Author and running coach Mary Jennings shares her seven strategies that could help walking or running feel easier, more enjoyable and lighter on your body.
As we move into February, we also reach an important milestone. The halfway point in your parkrun Resolution journey. This is a great time to think back to the start and remind yourself how far you have come since 2021 dawned.
Well done for all you have achieved so far.
No doubt there have been quite a few good days but also some that have been a little more frustrating, especially given the strict restrictions we are all living under and the impact it has on our daily lives.
You may already have made a mistake or two, but have also learnt some important lessons and made some fantastic memories along the way. You can carry these with you as you embark on the next four weeks, and continue your progress towards your goal.
It may be that you want to focus, for the next month, on building your fitness and strength, and running or walking for a little longer or faster. As always, it is important to make sure we look after our bodies, remain injury free and keep that motivation as high as possible.
Why not join me this week in trying out a few new strategies to help walking or running feel easier, more enjoyable and lighter on your body?
Stand tall: Walking or running with good posture takes pressure off your joints and helps you move more efficiently. Try not to make your legs carry your body around, but instead use your core and skeleton to support your body. Walking or running tall also makes more room for your lungs so your breathing becomes easier and less laboured.
Stay relaxed: Remember tall doesn’t mean stiff. You need to relax too. So picture yourself being a tall rag doll – suspended by a string from the crown of your head with relaxed and loose arms and legs. Aim to look and feel relaxed rather than tense when walking or running. Tension burns energy and tightens the muscles. Don’t forget to smile. This immediately relaxes the body too.
Look where you are going: Sometimes we can bend over at the waist and find ourselves looking at the ground. This is one sure way to feel heavier in your body. You reduce the space for air in your lungs and you prevent the body from being that tall rag doll. Simply by looking in the direction you are going you can pull yourself up out of a slump.
Add variety: Change up your routes within a permitted radius from home and try keep it interesting. For example, this could be as simple as walking or running in the opposite direction on your usual loop. Walk or run on grass, sand or trail when you get a chance, rather than just sticking to the road. Pavements can be hard on the body and send quite a force though the ankle, knee and hip joints if you are not practicing good technique.
Look after yourself: Consider your rest days as part of training. Your body needs rest to recover and repair muscles. You will be stronger if you allow the body to recuperate. Strength training will help your core, glutes and legs to support the body when walking or running. Incorporate some lunges, squats and planks into your training and feel the difference. Most of all don’t be afraid to adapt your plan to suit what your body is telling you.
Listen to your body: A niggle is a sign that there is something not quite right. Take the time out to address the pain rather than wait until it’s too late. Notice where you feel any tension in the body and take steps to treat it. Better to take a few days off training and feel better next week than have to take a longer break just when you have built up your nice routine.
Opt for gratitude: Make a conscious effort to enjoy the process and try to be grateful for any opportunity to move your body, especially outside in the fresh air. Notice your surroundings, soak in the beauty of nature and acknowledge with a smile (and at a safe distance) other people that you might pass by.
So, for the next few weeks think about some of these strategies and choose to listen to your body so you can keep on enjoying the feel-good buzz, the fresh air and the sense of accomplishment. Take your breaks, wear your smile and pat yourself on the back after each day you get out there – especially on the days when you might feel a little bit more sluggish.
I would like to congratulate you on reaching this halfway point, and wish you luck as you embark on the next step of the journey. Together we are achieving our parkrun resolutions!
Mary Jennings is the founder and running coach at Forget The Gym, author of Get Running (Gill books) and running columnist with The Irish Times.
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