Many runners don’t do sufficient strength and flexibility exercises to complement their running.There’s a rage to run in the country, but are we doing it right? You can’t possibly just lace up and run. There’s a whole deal of science and training that goes into this skill
India’s annual running calendar lists around 150 marathons and runs these days. Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Pune have a growing runner community that attempt the 5K, 10K , half marathon and full marathon with great gusto. Weekday short runs are supplemented with weekend long distance group runs and rigorous exercising. But with running bringing in much bragging rights, and looking easy, are beginners jumping headlong into something that requires more thought and planning than imagined? Are they injuring themselves unnecessarily in a hurry to win the race?
Many, like Ashwin Bala of Runners For Life, who’s been running over six years now and is part of the organising team for three of Bengaluru’s marathons, believe it’s a problem of “too much, too soon”. “Either they increase their mileage beyond the 10 per cent rule [of not increasing one’s weekly mileage by more than 10 per cent over the previous week], or increase their pace without building an adequate aerobic base,” points out Mr. Bala.
Slow and steady:
Marathoner Ashok Nath, a seven time consecutive Boston Marathon qualifier and three time winner at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon who coaches and mentors runners through his organisation Catalyst Sports, also believes runners just speed things up unnecessarily at the outset. He observes: “Initially there are some short term results but as the body can’t keep pace with the increasing levels of stress, aches pains injuries start to happen. Statistics reveal that annually 65 per cent of runners face some running related injury.” Our modern lifestyle has led to our bodies carrying stress, tension and, in all probability, excess weight, he says. “The human body is capable of great things but you must adhere to ‘gradual progression’ and not be dictated by what your neighbour, best friend, or the aunty down the street is capable of doing.” Another huge mistake beginners make is that they don’t get enough exercise. Sports physiotherapist and a marathoner and triathlete for the last five years, Dr. Gladson Johnson, who runs Attitude Prime, believes “exercise is medicine”. He says, “Many runners don’t do sufficient strength and flexibility exercises to complement their running. Hence injuries become a natural consequence of poor training.” He suggests that beginners should have a balanced proportion of running and strength and flexibility exercises first. “They must run a minimum of two days per week with three days of strength and flexibility exercises and two days of rest. Stick to one category for at least a year — do only 10km runs for a year and then take it forward.”
To coach or not?
The other huge debate is whether you need a coach to teach you how to run or you can figure things out with the help of a support group and peer sharing. Mr. Nath is very clear that while running may seem simple, it is actually a “skill sport”. “Successful distance running is all about energy management, and if you have the right running technique then you consume (or waste) less energy and are able to maintain your running form longer. The longer you are able to maintain form, the faster and further you are able to run,” he argues.