Become a “Runner” !

Posted March 17th, 2018

So many of my clients either have started or want to start running. Those that have still will not refer to themselves as a “Runner”. When I ask why, they invariably tell me things like “well, I’m a jogger really”, “I’m not that fast” or “I’m not good enough to be a runner”. Let’s get one thing straight, if you run you are a runner. I’m still waiting for someone to tell me the actual difference between running and jogging…. if it’s that a jog is a slow run, well then guess what, that is still running!

You might not actually be interested in becoming a runner, and wondering why you should bother. Well, it’s true that there are other forms of exercise that are just as effective as running. The simple answer is – running is free (once you have your trainers, and a decent sports bra if you’re female), you need no equipment and you can do it anywhere. That makes it extremely useful. People run for all sorts of reasons… quick 5 k’s on non lifting days, sprints and intervals for quick HIIT workouts, running a marathon to tick it off the bucket list or running because running is your chosen and favoured method of exercise.

I started running again in 2012 and like most runners, I found it hard and horrible at first. The thing some people forget is that you have to learn to run. It’s like anything else in fitness and sport… you can’t just be magically good at it (well, a few blessed people can – my husband being one of them, but we won’t talk about them!) You have to work at it, practice and be prepared to suffer a little bit to get the gains in performance. Eventually you will get to that point where running becomes a joy and even when it’s hard, you kind of love it and even if you don’t love it while you are on that run, you certainly do once you finish.

So… with all that in mind, here are three key tips to help you become the best runner you can be:

Form

Form is soooo important. It is so easy to develop bad habits when running so here are the basic form points from top to bottom.

  • Keep your head over your spine and do not jut forward.

  • Always keep your eyes on the horizon as this will help keep you properly aligned.

  • Try to hold your shoulder blades back and down to avoid tension in your traps and/or your neck.

  • Make sure you keep your shoulders above your hips, this will stop you from running hunched over.

  • Your arms should not swing across your body. Move them forward and back only. Make sure to use your arms!

  • The ideal height to carry your hands is between your hip bone and bottom rib. Try and keep your hands relax.

  • Keep your abs engaged by pulling your belly button in towards your spine. This will help you avoid lower back pain.

  • Avoid the heel strike. Try to land softly on your mid foot, then roll forward and push off the ground.

Breathing

This is the bit I found most difficult, and if I’m honest I still haven’t mastered a proper breathing strategy. It makes such a difference though, especially if you are someone who get a stitch in their side when they run.  Firstly, try to breathe deeply into your belly to maximize the amount of oxygen you take, shallow chest breathing will not get you what you need. However, you do not need to breathe in through your nose.  You can and should breathe in through your mouth.  Once you have got that bit sussed try and follow the proper breathing rhythm.  On lower intensity runs, aim for a 3:3 pattern (3 steps while breathing in and 3 steps while breathing out).  On moderate intensity try a 2:2 pattern and on high intensity short duration sprints try a 1:1.

An easy way to judge intensity:

Lower intensity  = being able to hold a conversation easily, moderate = you can still talk but it is difficult and labourer. High intensity = not able to hold a conversation.

Proper support

We all have different and varying imbalances that create nuances in our stride and how we strike the ground when walking and running.  Finding the right shoe for your gait is key to successful running.  If you pronate (roll in), supinate (roll out), or have a neutral stride, there is a specific shoe for you.  Using the right shoe can help massively with issues such as runners knee, tight hips and shin splints. If you are unsure about which shoe you need, seek expert help at your local running shop.