While it’s tempting to try and nail a daily 5k during lockdown, running every day might not be a good idea, according to the experts.
I’ve lived near one of London’s big, green parks for almost a year. Until three weeks ago, I’d walk past it almost everyday – head down, music on. One of the silver linings of lockdown is that I’m now walking through that lovely park a few times a week, taking in my surroundings and looking at the outside world with a new appreciation.
Clearly, I’m not the only one. Despite the fact that we are encouraged to avoid big crowds and keep two metres apart at all times, the park is currently rammed with way more runners than usual. On occasion, it’s been so busy I’ve had to walk off the beaten track to avoid people, or leave the park completely.
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Overcrowding issues aside, it seems that coronavirus has made runners of us all. But is it as simple as swapping your daily strength routine for running while gyms are shut? “You might be strong from the gym, but running is a totally different load on your body,” says Emma Obayuvana, fitness trainer and Strong Women ambassador. “If you were a runner before, then continue running as much as you usually would. But if you’re a beginner, it’s wise to introduce it gradually.”
While running has amazing benefits for our body and mind, including improving cardiovascular health and supporting our mental wellbeing, it is a high-impact workout. That means it can put joints and muscles under a lot of stress.
Take it from me, as someone who, pre-quarantine, strength trained five days a week and is now writing this story with an ice pack on her knee due to a running induced tendonitis flare up. That injury was sparked from two half-an-hour runs in three days. I’m probably just a case of bad luck, but these injuries are common for people who dive into a running routine without easing in: “Your body does need time to recover, especially when it’s something that you don’t typically do,” says Emma.
“Something that I’d recommend, especially for beginners, is alternating days you run so that you have better recovery in between sessions. Especially if your goal is to just get out of the house and get moving, rather than train for a specific race.”
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Many of the benefits associated with running actually come from the act of getting your heartrate up. Running isn’t the only way to do that. To ease joint strain, Emma recommends keeping in your accessory work, be it yoga, bodyweight circuits or free weight based home workouts to keep you healthy, and running three of four times a week maximum. “Those other workouts will also help you get the most out of your run because you’ll be strengthening your muscles.”
You might want to mix up the length and style of running, such as longer runs, shorter runs and sprint practice, but Emma suggests beginners simply stick with nailing one distance: “Then you are able to track your performance and your development,” she says. “You might notice that you’re not out of breath as much or you reduce the number of seconds it takes to complete a lap. That’s how you know your body is getting more used to the pattern of running and you can start to push yourself a bit more.”
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