Getting to run again

Blog entry posted by Janne, Apr 26, 2020.

This is a common scenario: I am 30+, was an athlete until my early 20s and want to get into long distance running. I have tried many times but get regularly injured. I like speed so I train intervals but before I reach my goal, I have to stop because something aches too much. I do weightlifting 2/3 times per week. I am also overweight and want to lose 10+ kilos. My target is to run a half marathon in 6 months. How do I go about it?

I want to address this questions from what I have read and in my experience works. I also want to see if I think the same way in a few years.

1. Exercise is not the main driver of weight loss or gain but helps. Simplified, the body fat is correlated to the levels of insulin. The presence of this hormone limits the use of fat for energy hence fat loss. There is also insulin resistance meaning that body cells have received too much insulin and they require more to do the same job. One consequence of insulin resistance is that insulin stays longer and the body never gets to use fat for energy. One solution is to reduce the ingestion of foods that stimulate insulin, namely carbs and proteins. The body also needs to take a break so it is better to clump meals and space them. The delta of energy should come from fats: animal or cold pressed oils from olives or coconuts for example. No need to count calories, just allow insulin to get down. Consume lots of vegetables choosing those with low contents of carbs. Favor nuts with low contents on carbs and high fats as well.

2. Interval training is an advanced drill and the risks for injury are high. If you don't know what your 10k, HM and marathon pace is in min/km you don't have any business looking at interval training. Choose a training program that favors time instead of distance, like the London beginners marathon guide. But more important to get the time/distance done is to finish a training session strong. That means stopping while still having the possibility to run another 10-20% more. The idea is to have short recovery times but run often to build up running time on your legs and always run fresh (thus with proper form). The speed/intensity is important as well. Do almost all your training at a pace that does not require breathing through your mouth, i.e. run with your mouth shut. If you need to take air from your mouth, walk and resume at a slower pace. Aim to get to a full run without having to stop for air. Stop short a running session if you are not feeling well, but make it longer if you feel like. Speed will come but may take a while.

3. The gym can be used to fix imbalances on your lower body but you should never go to failure. Train your upper body for strength and core for endurance. Follow the principle of Greasing the Groove of Pavel Tsatsouline in the book Power to the People for lower body training. You should always be fresh for running but aim for gym work to give you stronger ligaments and tendons. Also think about mobility work to allow your hips and legs to move in all directions. If anything hurts, try finding the reason or consult an specialist. Get to know why and what's happening, your body is your tool and it is a good idea to know how it works.

4. Running is a skill and takes time to master. Use your runs to be concious about your running style. Your foot should land under your hip and the force forward must come from your the extension of your hips. Make sure your buttocks are working otherwise you risk getting injured and you will be using much weaker muscles. Always let your feet fully touch the floor but keep that time as short as possible. The ballpark figure is one foot should land 90 times per minute per foot. Train often but never work yourself out.

5. Train for strong feet. It is best to run barefoot or with minimal support. Do simple foot drills that stimulate your feet during the day.

6. Rest and sleep well. Some kind of meditation helps to reduce stress. Stress produces cortisol which dampers weight loss.

7. Have fun: find nice routes, meet like minded people and enjoy running in itself. Not being tired all the time will surely help. The more distance you get at easy pace the less chance of getting injured.

Plenty of details are left behind but it is at least a point to get started.
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