Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Running In....

Running has always been a bug bear thing for me. I love the idea of slinging on jogging shoes and just getting on with it from your doorstep, contra driving via the gym', getting my cycling gear and bike in order or worse of them all maybe, driving and messing about with ski-prep in XC ski. I even quite enjoy the meditative nature of running. However running hates me.

How can people who are quite over weight, big boned or bitty-obese, tackle runninn and its high impact on your body ?

My own story is that i was a bit lazy and anti sport as a small kid and this had a long hangover into my teen years. Not only was I a bit overweight and unfit, I was also hindered by growing pains and small feet. About age 12 or 13 i got growing pains in my heels and my previously quite large feet grew it seems less than they should have done - i endes up with EU 45-GB10 at 6'2" which is decidely the smallest feet to height any of my tall peers had. I even squeezed into a pair of nine and a half heels a girlfriend had who was three inches shorter than me!  Coupled to unusually high arches, running has usually lead to injury and me giving it up having maybe built up to 3 or 4 mile jaunts.

In my late teens I took up cycling and the low impact on the body meant I could build up fitness over a couple of years and really enjoy the sport. By age 21 I was a lythe racing cyclist, had a resting heart rate of 38 and could cycle 120 miles at around 24 mph.

Cycling stayed with me as did that rotten appetite you develop, and of course need to cycle five six hour days. Pasta for supper and breakfast, eatiung when you aren't really hungry because otherwise you will go empty or have to eat more than a morcel underway and end up with stomach ache. These days I don't have the time for a lot of cycling and added to the time it takes to clothe up in our often chilly spring and autumn, I decided to try and crack running for the four months or so of the year which are my desirable or qeather enforced gaps between xc ski and cycling seasons.

Dag Otto Lauretzsen the former Tour de France rider, robbed of the world championship hoops by an idiot in Japan, says in his book "get in shape' he had a mate who was very unfit and quite overweight. Of course he decided to something about it, but unlike a lot of folk with a plan and determination, he set out with modest, step-wise goals. He used 'the lampost technique' in building up his running by combining it with walking and running between lamposts, builsing up the running distance one post at a time. That is probably max' a hundred yards in a residential neighbourhood.

I took a leaf from his book then, and decided to build up very gradually towards a five kilometer cross country run ( or jog for me)  at the end of May. Why only five clicks? I can ski 30 and could get on a bike right nownafter seven months off it and cycle 40! Running is just so much higher impact on your body and also for your or I the life long cyclist , the way it stretches the calve muscles and engages other muscles take adaptation. In the reverse situation, I had a friend who was a Royal Marine but when he started cycling, the whole MTB club left him on the first climb.

Starting low is a good idea if it is Tarmac you have outside your froint door. I live on a grove, or ring access road which is about 480m and very lightly traffic'd. The first day out was just that, a 480m half run-jog affair after once round walking. I doubled it pretty much straight away as I had no ill effects and am fairly fit from the xc ski season just behind us. 200m gentle jogging after 800m walking may be ideal for someone heavier and less fit. Since then I have been building it up by ten percent roughly every five days or so.

Also I have been careful on rest days. I try and be disciplined to run every other day. Rigoruous or challenging exercise will stress your body's systems and actually damage your muscles. And tha is a good thing. Your body learns that it needs to divert resources to repair this and also to prepare the body for the next session- it anticipates more exercise. Unlike cheetahs, we don't retain our musculature and  fitness without significant exercise. We have evolved in societies from the days of first agriculture or even before, where we did not always need to be physically prepared for survival, but rather could survive as a flock. There was maybe even a survival advantage in being lazy and putting on fat, in that we exposed our-ancient-selves to less risk, used less energy in building muscle when we didn't need to, while laying on a paunch for winter come harvest time. Harvest feasting and our positive feedback appetite loops on salty, fatty and sugary foods, rare and aought after in antiquity, couple to give us a horrible predisposition to become obese. A rest day to a fitness fanatic who runs xmas morning, may seem lazy, but it will allow your body to recover, repair and prepare so that you avoid injury and get lasting improvement over time. Furthermore, a lot of research shows that you lose the trajectory of improvement if you don't exercise within 48hrs of your last session.

So there was some science with a dash of heavy ethology - specially for the creationists amongst you. I like the lampost method - my step-up increment being 10% - that is what feels right in my legs and feet.  I tried to really push up with a warm up of 960m and interval training totalling  2.8km , with a short warm down two weeks ago and was out of action for six days with acheing achilles, arches and calves. It was too far, too hard and way too soon on Tarmac and hard forrest trails at least. Your body will tell you - small aches and twinges in you muscles and cardiovascular system are to be expected, and next time out you may still feel a little tender and want to hold to the same distance and intensity as the previous session, or even reduce it a bit. "No Pain, No Gain" is true in as far as that description I just gave , whereas for the quite unfit or those taking a major step-up in intensity, uncomfortable, hundering pain in your legs, joints and feet and especially chest pains or radial shooting pains anywhere on your body, severe dizziness and so on is your body saying STOP. Disclaimer, disclsimer, you should consult your doctore before embarking on an exercise programme or experiencing discomfort during or after training - phew.

As the head strong thirty something I was a wee while ago now, I often forgot that in cycling too, each season or when recovering from i njury, it went softly-softly-catch-monkey when I was younger. I remember with the lighter evenings of March, getting out for just 20 mins, then 30, 40, 50, an hour before building up to the two hour sessions which in Scotland were always challenging for headwinds and hills. As a man with longer working hours I used to expect to be able to do three times one hour sessions a week and get really fit. But I had previously built up to 8-12 hours a week over two spring months, and you really get so much fitter doing two hour or longer sessions on a bike. You too maybe were a marathon runner even in your late teens, and find getting back into running really painful and unrewarding. Step it down a few notches and listen to your body.