Taken Up Running in Lockdown? Why Preparation is the Key!

I’m sure the vast majority of us would agree that lockdown has had its high points and its low points. One of the upsides for many has been having more time to ourselves. We have gained precious hours through the absence of commuting to work or battling the school run. As a coach, I have been delighted to see so many people choosing to spend some of this time by taking up running. I love seeing people move their bodies the way we are designed to. I think about prehistoric times of the hunter gatherer, where running was a daily requirement in order to survive. Compare this to the modern day, where the sedentary lifestyle has become all too common place and running/exercise less of a survival tool. Physical activity is something an individual chooses to do or not, enjoys or completely avoids.

It’s all in the planning!

Now, if lockdown has allowed you to take up running for the first time, you may have been a little unsure of the approach to take as a ‘newbie’. In my view, before you even put your running shoes on and step out of the door, you need to have a plan! How long and how fast should your run be? Running is meant to be a sustainable exercise which means you should be able to do it for a long period of time. Sprinting out the blocks isn’t sustainable and will result in pain and discomfort within minutes. That said, you don’t have to aim to hit the big distances (5-10k) in a single, first time effort.

What could stop you in your tracks?

Another important starting point is to consider what could stop us in our tracks when taking up running for the first time. There are areas of the body you may need to train in order to increase your distance while avoiding injury. Particular areas of focus are your joints (commonly, ankles, knees, hips), your muscles, your lungs and your cardiovascular system. Running is different to other activities such as swimming, cycling and rowing. This is due to the pressure of your body weight being applied to your joints in every stride. The faster we move, from walking to jogging to sprinting, the more force your joints will have to endure.

Have you experienced pain or discomfort in your knees, ankles or hips during or after your run? If so, these are areas I would look to strengthen before looking to do a long distance run of 5k or more in a single effort. How long might this process take before you’re ready to take on a longer distance? That entirely depends on how quickly your body adapts and becomes more durable over time.

The other performance based factors of running include building both muscle endurance and aerobic capacity. Muscle endurance refers to how long your muscles can continue to work before fatiguing and needing rest. Aerobic capacity is the maximum amount of oxygen you can use while engaging in an activity. During exercise, the demands on your cardiovascular system increases as your muscles require more oxygen in order to maintain their output.

The benefits of a running programme

So, to help a relative novice get the best from their running experiences in a safe and progressive way, here is an example of what I would programme:

  • Warm up = walk for 5 minutes
  • Workout = jog (at a sustainable and conversational pace) for 3 mins + 1 min walk x 4-6 rounds
  • Cooldown = stretch/foam roll quads, hamstrings, calf’s, glutes for 1 min each

My programming would of course be tailored to the individual and take account of their particular running goals and challenges. Prescribing a 5k run to someone physically unable to reach that distance would likely result in physical injury. Equally harmful is the potential mental impact whereby that individual might never run again.

This is not meant to be alarmist or to deter first time runners. It is just intended to highlight the importance of preparation and awareness. For me, having a coach who can personalise a programme to the individual is the most efficient way to achieve your goals, whether it’s running or other disciplines. If you want to know more about what I offer or have any questions about this topic, I am always happy to reply messages on my instagram @samsaunderscoach.

Coach Sam Saunders