My Father-in-law absolutely loves wine. As long as it is a big, smooth Barossa Shiraz. I on the other hand like a bit of diversity- a cold, crisp Riesling on a hot summer’s day; a big brooding Cabernet on a cold wintry night; a Pinot, well, there are a lot of contexts where Pinot is appealing! It is much the same with running for me. Some people like to do the same 5km Park Run every week. Great! I however like to run in lot’s of different ways and contexts. So here are my top 5 types of run and where I enjoy doing them the most.
5: Flat Road Running
A long, straight, flat stretch of tarmac in front of me. Feet tapping away with the consistency of a metronome. Breathing in an easy rhythm- every 3rd foot strike. Mind clear, basically meditating. Km’s ticking away without really noticing. This is running relaxation.
Where I do it: The Riverland; Yorke Peninsula (Around Port Broughton or Ardrossan).
From a crouched starting point, then accelerating up to top speed. Driving the knees forward, ripping the elbows back. Completely releasing the brakes. I am sure it feels more impressive than it looks, but in my mind I am flying. The lungs start to bite which is the cue to take the foot off the the accelerator. My legs gradually wind down. I let myself recover, then go again.
Where I do it: Balhannah Footy Oval; Amy Gillett Bikeway
Yes I am serious, I love running uphill. As I approach the incline my mindset shifts. This hill will be like a big meal- just take your time with it and take it one mouthful at a time. I lean forward, focus on pulling my knees through, and get into a nice easy rhythm. I imagine the little engine that could; chug-chugging it’s way up the winding track. The revs are oscillating close to, but always under the red-line until the crest is spotted, then comes an acceleration. Relief as the gradient plateaus.
Where I do it: The (Old) South Eastern Freeway; ‘The Guts’ Track at Fox Creek.
I love narrow, rocky trails. If there is a steep drop-off on one side, excellent. Creek crossing, boulder hopping, ducking under low branches. It can be more like an obstacle course than a run. Agility and power are required to negotiate what the trails offers. One minute I am scampering up tight switch backs; next I am weaving down the other side like a slalom skier. This is an extreme sport!
Where I do it: Sturt Gorge; Morialta
1: Beach Running
This is running stripped (almost!) completely back. Barefoot, wearing just shorts and a hat. Along the shore line, the waves are the soundtrack. Always on a hot day. When the heat gets a bit much the hat gets chucked to one side and in the ocean I go. The first beach run of the summer results in blistered feet and sore calves- but both toughen up pretty quick. For me beach running is heaven.
Where I do it: Normanville to Carrickalinga; Aldinga Beach
I hope to see you out at one of my favourite spots!
I love broccoli, it is my favourite food! I love it so much, it is all I eat- breakfast lunch and dinner. And it’s healthy hey, lots of vitamins and minerals. So yeah, just broccoli for me thanks.
Obviously this is ridiculous. I don’t think you need a degree in Dietetics to appreciate that we need diversity in our diet so we get all of the good stuff that our body needs to maintain health. Broccoli fits within a balanced diet- it is not a diet in itself.
What the heck does this have to do with exercise?
Behold, The Ten Domains of Fitness
- Cardiovascular endurance
In an ideal world, you would challenge these fitness domains on a regular basis to create a diverse range of stimuli to promote adaptation and optimal physical health. Do you?
What if you are a real Yoga devotee. That is all you do, and you do it regularly and you love it. Fantastic. You would be well honed in flexibility and balance and scratch the surface on strength and coordination.
What about if you are a runner? You run 10km every single day, awesome! You are challenging CV endurance and stamina, but probably very little else (in a meaningful way).
For the gym-junkies who just love to lift big weights? Strength. That is about it.
As an Exercise Physiologist, it is my hope that everyone can find a form of physical activity that they truly love and do on a regular basis. But if you are committed to becoming the best version of yourself that you can be, you need to challenge the other fitness domains regularly to give yourself a more balanced exercise diet. This can sound daunting- how the hell do I fit all of that into my already-busy schedule? This is how I do it.
- I do a nice long run and/or mountain bike ride once per week. This takes care of CV endurance and stamina, as well as balance, coordination and accuracy (on the Mountain Bike).
- I do one hill-rep running session per week which I do on some tricky, narrow, rocky trails around Burnside. This challenges power and speed on the way up, and agility on the way back down.
- I do two gym sessions per week, where I always include strength work, power exercises and balance exercises.
- Finally I like to stretch and foam-roll in the evenings when I am watching tv (ad breaks are great for this!).
Someone else may achieve all of these fitness domains in a week by playing netball, going for a hike up Mount Lofty, lifting weights at the gym and doing a Yoga class or two. It can take any number of different forms.
Our body thrives on a diverse diet of physical challenges. And our body (and mind) will adapt in amazing ways if we regularly nourish it with these challenges. iNform’s Exercise Physiologists are here to help you diversify your Exercise Diet and help you become the best version of yourself you can be.
About the Author
The fours lads were ready to ride. Their backpacks were stuffed with water and sugary snacks. Their bikes were good to go. They planned to head off into the distance, but they didn’t know exactly where. What they did know is that they’d end up muddy, sweaty, hungry and ready for dinner.
This could be written about my 10 year-old self. Heading off for adventures with my tribe of little buddies from my street. Or it could be written about me last Friday, heading off for a Mountain bike ride with mates after a solid day’s work.
Mountain biking as playtime for adults
I adore Mountain Bike riding, and I am sure it is mostly because of its reminiscence to my childhood. For me, and the guys I ride with, Mountain Bike riding is not about competing, or personal records, or elevating my status on Strava. It is about adventure. It is about letting go of all of our adult roles and responsibilities for a few hours and becoming kids again. Getting muddy and soaked by rain when out on a forest trail is an ageless, timeless experience.
