Fed up of being in lockdown and not being able to go to the gym? You’re not alone. However, lockdown doesn’t have to mean losing your fitness, strength and tone. Over the next few newsletters we’ll be passing on hints and tips from our fitness instructors on how to keep yourself in good shape while we await the green light to re-open our fantastic refurbished Leisure Centre.
This week, fitness instructor Karl Travis discusses lockdown running.
Keeping trim means getting the calorie count right. During lockdown you may be tempted to eat more snacks – boredom is usually the cause! – or drink more alcohol. These add to your daily calorie intake. You either need to drop your calorie intake or burn the extra off doing some form of exercise – or both. The Government allows everyone to take one form of daily exercise per day. This can be anything from a leisurely walk, a bicycle ride or a run. Personally, I like to go for a run and so I’ll focus on running for this newsletter though much of what I say may be applied to walking.
Running is not everyone’s cup of tea and can cause a lot of wear and tear on your connective tissue, give you stitch or raise your heart rate quite high, especially if the run is intense with several gradients. However, if that hasn’t put you off, read on!
While treadmills are useful devices, especially when the weather is poor or on cold winter nights, I’ll cover only running outdoors. Choose a route before you set off and have a target distance in mind (novices should avoid hills). Before starting your run, it is really important to prepare your body for the exercise. You must first warm up the muscles before some preparatory stretching. An easy way to warm up would be to do some quick paced walking or even some star jumps. Next, perform a series of static stretches (you could alternatively try dynamic stretches). The below YouTube video is useful for demonstrating pre-running stretches – hold each stretch for around 12 seconds and work the main muscles in your lower body.
When you are warmed up and stretched, begin your run at a slow jogging pace. Run as far as you can until stitch or fatigue kick in and then walk the rest of your planned route. Don’t be disheartened if you didn’t get as far as you imagined. We all need to start somewhere and you need to condition your lungs and muscles for aerobic workouts like this one.
As a rule of thumb, you will not be able to cover the same distance as you would on a treadmill before feeling tired – running on roads or cross country is harder than on a machine. At the end of your run, when your pulse has lowered and you feel more rested, perform some post-workout stretches (preferably seated on a mat), holding each stretch for 20 seconds. Make sure you rehydrate by drinking a glass of water soon after your run.
I tend to run every alternate day to allow my body to recover properly. A more leisurely walk might be done on the ‘off’ days. Each time you run, try to go a little bit further than you did previously, even if the extra distance is one more lamppost or way marker from your previous best. Vary your route to prevent boredom setting in. As you build up your aerobic capacity, add some hills into the mix and try to run at a faster rate.
It is not unusual to suffer setbacks. This is as true for running as it is for resistance training (weights). You will go on a run one day and find you get a stitch before you reach your previous distance. If this happens you should change to walking and consider returning to your home. Don’t worry, within a couple of days, you’ll be back to your original best distance.
For many people, running in the morning is better when you have eaten only a light meal (breakfast). Running later in the day after perhaps 3 heavy meals may not work so well and you may find you get stitch more easily. Try to eat smaller meals throughout the day to limit this if you are more of an evening person or ensure you leave at least 2 hours after a meal before running. Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water and try to avoid alcohol, carbonated (fizzy) drinks through the day, which act as a diuretic and can increase your thirst.
It is an advantage to have a smart watch when you go running. This device can store music so you can listen to your favourite songs using wireless headphones without the need to carry a heavy phone or iPod in your pocket. Cellular smart watches have the advantage that you can call someone if you get into trouble during the run. If you don’t have a cellular watch, you are strongly advised to take your phone – you might turn on your ankle running cross country on your own and need to raise an alarm. Smart watches (or Fitbits) have good apps which can be used to monitor your workout, giving your average heart rate, distance travelled, pace and height climbed for example. You can then look back at your workout history.
Your maximum heart rate is 220 – your age. For someone aged 50, their maximum heart rate is 170 beats per minute (bpm). You should aim for 50-70% of your maximum heart rate, which in the above example would be a range of 85 – 119 bpm. A more vigorous training regime would use the range 70%-85% or 119 – 145 bpm using the same example. If you work at the higher heart rate, you are more likely to burn sugars than fat, so unless you are training for a marathon, stick to the more moderate regime. Another piece of equipment worth investing in is a set of health scales. These look like a standard bathroom scale but measure your lean body mass, body fat, bone mass as well as total body weight, sending the results to your smart phone via Bluetooth.
My favorite route starts off from a point on Ingbirchworth road adjacent to the Baptist church. The road becomes Folly Lane at the top of the hill. Continue on Folly Lane until the road ends. To the left there is a wooden gate and a bridleway. Follow the path keeping Royd Moor reservoir to your right. The path takes you through some woodland. Go through another wooden gate which takes you onto Royd Moor Road. Turn left on this road and follow this downhill until you arrive back at the church. This circuit is 3 km (2 miles) with an elevation of 50 m (150 ft). To extend the run, I turn onto Work Bank Lane (right after the church) and follow the track until I reach a clearing through a wooded area on the right. I run through the wooded area until I reach Manchester Road. I then run along Manchester Road and then onto Towngate arriving back at the church on Ingbirchworth road. This extended run is 5 km in length and involves a height difference from the lowest to the highest point of 90 m. This is a very scenic run but high intensity. My average heart rate is on this is typically 148 bpm.