lululemon asked Exercise Physiologist and running aficionado, Veronika Larisova from AGOGA Bondi, to answer your essential running questions (and learnt a lot along the way).
Q: What should we all know before we start running?
Although walking and running are the most primal movements, it’s silly to think that you can run 10km without any training. Today’s sedentary lifestyle can lead to de-conditioning and various postural and movement dysfunctions. Doing too much too soon often results in a bad first running experience or worse, injury. Also keep in mind that your ligaments and tendons take some time to adapt to pounding on that pavement or negotiating tricky trails.
Q: What advice do you give to people who are new to running?
Have the right running attitude. Running should be a fun activity and unless you’re trying to qualify for the Olympics there’s no point killing yourself trying to beat your mate’s PB (personal best time).
Q: What training plan should a beginner runner follow?
A beginner runner could follow a training plan like this:
Q: How do I train for my first marathon?
You can use the above template to train for a marathon and gradually increase the long slow runs up to 28-33km. There’s absolutely no need to run the full marathon distance in training, especially if you are just a recreational runner.
Since a marathon is a very physically demanding endurance event, I would recommend joining a running group or getting a specific training program. You can download free training programs from various marathon websites such as Gold Coast Marathon.
Many gyms also offer free running groups. Do a Google search in your area or ask at a local gym or running store. Be resourceful. Training for your first marathon on your own is not fun.
Q: How do you fit running into your everyday schedule of work and family?
One of the best things about running is that you can do it anywhere and anytime. All you need is your running shoes and if you run on the sand you won’t even need those.
Q: How do you choose the events you’re going to run in?
I often look at the Australian Running Calendar and choose by location. Attending various fun runs around Australia gives me an excuse to travel and explore the country. I also get tips from my running buddies and clients and try to turn every running event into a fun social occasion.
Q: How do you prevent injury?
After suffering a few injuries due to over-training and poor recovery habits, I’ve become very strict with my myofascial release, stretching and rest. I also do regular strength training that involves a lot of core and pelvic strength and stability training.
Q: How do you overcome cramping and stitches?
Preparation is the key. Stitches and cramps are often caused by poor nutrition, dehydration, incorrect breathing and/or inadequate training prior to an event. Eat well, keep hydrated, train to run and breathe efficiently and supplement when necessary. Although I’m not big on using dietary supplements, I do take magnesium to help prevent muscle cramping.
Q: What foods are great when trying to keep energy levels high?
- Bananas are one of the best natural foods for runners. Their high carbohydrate content makes them good sources of energy, plus they are rich in potassium and magnesium, minerals that runners lose as they sweat.
- Chia seeds are an ancient superfood packed with important nutrients like omega-3 essential fatty acids, antioxidants, protein, calcium, iron, potassium and vitamins A, B, E, and D.
- Sweet potatoes contain vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, which is a powerful antioxidant. They are also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, iron and copper and they are easy to digest.
- Green vegetables have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Good quality protein from natural sources like fish, meat and eggs and good fats are equally as important for fuelling and recovery.
Q: What does a runners diet look like?
Although it’s important to have some carbohydrates (especially post-training) try to avoid high GI foods and sugary treats. Choose good quality carbohydrates like sweet potato, a variety of vegetables and fruits, beans and quinoa.
Each meal should also contain some protein to help muscle repair and prevent muscle wasting. Think fish, lean meat, poultry, cottage cheese, eggs and nuts.
Good fats like avocado, coconut oils, nuts and fatty fish (all in small-medium amounts) should not be forgotten as they’ll help reduce inflammation.
Binging on meals rich in simple carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and rice is absolutely unnecessary and unhealthy even when running a full marathon.
Q: How do I improve my race time?
Although long slow runs are crucial in adapting your ligaments and tendons to the long distance and in conditioning your aerobic energy system, you will need to incorporate speed sessions such as sprints, intervals, hill repeats and tempo runs to become faster.
Q: How do I warm up before I run?
When warming up for high intensity running sessions, start with a slow jog or fast walk followed by dynamic stretches (moving through a range of motions such as leg and arm swings) and running specific drills (i.e. high knees, butt kicks, and single leg hops). Finish up with a few 100m strides.
Q: How do you stay hydrated?
- Create good, consistent drinking habits. Start your day with a big glass of warm water and freshly squeezed lemon juice to kick-start your digestion.
- Get a big bottle (800ml-1L) that’s free of BPA (bisphenol), an industrial chemical used to make plastics.
- Set yourself a goal of drinking 2-3 full bottles each day. Drinking from a big bottle makes your consumption easier to track. Keep your bottle on your desk or somewhere you can see it all the time so you’re constantly reminded to take a sip.
- Eat clear soups and lots of fresh and steamed veggies, as well as a piece of fruit or two each day (dark skinned is best). All of these foods contain lots of water, plus other nutrients essential for radiant skin.
- Instead of black or even green tea, choose an organic herbal tea, such as ginger, mint or any other blend that takes your fancy. Another option is to drink hot water with slices of lemon, fresh ginger and a tiny bit of honey or stevia. Besides being hot and delish, it will give you a boost of vitamin C and anti-inflammatories, which acts to boost your immune system and prevents cold and flu.
Q: What breathing exercises should I do when running?
Lateral basal breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) engages the diaphragm, which is necessary for activation of deep core muscles such as the transversus abdominis.
Place your hands on your ribs. Draw your lower abdomen in. Breathe in slowly with your nose and out with your mouth and feel your ribcage expanding in every direction while keeping your lower abdomen drawn in and shoulders relaxed.
Shallow breathing or holding your breath leads to overuse of external obliques and other accessory muscles, like the muscles around your neck.
Q: How can I learn to love running?