"To make us an efficient runner, a lot of the magic happens when we're not running". That's how Sally Trussler, movement expert and Running Coach, opened the workshop on 'Empowering mums who like to run' last week. That was also her reason for having us all sat on the floor throughout the morning rather than in chairs - something that I'm more comfortable with these days anyway. However, we were up on our feet much of the time, stretching our bodies in ways I didn't even know were possible - and for me, that was the biggest learning. I'm on a mission to get more dynamic movement into my life and my body in a bid to fight off the negative impacts of ageing and a sedentary lifestyle for as long as possible, so challenging my body and my mind in new ways was the best bit! Check out this video of the below exercise here and try it yourself - it has now become part of my daily routine to improve my walking and running efficiency!
Between Sally and Physiotherapist, Claire Callaghan, there was a lot to take in during the 3 hours - and much of it impossible to convey in a written post, but here are the top 5 learnings that I wanted to share with you.
Getting fitter, faster, stronger (with any exercise of course) is all about changing it up. So if you're stuck in a rut with your running it's a great idea to try out some different styles. Not only will this challenge your body in new ways but it'll also help keep things interesting. There's interval, hills training, fartlek, speed work and more. Check out this website for a good intro to these different styles.
To run well, you first need to walk well. Sally talked a lot about free kinetic energy, catapults, gait and other fascinating, complex issues that can't be explained easily in a blog but in brief, walking should be effortless. Our ancestors often walked for miles and miles every day and yet for many of us, even a relatively short hike can leave us with achey joints or injury. So if you're getting injured when running, you need to look at your lifestyle. Do you sit a lot or even slouch? How often do you walk a decent distance, on differing terrain? Perhaps you should start there.
Where the pain is, is rarely where the problem is. If you're experiencing a running injury; painful knees, ankle, back, then you usually have to look up or down the skeletal chain and that's where an expert like Sally and Claire come in. There may be some simple stretches and strength exercises that can help temporarily but if it keeps recurring it might be worth even looking into post trauma history (previous injury) to see what's really going on.
It doesn't really matter what training shoes you wear, or how your foot hits the ground (whether you heel or toe strike or somewhere in between). Ok so the shoe thing was big news to me. I'm slightly obsessed with minimal footwear (I'm talking flexible slim soles, not those weird toe glove shoes, they kind of freak me out a bit), and so the idea that a cushioned sole might actually be ok, took me a while to get my head around but what Sally and Claire actually meant was, start from where you're at. If it's comfy and you're injury free, keep doing it! However, if you are experiencing pain when running, start with the body - your gait, your lifestyle - work on that first and the minimal footwear might come later.
Nutrition, lifestyle and mental health should be key components of your training! Obviously things like smoking isn't going to be great for your running performance but good nutrition is also essential for performance and recovery. Your mental state and even your hormones will have an impact so don't just ignore all that other stuff. If you're going to go to the effort of going for a run, you might as well maximise your hard work! Eat well, get some self-love and listen to your body. PEAK BONE MASS other exercise ie resistance
As you can see, this workshop was about soooo much more than just, what stretches you can do to stop your knees from aching or, what trainers should you wear. There was talk of flexibility training like pilates being a great way to support your running 'career' and resistance exercise being essential to bone health, something we all need to think about as we get older.
So, in acknowledgment of that, I thought I'd include some resistance exercises you can do to support your run (and your bone health) You could add these in after a shorter run or do them on alternate days to your other training. Complete them as a circuit of 30 seconds on each side, taking 1-2 mins rest between each circuit. These follow, what I consider to be 3 essential ingredients to resistance training for runners, so if you're a mum who wants to run, I recommend you work these into your schedule when you can (even if that's while bathing the kids).
BALANCE. During pregnancy our centre of gravity shifts and our body compensates for this, so poor balance can continue to be a problem after we've returned to our pre pregnancy state, or thereabouts, and is often linked to a 'weak core'. Balance exercises like this 'single leg deadlift' encourage your core to switch on, which is essential for just going about your day to day business as well as running. Stand on one foot, breathe in as you pivot at the hips and kick your other leg back as far as you can without falling over. Breathe out as you return to standing and try to keep your balance!
GLUTES. Pretty obvious really but building your butt through classics like a squat, clamshells or hip bridge is crucial for runners and a key component of any workout for mums. These simple donkey kicks. get deep into the inner glutes which is prefect to help activate an often 'lazy' muscle. Breathe out as you kick back and play around with your leg position (kick back, up or to the side) and toes (pointed or flexed) to feel it in different areas of the glutes.
SPINAL ROTATION Due to the way your body naturally rotates when running, rotational resistance/flexibility work is a great one to include. However, it can be tough if you're not used to it so if you experience any pain or if your core can't handle it eg if you notice any doming of the belly or you're having to hold your breath, stop and seek professional input. This hip bridge with a twist has the extra benefit of activating the glutes! Remember to breathe out as you push up.
So there you have it. Of course there's much more to it than a few simple exercises, and it's always a good idea to balance lower body work with upper, but this is a good start. If the research is right - by working on these key areas in a simple routine for 20-30 mins, 1-2 times per week you should start to notice an improvement in your running capabilities AND have fewer injuries. Plus, the extra muscle mass might just give your fat burning potential a boost too! So, it's a win win for adding resistance to your running regime! However, please please remember, if you ever experience a leaky pelvic floor when running (ie, you wee yourself) STOP! Seek help. Although it is fairly common, it is not normal and you will only do more damage to your pelvic floor if you continue. For some pelvic floor survival tips, read this blog.
So huge thanks to Claire and Sally for their workshop. Whether you're a seasoned runner or a newbie, hopefully you found some insights here too. You can read Sally's blog on the workshop here for something a bit more in depth, and Claire also recommended this website
which is a seemingly endless resource for runners!
I'm not actually much of a runner myself but seeing as I was attending a running workshop, and I'm a Personal Trainer I thought - well, I'd better run there. So I did and felt much better for it (note to self - running isn't that bad)!
Till next time, cheerio and keep running, or not, it's totally up to you.
Movement for Modern Life