The A – Z of running

Whether you are new to running or just look to improve check out our A - Z of running   a-z-of-running  


Having strong ankles is really important for running - try exercises standing on one leg to help strengthen the ankles and improve balance such as single leg squats and biceps curls. If you are very wobbly, it might be worth investing in a ‘wobble cushion’ – a rubber disc full of air that you perform exercises on. Check  


One of the most important investments you can make is a decent sports bra – when running, your breasts swing in a figure of eight (up, down and sideways) causing stretching and sagging to the breast tissue, as well as painful chaffing. Shock absorber has a superb, specific bra for running -  

Core strength

  Core strength is vital for runners – your core is like a powerhouse where all of your movements begin and the stronger your core the more powerful you become. A strong core also protects you from back pain and injury. Try using a Swiss ball for your ab work, or Pilates exercises (Caroline’s new Pilates dvd is now available from   a-z-of-running  

DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)

  DOMS is a feeling of soreness which follows a more intense or longer run than usual. The pain (which takes many hours to develop) can peak up to two or three days after the event. Prevent DOMS by warming-up sufficiently and cooling down with a good walk to aid circulation which will aid recovery. Stretch out after your run, and always increase your time or distance gradually. If you experience DOMS, treat with ice and keep mobile.  

Energy drinks

  There are many energy drinks, sweets and gels now on the market, all claiming to improve your performance or recovery, but do you really need them? If you are running over 50 minutes, or in very hot conditions then you may benefit from an isotonic drink as the glucose contained in it can be easily absorbed by your body for quick hydration and sustained energy. For a cheap and effective alternative, Dame Kelly Holmes once told me to drink water, with a dash of orange juice and a pinch of salt to replenish the body within 20 minutes of finishing your session.  


  ‘Fartlek’ means speed-play, and is a form of training which works the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. The session can be made up of a mix of speeds from a very fast walk, to a sprint  


  It is really important that you set yourself achievable goals in order to make progress. Your goals might start out along the lines of ‘I will be able to run for 20 minutes non-stop within 8 weeks’ and that might progress gradually to ‘I want to run a 10k within an hour’. Revisit your goals frequently to stay fresh.  


  Although you might curse that up-coming hill, you should embrace it wholeheartedly as hill running improves your leg strength, develops your CV system, and can make you a faster, stronger runner. When running uphill, take slightly shorter steps (even little baby steps) and try to keep your momentum. For coming down, stay light on your toes, and keep a fluid motion.   a-z-of-running  


  Similar to Fartlek training, intervals push your aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels, but intervals are more structured. A typical medium intensity interval session might be:- 8 minutes at effort level 7-8 (on a scale of 1 – 10), 4 minutes recovery (eg walk) at effort level 3-4. Repeat 3 times.  

Join up!

  Running can be a little solitary for some. If you like the buzz of meeting up with other like-minded people, would like to meet new friends, and vastly improve your running, then join your local running club! Many women fear that running clubs are just for super-fit guys, but this is not the case – there will be both sexes, and runners of all abilities. Running with others can help you push out of your comfort zone, and you may get involved with races and club days.  


  Knees are complex and amazing! Unfortunately knee pain can put a stop to running, so at the first sign of trouble STOP and seek advice from a professional. As a trainer, many clients have told me they can’t run due to knee pain, and upon looking at their trainers I soon see why! Knee pain is often from an issue with your feet (see pronation) so get yourself prescribed running shoes from a specialist.    

Lactate threshold

  Lactic acid is a by product of energy production. As you fatigue, your body is no longer able to get rid of the lactic acid and it accumulates in the blood stream give you that heavy-legged or ‘jelly-legs’ feeling. This point is your lactate threshold, and as your fitness improves, your threshold will become higher. Interval and fartlek training can help to improve your lactate threshold.  


  Seen as the ultimate event for many runners and non-runners alike: the marathon dates back to the late 1800’s in Greece and is an official distance of  42.195kilometers or 26.385 miles. There are now over 500 marathons each year worldwide as well as mountain marathons, half marathons and ultra marathons.  


