Get to know your running technique
Okay it’s time for a little self-reflection. Most people have a natural running style, and it pays to get to know yours. Are you a light foot or do you pound the pavement? Determining this will not only help you improve your frequency and distance, but it will help you choose the best runners to protect yourself against injury and get the support you need to go the distance. For example, your running style might be more suited to a runner that cushions, protects and has bounce back. Or you may require a reduced heel pitch to help make runners more stable. Other runners benefit from cushioning technology, which enhances the shock absorption through the foot and disperses impact. Alternatively, you may require a runner that can perform for higher mileage or daily demands, with cushioning that is responsive to perform at speed. If you don’t know where to start, relax. Make sure to talk to trained staff who use fitting technology such as FITZI®. This is a revolutionary system that uses over 4000 sensors, video and pressure technologies to identify the perfect athletic shoe for you, whatever your exercise needs and unique biometry. It will narrow down your running shoe search to a few perfect-match picks to help you improve your game in a flash and help protect you against injuries.
Boost your energy intake pre-run
If you’re chowing down a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise or worse, running on an empty stomach pre-run, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Alison Patterson is a Melbourne-based Advanced Sports Dietitian who has worked with athletes and running enthusiasts over a number of years. Her job is to help people develop nutrition plans that enable them to perform at their best. Alison suggests a light, carb-based snack in the 1-2 hours before you head out for a run. “This will help top up the fuel levels in your muscles, giving you energy to get through your session,” she explains. “A banana, a couple of rice cakes with peanut butter or some toast with honey are good options to try.”
Just as important is being adequately hydrated. “Avoid starting a run dehydrated,” says Alison. “Check the colour of your pee in the lead-up to your run, and if it’s dark, then drink some extra water before you hit the footpath.”
Re-fuel according to your running frequency
“During short runs, there’s no need for extra fuel during the session,” advises Alison. “But if you’re planning to run for 90 minutes or more, it’s a good idea to top up your fuel stores with some easy to digest carbs during the session.” Alison suggests sports products like gels, energy chews, bars or sports drinks. “These items are compact and easy to carry,” she says. “But if you prefer food-based choices, then dried banana chips, dates or energy balls are options – just watch the fibre content as they can cause gut upset and unwanted toilet stops for some people!”
As for hydration, Alison says it’s important to sip on fluids throughout a run. “It’s especially important to avoid getting dehydrated in hot weather or long runs,” she explains. “Fluid backpacks and drink belts can be useful, otherwise plan your run to pass by drinking fountains. If you have high sweat losses, having fluids that contain electrolytes, particularly sodium, will help with hydration goals.”
Eat post-run to recover & repair muscles
Okay we’re not suggesting you undo all those burnt calories by scoffing yourself with food continuously, but if you’re training seriously and often, post-run energy is important. “The urgency to eat after a run depends on the time until your next training session, as well as how far away your next meal is,” explains Alison. “If you have a quick turnaround between training sessions, say 8-12 hours, or your next main meal is more than two hours after you’ve run, a protein and carb based snack after your session is a good idea to kick start the recovery process.”
Alison suggests simple options such as yoghurt, flavoured milk, smoothies, fruit and nuts or tuna and crackers. “These help to refuel and repair your muscles after a run,” she explains. “Alternatively, use your main meal to meet your recovery goals. For breakfast, try bircher muesli or eggs on toast. For lunch, a turkey wrap or chicken quinoa salad is a great option. Or if it’s dinner time, beef burritos or grilled salmon with sweet potato wedges will tick your recovery nutrition boxes.” But, as Alison points out, it’s important to remember that everyone has unique nutrition requirements. “It’s always a good idea to check in with an Accredited Sports Dietitian to develop the best plan to meet your individual needs.”
Set realistic goals
While your enthusiasm may be at its peak, it’s going to take more than one run to reach the summit. Running enthusiast Evelyn Watson learned this the hard way. “I was all set to kick start my running regime based on what my capabilities were years earlier,” she says. “I used to be able to run 7km in 20 minutes and just thought, after a two year break, I’d be able to do the same. I pushed myself so hard that I caused and ankle injury and it took me months to recover.” Remember, baby steps. Setting yourself realistic goals will help you achieve your goals gradually without straining your body and feet – or worse, causing permanent injury. Get properly fitted runners before you take the big running leap to ensure you’re well equipped with the support, cushioning and comfort you need.
Choose your running mates wisely
Running solo has its perks. You can listen to your playlists uninterrupted, use the time for a little self-love and personal reflection, you don’t have to worry about sweat stains, breathing volume or taking a break every hundred metres and you can focus on your form minus the chatter. But if you do want a running mate, choose with care. Sydney-based runner Graham Cameron jogs twice a week for around 60 minutes – and he’s experienced both slow and super-fast running companions. “My girlfriend wants to run with me but her fitness levels are way lower than mine,” he explains. “I just end up getting frustrated! Similarly, I’ve been for runs with mates who run marathons, and my levels are nowhere near theirs – it just puts pressure on me to keep up. So now, I run on my own. I enjoy the solitude and thinking time it gives me without having to make small talk. I also love exploring new areas and my surroundings, which is something I don’t normally have time to do.” If you do want a running friend, choose someone who is compatible with your fitness level and style, and will motivate you without cracking the whip too hard!
Listen To Your Body
Finding your technique, pace, optimum frequency and distance requires tuning in to your body. You may find you have aching feet after running on some surfaces or an extended time, or worse, cause an injury because you’ve pushed yourself too hard. Varying your runs to include recovery runs or easy runs can be hugely beneficial, as can core strengthening and other exercises that can help improve your weak spots. Speak with a trained expert for a prescribed training program so you have a clear understanding of what’s right for you and your ability.