I am about to become a Father. We want to establish consistent routines and boundaries for our child so that they can grow up knowing we will be consistent, reliable and fair. I will also need to do a little bit of growing up, but I am excited to begin growing into my new role as Father.
But I also hope to keep reserving time for me to be child like. I want to keep having adventures, heading off into the distance and coming back muddy, sweaty and hungry, even if it is only for an hour or two every fortnight. We encourage active play for our children as we know it helps development of many important physical traits like agility, strength, aerobic fitness, and balance. We also know it promotes creativity, memory, decision-making and teamwork. As an adult, should I not also value these traits? As an Exercise Physiologist, of course I do. And I want to set an example for my child to spend time playing throughout their entire life also.
About the Author
Are you mentally tough enough to complete an ultra-marathon? It probably comes as no surprise that evidence is mounting that your mental capacity has a say in your success or failure at such a goal. But the specific cognitive abilities that determine your outcome may be a surprise to you.
How do you score on inhibitory control?
A 2015 study by Cona et al found that there were correlations between certain cognitive abilities and performance of an ultra marathon running event (an 80km race in this instance). The runners that performed better in the race also outperformed the slower runners in tasks that challenged their inhibitory control. There are lots of online tests for challenging your own inhibitory control – just google ‘Stroop Test’ and you will come up with lots of examples. I did the one on the Psytoolkit website and scored a Stroop effect of 220ms. Unfortunately there are many variations on the Stroop test and scoring systems, so normative data does not exist to my knowledge. You can try it yourself here:- http://www.psytoolkit.org/lessons/stroop.html.
So what is inhibitory control?
It is basically the ability to inhibit a natural or habitual response in preference for another that is more congruent with a specific goal. In the Stroop test, this often requires the participant to name the ink colour of a word that may be representative, or contradictory to that colour. For example, the word ‘green’ may appear in red ink- so your time-taken to answer ‘red’ is measured. The participant is asked to repeat this process a large number of times and their average response time (and accuracy) is measured.
So how does this translate to running performance?
So you can resist the impulse to answer ‘green’ when the ink is red – so what!? When we run long distances, we are constantly making choices and resisting impulses. When the going gets tough, our instinct is to stop, or slow down. But this may be incongruent with our goal, which could be to get a personal best. Those with a greater ability in inhibitory control may be able to resist this urge to slow down or stop because they rank their goal as a higher priority than that urge. They sacrifice an immediate reward for the delayed reward which is to finish with their best possible time. Runners with lower levels of inhibitory control may be more likely to succumb to the urge to stop so that they can enjoy an immediate pay-off for their choice (the pain stops).
So what can you do about this? There is evidence that inhibitory control can be improved with training (Berkman et al, 2014) but there is insufficient evidence that improvements in the lab cross-over into other aspects of life. This field is certainly a ‘watch-this-space’ topic, so I will. In the meantime, when the going gets tough on my next long run, I’ll keep reminding myself of what the ultimate goal is, and train my mind on that.
Berkman, Elliot T., Lauren E. Kahn, and Junaid S. Merchant. “Training-induced changes in inhibitory control network activity.” Journal of Neuroscience 34.1 (2014): 149-157.
Cona, G., Cavazzana, A., Paoli, A., Marcolin, G., Grainer, A., & Bisiacchi, P. S. (2015). It’s a matter of mind! Cognitive functioning predicts the athletic performance in ultra-marathon runners. PloS one, 10(7), e0132943
There is no shortage of people who want to tell you running is bad for you especially if you’re a beginner runner. ‘It wrecks your knees!’ they proclaim. I bet you anyone who has said that to you doesn’t run themselves. I do run, and do believe that almost anyone can run comfortably and enjoyably, and enhance their health (heart, bone, brain) in the process.
So here are my 3 Tips For a Beginner Runner To Start On The Right Foot
1. Get your cadence right!
This is really simple – download a metronome app from your favourite app store (there are lots for free that will be perfect). Set it to 180 beats/min. Jog on the spot to the rhythm of the metronome. See if you can maintain this for 1 minute. Rest, repeat, rest, repeat. If you pull up well from this the next day, do it again. Repeat this as frequently as you can for three weeks. The purpose of this exercise is twofold: First, to help program your brain to run at a high turnover. This will decrease impact stress. Second, it will help condition your feet, ankles, calves, knees and hips for the impact of running.
2. Run Quietly
When you have completed your three weeks running on the spot you are ready to start moving forward. But you must do this quietly! Tread lightly on the ground. Take note of the noise your feet make when they impact- do they slap, or stroke the ground? Aim to impact the ground softly – and when you start to get heavy, walk. Also, you shouldn’t be huffing and puffing yet. Aim to run easily, and when the lungs start to struggle, walk. The first few months of running should be about getting comfortable with running – not getting a hardcore cardio blow-out (do that on a bike!).
3. Be Patient
If you are taking running up as an adult, who may not have run for 20 years, be realistic. Give yourself 6 months before you start thinking about tackling an event. Your body will adapt to running if you are conservative, but consistent. Aim to run every second day, even if it is just a short lap around the block. You will have some ups and downs, but the improvement will come if you are patient. You will eventually find the running ‘gear’ that you can click into and the kms will just glide away.
We are here if you need us!
At iNform we have helped hundreds of people begin to run, from people that want to run around the park with their kids, to those wanting to tackle a marathon. If you want to get running the best way possible, give us a call!