Early on a Saturday morning, whatever the season, whatever the weather, the masses will turn out to their local Park Run. Whether you are an elite athlete or a ‘couch to 5ker’ or a ‘Buggy Fit Mum’ with a post baby ‘Tum;’ Park Run is a cheap, sociable and incredibly supportive way to get fit and enjoy the often-monotonous task of trying to keep active and lose some weight. There’s plenty of scientific evidence out there now to support the fact that running/jogging/walking outside in the great outdoors can have huge benefits to both our physical and mental wellbeing.
So maybe you’ve thought I would like to be one of those mad people that runs around the park in the rain every Saturday morning or goes to the gym after work each day. Maybe you want to get fit for the first time in your life but you just don’t know where to start and embarrassment or low self-confidence stops you. Maybe you’ve recently had a health scare and have needed to suddenly take healthy eating and exercise a little more seriously and you just don’t know what advice to listen to. Or, maybe, despite your best efforts, every time you try and get fit, you find yourself nursing a calf strain or knee pain due to training errors. So here at DPT we thought we would give you our top 10 tips for starting to exercise – whether park run or couch to 5k or hill walking or just to do some form of exercise class without looking like an exploding beetroot after 5 minutes. Here is what we came up with:
1) Don’t run before you can walk! – Fast walking is proven to be one of the most effective forms of exercise. Get that fit bit on, get your heart rate up but make sure you can still hold a conversation. Pump your arms as you walk and consider using walking poles. Start on the flat. Vary your route from day to day. Put on your favourite tunes and eventually and gradually add in some ups and downs. Fast walking up hill can often be more efficient and just as fast as running up hill. Don’t feel you have to run!
2) Core first. Run later: As previously mentioned above, running is a cheap and easy form of exercise. Especially for those with time constraints. For a busy Mum, a quick run round the block helps clear your head and keep fit without taking too much time away from ‘motherly duties.’ But often we start running when we are deconditioned especially post childbirth leaving us prone to injury. It’s worth taking the time to strengthen that core stability first – strong gluts, a strong pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles will massively help your running and leave you less prone to niggles and injuries. Get that gym ball out or try some level 1 Pilates or just a few bridges/mini planks/hip abduction exercises and pelvic floor exercises a few times a week and you will notice the benefit. Once you’ve done this then start to think about slowly starting running; maybe a jog/walk to start with.
3) Look after your feet: Poor footwear = poor performance. Often people start exercising in the same shoes that they have worn for the past 15 years resulting in poor running biomechanics and overuse injuries. If you look at the wear on the sole of your shoe you will see if you are prone to wearing your footwear down in a specific way. Buy some decent trainers – not too pricy but with good heel and arch support, not too much of a drop between the heel and the front of the shoe and not excessively cushioned. You could always see a podiatrist or buy an off the counter insole to help with foot positioning. Ankle range of movement exercises, calf strengthening, and stretches will also help.
4) Don’t make dramatic changes: Bare foot running has become the fashion recently – but don’t make dramatic changes in footwear too quickly. If you’re planning on bare foot running – get some advice with this and wean down slowly. Don’t make dramatic changes in your training regime either.
5) Don’t increase your distance too soon: In this country we seem to be a bit obsessed with running a certain distance – 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, ultra-marathon and we often pick up injuries because we increase up to these too quickly. Start by finding a short, comfortable, pain free distance outside or in the gym; do this and then build up your speed gradually within that distance and be patient. Vary your route to make sure you don’t put the same continued stresses through your body. Don’t set off too fast either – slow it down to make sure you are working within the correct heart rate zone. Consider using a heart rate monitor to do this more accurately as well.
6) There is NO shame in stopping: I always used to think that with running you have to keep running and you are not allowed to stop. An ultra-marathon running patient of mine put me right on this. He said, ‘stop and walk enjoy the view, enjoy a snack and then start running again’. There are no rules. If you need to walk Park Run to start with then walk it. If you need to stop halfway then stop. Know your limits and go home with your head held high.
7) Drink more water: Keep well hydrated. Switch your sugary drinks to water or milk and you will soon see the benefits.
8) Dance instead: Dancing in your kitchen with nobody watching can be a less self-conscious and less time-consuming activity. Dancing improves mental wellbeing and burns calories nicely. So put on your favourite tunes and get dancing. Maybe once you have got your confidence up you could join a local class.
9) Anyone for a dip?! If running is not for you then why not try some non-weight bearing exercise in the pool? Swim at your local pool – maybe an aqua aerobics class which is great for osteoarthritis as it’s a reduced weight bearing form of exercise. If you are keen but not a great swimmer, why not try some adult swimming lessons or check out some you tube videos or books to help improve your technique. Some leisure facilities or hospitals offer private hydrotherapy sessions which might help if you are carrying injuries/suffer from a chronic health condition. Again, having a strong core and focusing on good technique can prevent niggles or irritation of back or neck pain. Cold water swimming (done safely and with guidance) has been proven to have positive effects on mental health.
10) Find something you enjoy: Apparently you need to do something at least 15 times before it becomes a habit. You will be more likely to stick at keeping fit if you enjoy it. Find something, anything, that fits your work and various life commitments. Make it sociable and make exercise part of your weekly routine. Make health your priority today.
If you would like to discuss this further with one of our Specialist Physios, then please get in touch today. Visit www.dentonphysio.com to find out more. Also, you may want to contact our partners at www.CBadventures.com for info re. organised Rehabilitation Walks and Nordic Walking Courses with Walx.com
NB: Please check with your GP or Medical Practitioner before following these guidelines.