makes the whole thing less daunting. Maybe you need the commitment of a longer loop, precisely so that you can’t bale-out early? Even if you are not running, a longish walk home is still useful.

We should also be thinking about when as well as where. If you want the path to yourself, then realistically it’s early mornings or later in the evening. If you are happy to see people and have the luxury of time in the day, then things are less complicated. Remember – and this is a bit like dancing at a wedding – no-one is as interested in you as you think they are!

There are many reasons we run. For some it is about the challenge or the pleasure in running itself, for some it is just about being out and about and for many of us, it is about the feeling we get when the run is over!  Whatever your reasons, do it sensibly, safely and build up slowly to allow your body to catch up to your inner Mo Farah / Paula Radcliffe!

And if you have any questions or need some advice, book an appointment so we can help you.

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