What a beautiful morning to take clients outdoors today! That sky was a mighty fresh blue. Training outdoors is invigorating, liberating, lifts the spirit, and feels limitless. I'd like to touch on what I tweak in my runners. Many of us will be running races this spring - 5K, 10K, half marathons and full marathons. If you're an avid runner, a beginner, or somebody who is still toying with the idea of attempting the sport, follow these tips. SET YOUR SHOULDERS - I use this expression often. Protract your shoulder blades, so that your shoulders are held in place and the chest is lifted. When you are participating in cardiovascular exercise, your heart is in the lead, much like when you are strength training, the muscle you are working needs to be in the lead. Shoulders stay down and back, so that you don't lose any of your energy in disorder.
PIN YOUR ABS IN TIGHTLY - This doesn't mean suck in. Do not suck in! Try pinning your abs now: exhale, and feel your ribcage press down toward your hipbone. That is a nice, compact partial contraction in the abdominals. The more frequently you hold your abs this way, the better you are contributing to a strong core and protecting your lower back. Also, in the case of running, it once again holds your muscles in order so that you are not losing any energy. It's much easier to endure your sport and stave exhaustion when everything is anatomically intact.
LAND SOFTLY - This is perhaps the most important one. Why do runners suffer knee injuries? From letting that impact shoot up through the joints. The knees must be soft, the muscles must absorb each landing. The softer your feet touch down, the more active your muscles are in absorbing the load and taking it off the joints. You should feel your quads grab that impact, use it to further strengthen the muscles, and never let that hit your skeletal system.
STRENGTH TRAIN - Again, the stronger your muscles are, the better they protect your joints. Your heart needs to keep up with your muscles, and your muscles need to keep up with your heart. You don't want your heart's work to be cut short because your muscle strength can't keep up! (Keep reading my blog, I will later discuss important principles of proper strength training routines and programs.)
I WOULD LIKE TO BOLD THIS NEXT ONE: KEEP IT BALANCED!!! - This means, cross-train. Take days off. I personally don't like to run two days in a row. That doesn't mean that it is wrong... But my body doesn't like it. You need to throw in different ways of training your heart that doesn't have the same muscles moving in the exact same direction. Our bodies get cranky when we're forcing them to do the same thing all the time. Jumping rope is one of my favourites - again, land softly - the hip flexors aren't repeatedly closing the way they are in running, but the heart still gets incredible exercise. The elliptical or stair climber is also an amazing alternative for your non-running days. It gives your body a break from the same kind of impact.
Oh man, there's really so much else to say. Another day, I will post a running program for beginners, but I need to touch on this: if running feels really difficult, and you're not enjoying it, PLEASE alter your time, intervals or pace to make it more enjoyable. Exercise, although it is meant to be physically challenging, it really should always feel like INPUT and not just OUTPUT. You are benefiting your body. It should make you feel good. Some days, you may need to shorten your time, lower your pace, take more walk breaks. That's fine. Listen to your body. You can't work against it, you must work with it. Otherwise, believe me, it will work against you!
So finally - get outdoors and do what you can. Enjoy it. Steady your breathing to keep the body calm and stabilize the heart rate to get better and better every time. Many more running entries to come in the future... J