  You are what you eat! So if you are a runner, then you need to eat great food to fuel your runs, and help to protect and repair your body. Whole grains such as brown rice are perfect for long term energy, lean chicken and fish gives great protein to build and repair muscle, and lean beef, mussels and spinach are full of iron for red blood cell production. Eating lots of brightly coloured fruit and veg will give you all the vitamins and antioxidants your body needs to repair and prevent damage.   a-z-of-running    

Over training

  Rest is an important part of your running regime, but if you neglect this aspect, and push your body without allowing time to repair it can have detrimental effects. If you feel abnormally fatigued or listless, have mood swings, feel anxious, have trouble sleeping and notice that your heart seems to be beating harder than normal, you should consider how much rest you take, and schedule in at least two rest days per week. (You can take ‘active’ rest such as gentle swimming or walking).  


  Pronation describes the action of the foot ‘rolling inwards’ after the heel strikes the ground. This movement is normal, and helps provide shock absorption. However, the angle of pronation varies according to the shape of the foot and whether the arch is high or flat, which can cause over or under pronation which in turn can lead to knee pain and injury. A specialist running shop will record your gait and recommend a shoe to counter any over or under pronation.    


  Important muscles for runners! A group of four muscles (hence quads) which extend (straighten) the knee and flex (bend) the hip joint. Always stretch your quads after running as tightness in these muscles can stress the knee and lower back. Quick stretch - stand on one leg and hold the other foot behind you, then gently draw the thigh backwards.    


  Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate – RICE. If you suffer from any kind of injury such as a sprain, tear or muscle pull, then apply these 4 immediate first aid measures to limit swelling and pain. Applying RICE can help speed recovery and healing.  


  Your body heals and repairs while you are sleeping, so as a runner you should make sure you get plenty of time between the sheets! Try to avoid running too close to bed time, as this can actually disrupt your sleep and over-stimulate your system. As a general rule, aim for 8 hours per night, particularly if training hard, and allow time to unwind before you go to bed.   a-z-of-running  


  Always get your trainers from a specific running shop, as a shoe designed for tennis or the gym may not offer the right support or cushioning. Your running shoes should be slightly big: if you toe touches the end of the shoe there is a good chance you will damage your toe nail, and you may even lose it. When selecting your trainers, don’t be drawn in by looks alone, and replace your trainers before they fall apart!  

UV protection

  Even on cloudy days your skin is under attack from UV rays, so when you get ready to run, make sun-care as routine as your running shoes. Personally I love Bare Minerals powders – the make-up range has an SPF of 15, and is 100% natural, using crushed minerals such as titanium dioxide to protect your face from the sun with no break-outs. They also do a specific sun care powder – SPF 30. Check  


  VO2 max is a measure of aerobic power, and is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can process per kilogram of bodyweight, per minute (expressed in millilitres). Athletes need to know this in order to train at the correct intensity, but for a recreational runner this is not necessary, and a % of maximum heart rate will usually suffice. (simple equation for average max HR is 220 minus your age).  

Warm-up and cool down

  These are two of the most important aspects of training: Warming up prepares you physiologically and psychologically for your workout, and cooling down safely returns your body to it’s pre-exercise state. Performed with every session, they can help to prevent injury and soreness, and will keep your body in good condition.   X train Cross training means combining different sports or exercise in a training programme, such as running and weight training. Cross training can prevent over-use injuries due to repetitive actions of one exercise, and can also enhance your overall fitness, strength and power. Swimming, yoga, Pilates or weight training are all great compliments to a running training programme.  


  Yoga is a wonderful companion to running. Yoga asanas (postures) such as the downward dog, runners lunge and the triangle will gently open the hips and stretch out any tightness your running might cause. Hatha Yoga is a general class suitable for all levels, Bikram is hot and sweaty, and Astanga Yoga will strengthen your upper body and give you great stamina while you stretch.  


  Running can be the perfect way to find ‘Zen’ – a calm and meditative state. Simply leave the music at home, and focus on the sound of your own breath. Try to keep a steady rhythm and turn your focus either to the sound of your feet, the sound of your breath or the beauty of nature. If other thoughts enter your mind, simply return to your focus point and continue.   By Caroline Sandry

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