Some extra stuffThursday 3 May 2012
Some extra stuff: Is your running posture important? Dealing with breaks or gaps in your running, and using cross-training. Drinks and keeping your fluids up, and keeping safe on your runs
Is running posture important?
Unless you’re being filmed for YouTube by your fanclub, your running posture isn’t a big deal - but good posture can help to keep you comfortable as you move.
Arms. Swing your arms front-to-back as much as possible, not sideways. Your arms will probably feel most comfortable bent about 90 degrees, and let your hands form a loose fist - keeping a tight fist just uses up energy and holds tension.
Head. Watch it doesn’t drop forward, keep looking out ahead of you and not just where your feet are about to land. Also, be careful of ‘leading with your head’, where your head is pushed out ahead of you. If you try this and then pull your head back where it’s centred over your shoulders you’ll feel the muscles up the back of your neck relax - remember that feeling and check this occasionally as you run, especially at times when you’re getting tired.
Trunk, or torso. The bulk of your body will feel best when it’s more-or-less straight (in a bottom-to-top sense) so beware of tipping forward at the waist. If it feels like you’d fall on your face if you weren’t moving you’re probably bent forward. Having your head pushed out ahead of you often set you up for this hunched posture, and again it’s an easy postition to slip into when you get tired.
Shoulders. Same theme as hands and head - don’t tense up. Again, if you are getting tired or pushing your pace along watch for tension creeping in, and your shoulders tensing and lifting. Drop those shoulders and let their looseness set an example for your arms and hands.
Dealing with breaks in your running
Maybe you had a break due to work pressure, sickness, injury or maybe your motivation just got up and ran out the door. It happens.
So how do you get back into the saddle?
Relax. Breaks happen, you may loose some fitness but that’s ok - you had it before, you’ll get it back. Remember the bit about being progressive - build your runs back up gradually. If you were running for half an hour before, drop that time back and add in more walking - let you body tell you where to start. If you’ve been sick - especially with a virus - your system will definitely need recovery time, so just ease back into it. If your body’s fine but you just haven’t had time to run then your muscles and joints will still need a bit of time to readjust back to the demands of running - push it too fast and you risk injury.
Nope, not training while angry - although it’s true that running is a really good way to burn off the tension we hold when we’re angry (or when we’re stressed). Cross-training is throwing in other forms of activity into your routine to add some variety; stuff like swimming, walking, cycling are common options.
Cross-training can be good for runners because it gives your muscles, joints, and connective tissues a break from the pounding that running creates; if you’re carrying a bit of weight or running hard, the impact force from your weight hitting the ground each time your foot touches down is a lot greater than from walking.
Walking is a common alternative to running, but cycling and swimming are both good things to look at too. These are really good alternatives if you’ve got an injury that running will make flare up, or you need to avoid the impact that running will load on your joints. Cycling - and swimming especially - also use some different muscles to running so they spread the strength build-up beyond a particular set of muscles.
Drinks and keeping your fluids up
A surprising amount of our body is water - about 40 litres or 60% of body weight in the average male. So keeping your body from drying out is important generally, and for runners it’ll help fend off heat-related problems. For the most part, keeping your fluid levels up will mean having a good drink before you run; aim for about half a liter of water an hour before you head out. This gives your body time to absorb that fluid - and to unload any excess down the loo. For those getting into longer runs or races make sure you drink plenty in the days before the run - you can tell if you’re well hydrated as your urine is pale or clear rather than dark. Hangovers tend to be associated with dehydration so be careful of running after a session with alcohol.
What you drink will depend on the length and intensity of your exercise. It seems that with a hour or hour-and-half of exercise there’s not that much to gain from sports drinks (unless you sweat a lot). However, if you’re exercising for longer and/or sweating more heavily, you’ll be losing not only fluids through sweat but also important body chemicals like sodium, potassium, and chloride.
In essence, a sports drink can replace all that and help keep your energy levels up, but without the side effects of digesting and absorbing a meal. If you take fluids along with you, try to start drinking early in your exercise, and gulp fluid - apparently this works better than sipping - at regular intervals. Remember that even a short but hard run, or a run on a hot summer’s day, will get the sweat going and dry you out.
You can buy sports drinks ready made, or a cheaper option may be to buy it in powder form from the supermarket or chemist - just mix it up before you go. If you sweat a lot or otherwise need quite a lot of fluids, check out a hydration system that uses a plastic bladder which fits in a small backpack or a purpose-built hydration pack.
Keeping safe on your runs
If you run by yourself, make sure someone else knows where you're running. It might sound obvious, but keep an eye out for cracks or bumps in the road or path, especially if you’re having a good yak while you run. And while we’re talking about keeping focused, be careful of using an iPod or music player as you run as you won’t hear nearby cars, cyclists, dogs - or your friends screaming at you about your winning lotto ticket.
Don’t be invisible; wear bright or reflective clothing, especially if you run at night. A good habit to get into if you run on the road is to assume drivers haven’t seen you - drivers tend to scan for other cars, not human missiles. Also, if you do run on the road it can be useful to run against the traffic flow so you can see cars coming at you. Depending on where you are, the ‘safety in numbers’ effect can mean that running with others at night is also a good idea.
Some good things to carry on your run (or in your running group); some cash or an ATM card, a cellphone, maybe some identification like your driver’s license. Being able to call for a pick-up or catch a taxi is a wonderful thing if you injure yourself or just badly overestimate your fitness.