I’m normally a glass half-full type of person, but running is the exception. Simply put, my body was not made for running. Tell me to do a two hour HIIT class, boxing workout, or soul cycle sesh and I’ll be more than happy to, but tell me to run for a solid hour (treadmill or no treadmill), and the only place I’ll be running will be far far away from you.
But oddly enough, one day I just so happened to wake up with an urge to challenge myself and sign up to participate in Run Melbourne’s 10km run. To this day, I actually don’t know what was running through my head when I made the decision to do my first fun run and first 10km ever.
While I couldn’t sleep the entire week beforehand, fast forward to this very day and I can proudly say that I crossed the finish line without bailing out halfway… and it only took me 54 minutes. #shook.
How? I can definitely tell you it wasn’t confidence, it wasn’t self-belief, and there was no training involved. Instead, I followed these 10 simple steps. Yes, they’re not for everyone (I’m talking to the crazy-talented lot who actually run for fun), but if you’re someone who shudders at the thought of running, these steps may help you change that around.
So case in point, yes anything is possible and you can learn to love running… even if your legs are as short as mine.
1. Run at least 7km before the 10km
Signing up for a 10k probably isn’t the most logical thing to do if you have no intention of trying to run a few kilometres beforehand. Same applies for any distance you sign up for. To know if my body could actually handle a long distance run, I made sure I could survive doing the Bay Run – a 7km track around the shores of the Iron Cove Bay in Sydney. Don’t have a running track near you? Download a running app, run around your neighbourhood, and track your distance. Whatever you do, don’t test it out on a treadmill – you’ll be bored AF.
2. Relax those arms… and shoulders while you’re at it
A week before the run I had a training session with running expert and lululemon’s Camberwell store ambassador, Paul Mackinnon. What he basically told me was that to easily increase my speed and reduce the number of steps I was taking, all I needed to do was relax my shoulders and make sure my arms were continuously moving like a pendulum.
“Your arms are the counter movers to your legs when running and used for balance and tempo. When they are moving the way they are supposed to, it allows the body to create stability and strength through balance.”
3. Create an epic running playlist
A little Beebs, some sexy Enrique, funky Bruno, or hardcore Kanye – whatever takes your fancy. Just make sure to make it beforehand, test it out, edit it, and you’ll have a bangin’ playlist so you can fist pump your way through the run without having to get out your phone every few minutes to press skip.
4. Invest in good quality running gear
There’s nothing worse than having your top riding up, your leggings too tight around the waistline, socks too thick, and nowhere to place that phone of yours. My one word for you: lululemon. From their leggings to crop tops, the clothing is lightweight, breathable, comfy, and compressed enough so it’s not too tight, but it also doesn’t feel like everything’s jiggling up and down no matter how fast or slow you run.
5. Skip the coffee, and have a small banana or piece of toast at least 90 minutes before
The timing of your pre-race meal will depend on the start time of your event. If your run starts at 7am, eat a light, high carb-based brekkie two hours before the race, making sure to minimise fibre, fat and protein to decrease the chance of gastrointestinal upset. Leave the avo toast for post-run celebrations and swap it for a banana or white bread. To avoid that mid-run stitch and the chance of having to run to the loo mid-race, don’t go guzzling bottles of water beforehand either.
6. Stretch and do some yoga pre-run
“Before running it’s better to keep stretches dynamic meaning you move the muscles through its range rather than hold it at its end range,” explains lululemon Run Melbourne Running Ambassador, Ryan Mannix.
His three stretches he does before a run are:
Downward facing dog, peddling through the legs for 30 seconds.
A low lunge aka anjaneyasana: “Back knee is grounded and stretching onto the front of the back leg by lunging forward. You can also reach the arms up and create a sense of length in the spine.”
A half split aka half hanumanasana: “Here, instead of stretching deeply into the front hamstring, I like to ‘floss’ through any tight spots by moving my foot from side to side. A great way to release a little through the hamstring.”
7. Don’t stop running. No matter what.
Let me repeat that: no matter what. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments during the run where I wanted to veer off into the bush, and order an Uber to take me to the finish line. There were also plenty of moments when I thought my short legs just couldn’t take another step. What I also knew was that if I would’ve stopped, it would’ve been 10 times harder to get back into it. What’s great about Run Melbourne is the encouragement and boost of mental energy you get every time you pass through a cheer station, which just puts a smile on your dial. In fact, a 2018 study published in the journal Psychology of Sports and Exercise found smiling while running eases the pain and helps increase your speed by helping reduce muscle tension and distracting you from bodily sensations.
8. Sprint the last km (or half)
You’re nearly at the end, you can feel it in your bones, you can see the finish line and smell your post-run feed. You’ve made it this far, so give everything you have left in the tank.
9. Follow a pacer
I made sure I kept close to the 55-minute pacer throughout my run. It was just another helpful tactic that kept me going.
10. Treat yo’ self after – you deserve it
Now you can have that avo toast, glass of wine, or margherita pizza. Plus, knowing you’ve just ran your heart out (and burnt a gazillion calories in the process) makes it one hundred times more delicious. Trust me, my post-run dumplings were damn delicious.
While we’re on the topic, here are 4 ways to maximise your run. Plus, how to fuel yourself for a running race, according to a dietitian.
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