My journey to holistic running

I have always been interested in trying to better myself as a runner and have listened to many different podcasts, read lots of articles and trawled the net for advice. This is not always beneficial as it can get overwhelming and confusing, but there are definitely some people along the way who have had a huge impact on my running and health. I’m often singing their praise to anyone who asks and/or is (or pretends to be) willing to listen, so for my own benefit as much as others’, this post documents my most trusted and respected sources of running and health wisdom.

Through one of my favourite podcasts, Trail Running Nation, I first heard about a guy called Steve Gangemi aka The Sock Doc. His article, The Sock Doc Training Principles was a revelation and helped me understand how to train and the importance of putting your health at the forefront of everything you do. It started me on a journey to try and optimise my running, as well as thinking about other parts of my life, such as nutrition, stress and recovery. I then discovered Phil Maffetone and read his book, The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing, which further cemented my understanding of the importance of having health as a foundation and optimising your training.

To cut a long story short, over the past few years I have slowly changed our diet (as the designated cook in our family) to a more paleo/banting way of eating. Using Phil Maffetone’s method of heart-rate monitoring in combination with a higher fat diet, I was able to improve my metabolic efficiency/fat burning capacity. I developed an ability to go longer and longer on my runs without the need for food and have minimised injuries along the way. More recently I have taken a greater interest in how I run, probably kicked off by Chris McDougall’s inspirational book Born to Run, which I have read twice. This lead to me to further read on the topic, coming across guys like Eric Orton and Dr. Mark Cucuzzella at the Natural Running Centre (a great resource).

The arrival of our beautiful little girl Sylvie last June, along with starting up a parkrun in my local community has meant a shift of focus away from the longer stuff to the 5km distance. I also started training with Thompson Estate Athletics and for someone that previously shied away from speed work and shorter distances, I have throughly enjoyed the experience and have managed to shave time off my 5km PB.

So now to the present moment. For the past couple of months I have been listening/reading up on Crossfit Endurance, which has lead me to people such as Brian Mackenzie, Kelly Starrett, TJ Murphy and Dr. Romanov. They are all interesting, experienced, educated and passionate guys and all believe 100% in their philosophies around training and running. One underlying message I have got from all of them is again the focus on health and building a strong foundation to stay injury free and keep running.

I am keen to further explore and discuss each of their philosophies and training techniques, but at this stage am going to focus on Kelly Starrett. I am reading/re-reading his book Ready to Run and must have listened to 5 or more podcasts in which he was interviewed. In a nutshell, the book is about getting a person ready to run and using essential standards (12 to be exact) to prepare the body for a lifetime of top performance. I have been lucky throughout my time running that I have not suffered any major injuries, but know in my heart that I have a number of mobility and range of motion issues. I have dabbled with different movement systems such as Yoga and Pilates and been to a number of physiotherapists, and through my own doing have never really followed through with any of these and so wound up back at the beginning. I am determined to make real and lasting change, hopefully preventing injuries, boost performance and most importantly ensure that I can keep running well into the future.

So, time for action. I am going to firstly assess/test myself against the 12 standards and see where I am at. I know for some of the standards I am way off the mark, but that is ok and I’m not going to let it get me down. The first standard will be neutral feet … here goes.

Runners Yoga

Runners are notorious for not stretching and I have been the number one offender of this for years. I have known for a while that it has been holding me back in my running and finally I am doing something about it.

I have always been a bit apprehensive about joining a Yoga class, especially being someone that struggles to even cross their legs. It can be a bit intimidating seeing people do stretches and exercises with ease that you are struggling with big time. Well, I am into week 5 of Runners Yoga and am a convert. The instructor is excellent and really puts you at ease. The focus is on those areas that are most affected by running (hamstrings being my nemesis) and sequence of postures will first heat your body and then gradually, open your body, bringing back flexibility and elasticity to the muscles and open tight, compressed joints.

I have already noticed big improvements in my flexibility and feel that it is helping my running. To all fellow runners, I can thoroughly recommend taking a more whole approach to your training and incorporating activities such as Yoga.

Training

After years of talking about it (just ask Brendan), I am making a concerted effort to take a more whole approach to my training this year. Along with the running and cardiovascular training, I am working hard to increase my flexibility (which is pretty average), strength and core stability. Looking back over the years, I don’t think I have got close to reaching my potential as a runner due to neglecting these things.

I needed some direction so sought out an expert. I found a guy called Curb who is also involved in trail races and has competed in numerous Knee Knacker events. I signed up for three sessions and it was one of the best decisions I have made. The first session focused on using a technique called Self Myofasical Release (SMFR), which is using a foam roller to improve flexibility, mobility of tight muscles and restricted joints. The second session focused on strength and core work and also some exercises to strengthen and increase mobility in my ankles (which I am having a few issues with). I have been working on the above in a local gym and will be going back in a couple of weeks to incorporate some power exercises.

I have also joined a Friday night Yoga group which is predominately for runners and just started kick boxing with Tanya today which was awesome. I am already feeling the benefits and believe that it will help me become a more efficient runner and hopefully prevent injuries. Nutrition is a work in progress and I wll be making sure I have a plan in place for my longer training runs and my races.